PSALM 63 OVERVIEW
Title. A Psalm of David, when he was in the wilderness of Judah. This was probably written while David was fleeing from Absalom; certainly at the time he wrote it he was king ( Psalms 63:11 ), and hard pressed by those who sought his life. David did not leave off singing because he was in the wilderness, neither did he in slovenly idleness go on repeating Psalms intended for other occasions; but he carefully made his worship suitable to his circumstances, and presented to his God a wilderness hymn when he was in the wilderness. There was no desert in his heart, though there was a desert around him. We too may expect to be cast into rough places ere we go hence. In such seasons, may the Eternal Comforter abide with us, and cause us to bless the Lord at all times, making even the solitary place to become a temple for Jehovah. The distinguishing word of this Psalm is EARLY. When the bed is the softest we are most tempted to rise at lazy hours; but when comfort is gone, and the couch is hard, if we rise the earlier to seek the Lord, we have much for which to thank the wilderness.
Division. In Psalms 63:1-8 verses the writer expresses his holy desires after God, and his confidence in him, and then in Psalms 63:9-11 remaining three verses he prophesies the overthrow of all his enemies. This Psalm is peculiarly suitable for the bed of sickness, or in any constrained absence from public worship.
Verse 1. O God, thou art my God; or, O God, thou art my Mighty One. The last Psalm left the echo of power ringing in the ear, and it is here remembered. Strong affiance bids the fugitive poet confess his allegiance to the only living God; and firm faith enables him to claim him as his own. He has no doubts about his possession of his God; and why should other believers have any? The straightforward, clear language of this opening sentence would be far more becoming in Christians than the timorous and doubtful expressions so usual among professors. How sweet is such language! Is there any other word comparable to it for delights? Meus Deus. Can angels say more?
Early will I seek thee. Possession breeds desire. Full assurance is no hindrance to diligence, but is the mainspring of it. How can I seek another man's God? but it is with ardent desire that I seek after him whom I know to be my own. Observe the eagerness implied in the time mentioned; he will not wait for noon or the cool eventide; he is up at cockcrowing to meet his God. Communion with God is so sweet that the chill of the morning is forgotten, and the luxury of the couch is despised. The morning is the time for dew and freshness, and the psalmist consecrates it to prayer and devout fellowship. The best of men have been betimes on their knees. The word early has not only the sense of early in the morning, but that of eagerness, immediateness. He who truly longs for God longs for him now. Holy desires are among the most powerful influences that stir our inner nature; hence the next sentence,
My soul thirsteth for thee. Thirst is an insatiable longing after that which is one of the most essential supports of life; there is no reasoning with it, no forgetting it, no despising it, no overcoming it by stoical indifference. Thirst will be heard; the whole man must yield to its power; even thus is it with that divine desire which the grace of God creates in regenerate men; only God himself can satisfy the craving of a soul really aroused by the Holy Spirit.
My flesh longeth for thee; by the two words soul and flesh, he denotes the whole of his being. The flesh, in the New Testament sense of it, never longs after the Lord, but rather it lusteth against the spirit; David only refers to that sympathy which is sometimes created in our bodily frame by vehement emotions of the soul. Our corporeal nature usually tugs in the other direction, but the spirit when ardent can compel it to throw in what power it has upon the other side. When the wilderness caused David weariness, discomfort, and thirst, his flesh cried out in unison with the desire of his soul.
In a dry and thirsty land, where no water is. A weary place and a weary heart make the presence of God the more desirable: if there be nothing below and nothing within to cheer, it is a thousand mercies that we may look up and find all we need. How frequently have believers traversed in their experience this dry and thirsty land, where spiritual joys are things forgotten! and how truly can they testify that the only true necessity of that country is the near presence of their God! The absence of outward comforts can be borne with serenity when we walk with God; and the most lavish multiplication of them avails not when he withdraws. Only after God, therefore, let us pant. Let all desires be gathered into one. Seeking first the kingdom of God -- all else shall be added unto us.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Title. When he was in the wilderness of Judah. Even in Canaan, though a fruitful land, and the people numerous, yet there were wildernesses... It will be so in the world, in the church, but not in heaven... All the straits and difficulties of a wilderness must not put us out of tune for sacred songs; but even then it is our duty and interest to keep up a cheerful communion with God. There are Psalms proper for a wilderness; and we have reason to thank God it is the wilderness of Judah we are in, not the wilderness of Sin. Matthew Henry.
