Thirsty soul, Psalm 63

DSCN2876Iowa may not have mountain vistas or white beaches, but in summer its lush green fields and rolling tree-covered hills are beautiful. The land between the mighty Mississippi and the churning Missouri, creased by river valleys and meandering streams, displays more summer beauty than I-80 drivers realize.

And it’s a far cry from the arid wilderness of Judah, where David hid many years and what he calls in Psalm 63 a “dry and weary land where there is no water.”

David longs for God so fervently, he compares it to the intense desire for water and refreshment experienced when traveling through a desert.

O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you;
    my soul thirsts for you;
my flesh faints for you,
    as in a dry and weary land where there is no water (Psalm 63:1, ESV).

I may live in a lush land between two rivers in the heart of America, but I identify with David’s longing. Even the greenest land seems barren when it feels as if God is far off.

But when we participate in corporate worship and hear the Word faithfully proclaimed, we see a brief glimpse of God’s glory and power.

So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary,
    beholding your power and glory (verse 2, ESV).

Our focus shifts from ourselves and our needs to God and his glory. We remember God’s unfailing love and we praise him for it.

Because your steadfast love is better than life,
    my lips will praise you.
So I will bless you as long as I live;
    in your name I will lift up my hands (verses 3 & 4, ESV).

God’s love defies limits. It never ends, it never wavers, it never changes. He always loves us with an abundance and compassion beyond our ability to fathom.

Because concerns kept me awake between 2:00 and 6:00 AM, the next section of this psalm speaks directly to me this morning.

My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food,
    and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips,
when I remember you upon my bed,
    and meditate on you in the watches of the night;
for you have been my help,
    and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy.
My soul clings to you;
    your right hand upholds me (5-8, ESV).

I don’t always praise God with joyful lips or sing to him with joy. But if I remember what he’s done for me, how he’s guided every step of my life’s journey, and how he continues to shelter me under his protective wings, I ought to praise him. And praise leads to joy in the most downcast heart. In times of distress and discouragement, my soul can cling to God. His right hand holds me in his everlasting embrace.

The schemes of the devil and all his minions will come to nothing.

But those who seek to destroy my life
    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.
But the king shall rejoice in God;
    all who swear by him shall exult,
    for the mouths of liars will be stopped (9-11, ESV).

DSCN2853God will thwart the plans of deceivers, manipulators, and liars. They will perish on the points of their own sharp schemes. We may not see their specific demise, but God promises that evil will not triumph.

Christ and his people will exult and rejoice in our God, who satisfies our longings more than an oasis of fresh water in a parched land.

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The Shadow of Your Wings, Psalm 17

“Keep me as the apple of your eye: hide me in the shadow of your wings,” writes David in his Psalm 17 prayer (verse 8, ESV).

How amazing to think of God valuing me as the apple of his eye! To imagine myself sheltering in the shadow of his wings!

David begins his prayer from the perspective of a righteous man who has a just cause (Psalm 17:1-2, ESV):

Hear a just cause, O Lord; attend to my cry!
    Give ear to my prayer from lips free of deceit!
From your presence let my vindication come!
    Let your eyes behold the right!

David bases his claim on righteousness not on his personal assessment, but on God’s:

You have tried my heart, you have visited me by night,
    you have tested me, and you will find nothing;
    I have purposed that my mouth will not transgress (v. 3, ESV).

Although God knows the innermost regions of David’s heart, David has confidence that God has forgiven all his sin and views him through Christ’s righteousness. But David has also made a determination to avoid sinful speech.

He’s managed to keep from sinful actions by keeping God’s words always before him.

With regard to the works of man, by the word of your lips
    I have avoided the ways of the violent.
My steps have held fast to your paths;
    my feet have not slipped (4-5, ESV).

David not only has confidence that God views him as righteous, but he’s also certain that God answers believers’ prayers and shows his love to them.

I call upon you, for you will answer me, O God;
     incline your ear to me; hear my words.
Wondrously show your steadfast love,
    O Savior of those who seek refuge
    from their adversaries at your right hand (6-7, ESV).

Following these confident assertions, David paints those beautiful word pictures to depict how much God prizes and protects his people.

Keep me as the apple of your eye;
    hide me in the shadow of your wings,
from the wicked who do me violence,
    my deadly enemies who surround me (8-9, ESV).

As David describes the heartless wicked surrounding the righteous, he compares an evil man to a dangerous lion, ready to attack and rend his victim.

They close their hearts to pity;
    with their mouths they speak arrogantly.
They have now surrounded our steps;
    they set their eyes to cast us to the ground.
He is like a lion eager to tear,
    as a young lion lurking in ambush (10-12, ESV).

David asks God to take action and deliver him from the men of this world; men who have a plethora of possessions as well as children and grandchildren to inherit their earthly treasures.

Arise, O Lord! Confront him, subdue him!
    Deliver my soul from the wicked by your sword,
from men by your hand, O Lord,
    from men of the world whose portion is in this life.
You fill their womb with treasure;
    they are satisfied with children,
    and they leave their abundance to their infants (13-14, ESV).

Despite the wicked man’s apparent success and prosperity, David knows that he is rich compared to him.

As for me, I shall behold your face in righteousness;
    when I awake, I shall be satisfied with your likeness (15, ESV).

The righteous person will behold God’s face in glory, and will wake each day with the satisfaction of being renewed in God’s image.

What lion lurks in ambush for you? If you believe that Christ is your righteousness, then you can be sure that you are precious in God’s sight. You are the apple of his eye! What problems or concerns seem ready to swoop down upon you? Trust God and take shelter in the shadow of his wings.