I stood at the base of a great Egyptian pyramid and watched pensively as a friend and a guide ascended the giant stones on a moonlit night. I worried for their safety—with good reason. Other tourists had fallen to their death making the same attempt.
Jerry made it to the top. Afterward he recounted that at one point in the steep and rigorous ascent, he froze with fear. His guide jolted him to action by this command: “Do not look down! Look up!”
Psalm 63 reflects the spirit of one who has learned to look up. David faced the danger of actual physical extinction from his enemy. The circumstances of this psalm fit best during the time he fled into the Desert of Judah from Absalom. (See 2 Samuel 15,16.)
You will best understand this psalm when you have an adversity mighty enough to disturb your sense of well-being, even your sanity.
At the front end of danger, we often react with panic and little confidence in God. The Lord gets blamed for allowing the hurt to happen, and our initial goal focuses on getting Him to change our circumstances so we will be more comfortable rather than asking Him to conform our life to His character so He will be more comfortable with us.
Emotional or physical pain exiles us from living in comfort. Second Samuel 16:14 tells us that, in fleeing from Absalom, “The king and all the people with him arrived at their destination exhausted.”
The Lord had not come at David’s first whistle. Neither does He at ours. If the Lord immediately intervened we would have no need to earnestly seek Him (v. 1), nor would our soul thirst “in a dry and weary land where there is no water” (v. 2).
It’s a terribly desolate journey when we are in trial. In the early days or months of a crisis, we often search for solutions other than the presence of God himself. We only want God to rearrange our external circumstances. Oh, blessed moment, when we turn toward God and begin to “earnestly” seek Him.
Filling our years with things, relationships, or positions never satisfies our inner emptiness. In the desert of our need, stripped of all external comforts, our soul cries out for God.
How does the Lord slake our thirst and feed our hungriness?
After the exhaustion, David “refreshed himself” (2 Samuel 16:14). This psalm tells us how he did that.
He looks backward. He remembers the times he has been in God’s presence: “I have seen you in the sanctuary and beheld your power and your glory” (v. 2).
A great part of spiritual recovery involves building upon the experiences we have already had in God, precious moments when God has been real in our own “sanctuary.” In times of loss, the mind too easily focuses upon memories of the hurt. But we need to project onto the screen of our hearts scenes of the precious moments in life when God has drawn near to us.
Such memories elicit David’s praise in the present moment (vv. 3–5).
Notice the body parts involved: lips that glorify and sing, hands lifted up, mouths that praise. Our personal worship should go beyond meditation. When we verbally praise the Lord and physically lift our hands in adoration, we move from passive mental assent or contemplation to active expressive engagement of our whole being. Such activity intensifies the power of worship to affect our lives.
Rested and secure
When we are in trouble, our bedtimes fill with restlessness rather than sleep. We mull over endless options, hurtful incidents. We may even think of delicious remedies for those who wronged us (vv. 9,10).
But David’s daytime praise (vv. 1–5) spills over into the quiet watches of the evening (vv. 6–8). Do these verses describe your night thoughts? “Because you are my help, I sing in the shadow of your wings. My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me” (vv. 7,8).
David learned, as must we, to no longer focus on outer circumstances, haunting memories, deep betrayals—but on God himself. We cling to God. But our clinging is not one-sided. He holds us with His “right hand” (v. 8). Sleep is no longer dominated by fear or consumed by trouble. The God of peace visits our night.
The result—confidence in God. David knew he would emerge successfully from the hour of trial. His enemies would go down (vv. 9,10), but he would be all right (v. 11).
Fleeing Absalom, David must have had moments when, like my friend, he looked down and became fearful. But consistently, David learned to look up. When you likewise look to the Lord rather than at your difficulty, your heart will fill with the peace and confidence found in the words of this psalm.