The Psalms of David have come to be regarded as a collection of poetic productions composed for literary effect and expressing doctrinal sentiments. But this is not so; we should remember that David’s psalms were not only written by him but were lived by him, being expressions of his innermost experience and records of his real life. That’s why they seem like so many disjointed fragments, put together without any real continuity of thought or literary method.
There is, for instance, a sigh, a prayer, a shout of victory, a cry of despair, a song of praise, a moan of despondency; all mixed up together in the one psalm. To that extent, they reflect the life of every true believer which is also made up of not just prayer or one continuous song of praise, but of many groans and prayers, songs of deliverance, moans of distress, earnest seeking, tearful repentance and the whole gamut of emotional responses that are expressions of the conflict between the old man and the new. If we look at the psalms of David in this light, they will become more meaningful to us.
Psalm 63 is described as a “wilderness Psalm”; that is, it was written by David when he was in the wilderness of Judah, after the rebellion of Absalom.
According to Chrysostom, a 4th century Patriarch of Constantinople, this Psalm was sung as the morning Psalm of the apostolic Church; for good reason; in those days of oppression and persecution, the Church knew that it was in the wilderness of toil, pain and death where the hungering and thirsting after God was the only thing that kept the faithful faithful.
One of the unique characteristics of God’s true people is that they can sing in a wilderness. Religious Israel, on the other hand, when in captivity, “hung their harps upon the willows” being unable to sing the Lord’s song in the wilderness of a strange land (Psalm 137:2-4); the children of the world can’t sing at all unless the sun is shining and the flowers are out.
But the song of God’s true people is not dependent upon external circumstances and environment; indeed, the history of the true Body and Bride of Christ is that she has sung the sweetest in the times of the worst persecution and suffering.
But sadly, as the church found favour in the eyes of the ungodly emperors and the world smiled upon her, she embraced the delusion that her time in the wilderness was over and the singing of this wilderness song ceased. The gatherings of God’s people ceased to be the pure Church of God that she was meant to be and degenerated into worldly Christianity, a moral and spiritual wilderness of which the wilderness of Judah was the outward and visible type.
In the wilderness was where David was and it is where the church is; not only in the wilderness of this present evil world, a moral wilderness of toil and pain, of hunger and thirst, a vale of tears and a valley of the shadow of death; but in the wilderness of the spiritual confusion known as Christianity.
Wherever Christ’s true flock have been, those who knew that they were not of this world, they have had to go out into the wilderness to find Him and there to worship Him in Spirit and truth; they were told to come out of the camp to find Christ (Hebrews 13:13). Indeed, God has often to draw His faithful people into the wilderness in order that there, shut up to none but Him, they may discover what it is to dwell in Him, and Him alone.
The first verse of the Psalm begins by invoking the name of God – Elohim. This is the majestic name of God, the first name of God used in the Bible and is rendered in the plural, giving the first hint of the triune nature of God more fully revealed in the New Testament. Elohim is God in relation to Himself, not God in relation to man, as many other names signify as in, for example, the Lord will provide (Yahweh Jireh), the Lord is Peace (Yahweh Shalom), the Lord is my shepherd (Yahweh Roi), the Lord our righteousness (Yahweh Tsidkenu) etc.
David calls Him the Lord MY God thus acknowledging his individual and separate relationship to the God that lived in his heart. And this is not presumption on David’s part; did not God first reveal Himself as “the Lord Thy God” (second person singular). What a marvellous privilege for the feeble hand of man to reach out and take hold of the strength of God!
David sought Him “early”; literally the “breaking in of the morning”. His earnestness is expressed in his soul thirsting for God and his flesh longing for God; it is all about God; I will seek Thee, my soul thirsts for Thee, my flesh longs for Thee!
Here is the secret of true worship; to seek God for Himself not for ourselves, but for the joy and delight of knowing Him and being in His presence.
“Early will I seek You” David continues, literally “with the breaking in of the morning”. “My soul thirsts for You”; thirst is a figure of speech used in the scripture to convey intense desire for something indispensible and what is indispensible to David is the presence of God; it should be no less for all true children of the Father. David’s words here remind us of the word of another psalm; “My soul thirsts for the Living God; when shall I come and behold the face of God?” (Psalm 42:2).
“My flesh longs for you in a dry and weary land without water”, the first verse concludes. The wilderness of Judah was the outward and visible type of the moral desert in which we live; it is a “dry and weary land”, and this describes quite well the world about us; there is no nourishment to be gained by God’s people from anything in this world and attempting to come to terms with it, or compromise with it, will dry up all the moisture of God’s grace in our lives.
We too, live in a “dry land”; that is, a land of spiritual emptiness where there is no nourishment for our faith and even what we have will dry up unless we are vigilant to seek constant supplies of His grace and His presence in the Holy Spirit.
It is “a land without water”; water is a figure used to describe intimacy with God. “If any man thirst let him come to Me and drink” Jesus said; and “…the one drinking from this water will thirst again; but whoever should drink from the water that I will give to him will never thirst; but the water which I will give to him will become in him a fountain of water, springing up into eternal life” (John 4:13-14).
Modern Christianity has forsaken this “fountain of living waters” and rushes to and fro in mad pursuit of imaginary fountains from which they may drink; a vast array of these are offered by the many religious fakirs who conduct lawless “ministries” that contaminate today’s religious world. Alas, those who follow these lawless ones are inevitably disappointed and find that they have not only forsaken God, the fountain of living waters, but have been digging cisterns that hold no water (Jeremiah 2:13); their thirst remains unquenched.
We live in a “weary land”; that is, a land of struggle and toil where we live in the shadow of death in which most have no hope beyond the grave.
This then, is the condition of the world as David sees it from his hiding place in the wilderness of Judah; it is still the condition of the world as seen from our hiding place, which is IN Christ Jesus the Lord (Psalm 119:114). These external circumstances will drive us to Christ, if we will make proper use of them; David says in verse 2 “So in the sanctuary I have beheld You, in order to see Your power and glory”. That is always where we must hasten; the sanctuary or the holy place, to the place where we can be in the presence of God. The sanctuary is where we meet God; this is not a building, or a church, or any sort of meeting place; it is where we, alone, come to the living presence of Almighty God through the agency of the Holy Spirit. It is in this place of intimacy with God that He is able to reveal things to us. In Psalm 73, the faith of the psalmist is almost overcome by what he sees about him in God’s people, the prosperity of the lawless, their pride, unrighteousness and ungodliness. “Until I went into the sanctuary of God; then I understood their end”. So here, in this personal meeting place with God, everything is made clear; it was true then and it is true now, if only God’s people will know it and make use of it.