The 63rd Psalm
This exposition on Psalm 63 was written over the course of as many days as you see divisions the second year we were publishing the Daily Thought. I had decided to avoid writing serials the first year, but in the second and third found the need to write in bite sized pieces on some subjects over several days. Thus a series of days of thoughts would deal with the same theme
This particular work was also a part of some of my own devotional thoughts as well. It was not written simply for the consumption of others. To be honest with you, the writing of material such as this probably blesses me more than those who read it. But some things do come into existence more with the serving of a brother in mind than with satisfying my own desired pursuit.
At the same time I was saying the above I was remembering what a blessing those who have participated within my work in the Lord have been. It has always been pleasant to receive the gratitude of a brother or sister in Christ who felt they had been benefited by my small efforts, but these people have served me well by taking my thoughts places they might not otherwise have gone. So in the end who has blessed who? I will pause here lest I lapse into some Bible exposition about how believers are supposed to affect one another's lives.
As you read this, where you find merit, give God the glory; where you find failure or demerit, I beg your forgiveness. The fault lieth at the door of this lump of dust.
Michael L. Ford
What a marvelous declaration opens the Psalm of praise and dedication that we call Psalm 63. “O God, thou art my God!” This statement is more than mere exclamation. It is proclamation of established fact that is worthy of both contemplation and emulation:
First there is the fact of who God is. He is the One God who knows no other. His proclamation is that all who make pretence to His lofty status are but false gods. Observation demonstrates that none can even make claim to the expanse of domination and sovereignty He proclaims are all part of His handiwork. Consideration reveals that those who pursue the status of godhood are but the fallen angels of the demonic world or foolish men deluded in the vanities of their own mind. When we correctly view the reality of the true God we find no words that can describe Him. We can do no more than mumble things that are true about Him; words incapable of expressing or even summarizing His greatness.
Secondly there is the position we all should willingly claim in our relationship to Him. When we say “thou art my God,” we declare that no other love or adoration of heart or mind can find place even comparable in our lives to that which is His. But we do not merely forsake idolatry; we abandon self and declare “Not my will, but thine be done.” Though not able to speak for either heaven or earth the earnest lover of God seeks for His will to be fully revealed in themselves without restraint or reservation. It is better to be a leper who belongs to the true God than the conqueror of the world who knows Him not.
Finally there is the freedom won in the possession of God as their God, the possessor becomes the one who is possessed of God. He, who can say that the true God is their God needs not fear The Adversary nor anything he might devise against him. Neither does
the man whose God is the One Lord need to concern himself with the animosity of sinful men knowing He has already overcome the world. There is no lack when all our sufficiency is in Him.
It is unfortunate that some sought to alter the translation of the word early from the original tongue in Psalm 63:1. For in reading “early will I seek thee: My soul thirsteth for thee, my flesh longeth for thee in a dry and thirsty land, where no water is;” the earnestness of David is correctly transmitted. And, this intensity of desire to be filled with His presence and Person should be the common desire and pursuit of all whose God is the Lord.
Embodied in the expression is not only the time the psalmist begins his pursuit, but also the painstaking diligence that is part of the undertaking. It permeates one’s whole being. We can scarcely be amazed that a wife, whose heart is not wholly after the Lord, would be embarrassed by the man with such a fervent heart. Neither should we be amazed if a spouse in this day would become frustrated with a mate who deserts the bed early for prayer and study or chooses to meditate upon the word before retiring instead of watching a mind numbing television show.
The hour in which the pursuit after God in one’s day begins is important. For it precedes the intrusion of the thoughts and cares of this world. Before the mind becomes cluttered and overwhelmed the Lord is already placed on the throne of the conscious being so all that follows may then fall into its proper perspective. It is small wonder that such a man with such a God should look out upon trials and tribulations and ask who shall make them fear?
