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‘A Psalm of David, when he was in the wilderness of Judah.’
It is noticeable that there is here no dedication to the Chief Musician, and no mention of the tune to which it was to be sung. We can only surmise why this is so. Perhaps the aim was to indicate the close connection between this Psalm and the previous one.
Psalms 63:11 of the Psalm refers in a positive way to the king, so that, unless we see that verse as added later, this time ‘in the wilderness of Judah’ must have in mind David’s flight from Absalom’s rebellion. If it was written as an almost immediate consequence of David sending the Ark of the Covenant back to Jerusalem (2 Samuel 15:24-26) it brings special meaning to some of the phrases used. There must have been an emptiness within him when he saw the Ark moving back towards Jerusalem, but an emptiness met by recognising that the closeness of God was not affected by the absence of ritual symbols. He knew that God was as much with him in his camp and in his bed, as He was in the Tent in Jerusalem.
The Psalm may be divided into four parts:
1) David’s Flight Through The Parched Wilderness Thirsting For Water Brings Home To Him How Much His Own Inner Life Thirsts After God, In The Same Way As Being In The Sanctuary Had Once Brought Home To Him God’s Glory (Psalms 63:1-3).
2) His Refreshed Vision Of God Has Restored His Heartfelt Spiritual Satisfaction, Has Enhanced His Praise Towards God And Has Reminded Him That It Is God Who Is His Refuge (Psalms 63:4-7).
3) Because, From Deep Within Him, He Follows Hard After God, God’s Right Hand Upholds Him, So That Those Who Are Seeking To Destroy Him Will Themselves Be Destroyed (Psalms 63:8-10).
4) The Consequence Of God’s Judgment On Those Who Rebel Against The King Will Be That The King Will Rejoice In God, And Those Who Are Faithful To Their Oaths Of Loyalty Sworn In God’s Name Will Glory (Psalms 63:11).
There is an interesting pattern in that the first part has ten lines, the second part has eight lines, the third part has six lines, and the last part has four lines.
David’s Flight Through The Parched Wilderness Thirsting For Water Brings Home To Him How Much His Own Inner Life Thirsts After God, In The Same Way As Being In The Sanctuary Had Once Brought Home To Him God’s Glory (Psalms 63:1-3 ).
In his flight David compares his awareness of God as the One Who will satisfy his spiritual thirst in the wilderness, with his awareness of the glory of God in the Sanctuary. Both circumstance bring home to him God’s covenant love, and both fill him with praise.
‘O God, you are my God,
Earnestly will I seek you.’
My soul thirsts for you,
My flesh longs for you,
In a dry and weary land,
Where no water is.’
As David and his men fled from Absalom through the wilderness of Judah (2 Samuel 15:23), having watched the Ark return to Jerusalem (2 Samuel 15:24-26) as they travelled on towards the Jordan, they thirsted, and it was then that David’s thirst reminded him of the God Whom he loved and Whom his soul craved, the God Whom of late he had been treating too casually. Looking around at the wilderness, which was in such contrast to the palace that he had left, and seeing what a dry and wearisome land it was, it brought home to him his own situation of forsakenness, and in turn this brought home to him his hunger for God. There is nothing like being in the wilderness to make us think of God. So, in danger of his life, he cried out to Him, longing after Him with the same thirst that he had for water.
‘O God, you are my God.’ He knew that the fact that his circumstances had changed did not alter the fact that God was still his God. Indeed he realised that it was God’s concern for him that had brought him up sharp because he had grown slack in his rulership and in his religious life. And now his reverses had brought home to him his need to know God afresh. He had become once more athirst for God. And he longed after Him more than he longed after water in a waterless land.
It is often necessary for God to allow problems to happen in order to shake us out of complacency. For it is so easy for us, when all is going well, to proceed onwards and let God slip into the background. And God thus has to bring us up with a jolt, as He did David here.
‘So have I looked on you in the sanctuary,
To see your power and your glory,
Because your covenant love is better than life,
My lips will praise you.’
In the same way as he now looked on the wilderness and was reminded of the God Who could satisfy his deepest longings, so had he once looked on the Sanctuary and been reminded of God’s power and glory. Both experiences had brought home to him God’s inestimable worth and glory. Both had brought home to him the fact that to enjoy God’s covenant love, to have God on his side, was better than life. The Sanctuary which revealed God’s glory had caused him to praise God, and to recognise the depth of His covenant love, but even moreso did this desolate wilderness as it reminded him of how God could satisfy his deepest thirst, and give him continuing life in the midst of it. It would have brought home to him afresh the days when he had fled from Saul and had been so wondrously upheld by God’ love. To him the very wilderness was a Sanctuary of God.
‘My lips will praise you.’ The verb is an Aramaism, but in view of the plentiful Aramaisms found in the Ugaritic literature this says nothing about the date of the Psalm.
