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Author:Dr. Wes Bredenhof
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Launceston, Tasmania
 Tasmania, Australia
 
Preached At:Providence Canadian Reformed Church
 Hamilton, Ontario
 
Title:God alone satisfies and saves
Text:Psalms 63 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:God's Mercy
 
Preached:2013
Added:2013-12-13
Updated:2015-05-13
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

NOTE:  all songs from the 2010 Book of Praise

Hymn 5

Hymn 11:9 (after the law)

Psalm 63:1,2

Psalm 63:3,4

Psalm 73:8

Scripture reading:  John 4:1-15

Text:  Psalm 63

 

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Wes Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Beloved congregation of our Lord Jesus,

This morning, we’re going to dive into Psalm 63 and explore the riches of God’s Word in this beautiful psalm.  The psalm has a title telling us who wrote it and when.  David wrote it “when he was in the wilderness of Judah.”  The problem is that there were a couple of occasions in David’s life when he was forced to flee to the wilderness of Judah.  He had to do this when he was being pursued by Saul.  Later in life, David’s son Absalom staged a coup and David had to flee Jerusalem.  Then again he set out to the south of Jerusalem, to the wilderness of Judah.  It’s difficult to say for sure which of those events are in mind in the background of this psalm.  Both events have in common that David is on the run, being pursued by an enemy.  Whatever the background may be, he’s in a tough spot, physically and spiritually.  Physically, he’s in a desert region where water is hard to come by, where life hangs by a thread.  His spiritual condition mirrors his physical condition.  This psalm doesn’t come out of some spiritual fantasy world where life always moves from one mountain top to the other.  This psalm doesn’t come from a garden where pretty flowers are blooming all the time.  This psalm comes out of the wilderness, the place where believers live normal lives.  There are moments of joy, yes, but there are also moments of brokenness and suffering, moments where we cry out in our pain and hurt.  Through this psalm we learn how to process all of this.  We learn to whom we need to turn for help and strength.    We’ll see in Psalm 63 that God alone satisfies and saves.

Therefore the believer:

  1. Thirsts for God deeply
  2. Praises God endlessly
  3. Trusts in God confidently

There are only a couple of small deserts in Canada and one of them is in southern BC.  There you can find cactus, scorpions, rattlesnakes, and sagebrush.  It’s very small and if you were stuck out there, you wouldn’t have to walk far to find some water.  I don’t think anybody has ever died in BC’s pocket desert.  But when you go to the wilderness of Judah, things are much different.  Especially at certain times of the year, water is nearly impossible to find.  The sun beats down and sucks the moisture right out of everything.  It’s hot, dry, and dusty.  It’s a harsh and inhospitable place, a place where death is never far away.  This is where David is with this psalm.  He looks around and sees a dry and weary land where there is no water.

The landscape reminds him of where he is spiritually.  He is far away from that special communion with God that could only be experienced at the tabernacle.  If you were an Old Testament believer in the days of David, the closest you could get to God would have been at the place where God made his name dwell, at the tabernacle.  This was the place where sacrifices were made that spoke of forgiveness and reconciliation through blood.  The tabernacle was the place where God’s people experienced deep fellowship with him.  They showed their thanks to God there, they prayed to God there, there they worshipped him intimately.  It was the center of Israel’s spiritual life and every true believer longed to be there.  That attitude is reflected throughout the psalms.  Think only of Psalm 84, “My soul longs, yes, faints  for the courts of the Lord…”  You can’t spiritualize that and think that the psalmist is somehow thinking of an internal experience of God, some kind of mystical ecstasy.  Because in verse 3 of Psalm 84, he speaks concretely of the sparrows and the swallows who lived in the courts of the Lord.  The psalmist is jealous of those birds who can always live in God’s house.  Where he wants to be is a concrete and real place.    

So here in Psalm 63, when David speaks of his deep thirst for God, he’s not speaking of some type of abstract or nebulous spiritual experience.  He’s not expressing a longing to have an unmediated encounter with God within his soul.  No, here he is in the wilderness and he’s far away from the highest form of fellowship that could be enjoyed between God and men in his day.  He’s away from the tabernacle and the ministry of the means of grace available there.  God was present to bless his people there in a way that he wasn’t present in the howling wilderness.  The desert wilderness may be beautiful in its own stark way, and God is present there as he is present everywhere in his creation – but the desert is not the tabernacle.  It’s not a place where God is going to satisfy his spiritual thirst.

