A Psalm of David, when he was in the Wilderness of Judah.
O God, you are my God, I seek you, my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where no water is. So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary, beholding your power and glory. Because your lovingkindness is better than life, my lips will praise you. (verses 1-3)
The writer is David when he was king (verses 1, 11). The situation is that someone was seeking to destroy his life (verse 9). This corresponds to the time when Absolom, his own son, drove him out of Jerusalem (2 Samuel 15:23). Put yourself in David's place. His son is not just alienated, but hostile enough to want to see his father killed. Here is mortal danger mixed with heart-breaking estrangement from his son.
Learn from David what to do in this broken-hearted, terrifying moment. He prays. The whole psalm is addressed to God. He asks for one thing - not protection, not victory, but God himself, satisfying his soul like water satisfies thirst in a dry and weary land. "O God, You are my God; I shall seek you earnestly; my soul thirsts for you, my flesh yearns for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water" (verse 1). There are seasons of pain and loss and grief and darkness when nothing is worth asking for but God. Everything else seems trivial, even life.
That's why David said in verse 3, "Because your lovingkindness is better than life, my lips will praise you." David may well be killed during the night by some plotting traitor, sold out to Absolom. How do you sleep? You remind yourself that the love of God in the presence of God is better than not being stabbed to death in the night. But this rest in God's lovingkindness is not easily felt. We say the words. But do we feel the reality? David did not feel it as he wanted to feel it. That is why he cried out, "I seek you earnestly, my soul thirsts for you." David desperately needed God to answer his cry to come and help him taste, not just know, but feel that God's lovingkindness is better than life.
O to know God like this! Would this not be everything to us? Would this not be more than all riches and fame and success and health, indeed all the world can offer? God himself coming near and making our souls drink from his love until all else fades from view, and fear is swallowed up in the unshakable security of everlasting enjoyment at the right hand of God. O that we would come to this place in our walk with God! When the saving of his own life and the rescue of his own son cease to be his gods, and God alone engulfs him in the solid joy of unshakable love, then David will sing in the sorrows of this night, and even perhaps, if God wills, win back his son.
How did God come to David and awaken his spiritual taste, so that he could see God and "be satisfied as with marrow and fatness" (verse 5)? The answer is that David remembered the days of worship in the house of God: "Thus I have seen you in the sanctuary, beholding your power and your glory" (verse 2). David had been driven from Jerusalem, the place of corporate worship with God's people. And in his distress, he remembers what it was like, and what he saw of God in worship.
Here is a great longing I have for our corporate worship at Bethlehem - that when we meet and sing and pray and hear the word of God, God himself will be so manifestly present in "power and glory" that in the years to come, when any of you is cut off from this immeasurable privilege, the very memory of seeing God in worship will bring him home to you again.
Would you pray with me that God meet us like that? Would you pray for Chuck and me that God would give us songs and prayers and silence and Scriptures and sermons that are so full of the truth of God and the Spirit of God that we will all taste and see that the lovingkindness of God is better than life - and all that life can give?
And would you pray for yourselves and for all the people that Saturday nights and Sunday mornings would become vestibules for meeting God? Pray with David, "O God, you are my God; I shall seek you earnestly; my soul thirsts for you, my flesh yearns for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water." If this were on our lips Saturday night and Sunday morning, would not God open the springs of heaven and show us mightily that his "lovingkindness is better than life"?
For the sake of seasons in the wilderness,