God, you are my God; I eagerly seek you. I thirst for you; my body faints for you in a land that is dry, desolate, and without water (63:1 CSB).
David wrote this psalm when he was in the desert of Judah. This probably refers to the time of his flight from his son Absalom (cf. 2 Samuel 15-17). This was a time of great sorrow and deprivation for David. His emotions were stretched to the limit, and we can see him making some unwise choices and saying harmful things, as well as acting godly. All of us are a strange, even weird mixture of grace and sin. Let’s not be too critical of David and remember our own weaknesses. David became a temporary exile from the center of law covenant worship in Jerusalem. Being away from worship is a burden for those who love the Lord (cf. Psalms 42-43). Adding to David’s grief was the knowledge that all this came as discipline from the Lord for his sins connected with Bathsheba (cf. 2 Samuel 12:9-12).
During this situation, David wrote this psalm to record what he learned about the relationship between the covenant Lord and his people. He learned that believers can sing even when they are in desert places, because the thirsting soul finds satisfaction in God. This ought to encourage us all, since our lives have many such times, even prolonged seasons of drought. We do not need to wait until we arrive at a spiritual high to experience God. We can know him in deep trials and when troubles multiply. I have recently seen a dear brother and sister in Christ go through such a time; indeed, they are not out of it yet. But it is stirring to see them rejoice in the Lord. Think of three others who experienced God in the desert—Hagar, Moses, and Elijah.
This psalm is intensely personal. Sixteen times David spoke about his relationship with the living God. His friendship with God was far from the ritualistic or legalistic performance mentality of many religious people. God can be known personally. We can experience his personal activity in our lives. We can know his presence when we are separated from the “sanctuary” (tabernacle or temple in the old covenant and the local gathering of Christ’s people in the new covenant age). It is good to gather with the godly, but it is refreshing to know that he remains with us when we cannot.
From ancient times, this psalm has been known as “the morning psalm of the church” (Leupold). This was due to the translation of “early” instead of “eagerly” or “earnestly” (NIV). “Chrysostom testifies ‘That it was decreed and ordained by the primitive Fathers, that no day should pass without the public singing of this psalm’” (Perowne). While this might not fit with our modern lifestyle and worship, it can be a useful nudge to induce us to refer to it more frequently. The passionate language will help us leave behind the coldness of our disappointments to be warmed in the experience of God’s greatness and love for us. We will learn about how to talk to the God we love.
The psalm can be simply outlined as followed: the believer’s desire of God (63:1), the believer’s experience (63:2-8), and the believer’s security (63:9-11). We want to think about these ideas. What do you do when you are in a desert place? What do you know of God in such circumstances? How can you relate to God in such times? Are you in a desert place now? Please open your Bible and listen with your heart to this song written by a man that knew the misery of desert places.
Grace and peace, David
Bless the Lord, O my soul! O Lord my God, you are very great! You are clothed with splendor and majesty (ESV).
It’s Tuesday. It’s a perfect time to ask about your worship experience this previous Sunday in your local church. How was it? I am not asking about the performance of your worship leaders and musicians, your pastor or other speaker, or whether you enjoyed yourself. This is a question about your worship of the true and living God. Did you meet with God in his living temple, the people of God (2 Corinthians 6:16; 1 Peter 2:4-5)? Did you humble yourself before him, as you sang his praises? Did you sing or only listen to others sing? Did you bow in worship as God’s word was read and proclaimed? Or did you merely act like you were listening, while your mind was somewhere else? Did you worship?
One of the purposes of gathering with our brothers and sisters in Christ is to worship. Perhaps last Sunday you all met to serve or to go fishing for people (Mark 1:17). Those are also purposes of a church, and we need to invest time together in them. However, usually when we gather, we ought to worship, and this can be done wherever we meet. But the questions remains. Did you worship last Sunday in your gathering?
A thoughtful look at our text above displays what ought to be happening.
- We are to bless the Lord. Worship is about him and for him (cf. Romans 11:36). It’s not about you or me. It’s about the Lord. We gather to lift him up in our thoughts, attitudes, words, and actions. It is a time of personal interaction, the people of God meeting with him to express his overwhelming significance and goodness.
- It involves the core of our beings. Bless the Lord, O my soul! We should worship God from the inner person of our hearts. A proper heart engagement will show up in the face and the words. I have seen people very excited and involved at family gatherings, parties, and sporting events. They participate from their souls. It clearly is of importance to them. Why does the typical worshiper look detached or bored or even comatose? We must bring our souls to worship. Listen carefully. In worship, we are in the presence of the Almighty God through Christ by the Spirit. If that doesn’t stir you, nothing will.
- Worship is a personal action. O Lord my God. Sharon and I have a little granddaughter, only seven weeks old. When we hold her and talk with her and kiss her, it is not the same as gazing at a reference book. We do not seek mere information, but personal contact with her. We love to see her smile. We should want to make the Lord smile by pleasing him.
- Worship exalts the Lord. You are very great! You are clothed with splendor and majesty. We say this, because we have a sense of his reality. We gain this as by faith we listen to God’s revelation of himself in his word, and the Spirit opens his greatness to our hearts. For example, if the word is telling about Hagar’s reception of mercy when she was sent away by Abraham and Sarah (Genesis 21), you respond with joy in your heart that the Lord cares and watches over the weak, even when others don’t care. If it speaks of Christ’s entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, you rejoice like his disciples did on that day. You praise the Lord.
If you didn’t worship on Sunday, you can on Tuesday… and every other day of the week. But please, stir up your soul to worship when you gather with the Lord’s people this coming Sunday. Do not sit there like a cold lump of clay. Your Lord deserves much better from you. He wants your heart. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind (Matthew 22:37 ESV).
Grace and peace, David