Background Scripture Psalm 63. Devotional Reading: Psalm 3:1-6.
In our more than 50 years of counseling, Valere and I observed that lots of couples who experience “mid-life crisis” – although not always at mid-life – we found to be people looking for “something missing” in their lives, without knowing just what it was for which they were looking. This “something missing,” of course, can be apparent at any stage of life. We found that, unfortunately, people often get married with the assumption that marriage will fill that void. The term “philandering” actually represents searching for love and usually not finding it.
Lately, we have noted some social scientists believe that a cause of increasing national incivility, anger, and violence is often to be found with people who have tried to fill the void in their lives with material things, particularly technology. Their frustration and anger are the result of discovering that these things do not have the power to satisfy their need. Many will not find that elusive “something,” not because it is not available, but because they do not recognize it when they are in its presence.
Someone has said that in every human heart there is a God-shaped blank. But so many try to fill that void with things that do not fit. As St. Augustine prayed: “Thou hast made us for Thyself, and our hearts are restless
‘til they rest in Thee.”
The Old Testament scholar W.O.E. Oesterly says of this psalm: “The earnest yearning for God and the
insight into communion with him on the part of a truly
good man…are unrivaled in the Psalter.”
Psalm 63 is one of the truly notable pieces of devotional writing because it is the testimony and prayer of one who realizes that the something so many people find lacking in their lives is the experience of the Holy God.
The writer of this psalm, unlike so many of us, knows what he is seeking: “O God, thou art my God, I seek thee,
my soul thirsts for thee; my flesh faints for thee, as in a
dry and weary land where no water is”
(v. 1). He knows that the blank place in his heart is God-shaped and God alone can fill that void. Without the experience of God, even the most luxuriant place in the world becomes “a dry and weary land where no water is.” But with God, even the desert or wind-swept plains can bloom gloriously.
Some people do their deepest thinking, their most anguished worrying and make their most determined resolutions in the darkness of their bedroom. The Psalmist, however, sees these nights as a God-sent opportunity: “…my mouth praises thee with joyful lips,
when I think of thee upon my bed, and meditate on thee
in the watches of the night; for thou hast been my
(v. 6,7). Reading these words, I thought of an Irving Berlin song more prosaic, but perhaps still on target: “When I’m worried and I can’t sleep, I count blessings instead of sheep, and I fall to sleep counting my blessings.” Counting our blessings opens the door to both God and sleep. BETTER THAN LIFE?
Let’s skip ahead to the last three verses in which the Psalmist (the same one?) revels in the thoughts of retribution upon his foes: “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 the
prey for jackals”(
vs. 9,10). So what shall we do with these unholy words by one who has been so close to God? Some commentators have thought to solve the problem by declaring that they do not belong to this psalm, but some other.
Tempting as that is, I do not think it right or even necessary, for these verses are a jarring reminder that this, and indeed all of the psalms, were written before the appearance of Jesus and his gospel. The psalmist may be a prophet of the Messiah, but he is not a disciple of Jesus. So these three pre-Christian verses do not negate the profoundness of the eight that precede them. If any thing they sharpen our longing for Jesus.
So, having read the last three verses of the psalm, I return to and end with two verses that sum up the this prayer and become my prayer: “Because thy steadfast
love is better than life, my lips will praise thee. So I will
bless thee as long as I live; I will lift up my hands and call
on thy name”
(vs.3,4). That stills all my storms, redeems all my failures, and fills all my emptiness. And I pray the same for you.