He knows that God and God alone can do that.  He longs for that with everything in his being.  He wants to be out of the wilderness and back into having access to the sanctuary of God.  There he knows that God will give him water that can truly satisfy.

Loved ones, the tabernacle is long gone.  So is the temple which replaced it.  These things existed in the Old Testament, but they do have New Testament counterparts.  When we speak about the tabernacle/temple for us as New Testament believers, we usually right away jump to 1 Corinthians 6 and what Paul says there about us being temples of the Holy Spirit.  But that’s not the only way or even the most basic way that the New Testament speaks about the temple.  The most basic and important way is found in the Gospel of John where Christ describes himself as the temple.  In his incarnation, God has come to live with mankind.  In Jesus himself, God has come to bring forgiveness, reconciliation, and lasting fellowship.  Through Christ, the gospel promises us life to the fullest.  For good reason, Christ said in John 4 to the Samaritan woman that he offers living waters.  He gives what can truly satisfy our spiritual thirst.  In Christ, we have the fulfillment of David’s longing in verse 1. 

But there is more.  The New Testament speaks of the church as being the body of Christ.  If Christ is the New Testament temple, and if the church is his body, then we can also speak of the church as being the temple today.  This is exactly what the apostles Paul and Peter do.  Paul does this in 1 Corinthians 3.  Peter does it in 1 Peter 2.  The church is also the temple of God.  The church is where Christ ministers to us with his own living water, with the gospel preached and with the administration of the sacraments.  The church is where we have the deepest and richest fellowship with God currently available on this earth.

Well, now I can make this more concrete for you.  David longed to be back at the place where he could have the deepest fellowship with God.  What we have in verse 1 is the design for us as well.  Today we have the blessing of being here in God’s presence.  We’re closer to heaven here than we will ever be anywhere else.  This is where the gospel of life and peace is proclaimed.  This is where God never fails to bless you with his Word.  Did you long to be here today with him?  Did you look forward to this hour of fellowship with God?  Do you treasure being in the presence of your Father and hearing the glad tidings of your Saviour?  Do you see what a blessing it is to be able to worship, not just once, but twice every Sunday?  Or have you begun to take that for granted?  That’s not a good place to be.

Loved ones, if you find the church services a burden or a bore, I have bad news for you.  You will not enjoy the ultimate fulfillment of the temple.  In fact, you’ll hate it.  In the book of Revelation, God comes and makes his dwelling with men for eternity.  The new heavens and new earth become the temple of God.  There believers will worship the Lord for eternity, enjoying his presence, celebrating his love, singing his praises.  If all those things are not a delight to you now, they will not be a delight to you then either.  And that’s a bit of a problem, because God is not going to bring anyone into his eternal kingdom who doesn’t want to be there.  Perhaps we’re in church today under some type of compulsion.  Maybe there are expectations of family or the church community.  But no one will be enjoying new heavens and new earth under compulsion.  In the age to come you’ll get what you really want in your heart, whether eternity enjoying God’s presence, or the alternative.  That’s something to think about and reflect on.  Do we thirst for God’s blessed presence as we live in this spiritually dry and weary land?                           

Let’s move on in the psalm to see how David endlessly praises God.  He reflects back on the occasions where he has been in God’s blessed presence at the sanctuary.  There he has been privy to God’s power and glory, he’s seen God’s majesty revealed.  Through the sacrifices offered for sin and guilt, he has been assured of the steadfast love of God.  He treasures that love more than life itself.  It gives him reason to praise God with his lips.  It gives him reason to bless God as well. 

Let’s pause there for a moment.  Some of you might struggle with that idea of David blessing God.  Shouldn’t it be the other way around?  Can human beings bless God?  This very question is why the NIV translated this, “I will you praise you as long as I live.”  There’s a similar situation in Psalm 103.  The ESV has the familiar, “Bless the LORD, O my soul.”  The NIV, “Praise the LORD, O my soul.”  But repeatedly the Bible does use the word “bless” for something that people can do to God.  In Genesis 14, Melchizedek blesses God.  In 1 Peter 1:3, Peter blesses God’s name.  What does it mean to bless God?  It’s the opposite of cursing God.  To curse means to say nasty things about someone.  To bless means to speak well of them, to hold their name high.  Yes, “praise” as well.  Like David, we can and we should bless God.  We have every reason to do so! 