In a few places in this world, people yet have the opportunity to experience the physical thirst David compared his longing after God with. Though no one would wish such physical hardship that can scarcely be described to anyone who has not experienced it,
knowledge of such a need makes the comparison more real in the understanding of the believer. Remembering the sweetness of the moment such thirst is quenched is precious. But the one who has so thirsted is never again completely satisfied of water. Always he seeks more. Even so, my Lord.
To see thy power and thy glory, so as I have seen thee in the sanctuary. Psalm 63:2
When we read this, some of the unknown experiences of David’s life are no doubt touched upon. We can scarcely say what power and glory that this man after God’s own heart had seen in the sanctuary. But those things must have been mighty and real, a far cry from the conjured humanly generated experiences that have too often occurred in the history of the church. The significance of these events upon his mind was so great that the movement of God in his daily life paled by comparison.
This is amazing to us, for we see David’s life as continually influenced and affected by God, and secretly long that the Mighty One of Israel would so move in our own lives. For the shepherd- king, the view of his life was different. Remembering the mighty acts of God through Moses and the prophets; filled with knowledge of His mighty manifestations in those men, the movement of God in his daily affairs might have seemed to him far less spectacular. To the man, who lives a life filled with adventure, spaces between notable events seems greater than the crucial moments other men chronicle.
And what of that David had seen in the sanctuary? Had God’s glory been seen by others? My mind returns to the moment in my own life when I discovered that people could be in the House of the Lord and not see what I saw. There have been times when something like a luminous cloud or haze was above the
congregation as worship took place. Even in the long gone days of boyhood when such an event was the more common it seemed most were unaware.
At the end of the matter we must consider our own realization of the guidance and concern the Lord Jesus Christ lavishes upon our daily life. Are we like David more aware of the challenges of life and less aware of divine intervention in the details because we desire the spectacular? Or, can we see His power and glory in the details?
Better than Life
Because thy lovingkindness is better than life, my lips shall praise thee. Psalm 63:3
This expression was called by Adam Clarke “the language of every regenerate soul.” It is the unmerited and all filling, pouring out from God of Himself toward us that is in sight here. If we merely note the radical contrast of a man’s desire for manifestation preceding the verse with the abandoned adoration of the present we are awed. But when we consider the whole effusive nature of God’s outpouring, the most ultimate act of a man’s response is yet a poor thing to offer. To have long life or even many lifetimes without the presence of thy lovingkindness in it O Lord would be barren and wasted existence indeed!
There are those who will go forth this day living the abandonment to our Lord Jesus Christ’s lovingkindness in their daily life. Pastor Wurmbrand, of Voice of the Martyrs, would tell people to consider the impact of their giving. He did this even as he took up a collection to assist the witness of believers where persecution was daily and death common. Some incur risk because the land of their birth is hostile to the One who authored their rebirth. Others accept risk as they take the good news of salvation into such lands. It is not only the challenge of their lives, but the reality of God’s love that asks if we would willingly do the same?
The praising of God in the sanctuary is one thing. The song of praise lifted up in the walk to one’s death or the torture chamber is another. The first is not to be despised nor neglected. The latter is a genuine abandonment of the soul that says “wherever He leads I’ll go.” To be willing to take not only “all the vain things that charm …most” and “sacrifice them to His blood,” but to submit our very selves a living sacrifice is only our reasonable service to so great a love.
In a day when so many want to be begged to do the simplest of service and then be praised for it, we know there are few who can praise God with lips like David’s! Let us each examine ourselves.
Thus will I bless thee while I live: I will lift up my hands in thy Name. My soul shall be satisfied as with marrow and fatness; and my mouth shall praise thee with joyful lips. Psalm 63: 4-5
Most Christians think that the lifting up of hands should be confined to the sanctuary, and many of them get nervous at that. But pious Jews in not only their prayers and praises but also in their contracts and so forth lifted up hands toward Jerusalem, where The True God had His temple and where He has showed His presence. In this manner they signified the taking of God as their portion and that they would be honest and upright in all they professed and did. This was then imitated by some false religion that followed and men to this day will in various parts of the world lift up hands and swear falsely by their own god. This should not be said of the Christian believer, for his total conduct is the testimony of the Redeemer. His conduct will either bless or shame to the Name Lord Jesus Christ. Thus it is written thou shalt not take the Name of the Lord thy God in vain.
