The God Who Satisfies
King David wrote Psalm 63 while in the wilderness of Judah. David was fleeing from his son, Absalom, who was seeking to kill him and displace him as the king of Israel.
You would expect that the emotional strain of being hunted down by his own son would have been overwhelming for David. In addition, there was the strain of surviving wilderness conditions, surviving “in a dry and weary land where there is no water” (63:1). And yet, David’s focus was on neither of these things. In the day of trial, David’s focus was on God.
As David sought after God, his context in the desert provided him with an apt analogy for describing his chief pursuit,
O God, Thou are my God; I shall seek Thee earnestly;
My soul thirsts for Thee, my flesh yearns for Thee (63:1).
For David, any, and every, circumstance was bearable so long as God was in his corner. David was well aware of the dangers confronting him (63:9), but he refused to look beyond God for relief. David recognized, what the Puritan, Matthew Mead, later discovered: “the utter insufficiency and inability of anything below Christ Jesus to minister relief to (our) soul” (Mead, The Almost Christian, 164).
When David employs the metaphor of thirst, he is using a metaphor we can all relate to. Granted, few of us have endured desert conditions, and even fewer have been faced with a total scarcity of water, but we know, at least on some level, what thirst feels like.
And, what I have found is that our response to this condition is universal—we all seek to have our thirst quenched. I have never met an individual who was able to ignore their thirst. I see men thirsting every time I play hockey. Players gulp down water after every shift. And, as a goalie, I have interrupted many a pick-up games because I needed to go to the bench for a drink of water. Even in the restaurant, after the game, I have seen men delay drinking their beloved pint because they first needed more water to satisfy their thirst.
When we are thirsty, I mean really thirsty, nothing besides water will do. Moderate thirst may cherish a glass of lemonade, a cold pop, or a beer, but a deep thirst will tolerate none of these items. When our thirst is desperate we need water, as pure as possible—without sugar, salt, or alcohol.
In Psalm 63, we learn that gaining satisfaction for our thirsty souls also comes from a particular source. If our soul is to be satisfied, it must be satisfied in God. Nothing else will do.
First of all, we need to distinguish between satisfaction in God, and satisfaction with God. If we merely talked about being satisfied with God, we might be tempted to think about what we imagine God should be doing for us. We might be tempted, when our health is poor, when are finances are lacking, when we are struggling in our marriage, to say, 'I am not satisfied with God's performance'. This is an erroneous view because it sees God merely as a means to an end.
What we need to understand is that God wants us to be satisfied in Him.
John Piper has a wonderful thesis that permeates his preaching and his writing; Piper insists that, "God is most glorified in me when I am most satisfied in Him."
An examination of Psalm 63 reveals much of the same. From the outset, David is clear about what he longs for, he says, "O God, Thou art my God; I shall seek Thee earnestly; my soul thirsts for Thee , my flesh yearns for Thee"(v.1). What does David desire? He desires God! God, and God alone, is the object of David’s thirst.
What is sad is that few of us can relate to David here. C.S. Lewis describes the human condition accurately when he describes us as, "half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us; (we are) like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased."
Lewis is right: We are too easily pleased. We have settled for a home, a family, a few friends, a career, and a growing bank account. We have accustomed ourselves to such short-lived pleasures that we can scarcely imagine what is meant by 'a holiday at the sea'—we can scarcely imagine what it means to have satisfaction in God.
We are like the poor man who saved money his entire life in order to go on a luxury cruise. The man eventually had enough money to purchase a ticket, but he had no money left over to pay for the elegant food they would be serving. So what the man did was he brought along a week's supply of bread and peanut butter. By the end of the week, the man could not take it any longer. The peanut butter sandwiches seemed stale and tasteless in comparison to what he saw others eating. Finally, he stopped a porter and exclaimed, 'Tell me how I might get one of those meals and I'll do anything you say to earn it!'
'Why sir, don't you have a ticket for the cruise?', the porter asked.
'Certainly,' said the man. 'But I spent everything I had for the ticket. I have nothing left with which to buy food.'
'But sir,' said the porter, 'didn't you realize? The meals are included with your passage. You may eat as much as you like!'
