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Author:Dr. Reuben Bredenhof
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Congregation:Canadian Reformed Theological Seminary (CRTS)
 Hamilton, Ontario
Preached At:Free Reformed Church of Mt. Nasura
 Mt. Nasura, Western Australia
Title:My soul thirsts for you, O God!
Text:Psalms 63 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Life in Christ

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Ps 84:1,2                                                                      

Ps 42:1,2,3                                                                                                     

Reading – John 6:22-40

Ps 16:1,3,5

Sermon – Psalm 63

Ps 63:1,2,3,4

Hy 83:1,2

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

Beloved in the Lord, is there something that you’re passionate about? Something that excites you, motivates you, perhaps a pursuit or a hobby that has a way of filling up your idle thoughts? Our passions are as different as our personalities. One person gets excited about boats. Another by books. Another by bikes.

Psalm 63 is about David’s all-consuming passion, his deep longing for the LORD. You can hear that throughout the Psalm. He “seeks” God (v 1), he “thirsts” for him (v 1), he “longs” for him (v 1), and he clings to God (v 8). A person who thirsts, who longs and seeks is clearly looking for something or someone very important and meaningful. This is his heart’s desire: to know the LORD, to walk with the LORD, to be filled more and more by the LORD’s goodness. This is the thing that’s with David when he gets up in the morning, the pursuit that daily fills his thoughts—drawing near to God.

Maybe that seems a long way from where you are today. So perhaps it’s hard to relate to David’s inspired words: “Your lovingkindness is better than life” (v 3). Could we really say that, and do we live like that? To us, is God’s love better than family? Is He better than our health and good reputation and money? More precious than life itself?

So that makes it a critical question: What are you passionate about? When you reflect on your life today, what are you looking for? For you, what’s the big goal and purpose? And as we consider that question, we get to hear David’s powerful testimony in this Psalm, “My soul thirsts for you,” just as we hear his encouragement in another Psalm, “Delight yourself in the LORD” (37:4). We pray that this will be our longing and our delight, as individuals and as congregation together,

My soul thirsts for you, O God!

  1. what it means to thirst for God
  2. what it means to be satisfied in God


1) what it means to thirst for God: It’s actually not often that we’re told when and where a Psalm was written. For comparison, the heading of the previous Psalm just says “To the Chief Musician. To Jeduthun. A Psalm of David” (Ps 62). The heading of the following Psalm is even shorter, “To the Chief Musician. A Psalm of David” (Ps 64). But for this Psalm there’s a definite setting, “A Psalm of David when he was in the wilderness of Judah.” That’s something we can picture, background scenery that shapes this Psalm.

When was David in the wilderness? There were the many months that King Saul was hunting him. But it’s probably better to think back to the time of the rebellion of his son Absalom. 2 Samuel 15-17 tells the story, how he forced David and his loyal followers to leave Jerusalem and flee to the desert. There, even on the run, David holds onto his confidence; it’s in verse 11, “The king shall rejoice in God.” David is the king, troubled by his rebel son, but sure that God will give him reason to rejoice again.

In the meantime, though, David’s heart is heavy: disowned by his flesh and blood; rejected by many in his court. Imagine him going from the comfort and security of his palace, where he’s surrounded by servants and advisors and enjoying the privileges and calling of kingship, to this—a refugee in his own land, camping out in a parched wilderness, his rule and even his life hanging in the balance. No wonder he feels so terribly alone, and no wonder he cries out to God as his one and only hope: “O God, you are my God” (v 1).

This first verse is surely one of Scripture’s most beautiful and vivid descriptions of a believer’s deep longing for God. In it we hear several things.

First, David has a personal relationship with the LORD: “You are my God” (v 1). There’s a sense of possession, a claim on God, an intimate bond—for there’s a world of meaning in that small word “my.” Just think of the difference between referring to someone as “a friend” or as “my friend,” as “a wife” or as “my wife,” “God” or “my God.” With the Lord, it’s shockingly easy for us to think of him impersonally, to hold this Being at arm’s length, for him to remain cold and abstract in our thinking and our living. But through Christ, God is our God. Within the covenant of grace, He is my God.