Title. The Wilderness of Judah is the whole wilderness towards the east of the tribe of Judah, bounded on the north by the tribe of Benjamin, stretching southward to the south west end of the Dead Sea; westward, to the Dead Sea and the Jordan; and eastward to the mountains of Judah. E. W. Hengstenberg.
Title The term wilderness rkdm, as distinguished from hdr[, (a steppe) was given to a district which was not regularly cultivated and inhabited, but used for pasturage (from rbd, to drive), being generally without wood and defective in water, but not entirely destitute of vegetation. J. P. Lange.
Title. Hagar saw God in the wilderness, and called a well by the name derived from that vision, Beerlahairoi. Genesis 16:13-14 . Moses saw God in the wilderness. Exodus 3:1-4 . Elijah saw God in the wilderness. 1 Kings 19:4-18 . David saw God in the wilderness. The Christian church will see God in the wilderness. Revelation 12:6-14 . Every devout soul which has loved to see God in his house will be refreshed by visions of God in the wilderness of solitude, sorrow, sickness, and death. Christopher Wordsworth.
Whole Psalm. This is unquestionably one of the most beautiful and touching Psalms in the whole Psalter. Donne says of it: "As the whole Book of Psalms is, oleum offusun (as the spouse speaks of the name of Christ), an ointment poured out upon all sort of sores, a cerecloth that supplies all bruises, a balm that searches all wounds; so are there some certain Psalms that are imperial Psalms, that command over all affections and spread themselves over all occasions -- catholic, universal Psalms, that apply themselves to all necessities. This is one of these; for of those constitutions which are called apostolical, one is that the church should meet every day to sing this Psalm. And, accordingly, St. Chrysostom testifies, `That it was decreed and ordained by the primitive Fathers, that no day should pass without the public singing of this Psalm.'" J. J. Stewart Perowne.
Whole Psalm. This Psalm is aptly described by Clauss as "A precious confession of a soul thirsting after God and his grace, and finding itself quickened through inward communion with him, and which knows how to commit its outward lot also into his hand." Its lesson is, that the consciousness of communion with God in trouble is the sure pledge of deliverance. This is the peculiar fountain of consolation which is opened up to the sufferer in the Psalm. The Berleb Bible describes it as a Psalm "which proceeds from a spirit really in earnest. It was the favourite Psalm of M. Schade, the famous preacher in Berlin, which he daily prayed with such earnestness and appropriation to himself, that it was impossible to hear it without emotion." E. W. Hengstenberg.
Verse 1. O God, thou art my God; early will I seek thee (or, I will diligently seek thee, as merchants precious stones that are of greatest value): my soul thirsteth for thee. He doth not say my soul thirsteth for water, but my soul thirsteth for thee; nor he doth say my soul thirsteth for the blood of my enemies, but my soul thirsteth for thee; nor he doth not say my soul thirsteth for deliverance out of this dry and thirsty land, where no water is; nor he doth not say my soul thirsteth for a crown, a kingdom, but my soul thirsteth for thee, my flesh longeth for thee. These words are a notable metaphor, taken from women with child, to note his earnest, ardent, and strong affections towards God. Thomas Brooks.
Verse 1. O God. This is a serious word; pity it should ever be used as a byword. Matthew Henry.
Verse 1. My God in Hebrew is the same word with which the Lord cried out upon the cross to the Father about the ninth hour: "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" For in Hebrew, this Psalm begins Elohim, Eli. Now, Elohim is plural, and Eli is singular, to express the mystery of the Trinity, the mystery of the Unity, the distinct subsistence of the (three) hypostases, and their consubstantiality. Psalterium Quin. Fabri stapulensis, 1513.