A lot of Christians live like that man. Not realizing the unlimited provisions that are available to us in Christ, we munch on stale scraps—scraps that have no lasting value. What we need to recognize is that Christ is sufficient. In Christ we already have everything we could ever need.
That is fine to say, but what are the implications of this truth? If Christ is the all-sufficient One, it follows that we would restructure our priorities in order to make Him our greatest priority and pursuit.
Perhaps the greatest obstacle to this pursuit is revealed in a complaint that I hear all the time: 'But, I'm just so busy'.
I have a colleague who has a great line for people who are 'too busy'. He says that, 'If you are too busy for worship and fellowship in the church, then you are too busy. If you are too busy you need to eliminate some things until you are not as busy.’ This is wise advice.
King David recognized the futility of earthly treasures when compared to the riches of fellowship with God. David insists, "(God's) lovingkindness is better than life"(63:3). David had discovered that God's loving presence is more valuable than human love. It is more valuable than any worldly possession.
So, how then, does David respond to God's loving presence? He says, "My lips will praise Thee"(63:3); he says, "I will bless Thee as long as I live"(63:4), and he says, "my mouth offers praises with joyful lips"(v.5). David is so overwhelmed by the majesty of God that he can't help but to overflow with praise.
I suspect that David was so enamoured with God's lovingkindness that he did much more than sing hymns on the Sabbath. I hear David saying, ‘I can't stop talking about God. He is so great and awesome that I find myself talking about Him to everyone I meet.’
And listen to how David characterizes his relationship with God, "My soul is satisfied as with marrow and fatness"(63:5). We all know that content feeling we get in our stomach after a turkey dinner with all of the ‘fixins’—well, that is how David's soul felt after feasting on the presence of God.
Wouldn't it be nice to be able to say, "My soul is satisfied"? You might be in the midst of a serious trial; you might be struggling in a relationship, you might be struggling financially, you might be struggling with your health—wouldn't it be great to say, "God's lovingkindness is better than life . . . My soul is satisfied."
Friends, do you want this for yourself? Do you want to know the value of God’s love? Would you like to have a satisfied soul? The example of David instructs us in this regard; he says, first of all, "I remember Thee on my bed"(63:6). What does David mean by that? He explains himself further, "I meditate on Thee in the night watches"(63:6). To meditate on something requires that we concentrate on that thing. And in order to concentrate on something, we need to block out anything that distracts us. If we are to meditate on God, we must block out everything that competes for our attention.
I find it interesting that David meditates upon God late at night. We all know what it is like to have difficulty falling asleep. Why does this happen? What are we doing when we can't fall asleep? We're worrying—aren’t we? We're worrying about people we love. We're worrying about money. We're thinking about what happened at work today or what might happen tomorrow. What we likely aren't doing, is we're not meditating on the loving presence of God when we go to bed. If we did, our soul would be satisfied in Him, and we would fall asleep.
I used to be embarrassed to say that I often fell asleep while praying. 'Bryn, how could you ever fall asleep while speaking to the Almighty?', you might ask. The reason I fall asleep praying is the same reason I fall asleep after eating a steak dinner—God satisfies my appetite—He satisfies my soul and I fall asleep.
We satisfy ourselves with God’s presence when we think often about Him, and when we dwell upon His glorious attributes.
And lest you regard this as mere intellectual reflection, David reveals the intimacy of his meditation when he says, in verse 8, "My soul clings to Thee".
I don't know about you, but whenever I hear the word "cling", I think of those action movies when someone is clinging for dear life from the ledge of a tall building. I associate the term 'clinging' with being totally, and utterly, helpless.
That is precisely how we are to come to God. We are to come to God, not as self-sufficient, but as utterly helpless. Contrary to popular belief, the phrase, "God helps who help themselves", is not a biblical concept. God helps those who "remember" Him. God "upholds" those who "cling" to Him in prayer.
Friends, if you want to be truly happy, if you want to experience lasting joy, and enduring satisfaction, you need to know that it can only be found in God.
If you look for enduring satisfaction in anything else you will ultimately be disappointed. Augustine was right: We have been created with a God-shaped void in our hearts, and this void cannot be filled with anything else besides the loving presence of God.
Let us, therefore, think often about God. Let us pray to Him without ceasing. Let us feast upon God, and expect your soul to be truly satisfied. Amen.