Sermon on Psalm 63:1-11, preached on Sunday, 6 January 2019.
Bible Readings: (OT) Psalm 63:1-11 / (NT) Hebrews 11:1-16
I. To thirst for God (vs. 1-2)
II. To satisfy with God (vs. 3-8)
To rejoice in God (vs. 9-11)
Today is the first Lord’s Day in a new and fresh year, the year of the Lord 2019. All of us are grateful to the Lord for granting us another year. In the beginning of a fresh year, there’s one thing most people do, that is, to have some new year’s resolutions. Whether or not people put them in writing, everyone has something in mind in relation to thinking about and planning for a new year. For Christians, doing so is being faithful to the Lord’s command given in Eph. 5:15-16 which tells us to look carefully how we walk and make the best use of the time as the days are evil.
So, on this first Lord’s Day in the year of the Lord 2019, we need to focus on setting up a goal or resolution that gives us a directional sense to our heart and soul and body for this year. In this work of setting up a goal, we need to consider what we should do for this year, knowing clearly about why we do it as well as how we do it.
Before we go on and consider our resolution for a new year, let me tell you what I’ve found out in regard to the most popular new year’s resolutions among Australians. The top ranking resolution is ‘to improve fitness’ and some follow-ups are ‘eat better,’ ‘quit smoking/drinking,’ ‘learn a new skill’ and ‘travel more.’ Those are the goals many people around us set, and the people in other countries – I mean, at least in developed countries – don’t seem to be much different from these popular resolutions.
But for Christians, new year’s resolution or focus of life is quite different from any of those popular ones. Our yearly focus is more spiritual than physical, more heavenly than mundane. The main focus of the believing heart is to strengthen his/her tie and relationship with the Lord Jesus and, through Him, with the heavenly Father. It is to know the Lord more and walk with Him farther and bring Him glory and honour. Such is what we hear from the words of the sixty-third psalm and I pray that all of us here be led to the Lord and take what He commends to our hearts and pursue in the year that is ahead of us.
In light of this, I’d like to divide this psalm into three sections for consideration – they are, firstly, ‘to thirst for God’ based on v. 1, secondly, ‘to satisfy with God’ from vs. 2-8, and thirdly, ‘to rejoice in God’ with vs. 9-11.
I. TO THIRST FOR GOD (v. 1)
The first point v. 1 commends to us is to ‘thirst for God.’ This is the first and foremost importance for all who trust God, hear His voice and come to Him in worship because this ‘thirst’ is a thirst for life, a thirst for the eternal God who is the source of life. Without Him, no one lives. So, we must thirst for the Lord.
To see what sort of thirst this is, I think it’s helpful for us to know and consider the background of this psalm of David. It is known that he wrote this sixty-third psalm while he was running away from Absalom, one of his own sons, and while he was passing through the wilderness. His son, Absalom, had rebelled against his own father and wanted to kill him. If you read 2 Sam. 15 and on, you’ll be able to see how urgent the situation was. To help you see it clear, let me read you 2 Sam. 17:16 which is a message David received from one of his faithful servants. That servant urged David not to “spend the night at the fords of the wilderness, but by all means cross over, or else the king and all the people who are with you will be destroyed.’” You could easily see with this short message sent to the expelled king David how urgent and dangerous it was for him. He was kicked out of his own kingdom, and now crossing the wilderness, his only concern is to stay alive. There, in the midst of trouble, at a dangerous and lifeless place, he wrote this psalm. There, he was thirst for God, terribly thirst for the Saviour.
In every word, this desperate thirst is evident. David begins v. 1, saying, “O God, You are my God.” Literally, he means, ‘O God, You are my Mighty One [or ‘my strong God’ or ‘my Tower of strength’ ].’ By this, he recognises God as his God with power and authority, and speaks a word of prayer to Him, saying, “earnestly I seek You.” This could also mean, ‘I shall seek You early.’ The Hebrew word used in this word of prayer could mean that he seeks God both ‘early’ and ‘earnestly.’ Why does David seek his Mighty God early – most probably in the morning – and earnestly? Because ‘his soul thirsts’ and ‘his flesh faints in yearning for Him.’ When the Bible says ‘soul,’ it often means the highest and the most important part of human being, thus, the wholeness of a person. When someone’s soul desires, that means the ultimacy of his longing. In addition, David confesses that his ‘flesh’ also yearns for God. ‘Flesh’ here signifies the mundane part of man, practical, transitory and ordinary life of a person. So, what he says with his soul and body is the totality of his longing for the Mighty God.
