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 thirsting soul of Psalm 143

Christians battle the devil, the world, and our own flesh. The conflict often wages on all three fronts. We grow weary and long for victory, or at least furlough from the front lines.

In Psalm 143, David conveys his weariness and his awareness of personal sin.

Hear my prayer, O LORD;
    give ear to my pleas for mercy!
   In your faithfulness answer me, in your righteousness!
Enter not into judgment with your servant,
   for no one living is righteous before you (Psalm 143:1-2, ESV).

David’s enemies have pursued his soul; he feels crushed to the ground with life draining away, as if he sits in darkness like a corpse.

For the enemy has pursued my soul;
    he has crushed my life to the ground;
    he has made me sit in darkness like those long dead.
Therefore my spirit faints within me;
   my heart within me is appalled (3-4, ESV).

Even though his spirit faints and his heart is appalled, David recalls the goodness of God. His soul thirsts for the Lord like a dry and barren land thirsts for rain.

I remember the days of old;
    I meditate on all that you have done;
   I ponder the work of your hands.
I stretch out my hands to you;
    my soul thirsts for you like a parched land (5-6, ESV).

While begging God to rescue him quickly, David confesses his continued trust in God’s loving guidance.

Answer me quickly, O LORD!
    My spirit fails!
Hide not your face from me,
    lest I be like those who go down to the pit.
Let me hear in the morning of your steadfast love,
   for in you I trust.
Make me know the way I should go,
   for to you I lift up my soul (7-8, ESV).

David couples his prayer for deliverance from his enemies with a petition for instruction and direction (9-10, ESV):

Deliver me from my enemies, O LORD!
   I have fled to you for refuge!
Teach me to do your will,
   for you are my God!
Let your good Spirit lead me
   on level ground!

David does not seek deliverance merely for his own sake, but also so that God’s name will be glorified.

For your name’s sake, O LORD, preserve my life!
   In your righteousness bring my soul out of trouble!
And in your steadfast love you will cut off my enemies,
   and you will destroy all the adversaries of my soul,
   for I am your servant (11-12, ESV).

It is interesting to note that God’s judgment is an expression of his love: It is in his steadfast love that he will cut of believers’ enemies and destroy all the adversaries of their souls. This deliverance is not for those who talk the talk, but fail to walk the walk.

Deliverance is reserved for God’s servants. Only those who love God and serve him can expect him to deliver them from their enemies and quench their thirsting souls with his life-giving water.