What is it that you desire?
What is it that brings you delight?
What or who do you depend to be your defense when you are being threatened?
Go ahead, jot down your gut-reactions to these questions. We’ll come back to them.
One August, when I was between the ages of 9-11, my mother introduced me to the Psalms. I was outside playing and she was on the edge of the driveway sitting on a blue-painted metal rocker snapping beans. Her bible was beside her and she beckoned me to pick it up and open to the Psalms. “You can start reading yourself now and use Grandma’s old bible”.
From that day on I would read aloud in my bed every evening from the Psalms, much to the irritation of my older sister who wanted some quiet. It was in this Hebrew poetic book that my love affair with words began and not just any words, living words and words I could personalize.
The Psalms may be the most read book of the Old Testament and are well loved for many reasons. Their substance resonates with our lives and experiences. They may be scenes of rejoicing, despair, confident hope, uncertainty, or solemn moments of profound musings. The words become our expressions and as the psalmist’s words embody our feelings and sentiments, they also lead us to a better understanding of God and a deeper encounter with Him.
The Psalms come to us today, not in musical scores as many originated, but in the form of one book made up of smaller books (Pss. 1-41, 42-72, 73-89, 90-16, 107-150). Psalm 1 acts as an introduction to the whole book. In addition, the beginning and ending psalm of each of the five books are often considered key thematic transitions [taken from my copy of this wonderful companion that sits on my nightstand]. A
Among God’s gifts to us, the Psalms is one of the most desperately human yet breath-takingly divine ones, a more than necessary walking partner as we journey Home.
It was as a young reader of the Psalms, I found a certain resting place, a theme for my life and the deepest parts of my soul in Psalm 63. The declariative and yearnful themes in Psalm 63 are all-encompasing. Indeed, some scholars have said that all of the Psalms could fit under just this one cry. I don’t doubt it.
What is the setting of these words? David is a fugitive of some kind. Even though he is King (don’t expect God’s anointing on you to be without threats to your position), he is being forced to flee to the desert. His own son, Absalom rebelled and tried to overthrow his father’s throne. According to 2 Samuel 15:23 David fled the city, crossed the brook Kidron, and went into the wilderness. This is probably the experience behind the psalm. Now listen:
1 You, God, are my God,
earnestly I seek you;
2 I thirst for you,
my whole being longs for you,
in a dry and parched land
where there is no water.
I have seen you in the sanctuary
and beheld your power and your glory.
3 Because your love is better than life,
my lips will glorify you.
4 I will praise you as long as I live,
and in your name I will lift up my hands.
5 I will be fully satisfied as with the richest of foods;
with singing lips my mouth will praise you.
6 On my bed I remember you;
I think of you through the watches of the night.
7 Because you are my help,
I sing in the shadow of your wings.
8 I cling to you;
your right hand upholds me.
9 Those who want to kill me will be destroyed;
they will go down to the depths of the earth.
10 They will be given over to the sword
and become food for jackals.
11 But the king will rejoice in God;
all who swear by God will glory in him,
while the mouths of liars will be silenced.
GOD MY DESIRE (vs. 1-4)
David begins by acknowledging the covenant that exists between he and God. O God, you are my God! It stands, our restored relationship with God. We will endure because He endures eternal. Our allegiance is to no other; He is our King and we are His loyal servants and friends. Sometimes in the swirl of life, when it seems like we are going under, all we can do is make this cry and scramble up upon this rock.
David then speaks of desire, of an earnest pursuing of God with diligence and intensity. Yes, desire is thirst, an unfulfilled longing. Have you ever been thirsty, truly thirsty where water was the only thing your mind could focus on is finding water?
On one of our family trips, we ran out of water in our water bottles. The kids had just eaten a salty snack against the advice of their parents. We were miles from no where. They thought they were going to die. It was an hour later that we came upon a gas station. They all bolted out of the car as fast as they could and ran for the cold fridge in the station. They gulped down the water before we even paid for it. And when we resumed our trip, it was like they had never been thirsty and their desire moved to something else besides what their bodies needed to survive.
Ironically enough, Jesus in the New Testament blesses those who hunger and thirst for righteousness (for the salvation of all) for they will be filled. He will come to them like a gas station in the middle of nowhere. There is a power in fainting for Him. In knowing that even though we know and declare He is our God, He sometimes feels far away.
Desperation means we have need and without sensing our need, we cannot know God. Thirst is a gift. It causes us to seek more. And if we seek, we will keep finding there is always more. He satisfies our thirst with even more good thirst.
Of all the people I have met in my life, it is those who have gone through intense seasons of near-dying, fainting thirst for more of God who are people of strength and stability, wisdom and inner resources to meet every crisis. That rock of God being their God is always under their feet.