His Refreshed Vision Of God Has Restored His Heartfelt Spiritual Satisfaction, Has Enhanced His Praise Towards God And Has Reminded Him That It Is God Who Is His Refuge (Psalms 63:4-7 ).
And so wherever he is, whether in the Sanctuary, or in the wilderness cut off from the Sanctuary, he can bless God and find deep inner satisfaction, and know that he shelters under God’s wings.
‘So will I bless you while I live,
I will lift up my hands in your name,
My inner man will be satisfied as with marrow and fatness,
And my mouth will praise you with joyful lips.’
Because God meets him, whether in the wilderness or in the Jerusalem Tent of Meeting, he will bless God for his whole lifetime, and lift up his hands in His Name. For he knows that God will fully satisfy his inner being with choice blessings, something which causes him to praise God with joyful lips. Thus can he rejoice in the midst of trial, even when all appears to be going wrong.
‘I will lift up my hands in your name.’ The lifting up of the hands was a regular attitude of prayer (Psalms 28:2; Psalms 141:2; 1 Timothy 2:8). In Psalms 141:2 it is compared with the offering up of the evening sacrifice, just as prayer is compared with the offering up of incense..
When I remember you on my bed,
I meditate on you in the night-watches.
For you have been my help,
And in the shadow of your wings will I rejoice.’
Even when he is lying wakeful in bed and remembers God, he meditates on Him and on what He is through the night watches. (In Israel the night was divided up into three watches). His thoughts are all on God. And he does this because it is God Who has been his help in trouble, and Who hides him in the shadow of His wings so that he can rejoice in the face of adversity. Thus even when the world appears to be collapsing, he never lets his mind wander away too far from God. God is in all his thoughts. It is well for us if our thoughts are similarly constantly of God.
Because, From Deep Within Him, He Follows Hard After God , God’s Right Hand Upholds Him, So That Those Who Are Seeking To Destroy Him Will Themselves Be Destroyed (Psalms 63:8-10 ).
From David’s inner thoughts springs inner action. His inner life follows hard after God. This is why God’s right hand upholds him, and deals firmly with his enemies.
‘My inner life follows hard after you,
Your right hand upholds me.’
And those who seek my inner life, to destroy it,
Will go into the lower parts of the earth.
They will be given over to the power of the sword,
They will be a portion for jackals.’
‘My inner life follows hard after you.’ This is literally, ‘my inner life cleaves after you’. He clings on to God at all costs and follows Him, being bound to God by God Himself. To him God is everything. And because this is so God’s right hand upholds him. The right hand is indicative of the most powerful hand. He is upheld and sustained by God in His Almightiness. And thus he has total assurance that his enemies cannot prevail.
Those who seek his person in order to destroy him will instead find that they themselves will go to the grave. While he, in his inner heart, goes upwards to God, they will go downwards into the grave world, swallowed up like Korah and his fellow-rebels who sought to usurp God’s anointed priests (Numbers 16:31-33). Whilst his life is given over to God, their lives will given over to the sword. Whilst he is God’s portion, they will be portions for scavengers, who will eat their dead bodies. Their future is bleak indeed. Such is the portion of those who ill-treat God’s people.
‘They will be given over to the power of the sword.’ This is literally ‘they will pour him out to the power of the sword’, with the ‘they’ being God’s mysterious instruments of justice.
‘They will be a portion for jackals.’ The fate of those who rebel against God is often depicted in such terms. Compare Ezekiel 39:4; Ezekiel 39:17-20; Revelation 19:17-18.
The Consequence Of God’s Judgment On Those Who Rebel Against The King Will Be That The King Will Rejoice In God, And Those Who Are Faithful To Their Oaths Of Loyalty Sworn In God’s Name Will Glory (Psalms 63:11 ).
This final verse fits admirably into the story of the rebellion of Absalom, who by deceit and half truths sought to overthrow David. Deeply aware of how Absalom and his supporters have maligned him, David is confident that their mouths will be stopped, whilst he, the king, being delivered, will rejoice in God, and all his loyal supporters will rejoice with him, and glory in God’s deliverance.
‘But the king will rejoice in God,
Every one who swears by him will glory,
For the mouth of those who speak lies,
Will be stopped.’
David has confidence that God will deliver him, with the consequence that he will rejoice in God. Similarly those who have made their oaths of loyalty to him in God’s Name, and have abided by them, will have cause to glory, for they will see him vindicated. In contrast, rather than rejoicing and glorying, the mouths of those who speak lies and deceive others will be stopped. They will have no cause to rejoice and glory.
The whole Psalm is a reminder of God’s loyalty to those who are loyal to Him. And it is a reminder that just as David’s followers were to be loyal to their anointed king, so are we to be loyal to great David’s Greater Son, our Lord, Jesus Christ.
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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Pett, Peter. "Commentary on Psalms 63". "Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". https://studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 8 / Ordinary 13