Where is he now when he confesses his deep thirst for God? The last stanza of v. 1 points out that he is “in a dry and weary land where there is no water.” It’s a wilderness where water neither runs in valleys, nor springs up from under the rocks. But David’s ‘dry and weary land’ is not simply limited to mean a literal place on earth where there is no water, but can be expanded to mean man’s life on earth where no spiritual comfort is found. In such a dry land, David thirsts for God and his search for God is desperate as his flesh ‘faints’ for the Lord. As the wilderness dehydrates David’s body, the land where there’s no eternal joy and happiness in God suffocates his soul.
The point is that you and I are not much different from David in terms of our whereabouts. As he thirsted and fainted for God in a godless place, we too thirst and faint for God in this godless generation. David’s prayer of lament in this verse is, in fact, our prayer of lament. So, let me ask this question: ‘How deep does your soul thirst for God and faint for His comfort?’ This question is for me and for you and for all who believe in God. When was the last time that you bowed and said in your soul, ‘O God, You are my Strength, You alone is my comfort; earnestly I seek You. My soul thirsts for You, my flesh faints for You, in this dry and weary land where there is no water’? Or, have you ever had such a spiritual thirst for God?
So, this is the Lord’s urge for all of us who are called and saved through the blood of the Lord Jesus that we ought to thirst for God now and all the days in this year, and further to the end of our walk on earth. Thirsting for God, thirsting for Jesus’ grace is your new year’s resolution and mine. Like the deer of Ps. 42:1 pants for flowing streams of water, our soul ought to pant for God through Christ the Lord, seeking Him always, desiring to be closer to Him and have Him always by our side in our walk on this godless land. This is what we should pursue in this new year and all the days of our life.
II. TO SATISFY WITH GOD (vs. 2-8)
The next seven verses present to us another resolution for this year, that is, to satisfy with God. To satisfy with God is to have at least three satisfaction as presented in vs. 2-8. Firstly, satisfaction with our worship to God as vs. 2-4 explain. Secondly, satisfaction with our meditation of God as vs. 5-7 point out. Then, thirdly, satisfaction with our following God as v. 8 briefly yet strongly urges. Let us see each of these one by one.
First, our need to have satisfaction with our worship to God. This is the first importance among three satisfaction commended to us here. In v. 2, David ‘has looked upon God’ in the sanctuary, beholding His power and glory. He means that he worshipped God, knowing who this sovereign God is. David has realised an absolutely amazing and important truth, that is, God’s steadfast love – in other words, His unchanging love for His children – is better than life. God’s steadfast love is rendered in some other translations as His ‘lovingkindness.’ God’s ‘lovingkindness’ is the Lord’s ‘kindness’ and ‘love’ toward His people and this God’s special favour is based on His ‘covenant’ or promise made with His children. As you remember, God promised in the OT that He would be the God of His people and Israel would be His forever. In the NT, God not only reaffirmed, but also realised or actualised His former covenant through sending His only Son, Jesus, to us to be our Immanuel, ‘God with us.’ So, David means in v. 3 that having God’s unchanging love is far better than the best possible life a man could ever dream of, if not lived, on earth. So, he worships God, praising with his lips (v. 3b) and blessing Him as long as he lives, lifting up his hands (v. 4). In this way, we need full satisfaction with our worship to God.
This is not a secret to many devoted Christians. Attending worship services weekly and giving one’s heart to the Lord in worship, many worshippers find satisfaction in their souls. This becomes their spiritual strength for a week in the world until they come to next worship to God. Such satisfaction gives them a fresh excitement and longing for the next worship to the Lord. This cycle continues and the satisfaction through worship gets deepened in their souls. Of course, one’s thirst for God is quenched and the believing souls are satisfied with God.