A.W. Tozer wrote “Complacency is a deadly foe of spiritual growth.”
David remembered seeing and experiencing the presence of God in the past. His power and His glory. His being, not simply His beneficial acts. His thirst, his desire and his experience caused him to sing out there alone in the desert as a fugitive from his own son, “Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you! I will praise You as long as I live, and in Your name I will lift up my hands.”
What do you desire? Have you asked God to make you thirsty?
GOD MY DELIGHT (vs. 5-8)
It is after the times of dead thirst when God comes near again and fills us. It is feasting time. We live in the tension between fainting and feasting. Can you see that rhythm in your own life?
We are not poor and unblessed when we are in the fainting phase, we are being prepped to fully enjoy when the feast is set before us as our souls are made full and satisfied. In those gracious times of filling, we find a rest. We find a peace and a fulfillment, an easy satisfaction in Christ. We need these times just as we need the times of desperation.
Thanksgiving is a day that is precious to me. I plan the menu weeks before, we set out my grandmother’s china and silver (brought all the way to Mexico), place a bouquet of flowers on our long table and candlesticks on the side. The children make place cards and decorations to adorn the table and we invite friends over. The table is spread with good foods and the main event is feasting, remembering that one day we will all feast together at the marriage feast of the Lamb. Our small gathering is a foreshadowing of a day that is coming. The day feels lifted out of the normal calendar and it brings a filling that enables us to go forward with a new thankfulness and joy.
How much our God wants to give us these times and how non-chalantly we don’t even discern He is wanting to fill us.
David said that he remembered and thought of God and His ability to fill and satisfy, even out there in the stony and cold wilderness through the watches of the night. In David’s time, the night was divided up into three “watches”, each watch representing a period in which soldiers would be alert and on post. These would last respectively from sunset to 10 P.M.; from 10 P.M. to 2 A.M.; and from 2 A.M. to sunrise. A person aware of all the watches would be having a sleepless night. It seemed David did, due to his situation, but he did not spend the time in fretful anxiety. He remembered God. He purposefully chose to reflect and sing. He announced that his help was God and he clung to Him.
Has God delighted you and satisfied you to the point that even when you cannot sleep, your thoughts turn to Him and all He has done to fill you, like a lovesick man turns to dreaming about the woman he can’t wait to marry? Do you sing in the watches of the night? Do you reflect on Him? God, let us not be so willy-nilly we never come to this point and live in this habit!
What delights you? Have you asked God to fill you?
Oh how I believe that God is jealous for us, that He wants to be both our desire and our delight. When this happens, a spirit of worship is unleashed in our lives and in our churches in a way that causes us to lift our hands in joy! There is deadness in our lives and in our corporate gatherings if there is not desire and delight for God.
GOD MY DEFENSE (vs. 9-11)
David has no qualms about calling on God’s justice and even rejoicing in His justice, even if that means the death of his pursuing enemies (which he views as enemies of God). He is not feeling sorry for evil here, nor excusing it–he is asking for their removal. He knows his God-given position, he is secure in his relationship with God.
I appreciate his black-and-white matter of factness here. It is as if he is saying: God, You are my desire and You are my delight. Those that distract me from enjoying Your presence while I am in the position You ordained for me, as I cling to You, will be done away with. I will go on to rejoice in You, as will all those who pledge their allegiance to You, the one true King.
There have been many times in my life that I have encountered circumstances comprised of difficult people or issues which have so distracted me that my desire and delight in God diminished considerably. Can you relate? Perhaps you find yourself in such a place in this moment. Our flesh and our enemy loves to use this strategy against us, true enough? Perhaps you need to take the discerning and no-nonsense approach of David and wage your war in the same manner, echoing the truths of David in these verses and getting back to your focus of desiring and delighting in God. That is where the peace is found.
What or who do you depend on to be your defense when you are being threatened? Have you maintained your “position” with a determination that nothing disrupt your desire, your desire and your confidence in God?
What do you desire?
Have you asked God to make you thirsty?
What delights you?
Have you asked God to fill you?
What or who do you depend to be your defense when you are being threatened?
Have you maintained your “position” with a determination that nothing disrupt your desire, your delight and your confidence in God?
Our God, make us thirsty so we know what it is to faint for you, to be in need and finally to be filled. Do this again and again in us so we are delivered from complacency. And when You ordain Your callings in our lives, let nothing move us. Rather, may we sing in worship in the watches of the night. Let us discern and identify the threats against us, Your beloved children, and may You be our defense even as our souls cling to You. Be our desire. Be our delight Be our confidence. Be our lives. AMEN.
*notes from sermon on Psalm 63 I preached on 1.18.15 in Mexico