A Psalm of David, when he was in the wilderness of Judah.
1 O God, Thou art my God: early will I seek Thee: my soul thirsteth for Thee, my flesh longeth for Thee in a dry and thirsty land, where no water is:
2 To see Thy power and Thy glory, so as I have seen Thee in the sanctuary.
3 Because Thy lovingkindness is better than life, my lips shall praise Thee.
4 Thus will I bless Thee while I live: I will lift up my hands in Thy name.
5 My soul shall be satisfied as with marrow and fatness: and my mouth shall praise Thee with joyful lips:
6 When I remember Thee upon my bed, and meditate on Thee in the night watches.
7 Because Thou hast been my help, therefore in the shadow of Thy wings will I rejoice.
8 My soul followeth hard after Thee: Thy right hand upholdeth me.
9 But those that seek my soul, to destroy it, shall go into the lower parts of the earth.
10 They shall fall by the sword: they shall be a portion for foxes.
11 But the king shall rejoice in God: every one that sweareth by Him shall glory: but the mouth of them that speak lies shall be stopped.
You long for God in a dry and thirsty land.
You are contemplative, joyful, and affectionate as you bring worship to God. Neither the lover on his way back to his wife after six months absence nor the famished man who returns to food after a six day fast would dilly-dally about with tertiary interests. In this psalm you come back to God with a steadfast, earnest love. You gaze with delight into the face of the One Whom you love, the One Who fills all of your emptiness. As the soldier who is away from his wife spends a full thirty minutes enjoying her letters and gazing upon her picture before falling asleep at night, so the man of faith delights in meditating upon his God.
Verses 1–4. You need to put yourself in a desert to fully appreciate the imagery of this psalm, because that is where David sits as he writes. He is far away from the sanctuary and assembly of the saints, and there he thirsts. But he doesn’t thirst for water. He thirsts for the presence of God, and he says that both his body and soul ache for his God. What is it about God that he so intensely wishes to see? In verse 2, he says that it is the power and glory of God that thrills his heart and satisfies his soul. God is with His people in a special way when He meets them in the sanctuary, or (in the New Testament) where two or three are gathered together. This is where we come face to face with the power of God by the sharp sword of His Word and the powerful impress of His Spirit.
In verse 3 David adds another attribute of God that rejoices his heart. The lovingkindness of God is better than life itself. There are plenty of things we value in life—our children, our wealth, and our health. But we would gladly trade our own health and life for the precious lovingkindness of God. Have you ever sensed the favor of God? Have you by faith received God’s forgiveness? Do you know His acceptance? Have you heard the whisper of the Spirit of God telling you, “You are Mine?” When you come to the realization that it is well with your soul, because it is well between you and your God, you have come to know the tender mercies of God. And your response will be exactly what David’s response is in this psalm—you will lift your hands in the public worship of God and bless His beautiful name.
Verses 5–6. Meditation upon God literally satisfies this saint. There is nothing that puts his soul at rest more than reflecting on God’s revelation of Himself in His Word. Meditation is the feasting of the soul. When you lie alone on your bed in the late hours of the evening or in the early hours of the morning, such beautiful quiet times should be spent in the delicious feeding of the soul upon the things of God in meditation and prayer. This is how the soul grows fat and healthy, and this is the precursor to true praise and worship. Perhaps the reason why our worship grows so dry is that we have forgotten how to meditate upon our God.
Verses 7–11. Now the Psalmist describes his daily walk with God as a life of faith and trust in God’s salvation and protection. He says that he follows hard after God. This life of faith stays in close contact by constant prayer, confession of sin, and reading of God’s Word. There is safety in this intimate walk. Even though there are those whose intent it is to destroy us (whether it be the devil or the world), they will fail because we are close to God and He is powerful enough to control all things. These powerful enemies will come to an ignominious end. For the foxes will consume their rotting carcasses in the wilderness.
The final verse presents our commitment to God as a swearing by Him. This is not a false swearing or a taking of the name of God in vain. It is binding ourselves with an oath that we will be faithful to walk with God in faith and repentance. Typically, this is done when we join a church or when we are baptized. While there are those who are faithful to their commitment, there are also some who are not faithful to their commitment, and these are the liars spoken of in the last half of the verse. Even within the pale of the church, there are some like Judas, Simon the Sorcerer, or Demas who lied when they made that commitment.
This is a deeply personal psalm and it belongs more in private worship than in family worship or church worship. It is important that we cultivate a close relationship with God in reading His Word, meditating on His precepts, and praying to Him on our beds. These times of personal worship should be deeply satisfying times for us. At the same time, we should still look forward to public worship in the sanctuary, as David does in this psalm.
Sometimes worship consists of rousing shouts of praise from the mouths of hundreds of God’s people in the congregation (e.g. Ps. 47). At other times, it is quiet, intimate fellowship with God. This psalm reflects that quiet contemplation and draws out the hearts of worshipers toward God.
But at the same time, worship is not purely sentiment. There are also testimonies of commitment and faith. Even as our souls long for God, we speak of faithfully committing to the vows that we make. We declare the end of God’s enemies as we see the foxes consume their dead bodies in the field.
1. Where is David when he writes this psalm?
2. What sort of things does this psalm include?
3. How does a soul grow fat and healthy?
4. What is meditation?
5. There are those who stand by their vows and those that break their vows. Give examples of those who break vows.
1. In this Christian life we live, do we follow hard on the heels of God? Or do we wander like sheep after other interests?
2. Do we enjoy both the worship of God in His sanctuary and the meditation upon God on our beds, as David describes here in this psalm?