In his distress, David will turn to the LORD. This is what he says, “Early will I seek you” (v 1). “Early” here doesn’t necessarily refer to time, like if you show up ten minutes early for an appointment. It’s more about our attitude, for if you’re early, it means you’re earnest, you’re eager. “Early will I seek you,” says David, “keenly and intensely.” It’ll be the first thing I do, the thing that I do often. And I won’t give up seeking my God.

This sets an example for us. If we’ll seek God early, then it means that we certainly begin each day with God through prayer, drawing near to him in communion. If we’ll seek God early, we turn to him without delay when we’re in trouble or we’re feeling blessed. Seeking God early means that He’s not miles away from our thoughts during the day, but He’s close and present.

“I seek you… and my soul thirsts for you” (v 1). Maybe you can think of a time when you were desperately thirsty. You went on a long hike, and you forgot to take water. Or you woke up in the middle of the night, or after a medical procedure, and your mouth felt impossibly dry. When we’re really thirsty, it’s hard to think about anything else—we just can’t rest until we get some cool, refreshing water into us. That’s the kind of longing that David has for God: “My soul thirsts for you.” You’re what I want, more than anything else. You alone can refresh me and renew my life.

It’s striking, isn’t it? In his deep suffering, David isn’t looking for a restoration of peace. He’s not asking for reprieve from his anguish. In the desert, he’s not even hoping for food and water, but he’s simply longing for God, his God. This is whom he wants, because if he has the LORD, he has all.

You and I often wish for many things. More money, perhaps. More friends. Improved health. Better opportunities. Good relationships. Our heart’s desires are often wrapped up with what is most important to us, whether our family, or our job, or reputation. And some of these things are good and fitting to pray for. But what is first and central? What’s our greatest love? Only if we hunger and thirst for God shall we be filled. If we have God, we have all.

And see how thorough is David’s desire. When he says, “my soul thirsts,” he’s not talking about a separate part of his life, the spiritual or religious department that we give a bit of attention to on Sundays. By “soul” he means his whole being, his entire existence—from head to toe, from the inside out, from beginning to end. “My soul thirsts for you,” he says, just like the sons of Korah say in Psalm 42:1, “As the deer pants for the water brooks, so pants my soul for you, O God.”

For David, this is his pressing need: “My flesh longs for you in a dry and thirsty land, where there is no water” (v 1). He was in a harsh wilderness, so it was literally true: there was “no water.” But spiritually too, David feels empty. He is away from Jerusalem, far from the tabernacle and the sacrifices, and God’s throne room in the Most Holy Place. His life is like a spiritual desert, and he’s in a place where it’s hard to taste God’s goodness.

And without the refreshment of being near the LORD, David can’t survive. Compare it again to physical thirst. We’ve all been thirsty, but probably very few of us have been in a situation where thirst becomes deadly. Think of the people you sometimes hear about who get lost in the wilderness without any supplies, and who barely survive by collecting dew every night or finding some brackish water. For every happy ending, there’s four that end in disaster. You can’t live without water, and you can’t live without God.

In this dry and weary land, David is desperate, but he’s looking in the right place. He doesn’t stop singing because he’s in the wilderness. For communion with God can be just as real when times are hard as when times are good. In fact, it’s sometimes in the quiet and solitude of suffering that we better hear God’s voice. He can use trials to make his promises taste even sweeter, and to give our prayers a new vitality. Perhaps you’ve learned how hardships can increase your thirst for God and you seek him more intently.

And maybe it’s because when we’re in deep trouble, we finally see how helpless we actually are. Or when we face a trial in our health or our work, perhaps we realize just how empty and useless are the things that we’ve been trusting in. Is this life really all about having fun? Can I actually find security in my family? When God brings us into the wilderness, He often makes us think about that very question: What have I actually been pursuing? What’s my life all about? Am I really thirsting for God?

In verse 1 we see that David is seeking, thirsting, longing—and in verse 2 he is looking: “So I have looked for you in the sanctuary, to see your power and your glory.” Right now, David doesn’t have access to the place of worship, so he’s thinking back. He remembers drawing near at the tabernacle, for that’s where God showed himself. Sometimes the LORD revealed himself there in stunning displays of glory, and more often He showed himself in the rituals of daily worship. For every sacrifice was another revelation of God’s mercy to sinners, every priestly blessing was a display of the LORD’s covenant love.