To illustrate the passage, a story told by Dr. Aaron Johnson comes to mind: A laborer would regularly come to work with chicken legs tucked into the front pockets of his bib overalls. At the
midmorning break he would bring them out and clean the meat from the bones, placing the bones back in the pockets at his breast. As he continued through his workday he would take out the bones and gnaw at the end till he could suck the marrow. In this way he would keep himself supplied with the strength and energy needed for the heavy labor of his job. When questioned about his practice the workman proclaimed the marrow was actually the best part.
True worship is not only the occupation of the mind with God at an appointed time in the sanctuary. It is the activity and interaction of our lives with our fellow man as a testimony, because we have taken the Lord Jesus Christ as our portion. Then we gnaw away and suck into ourselves our daily fatness from the Word that satisfies. In this way our lives bless God and He is pleased with us.
When I remember thee upon my bed, and meditate on thee in the night watches. Psalm 63:6
There is not so great a hindrance to a peaceful rest as the manner in which the average man or woman goes to their rest. In the treatment for depression and anxiety the psychologist knows of the value of rest, but they do not know how to give true rest. They must seek to offer the solace of medications that are lacking in ability to give more than physical quiet. The introduction of chemicals actually hinders the work God would have to be done within the mind and heart of a person during the night hours. In seeking the rest God designed attitude is everything but the proper attitude belongs only to those who know their Redeemer liveth.
Most people are consumed with the cares of the day instead of being filled with the Lord as they go through their day. When they go to their rest they carry these cares with them and replay the events most distressing as they lay their heads upon the pillow. Missed during the day’s events were the many blessings of God poured out upon their lives. Present in their beds is a multitude of
things, much of which they have little or no control over anyway. Is it any wonder that sleep eludes and a restless tossing and turning is the dance with which they dance the night away?
King David chose the better route. He found time to keep his mind focused on the Lord in the midst of many trials and challenges during the day. But in the night hour he practiced the principle that sufficient to the day is the evil thereof. He trusted his situations to the One who neither slumbers nor sleeps and meditated upon Him instead of troubles during the night hours. Who is like thee? In you O Lord, I can safely put my trust! There is no place for concern where God’s peace is present.
It is a pleasant thing to have sleep find you as the mind is focused on the goodness of God. It is pleasant to waken in the night and feel His abiding presence. Safe in the arms of Jesus!
Because thou hast been my help, therefore in the shadow of thy wings will I rejoice. Psalm 63: 7
It is an interesting thing to observe how a young man will glory in his strength and the vigor of his body. It is within his male nature to look for opportunities to test it and challenge it. He does not really believe it will ever fail him though he sees the evidence of decline in older people he has taken for heroes. It is also the rare youth who stops and considers whom it is that gives him strength. The young are not alone in their failure to consider who is the author of the blessings that attend their lives. One of the key elements to helping Christians who are depressed is getting them to focus on blessings and get them to concentrate on how much good God has poured into life.
Within sight in this passage is not one but two thoughts that tie the Lord's actions on our behalf and His protection into a unified picture. The view we most commonly see is the picture of a mother
fowl that will gather her brood under her when danger threatens. Our Lord Jesus Christ used just such terminology when He called out to Jerusalem. (Matthew 23:37) Few consider that it was the long-term refusal to His appeal that would result in the trials to come not only upon that city but the entire land. (23:38) So it is with all those who do not rely upon the Lord for their strength and protection. Their house is ultimately left to them desolate.
The less obvious and often overlooked is the picture of entering into the Holy of Holies. It should not be so, for this Psalm is one of relationship with the One God who is our God. David in this psalm jumps ahead to the time when the partition between God and redeemed man is removed by the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. In the holiest place we find the mercy seat overshadowed by the wings of the cherubim. Here is not only salvation but also access. Here mercy is found and protection as well. But more importantly, here is the communion and the glory of His presence. No place here for a sad heart or defeated attitude! He causes our faces to shine!
