For several years I have been fascinated by the psalms. The more I study and meditate on them, the more I see their practical application and beautiful promises. Psalm 63 has been a personal favorite for some time. The following meditation is the result of an airplane ride when I thought through the verses of this psalm.
“A psalm of David when he was in the wilderness of Judah.” The wilderness of Judah was where David and his men were hiding in a cave. When Saul entered the cave, David cut off a corner of his robe. David was in a dangerous position when he was in the wilderness of Judah. He was being continually pursued. Yet in the midst of danger he composed a beautiful psalm of trust and reliance on God. This psalm is full of practical application for us today. It starts with:
“O God, You are my God.”
What a comfort! Jehovah is a personal God! I can claim Him for my very own. He is not far away and distant, the God of my nation or church or family. No, He is my God.
“Early will I seek You.” The word “early” is translated in Spanish as “madrugada.” “Madrugada” means “between midnight and six o’clock a.m.” David seeks God early—before it is even morning. What an example this is! We must seek God with diligence, not merely in our leisure time. We must make an effort to seek Him by rising early.
“My soul thirsts for You; My flesh longs for You in a dry and thirsty land where there is no water.” David is in the wilderness. The wilderness is an unpleasant place in which to be. There is no water, and he is thirsty. However, he uses these physical discomforts to drive himself to God. In the same way that his body longs for water, so his soul longs for God. It is a continual longing, one that does not go away. When you are thirsty and you get a drink, you are thirsty again very soon. So David longs for God repeatedly.
“So I have looked for You in the sanctuary, to see Your power and Your glory.” David finds God in the sanctuary. Our modern culture downplays the importance of church. Modern evangelicals seem to think that church is “something you should do” but many people do not place a high priority on church attendance. They fail to understand the reason for going to church. They think that once a Sunday is enough. We go to church because God calls us, and also, we go because the sanctuary is where God reveals Himself to us. Staying home for Bible study and prayer instead of going to church is not sufficient for our spiritual growth. We are to be seeking God in the sanctuary, where He reveals His power and glory to us. Going to church is not optional!
“Because Your lovingkindness is better than life, my lips shall praise You.” What an incredible statement! “Your lovingkindness is better than life.” What a difficult thing to believe and put into practice. God’s lovingkindness is better than life. Do I really believe this? Am I willing to give up all my hopes and dreams in return for God’s lovingkindness? Am I willing to rest on His lovingkindness when my prayers are not answered the way I would like? Am I willing to keep on living even when I am suffering? Can I say that because of God’s lovingkindness, every disappointment in this life is insignificant? As I wrestle with God in prayer, I must continually remind myself of His lovingkindness, no matter what His answer to my prayer may be.
“Thus I will bless You while I live; I will lift up my hands in Your name.” There are two immediate responses I will have to God’s lovingkindness. One is that I will bless His Name. I will bless Him for who He is. This blessing is not based on His answer to my particular prayer. The second thing I will do is “I will lift up my hands in Your name.” This reminds me of the benediction in our worship services. The minister lifts up his hands in God’s name and blesses the people. I think this psalm is saying we are to bless God, and then we are to bless others in God’s name, as a response to God’s lovingkindness to us.
“My soul shall be satisfied as with marrow and fatness, and my mouth shall praise You with joyful lips.” Because of God’s lovingkindness, I shall be satisfied. I shall not want anything more. It is as if I had just eaten a delicious meal. I no longer want anything. I will also praise God—and I will praise Him joyfully! I will not begrudge Him the praise with the thought, “Well, I guess I’d better praise God now.” No, my praise will be joyful and heartfelt.
“When I remember You on my bed, I meditate on You in the night watches.” This phrase directs us back to the second phrase in the psalm: “Early will I seek You.” David was in distress, in the wilderness. He was away from his home and his comforts. He was not sleeping very well. He had a lot of things on his mind—plans to make, troubles surrounding him. Yet when he awoke during the night, he actively chose to set his mind on God. We, too, must make a conscious decision to use the unwanted “awake time” during the night as a chance to pray and remember God. Try meditating on this psalm for a good beginning!
“Because You have been my help, therefore in the shadow of Your wings I will rejoice.” David praises God for what He has done, and then bases his future confidence in God as well. The phrase “shadow of Your wings” brings to mind the picture of a mother hen sheltering her chicks under her wings. In order to be in her shadow, her chicks must be close to her. It is not enough for them to look across the barnyard and see her in the distance. No, they must be right there, following her. The next phrase in the psalm indicates that we must be close to God in the same way:
“My soul follows close behind You; Your right hand upholds me.” When David was close to God, he did not have to rely on his own strength. God’s hand upheld him in his time of desperate need.
“But those who seek my life, to destroy it, shall go into the lower parts of the earth.” David is confident that God will deliver him. He is confident even to the point of predicting his enemy’s descent into hell.
“They shall fall by the sword; they shall be a portion for jackals.” David was content to let God work in His own timing. David could have taken justice into his own hands by killing Saul when he had the chance. Instead, David chose to trust God to vindicate him in His own way.
“But the king shall rejoice in God.” David is showing his confidence in God’s deliverance by calling himself “king” while he is still fleeing for his life.
“Everyone who swears by Him shall glory” All those who put their trust and confidence in God alone will be triumphant in the end. David’s deliverance does not affect him only, for it is for the good of the whole church as well.
“But the mouth of those who speak lies shall be stopped.” Truth and justice will prevail. We do not have to take the law into our own hands for God’s purposes to be realized. We do not have to see an immediate answer to our prayers to be confident of God’s lovingkindness. We can, instead, wait patiently for His plan and concentrate on giving Him the glory.
Psalm 63 is a psalm of great beauty and practical application. I would highly recommend memorizing it as a great way to begin learning the psalms, or as a way to continue meditating on God’s Word.
Miss Vanessa Rubingh lives in Chain of Lakes, MI and attends the Orthodox Presbyterian Church.