“I wish I was there,” says David, “back in Jerusalem,” all for the delight of being near the LORD: to see God in his glory, to be assured of his grace and receive his blessing. It’s something like what David said in Psalm 27, “One thing I have desired of the LORD, that will I seek, that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD” (v 4).

We can and we must seek the LORD all week long, but in a special way on Sundays we’re allowed to meet with God. As we gather here with his people and listen to God’s Word, we’re given opportunity again to “behold the beauty of the LORD,” “to see his power and his glory.” For God shows himself to us in the wonders of the gospel. He reveals his glory in the message of Christ and his Spirit, and so we respond with adoration.

David was far from “church” right now, but that’s where he wanted to be. So it should be for us, that public worship is something that brings delight and joy. It’s something we long for and put a priority on. We need God more than we need food and drink, more than we need rest. The child of God who loves God will thirst for God.

Indeed, each day of the week, do you seek to learn more about him? You can’t love someone you don’t know, so do you crave the good instruction of God’s Word? Are you in the Word daily because you want to be filled up by God’s promises and guided by his commandments? Don’t be content with a passing swallow or a quick taste, but like thirsty souls in a dry land keep looking, keep seeking. And then when we’re with the LORD we’ll keep drinking, for we know that He alone can satisfy.


2) what it means to be satisfied in God: David might’ve been in the desert when he wrote this Psalm—facing difficult circumstances—yet it is an immensely hopeful song. Take verse 4. David has just spoken of his longing and looking, but he’s confident it won’t be a futile search. He’ll find what he’s seeking after, and he’ll taste what he’s thirsting for: “Thus I will bless you while I live; I will lift up my hands in your name.” That’s a great confidence!

When you’re a child and you lift up your hands to Mum or Dad, that’s a sign of expectation, a mark of trust. You’re looking for another lolly or you’re wishing for the comfort of someone’s touch, so you extend your hand. That’s how David looks to the Father: he lifts up his hands, knowing that God will certainly send his fill of blessings.

This is how every child of God is allowed to pray, with the expectation that God will surely answer us in wisdom and love. We’ve got a good reason for such expectation, for in Christ God has become our loving Father. “Whatever you ask in my name, I will do,” Christ promises. “Ask, and it will be given. Seek and you will find.” Draw near to God in prayer every day—many times each day. And have confidence because you know God: in Christ, He is faithful and good and full of mercy and compassion.

Right now David is hungering and thirsting, but he knows God will soon fill him. See verse 5, “My soul shall be satisfied as with marrow and fatness.” That phrase needs of bit of explaining, since not many of us enjoy sucking the marrow out of bones, and maybe we generally try avoid eating too much fat. The Hebrew words describe the choicest parts of meat, rich portions of food—like the chicken drumstick that everyone wants, or the best steak cooked to your liking, followed by a dessert of glorious cheesecake, all washed down with your favourite beverage. As one Bible translation puts it, “You satisfy me more than the richest feast.”

God promises his most generous provision. When we truly seek God, and thirst for him, we will not be disappointed. God’s gifts are rich and ongoing—think of how the Belgic Confession describes God as the “overflowing fountain of all good” (Art. 1). The person who thirsts for God won’t always get everything she wants, but she’ll get what is truly precious and lasting: the free and full forgiveness of sins, renewal of life, all-sufficient grace in Christ, and the sure hope of glory. The person who thirsts for God is blessed with God himself.

Jesus teaches this in John 6. There He points to himself as the one who can sustain us and give us joy forever. He says, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me shall never hunger, and he who believes in me shall never thirst” (v 35). Christ came to fill our hungry souls, and to satisfy our thirst, and He did so by giving his life in our place.

In him, “my soul will be satisfied” (Ps 63:5). Remember again the breadth of the word “soul.” My life will be satisfied, my whole being will enjoy a perfect fullness. That’s a huge claim, because we’ve probably all found that true satisfaction is an elusive goal. What does it really mean to be satisfied? When can you say that you have enough? Like we’ve said, the rich man will always want more. The popular person will never quite be secure. One notable accomplishment might give us happiness for two minutes, or half a day, and then it’s gone. The goal posts of our happiness are always moving.