Verse 1. (first clause). In David we have a notable example of a sensitive, tender, self analysing soul, living in sustained communion with God, while deeply sensible of the claims of the civil and religious polity of Israel, and, moreover, while externally devoted to a large round of exacting public duties. And in this Psalm public misfortunes do but force him back upon the central strength of the life of his spirit. For the time his crown, his palace, his honours, the hearts of his people, the love of his child, whom he loved, as we know, with such passing tenderness, are forfeited. The psalmist is alone with God. In his hour of desolation he looks up from the desert to heaven. O God, he cried, thou art my God. In the original language he does not repeat the word which is translated God. In Elohim, the true idea of the root is that of awe, while the adjectival form implies permanency. In Eli, the second word employed, the etymological idea is that of might, strength. We might paraphrase, "O thou Ever awful One, my Strength, or my Strong God art thou." But the second word, Eli, is in itself nothing less than a separate revelation of an entire aspect of the Being of God. It is, indeed, used as a proper and distinct name of God. The pronomial suffixes for the second and third persons are, as Gesenius has remarked, never once found with this name El; whereas Eli, the first person, occurs very frequently in the Psalter alone. We all of us remember it in the words actually uttered by our Lord upon the cross, and which he took from their Syriacised version of Psalm 22. The word unveils a truth unknown beyond the precincts of revelation. It teaches us that the Almighty and Eternal gives himself in the fulness of his Being to the soul that seeks him. Heathenism, indeed, in its cultus of domestic and local deities, of its penates, of its Oeoi epicwrioi, bore witness by these superstitions to the deep yearning of the human heart for the individualizing love of a higher power. To know the true God was to know that such a craving was satisfied. My God. The word represents not a human impression, or desire, or conceit, but an aspect, a truth, a necessity of the divine nature. Man can, indeed, give himself by halves; he can bestow a little of his thought, of his heart, of his endeavour, upon his brother man. In other words, man can be imperfect in his acts as he is imperfect and finite in his nature. But when God, the Perfect Being, loves the creature of his hand, he cannot thus divide his love. He must perforce love with the whole directness, and strength, and intensity of his Being; for he is God, and therefore incapable of partial and imperfect action. He must give himself to the single soul with as absolute a completeness as if there were no other being besides it, and, on his side, man knows that this gift of himself by God is thus entire; and in no narrow spirit of ambitious egotism, but as grasping and representing the literal fact, he cries, "My God." Therefore does this word enter so largely into the composition of Hebrew names. Men loved to dwell upon that wondrous relation of the Creator to their personal life which is so strikingly manifested. Therefore, when God had "so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him shall not perish, but have everlasting life," we find St. Paul writing to the Galatians as if his own single soul had been redeemed by the sacrifice of Calvary: "He loved me, and gave himself for me." Henry Parry Liddon, in "Some Words for God: being Sermons preached before the University of Oxford, 1863-1865."
Verse 1. (first clause). There is a great deal more in it than men of the world are aware of; to say, O God, thou art my God, in this connection and conjunction: there is more in it in regard of excellency, and there is more in it in regard of difficulty likewise. It is not an unfruitful thing to say it, and it is not am easy thing to say it neither. It confers a great deal of benefit, and requires a great deal of grace, which belongs unto it, in the truth and reality of it. The benefit of it, first, is very great; yea, in effect all things else. To say God is ours, is to say the whole world is ours, and a great deal more; it is to give us title to everything which may be requisite or convenient for us. Whatever we can desire or stand in need of, it is all wrapped up in this, Thou art my God. But then, again, it is a matter of difficulty (as those things which are excellent are). It is a thing which is not so easily said as the world imagines it and thinks it to be. Indeed, it is easy to the mouth, but it is not easy to the heart. It is easy to have a fancy to say it, but it is not to have a faith to say it: this carries some kind of hardship with it, and is not presently attained unto; but the mind of man withdraws from it. There are two states and conditions in which it is very difficult to say, O God, thou art my God: the one is the state of nature and unregeneracy; and the other is the state of desertion, and the hiding of God's face from the soul. Thomas Horton (--1673).
Verse 1. (second clause). The relations of God to his people are not bare and empty titles, but they carry some activity with them, both from him towards them, and from them also answerably towards him. Those whom God is a God to, he bestows special favours upon them; and those to whom God is a God, they return special services to him. And so we shall find it to be all along in Scripture, as this David in another place: "Thou art my God, and I will praise thee; thou art my Lord, I will exalt thee." Psalms 118:28 . And so here: Thou art my God; early will I seek thee. While the servants of God have claimed any interest in him, they have also exhibited duty to him. The text is an expression not only of faith, but likewise of obedience, and so to be looked upon by us. Thomas Horton.
Verse 1. Early; in the morning, before all things, God is to be sought, otherwise he is sought in vain: as the manna, unless collected at early dawn, dissolves. Simon de Muis.