Glued to God
My soul followeth hard after thee: thy right hand upholdeth me.
In the world of pursuit that the flesh glorifies in are those of conflict and gain, vainglory and folly. So it was that from the beginning men like Nimrod sought the things of the world for themselves, and some like him even dared to hunt their fellow man. King Saul had a bit of the spirit of Nimrod in him, but not so the man who would succeed him. David was faced with men who knew how to pursue at the king’s bidding. Yet, at the same time he was in flight, he was a man in pursuit. But things that were higher and nobler had allured his sight for he sought after God Almighty.
Many centuries later a man who began as Saul of Tarsus would reflect the sentiment of David. You can almost hear the groaning of
his longing as he said, “That I may know him, and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being made conformable to His death.” (Philippians 3:10) Both men had the hands of men turned against them at the time of their writings, but for both the pursuit of God made the animosities of men pale. Each were confident of the power of God’s protecting hand to give them strength to both endure and overcome.
In pursuing God, the psalmist emphasizes not only the diligence of His pursuit, but the nearness of his clinging onto the Lord. He claims he is as close after God as one would be if glued to another. Surely here is the man after God’s own heart. He finds that he cannot get close enough to the Master to be satisfied in this world. He is confident of God reaching out to Him with the strong right hand of protection and honor in response. However, the secret of the fellowship is not here revealed, only alluded to. That secret is that the closeness of relationship with God is ultimately His drawing near to us. “The Lord is nigh unto all that call upon Him, to all that call upon Him in truth.” (Psalm 145:18) Acts 17:27 recorded it this way: “That they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after Him, and find Him, though He be not far from every one of us.”
But those that seek my soul, to destroy it, shall go into the lower parts of the earth. Psalm 63:9
Oftentimes people look at the psalms’ denouncements wrongly. They see the contrasted fate of the righteous with those who are not only unrighteous, but also the antagonists of the upright, as being gleeful in character. In this psalm though, no joy at an enemy’s fate can be inferred. There is only a statement of fact. After all, David was pursued by the man he served, a man he referred to in even these trying days as “my lord, the king.”
One thing that will not be solved in this psalm is an oft-asked
question about the salvation of Saul. Many would have Saul in heaven or in hell, dependant upon their personally held view of the doctrine of salvation. Though eternal condemnation of the person who pursues after the ordained of the Lord cannot be disallowed, it cannot be taught from the passage. But the death of the enemy of God’s man is assured.
Never has there been a more reprehensible sight than the picture of two men who have been set aside by God for specific service at odds with one another. My mind goes back to a day of discovery. In studying the New Testament I came to the realization that among such men it is the one who seeks peace with the other that is the spiritually more mature. In this matter David proved himself the superior to Saul. But the Lord withheld Saul’s final day of reckoning until his iniquitous acts had run their full course.
An open grave and untimely death beckons the enemies of God’s people and especially His anointed ones. This is not a matter for joy or exultation. Rather we should pray for those who despise us, and say or do evil against us. Paul went so far as to even ask that such failures should not be laid to certain people’s account, though he was not always so forgiving. Not having his apostolic insight, we should pray for all those who wish us ill.
The Sixty-third Psalm has a prophetic quality as it deals with the fate of those who will work evil against David. “They shall fall by the sword: they shall be a portion for foxes.” (63:10) Certainly when a person reads this they cannot forget the fate of Saul. No doubt a great many of the dead upon the field of battle, the day God’s judgement came upon Saul, were devoured by the beasts of field and forest.
Fallen men of war have often been the sustenance of wild beasts down through history even to this day. Even in regions where wild
life has been diminished, it is not unusual that domestic animals such as dogs and cats should feed themselves on the flesh abundantly available midst the horrors of war. This is not the unusual part of their fate at all. The fox or jackal (Hebrew ‘shoo-awl’ commonly called chokal) of the Middle East is a particularly ravenous and ferocious beast. It has been known to steal babies from their mothers’ laps. In India, its cousins often devour alive the sick left by the sides of the Ganges, and as late as the nineteenth century were reputed to steal into Calcutta to eat persons found on the streets in a state of intoxication. The use of this particular animal as a reference in the psalm is a matter for the seeker after truth to contemplate.
