Repetitive phrases, meter, and poetic license may cause a certain blindness to spiritual insights for some of us when it comes to reading the psalms of the Old Testament book by that name. But a study of some particular psalm is always a blessing.
David is the ascribed author of the 63rd psalm. The occasion of the psalm is accredited to a particular moment in his life. One clue as to that moment would be the fact that he is already king (v. 11). His personal circumstances at the time involve great hardship and a loss of sleep (v. 6). He is the target of false accusations (v. 11), and his enemies seek to kill him (v. 9). The heading above the psalm tells us it was composed when he was in the wilderness of Judah. That almost certainly indicates that it was written after Absalom had deposed him and he was forced to flee into exile.
This is a psalm for grown-ups! David isn’t living a life of luxury or leisure in a palace; he is in the wilderness of Judah. He is in that same strange and hostile environment that would one day be the home of John the Baptist. His bed isn’t a feathery, soft mattress in a bedchamber safe from all harm; he is a fugitive. He can lie down only when he can find refuge. Even then there is no deep, restful sleep (v. 6). He has been ostracized from a nation that once loved him by a vengeful son who has temporarily succeeded in destroying his reputation with lies and cunning. Soldiers once in his employ now search the kingdom hoping to find him and kill him. Yet, in the midst of all this, David is composing a new song of praise to Jehovah.
It is not a psalm of pity nor is it one of complaining. It is instead a psalm of strength and personal resolve. Whether he is in the palace, protected by loyal soldiers, or on the run in the barren wilderness of Judea, his conviction is firm: “O God, You are my God; I shall seek You earnestly.”
With all the emotional pain that a parent feels when a grown child has done the unspeakable and with all the humiliation as one who was once greatly loved and respected but now spurned, David isn’t lying awake at night hurting and feeling sorry for the unfairness of his situation.
He is lying awake at night and composing a new psalm of praise from a place and under circumstances he could never have imagined before. And so confident is he in God’s love for him and for those who are righteous, he can give praise to God for protecting him even now and for vindicating him in the end. That’s real praise!
I’m thankful that David wrote such a grown-up song and that the Holy Spirit preserved it to teach us how to praise and to show us how to think not only as David did, but also as Paul did when he wrote, “When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things” (1 Cor. 13:11).
Keep studying and keep serving! DC Brown ©2016