A psalm of David. When he was in the Desert of Judah.
You, God, are my God,
earnestly I seek you;
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.
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.
I will be satisfied as with the richest of foods;
with singing lips my mouth will praise you.
On my bed I remember you;
I think of you through the watches of the night.
Because you are my help,
I sing in the shadow of your wings.
I cling to you;
your right hand upholds me.
Those who want to kill me will be destroyed;
they will go down to the depths of the earth.
They will be given over to the sword
and become food for jackals.
But the king will rejoice in God;(Ps. 63:1-11 NIV)
all who swear by God will glory in him,
while the mouths of liars will be silenced.
The Psalmist’s longing is for closeness and fellowship with God. The Psalmist speaks from a wilderness setting where both food and water are in short supply. As he experiences physical hunger and thirst, he uses that physical need to express his spiritual need for a sense of God’s presence. Some older translations translate the first verse as ‘early I seek you’ which gave rise to this being called a morning Psalm. The NIV has captured the eagerness of the Psalmist rather than the time of the seeking.
The Psalmist’s desire for God arises from the past experience of fellowship in the sanctuary. Think of the number of times that we have already seen the familiar pattern of ‘lament – sanctuary – confidence’. Many times the Psalmist has seen the power and glory of the Lord manifest in the sanctuary, and that has created an appetite for God. God’s love (hesed) is better than life. The Psalmist is inspired to long for God and to have confidence in God. God’s love means more to him than life itself.
But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.(Rom. 5:8 NIV)
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written:
‘For your sake we face death all day long;
we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.’
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.(Rom. 8:35-39 NIV)
God has demonstrated His love for us, and nothing in life or in death will be able to tear us away from that love.
The Psalmist has witnessed the glory of God, and by the words of his lips he wants to continue to glorify God. The glory of God is manifest in the sanctuary, and the Psalmist wants his lips to be a sanctuary that glorifies the Lord.
The Psalmist vows to praise the Lord as long as he lives. That vow of praise is unconditional. Whether in adversity or in joy the Psalmist will praise the Lord. Lifting up of the hands is a way of saying, I will pray. The hands are empty hands. As we turn to God in prayer, the very act of prayer acknowledges our need. In the name of the Lord is the covenant name that the Lord has used to sign and seal the covenant that He has made with His people.
The bounty of the Lord’s deliverance is expressed in the metaphor of banquet. A veritable feast has been prepared before the Psalmist, and the Psalmist has drunk and eaten and his soul is satisfied with the richest of blessings that God has provided.
You prepare a table before me(Ps. 23:5-6 NIV)
in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Surely your goodness and love will follow me
all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord
The Psalmist’s singing lips expresses his singing heart because God has blessed him and his cup (his heart) overflows.
Night can be a difficult time for many people. If we are ill, worried or anxious we can lie awake at night and notice how slowly the hours go by. Night was a dangerous time for the Psalmist as the shadow of adversity haunts him. The Psalmist uses these waking hours to remember God and think of Him through each watch of the night. In ancient cities the night watchman would call out the hour and add ‘and all’s well!’. If you were awake you would hear the call and be comforted. As the Psalmist lies awake on his bed through the night watches, his thought of God assures him that all is well. The Psalmist is safely tucked under the shadow of the Lord’s wing and, as his soul clings to the Lord, the Lord’s right hand upholds him, to comfort and reassure him. From this place of shelter, security and help the Psalmist sings out.
The night time meditation upon the Lord fortifies the Psalmist to be able to meet the challenges that the dawn might bring. This newly gained perspective helps him realise that he will be vindicated when the enemy are destroyed. The Psalmist has feasted upon the blessings of God’s beneficence but now his enemies will become fodder for the birds.
The way of the righteous is the wise way; they will sing the praise of God, while the foolish will have no song of celebration to sing because they will be silenced.
Almighty God, we confess that our appetite for your presence is small. We feast on other things and fail to develop the appetite and longing for spiritual food. Lord we long to have this longing. As we feed upon Your word help us to grow in appetite and thirst, so that we may have this spiritual satisfaction that only Your presence can give. Lord for those who find it difficult to sleep at night, help them to meditate upon Your salvation and bring peace into their hearts and souls that they might find peace and rest. For those who are coming to terms with illness, old age or the infirmity of a loved one or some disappointment, help them to feel that safety of hiding under the shadow of Your wing, the firm grasp of Your right hand, and the still, small voice that whispers ‘all is well’ for we pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.