Could it be the burrowing ability of the animal that we should consider? For it will root out its intended prey with utmost dedication. Could it be the ravenous or the ferocious qualities, which point to the dedication with which those who will stand against David and his kingdom will be pursued and overcome? Maybe it is all this and more. For in standing against David they have placed themselves in opposition to the plans and purposes of God Almighty. It is from his loins and inheritance that the earthly portion of Messiah shall come. It is from him, He has come, and will come again to set upon the throne. Not once in the psalm did David consider accomplishing retribution himself. God had His purpose and plan for David, therefore the battle was the Lord’s as well.
The King’s Portion
But the king shall rejoice in God; Psalm 63:11a
Watching the trials of David, from the vantage of fulfilled prophecy concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, we wonder if more emphasis should not be placed upon the Person of Christ in the Sixty-third Psalm? Scarcely can the ninth and tenth verses be read without recalling the messianic words “The Lord
said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool.” (Psalm 110:1) But in the following verse a very different picture comes into view.
We read “the king shall rejoice in God,” as a contrast to the destruction of those who have made themselves his enemies. But then we remember the price paid by the Holy One of Israel to secure victory over sin and the grave. On the cross the Lord Jesus Christ was mocked. (Matthew 27:41-43) with the very words being used fulfilling prophecy: “All they that see me laugh me to scorn: they shoot out the lip, they shake the head, saying, He trusted on the Lord that He would deliver Him: Let Him deliver Him, seeing He delighteth in Him.” (Psalm 22:7&8) The suffering of David was but a pale shadow of that endured by his illustrious descendant.
There were comparisons to be made between the two that signifies David as a type in the rejection he experienced. David was branded as a criminal and pursued only to ultimately become rich and mighty. The Lord Jesus Christ was hung between two criminals as a malefactor might be, made His grave with the rich, and in His resurrection entered into His inheritance as the mighty One who overcomes the world. David would have Israel under his feet. Jesus would have all things under His feet, not only in this world but also in that which is to come. (Ephesians 1:21-22)
Swearing by Him
…every one that sweareth by him shall glory: but the mouth of them that speak lies shall be stopped. Psalm 63:11b
One of the most ancient of customs is that of swearing to the truth or in vowing that an act will be performed. From antiquity such an oath would be made on the basis of the king who ruled the subject. Very frequently the custom was to swear by the life of the king. This custom is recorded in the Bible in a number of places. For
instance, this custom was practiced when Joseph was in Egypt. In Genesis 42:15&16, Joseph twice swore by the life of Pharaoh before his brothers.
In 1Samuel 1:26, Hannah swore such by the life of Eli the priest. But the focus of this oath had to do with a promise she had made to God. Clearly the practice of swearing by the life of the king was the more common place and also present in Israel. Abner swore in just such a manner before Saul when David went out to meet the giant. (1Samuel 17:55) It would seem the expression is pretty cut and dried, but in the Sixty-third Psalm there is a problem.
You see, David is the one anointed to be king, and he cannot possibly be referring to the then present king since he is the author of David’s woes. He is the psalmist who wrote the song but in it he is not referring to himself but another. David has another king in mind. No matter how long we shall search for the answer to who that king might be, no answer is to be found apart from the Lord Jesus Christ.
We have problems with swearing because we have been told not to swear in the New Testament. But we do so every time we take and oath followed by the words “so help me God.” The command to not swear has reasons not yet told. Swearing by the king’s name binds the swearer to his authority, accepts his supremacy and requires devotion to his glory and service. Remember the command thou shalt not take the Name of the Lord thy God in vain? False swearing is precisely that! Remember Ananias and Sapphira?