The words for praise pile up in this Psalm.  If this wasn’t poetry, you might think that it was repetitive.  David uses just about every Hebrew word and expression for praise that he can come up with.  His lips will praise God.  He will bless God for as long as he lives.  He will lift up his hands in God’s name – a gesture of praise and exaltation.  It becomes clear that God is his highest joy.

Then we come to verse 5.  In verse 1, he was thirsting after God.  But in verse 5, as he thinks back to the tabernacle, he remembers how God satisfied him there.  It was like with fat and rich food.  You could translate that more literally something like, “with fatty fatness.”  The emphasis in the original of verse 5 falls on the fatty fatness.  In the days of David, cuts of meat with lots of fat on them were considered the best cuts.  Fat was considered a luxury.  Today our view of that has changed quite a bit.  But imagine the best, juiciest, most tender slab of meat.  That’s what David is thinking of in our terms.  That kind of meat satisfies not only your taste buds, but also the hunger gnawing in your stomach.  You have a nice-sized steak and you’re satisfied for hours to come.  That’s what David is comparing his satisfaction to.  God provides that kind of spiritual satisfaction in his sanctuary.  David reflects on that and that draws a song of praise out of his mouth and over his lips.  He knows that God can provide that kind of spiritual satisfaction.  He’s experienced it in the past, and if he can go back, he will experience it again.

In verse 6, David describes something of his personal devotional life.  He says that he remembers God when he’s in bed.  In the middle of the night, he meditates on God.  First, let me give you some cultural background here too.  In our day and age, we have been taught to believe that it is normal to have eight hours of uninterrupted sleep.  This is what we are told to strive for and when we can’t have eight hours of straight sleep, we tend to get anxious.  However, the ideal of eight hours of uninterrupted sleep is a modern one.  Going back centuries, even to biblical times, people had far different sleep habits.  It was common to sleep in two periods at night.  You would have your first sleep for a couple of hours, and then a period of wakefulness for a couple of hours, and then the second sleep for the remainder.  David was probably not suffering from insomnia (as some commentators say).  Rather, he’d had his first sleep and was now using the middle of the night as his time to reflect on God, to reflect on his character and his deeds.  He took that time and turned it to good use.

He meditates.  That means that he ponders something in a repetitive way, turning it over again and again in his mind.  What he’s thinking about is in verse 7:  it’s the fact that God has been his help.  God is like a bird that has stretched out its wings over its young to protect them.  With God, David has been kept safe.  For that reason, says verse 8, David clings to God like glue.  God’s right hand, the hand of power, upholds him, maintains him.  David has the most powerful ally in God and therefore he is determined to stick with him. 

David’s praise for God is exultant to the nth degree.  It reminds me of Paul in the first chapter of Ephesians, just piling up words, getting all carried away with the majesty of a great God and his gracious deeds.  Now it’s good to remember that David lived some thousand years before Christ.  Already in that time, David knew of many of God’s redemptive works.  He’d have heard of the Exodus from Egypt, for instance.  David had also experienced God’s deliverance in his own life, as he lived out redemptive history.  But there was much that lay in the future.  Most of all, there was the coming of David’s great-grandson Jesus Christ.  Loved ones, we live with all of that behind us.  We have heard of the fulfillment of God’s salvation in Christ, we know the gospel of life.  We have been blessed with the Holy Spirit.  He has given us faith and brought us into the church of Christ.  We live in the shadow of God’s wings too.  God’s right hand upholds us every day.  We have our Father’s hand of power protecting and sustaining us.  If David had reasons for praise in his day, how much more don’t we have in our day?  These are praises that we can bring to our God on Sundays when we worship, but also during the week.  We can and should offer him our praises in our personal and family worship.  We also strive to live so that his name is praised because of us, so that disrepute is never brought upon him because of us. 