The next satisfaction is with our meditation of God, especially of His word, as vs. 5-7 point out. Have a look at these verses (as seen on the screen). David says in v. 5 that his soul will be satisfied as with ‘fat and rich food.’ By this, he means the word of God. One’s soul being satisfied with God’s word as his body with good food is a picture the Bible often uses. Prov. 16:24, for example, illustrates this: “Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body.” Ps. 119:103 is another example which says this: “How sweet are Your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!” V. 6 adds another colour to this satisfaction and the idea is ‘remembering and meditating on God’ at night, at the end of a day’s walk. Again Ps. 119:105 gives an illumination to this, “[God’s] word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” After all, God gave us His word in order that we may read and meditate on it, and believe Him through faith in Jesus, and have life in His name. So, having satisfaction with our meditation of God’s word, we can sing for joy as assured by David in v. 7.
Then, the third and last satisfaction commended to us is with our following God. V. 8 is brief yet strong with this urge for our satisfaction. David says that his soul ‘clings’ to the Lord. This ‘clinging’ is an inseparable union as with the marriage union God set between man and woman in Gen. 2:24 and a wholehearted pursuit as with the life of the Apostle Paul described in Phil. 3:8 and following. To remind you of this clinging, inseparable union, reflected on Paul’s life, let me read Phil. 3:8 to you: “Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.” This is why KJV renders v. 8 of Ps. 63, our text for today, and says that David’s soul ‘follows hard after God.’ This clinging to God is, however, not what David initiates, nor continues, but what God enables him as you read in the second half of v. 8 which reads, “Your [God’s] right hand upholds me.”
In sum, we should satisfy with God in three areas, namely, with worship, with meditation of His word, and with our following Him, the Lord.
III. TO REJOICE IN GOD (vs. 9-11)
The first resolution commended to us through the words of Ps. 63 is to thirst for God and the second is to satisfy with God. And now, the third and last point for us is to rejoice in Him.
Have a look at vs. 9-11. These verses are clear about our need to rejoice in God, especially in a victorious God who has defeated the enemy. The basis of our rejoicing in Him is the Lord’s grant to us the benefit of His victory. We are God’s children through Christ; we abide in Him and He in us as Jesus promised. So, we’re the victors together with the Lord. So, how can we not rejoice in God? We shouldn’t have, therefore, a spirit of defeat in this world. Whatever happens, whatever strikes us, we never stop rejoicing in God’s victory because Christ’s victory over death and over our enemy, Satan, has already declared through His resurrection. And we share His resurrection life through faith. Nothing can alter this fact. Thousands of years before Christ’s death on the cross, David knew it through the Spirit of God and says in vs. 9 and 10: “But those who seek to destroy my life [or soul] shall go down into the depths of the earth; they shall be given over to the power of the sword; they shall be a portion for jackals.” As to David’s eyes, his enemy and all who follow that enemy are insignificant in power and size, so he says that they shall be only ‘a portion for jackals,’ like rats or rabbits. But we’re with the victorious God and Christ, thus, we should stand firm and joyful, no matter what happens to us.
David further tells us in v. 11 that “the king shall rejoice in God.” This ‘king’ is singular who must be mainly the true King, Jesus Christ, but it includes all who are God’s anointed because we are in Christ. And that’s what the next line declares too, saying, “all who swears by Him shall exult [or glory].”
The fact is that we Christians simply cannot despair of anything. Rather, we should rejoice in all things because any sufferings, difficulties, sickness or hopelessness is simply temporal, and we know our ultimate end – the victory in and through Christ the Lord! So, in this year, you and I ought to rejoice with God who is victorious.
In sum, it is not I or any man that urges you to have these three resolutions for a new and fresh year. Rather, it is God, your Lord and mine through our Saviour Jesus. In this sense, Ps. 63 is a summary of all pages of the Bible and gives us three points for us to remember and pursue – they are, first, to thirst for God as He is the source of life; then, we ought to satisfy with Him, especially in three aspects of faith – worship, meditation of the word, and following. Having thirst for the Lord and satisfying with Him, we’re to rejoice now and always in our victorious God!
Set your heart on God, my dear fellow worshippers, brothers and sisters. Pursue Christ Jesus our Saviour and Lord. And these three are what we ought to focus not only in this year, but also – as David said earlier in v. 4 – as long as we live. May God’s name be glorified and His blessings be upon us all. ***