Verse 1. My soul thirsteth for thee. Oh that Christ would come near, and stand still, and give me leave to look upon him! for to look seemeth the poor man's privilege, since he may, for nothing and without hire, behold the sun. I should have a king's life, if I had no other thing to do than for evermore to behold and eye my fair Lord Jesus: nay, suppose I were holden out at heaven's fair entry, I should be happy for evermore, to look through a hole in the door, and see my dearest and fairest Lord's face. O great King! why standest thou aloof? Why remainest thou beyond the mountains? O Well beloved, why dost thou pain a poor soul with delays? A long time out of thy glorious presence is two deaths and two hells to me. We must meet. I must see him, I dow (Am not able to do without him.) not want him. Hunger and longing for Christ hath brought on such a necessity of enjoying Christ that I will not, I dow not want him; for I cannot master nor command Christ's love. Samuel Rutherford (1600-1661).
Verse 1. My flesh, that is, my bodily sensitive appetite, which thirsts, ardently longs for consolation, which it receives from the abounding of spiritual consolation to the soul. This meaning greatly pleases me. God giveth the upper and the nether springs. Rebekah, after drawing water in her pitcher, for Eliezer, Abraham's servant, added, "I will draw water for thy camels also, until they have done drinking," Genesis 24:19 . Jacob dug a well near to Sychar, which was afterwards called Samaria, and as the woman of Samaria said, "drank thereof himself, and his children, and his cattle," John 4:12 . When Moses with the rod smote the rock twice, "the water came out abundantly, and the congregation drank, and their beasts also," Numbers 20:11 . So God satisfies with this consolation both our higher and lower nature. Thomas Le Blanc.
Verse 1. My flesh longeth for thee. The verb hmk is used only in this place, and therefore signification of it is rather uncertain, but it will receive light from the Arabic dialect. In Golius's Lexicon it signifies caligavit oculus, alteratus colore, et mente debilitatus fuit. His eye grew dim, his colour was changed, and his mind was weakened; and therefore, as used by the psalmist, implies the utmost intenseness of fervency of desire, as though it almost impaired his sight, altered the very hue of his body, and even injured his understanding; effects sometimes of eager and unsatisfied desires. Samuel Chandler.
Verse 1. In a dry. Here we must read cyrak (Keeretz), instead of nyrak (Beeretz), for it is, like this, and not, in this (which has no force), even like this dry, wearied, and waterless region; so am I for seeing thee in the sanctuary, for beholding thy power and thy glory. Benjamin Weiss, in a "New Translation of the Book of the Psalms, with Critical Notes," etc. 1858. Weiss appears to have the authority of several MSS for this, but he seldom errs in the direction of too little dogmatism. C. H. S.
Verse 1-2. O God, thou art my God. He embraces him at first word, as we used to do friends at first meeting. Early will I seek thee, says he: my soul thirsteth for thee, my flesh (that is, myself) longeth for thee in a dry and thirsty land, where no water is. Surely, David had some extraordinary business now with God to be done for himself, as it follows ( Psalms 63:2 ): To see thy power and thy glory, so as I have seen thee in the sanctuary; where God had met him, and manifested himself to him... The very sight of a friend rejoiceth a man ( Proverbs 27:17 ): "As iron sharpeneth iron, so doth a man the face of his friend." It alone whets up joy by a sympathy of spirits; and in answer hereunto it is characteristically to God's people called the seeking of God's face, that is, himself, for so his face is taken: "Thou shalt have no other gods before my face;" that is, thou shalt have myself, or none but myself. Personal communion with God is the end of our graces; for as reason and the intercourse of it makes men sociable one with another, so the divine nature makes us sociable with God himself: and the life we live by is but an engine, a glass to bring God down to us. Thomas Goodwin.
HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS
Verse 1. (first clause). While the Atheist says, "No God," and the heathen worship "gods many," the true believer says, "O God, thou art my God." He is so,
By choice. By covenant. By confession.
Verse 1. (second clause). Seeking God early.
Verse 1. (second clause). Earnest seeking. That which is longed for will be eagerly sought.
WORKS WRITTEN ABOUT THE SIXTY-THIRD PSALM IN SPURGEON'S DAY
CHANDLER'S "Life of David" contains an Exposition of this Psalm. Vol. 1, pp. 130-4.
"An Exposition of the 63 Psalm," in eight Sermons, in "Choice and Practical Expositions on four Select Psalms... By THOMAS HORTON, D.D., 1675." (Folio.)
Twelve Sermons (on Psalms 63:1-8 ) in "Sermons on various Practical Subjects. By ALEXANDER SHANKS (1731-1799), late Minister of the Associate Congregation of Jedburgh, Edinburgh, 1081."