The Wilderness (Psalm 63)

Posted on 29th January 2021 under The Rectory Bulletin | Psalms


“A Psalm of David, When He Was in the Wilderness of Judah”

David was twice in the wilderness: first as he fled King Saul; and the second time as he fled Absalom. In the last verse of today’s Psalm, David writes “but the king shall rejoice in God”, and most think that he is referring to himself. If that is the case, then the Psalm must have been composed after Saul’s death and David’s coronation. To flee your king must be troubling indeed, but to fly from your son must be heart wrenching.

Absalom was a man with a grudge against his father, who he thought had mistreated him. For four years he wooed the people of Israel, before setting himself up at Hebron as a rival king to David. Fearing an attack, David fled Jerusalem and ended up in the wilderness. In time (and after this Psalm was written) David’s army faced Absalom’s forces and defeated them.

Separated from Jerusalem, and the sanctuary of God, David prays out his desire to know the presence of God once more. There is a personal flavour to the words, and not an abstract psalm of devotion. It comes from the lips of one who knows God: “my soul thirsts for you”. As David looks around the barren wastes which surround him he sings: “my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water”.

Many of you will be shielding at home, and facing Sundays separated from the church building and its congregation. Perhaps you might use this Psalm as a guide for your prayers, as you long to be back.

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.

So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary
beholding your power and glory.

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.

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.

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.

 ~ Psalm 63 ~

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