So where can we seek true satisfaction? David shows the better way, the only way. Only with God and in communion with God through his Son and Spirit can we be really content. It’s only when we delight in God that we will find the desires of our heart. For God is all that we can want, all that we need.

I don’t think that this kind of satisfaction in God “just happens,” that we must simply wait for our hearts to find more delight in the LORD. For most of the things we love, we learned to love them. For example, we tried out fishing once or twice, and then we decided to buy a good rod, and then we subscribed to a fishing magazine, and soon we were planning all our holidays around fishing. It grew on us, and we kept wanting more. This probably happens for any of our pursuits, just as it happens for many of the people in our life: we learn to love them, as we come to appreciate their good qualities and overlook their faults, until we can’t imagine life without this friend or partner.

Beloved, we can learn to delight in God, learn to be more and more satisfied in him. For example, as we read the Scriptures faithfully, we start to find out more about God’s awesome qualities and his great works. One amazing discovery in the Scriptures so often leads to the next, and we’re more deeply impressed by God as worthy of worship and trust.

And as we grow in awareness of our sin, we also grow in our delight for Christ the Saviour. We realize how much Jesus did for us when He went to the cross, and we’re amazed that his death and resurrection really mean we have new life. We’re satisfied in his salvation!

And then as we seek to walk closer to God, we cherish those times when we can really listen to his Word, and those times when we’re speaking to God from the heart through prayer. Then our eyes are opened to how many good gifts He sends us, and it becomes our longing to use his gifts for his service.

Like any of the loves of our life, love for God takes training and shaping. In verse 6, David gives an example of how this is done: “When I remember you on my bed, I meditate on you in the night watches.” David’s experience is a lot like ours: when you’re really troubled by something, it can be hard to sleep.

In the wilderness, tormented and alone, David tossed and turned on his bed. In Israel, the “night watches” were a time of vulnerability and fear, when it was the darkest and enemies were likely to sneak up. But in these quiet hours, David kept his eyes on God. He reflects on God’s glory and deeds of power, and he renews his prayers for deliverance.

Beloved, the next time sleep fails you, why not meditate? Not daydreaming, but giving God the sacrifice of your continuous thought. Reflect for a time on some of the great things that the Triune God has done for you. Remember a few of the promises of his Word. Pray for his Holy Spirit to keep changing you. An hour of meditation on God might be better for us than eight hours of sleep.

Now, maybe you sleep well every night. But during a typical day for you, do you make the time to meditate on God? Will you learn to delight more in God’s attributes and works? Will you train your love for him, develop your taste and appreciation for his lovingkindness?

Meditating on God’s greatness brings David to the conviction that God will surely be his help: “Because you have been my help, therefore in the shadow of your wings I will rejoice” (v 7). As he faces his enemies, David is sure that the LORD will be his place of security, even as a young bird can rest under its mother’s wings.

Yes, David is so sure of God’s care that he speaks of his enemies’ coming demise: “Those who seek my life to destroy it shall go down into the lower parts of the earth” (v 8). And for David, we know that’s how this difficult chapter ended. His enemies did fall, and the king rejoiced again in God.

But even if there hadn’t been a happy ending, look again at David’s confession in verse 3, “Your lovingkindness is better than life.” This is what will satisfy David more than anything else, the supreme good of God’s faithful love. For his people in Christ, God has unchanging favour, everlasting mercy. And such love is better than a life of prosperity and pleasure. Such love is better than any of the good things that we can dream of or spend our lives pursuing. For in Christ, this love endures. This love saves. This love brings us safely to our eternal home. “Your lovingkindness is better than life.”

And so there’s no mistaking David’s desire: “My soul follows close behind you” (v 8), or “my soul clings to you.” It’s interesting that the Hebrew word for “follows close” is sometimes used to describe how a tongue cleaves to the roof of the mouth in thirst—stuck there in longing. That’s how close the child of God wants to draw near to him: glued to God, entirely dependent on him, always dwelling near him. “My soul clings to you!”

Brothers and sisters, if it is our passion and pursuit to walk with the LORD, then we won’t be disappointed. When we seek God, and our soul thirsts for God, and our body longs for him, we’ll find that He satisfies us so richly, so enduringly. So may this be our pursuit and our longing, every day!  Amen.

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Reuben Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2020, Dr. Reuben Bredenhof

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