An arid desert drains the life out of its travelers. Imagine a man traveling through the the Sahara. He’s sandy, dusty, and incredibly thirsty. The heat of the sun beats upon his forehead, and he’s grown so dehydrated that he can no long sweat. As his throat burns, he embarks across the mounds of sand looking for water. I’m convinced that this image captures the Christian life. The Christian travels in the barren wasteland of this world, seeking Christ the living water. David records a similar spiritual experience in Psalm 63. This psalm teaches us how to handle seasons in the spiritual desert and how to pray when we find ourselves thirsty.
Behold Him and Seek Him (v. 1-2)
“O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water. So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary, beholding your power and glory.” (Psalm 63:1–2, ESV)
The Psalm begins with a cry of lament, but quickly moves to confident expectation of God to work. David expresses his longings in dramatic imagery. In his earnestness, he cries out to the Lord. His soul thirsts. His flesh faints. The language conjures up the image of a weary man wandering through the wasteland, where there is no water and refreshment. Clearly, David is in desperation.
Have you felt such longing, as if your very soul burned with thirst? As human beings living in a fallen world, we know what a dry soul feels like. The world is a desolate place, and we meander through it looking for refreshment from the desert but end up with only a mouth full of sand. By looking to the world for fulfillment, we only further agitate our thirst. It’s like we are dying of dehydration and we hope to survive with a cup full of salt water. It may satisfy for a moment, but it kills us in the end.
Here, David directs us to the true source of refreshment, the fountain of living water in a barren world. The oasis we seek is found in God himself. Though David yearned for satisfaction, his dryness leads him to search for the Lord. David looks upon the Lord “in the sanctuary, beholding your power and glory.” The vision of God draws David, moving him and stirring him to seek the Lord earnestly. Like David, the Spirit must give us eyes to see the folly of looking to the desert around us for refreshment. Only through the eyes of faith can we behold the power and glory of the Lord and run to the revitalizing wellspring found in God.
Living Exclusively in the Love of God
“Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you. So I will bless you as long as I live; in your name I will lift up my hands.” (Psalm 63:3–4, ESV)
David shifts to affirm his search, asserting that God’s “steadfast love is better than life.” Thus, his lips will praise the Lord. Because God’s love is better than life itself, David devotes his life to permanent praise. David has come to realize that God is his all consuming treasure. God himself is all that he longs for, so therefore he lives his entire life in worship to God.
David’s singular focus on God here challenges us. Can we truly say with a straight face that God’s steadfast love is better than life? We can certainly say it, but do we live it? Do we live our lives as if God and his love is the only object of our desires? It often isn’t, but it must be! David has arrived at the point in his spiritual journey, where God isn’t a hobby like golf or knitting. Rather, his entire life is a pursuit of God! Like an athlete going into the Olympic Games, he has a singular focus. His eye is on the prize, and lesser things do not distract him.
If we hope to experience all of the joy that Christ has won us in the gospel, we must develop an exclusive focus upon the Lord. Nothing less than complete devotion will do. A half-hearted venture to God causes our steps to falter and our joy to wobble. We’ve all laughed at someone who did not look where he or she was going. My three-year old son will walk through the toy aisle at Target and fix his gaze upon his next object of obsession. As Mommy and Daddy hurry him along, his gaze, fixed on the toy, causes him to tumble into the aisle itself. If we hope to earnestly seek the Lord, and find the satisfaction and rest that comes only from God, we must fix our eyes upon the author and perfecter of our faith. If not, we will only tumble into folly.
Cling to the Lord
“My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food, and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips, when I remember you upon my bed, and meditate on you in the watches of the night; for you have been my help, and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy. My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me.” (Psalm 63:5–8, ESV)
In the midst of David’s trial, he clings to God. His memories of God’s faithfulness and refreshment fuel his searching in the present. His soul will be satisfied like our stomachs are on Thanksgiving day. He will eat and be glad, thus praising the Lord “with joyful lips.” David, reflects upon his bed the way the Lord has helped him. He stays up late at night, not worrying about tomorrow, but remembering the past. As he recalls God’s faithfulness, he is filled with confidence in the present. He knows, by his own experience, that the shadow of God’s wings is a safe place, but not only safe—but joyful! So in the present hour of trouble, David clings to the Lord. He hangs on in confidence knowing that God’s right hand upholds him.
We are a forgetful people. Tragically, the first thing we forget is God’s work in our lives. In the hour of trouble, remind yourself that your God upholds you constantly by his right hand, and he hasn’t stopped today. Therefore, knowing the hand of God holds you firm in his grasp, that truth will stir you to cling to him all the more!
Partake of the Joy of the King
“But those who seek to destroy my life shall go down into the depths of the earth; they shall be given over to the power of the sword; they shall be a portion for jackals. But the king shall rejoice in God; all who swear by him shall exult, for the mouths of liars will be stopped.” (Psalm 63:9–11, ESV)
Here we gain a little bit of a perspective of what is going on in the context of the psalm. Apparently, there are those who seek David’s life. In confident expectation, he knows that they “shall go down into the depths of the earth; they shall be given over to the power of the sword; they shall be a portion for jackals.” David expects God to deliver him once again. The psalm concludes in verse 11, declaring that “the king shall rejoice in God.” Yet, the king’s rejoicing leads to the joy of those who have sworn loyalty to him. David’s joy will be Israel’s joy as the liars mouths are shut and stopped.
Here we see further how David serves as a signpost to the divine King Jesus. This son of David would find his joy exclusively in God. He was one with his Father, as the Word was with God and the Word was God (John 1:1). In the Gospels we glean insight of the focused communion that Jesus had with his Father. His joy was found in the Father alone. Those who have received Jesus by faith, swearing allegiance to his Lordship will exult as well. The joy Jesus has in the Father has now been given to us. In our restlessness and wandering, Jesus has opened the gate to the oasis of communing with the living God. Thus, we experience the steadfast love that is better than life as we lap up the living water of communion between the Father, Son, and Spirit. By the King, we who swear allegiance to him shall exult. We will seek him and we will find him. Our thirst will be quenched. Our flesh will be restored. We will see the Lord in the glory and power of his sanctuary and experience joy unlike anything we could ever imagine.