The Pursuit of God in Psalm 63
The heart of the Covenant promise of God to His people is, “I will be your God, and you will be my people” (Lev. 26:12). By faith we enter into an intimate relationship with the Lord which is expressed in terms of mutual ownership. David begins Psalm 63 with this fundamental truth expressed in the simple, powerful assertion, “O God, you are my God.” To claim the true God as my God is a cherished privilege that all believers share with the psalmist. What follows in Psalm 63 is a depiction of the pursuit of God that naturally follows once we know Him as our own.
The title of Psalm 63 indicates that it was written by David in the Wilderness of Judah, perhaps in the context of II Samuel 15:23, when David fled south during Absalom’s rebellion. The depravation he must have experienced in this dry, desolate atmosphere is turned into a metaphor of David’s thirsty soul longing for God (vs. 1). The phrase “early will I seek you” is an accurate, if awkward, translation of a Hebrew verb which derives from the word for “dawn,” suggesting timely eagerness in David’s pursuit of God. The reality of true faith is shown in how it awakens a wholehearted desire to be closer to the Savior God of the Covenant. It is critical that we examine ourselves to see whether we can identify with this prevailing element of Psalm 63. If you are united to Christ by faith, and can call the true God your God, what must follow is a longing to walk with Him more intimately.
The thousands of martyrs in church history back up the bold claim of verse 3 that God’s grace is better than life itself. If this is so, the instinctive pursuit of our lives should be worship: “Thus I will bless you while I live” (vs. 4). The parallel line, “I will lift up my hands in Your Name,” may cause some consternation among reformed folks who are not used to such bodily expressions, but surely the posture of our hearts is more important than the posture of our hands. In any case, the lifting of the hands is a biblical posture of prayer (I Ki. 8:54; I Tim. 2:8), but whether we raise them or fold them is no test of our sincerity. In another context – one just as sincere – David sat quietly and prayed (II Sam. 7:18).
While verse 1 pictured the longing soul thirsting for God, verse 5 pictures the fulfillment of finding Him: “My soul shall be satisfied with fatness and abundance.” Like a thirsty soul finding a feast, true seekers after God are promised the utmost satisfaction. Christ likewise encouraged us to seek Him by faith and promised that every sincere seeker will be satisfied. “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you” (Matt. 7:7). Similarly, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied” (Matt. 5:6).
In verse 2 David looked for God in the sanctuary; in verse 6 he remembers Him on his bed. By this we are reminded that the pursuit of God enlists the focus of our minds from the most formal, corporate setting to the most personal, private context.
Verse 8 contains a memorable phrase that encapsulates the theme of the pursuit of God: “My soul follows close behind You.” The Hebrew verb is the same one translated “cleave” by KJV in Genesis 2:24, bringing to mind not only the intimate unity of husband and wife but also Christ and the church. The parallel line, “Your right hand upholds me,” shows us the work of God making it possible that He may be pursued and found. As we earnestly seek the Lord we must give Him the glory for drawing us nearer to Him, for it is by His grace that we seek Him and it is by His grace that we may find Him.