Then there’s also the point of meditation to come back to.  In our world today, there is unbiblical meditation.  There is the Eastern-religion type of meditation that encourages you to look inside yourself and your own resources for spiritual benefit.  These days it’s often called “mindfulness,” but it’s a form of meditation.  When the Bible speaks about meditation, it means something far different.  Biblical meditation involves a diligent personal use of divine revelation.  Divine revelation comes from outside of us; it comes through God’s Word.  We take God’s Word and we ponder over it, we reflect on it, we praise God with it.  This type of biblical meditation is encouraged for us not only here in Psalm 63, but in other places in the Bible too. 

However, to be able to do that kind of meditation takes prior knowledge of God’s Word.  If we’re going to praise God endlessly, we need to have endless reasons to praise him.  Those reasons are found in Scripture.  This is why it’s crucially important for us to strive to be faithful students of the Bible.  Brothers and sisters, we need to be reading Scripture for ourselves each day and then working with it meditatively.  We don’t want to be mechanical readers of the Bible, but reflective readers – people who think about what they read and ponder it.  We want readers who can lay in bed at night before falling to sleep or maybe even in the middle of the night, who can recall Scripture and reflect on who God is from it and praise him. 

Now we come to the last verses of the psalm and we’ll briefly see David’s confident trust in God.  He speaks in verse 9 of people seeking to destroy his life.  As I mentioned in the introduction, we don’t know who he’s referring to.  It could be Saul and his forces; it could be Absalom and his forces.  Whatever the case may be, his life is in danger. He’s under threat from human enemies.

But he’s confident that those human enemies are going to be dealt with.  God will send them to the depths of the earth.  This is a euphemism for Sheol, a polite way of speaking about the realm of the dead.  God is going to see to it that they get taken out of the way.  Other human beings will use swords to end their lives.  Their bodies will not even get the honour of a burial.  Instead, they will become food for jackals.  In case you don’t know what a jackal is, it’s the Middle Eastern equivalent of a coyote.  It’s an animal that often scavenges dead bodies.  The jackals will finish what the sword started and there’ll be nothing left of David’s enemies.  They will become jackal-chow.  The mouths of these liars will be stopped and silenced.  They can’t hurt David with their actions and they can’t hurt him with their words.  He’s confident that God will do all this for him.  He’s confident that God alone can and will save him.

And when he does, the king will rejoice.  He’ll have more reasons for praising God.  All who love the LORD and swear by his name, they too will exult with David.  The godly will rejoice with the King of Israel at the destruction of his enemies. 

God came through for David, time and again.  God did deliver him from Saul and from Absalom.  God rescued the king and gave him the reasons to continue praising and trusting.

David was the Messianic King.  In that capacity, he pointed ahead to Christ.  The destruction of David’s enemies here also speaks prophetically of the destruction of Christ’s enemies.  We can be confident that God will in due time cast down all the enemies of Christ.  Since we are united to Christ, these enemies are also ours.  We think here especially of Satan and his forces.  They are doomed for destruction.  We are destined to rejoice with our King.  His enemies will all be vanquished.  We can confidently trust that this will happen – God’s Word promises it to us.

Brothers and sisters, so much is packed into the eleven verses of this Psalm.  There is so much here about who our God is.  He is our God, he has power and glory, his steadfast love is better than life, he satisfies, he saves, and much more.  There is also much here about David and about all who, like him, look to God for their help and strength.  Believers are those who seek, thirst, and faint for God, who long to be in the closest fellowship with him.  Believers praise God and meditate on his person and works.  Believers cling to him and rejoice in him.  As for the enemies of the King, they will all come to nothing, they will all become a portion for jackals.  Promises pack this psalm, praises energize it, and we’re led through it to live more closely to our God.  AMEN.

Prayer:

Heavenly Father,

You are our God, and we do earnestly seek you.  We thank you that you have met us here this morning and blessed us with your Word.  Thank you for who you are and what you promise to do for your people.  Your love in Jesus Christ makes us thankful.  Through him, through the gospel, you have truly satisfied and saved us.  Please help us to know you more and better through your Word.  We ask that you would strengthen our faith.  We pray for the destruction of the enemies of our Saviour too.  Please hasten the fall of Satan and his forces.  We pray for your kingdom to come in all its fullness. 

    




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Wes Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

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