Psalm 63:1
A Psalm of David, when he was in the wilderness of Judah. O God, thou art my God; early will I seek thee: my soul thirsteth for thee, my flesh longeth for thee in a dry and thirsty land, where no water is;
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(1) Early will I seek thee.—LXX. and Vulgate, “to thee I wake early,” i.e., my waking thoughts are toward thee, and this was certainly in the Hebrew, since the verb here used has for its cognate noun the dawn. The expectancy which even in inanimate nature seems to await the first streak of morning is itself enough to show the connection of thought. (Comp. the use of the same verb in Song of Solomon 7:12; and comp. Luke 21:28, New Testament Commentary.)

Soul . . . flesh.—Or, as we say, body and soul. (Comp. Psalm 84:2, “my heart and my flesh.”)

Longeth.—Heb., khâmah, a word only occurring here, but explained as cognate with an Arabic root meaning to be black as with hunger and faintness.

In.—Rather, as. (Comp. Psalm 143:6.) This is the rendering of one of the Greek versions quoted by Origen, and Symmachus has “as in,” &c

Thirsty.—See margin. Fainting is perhaps more exactly the meaning. (See Genesis 25:29-30, where it describes Esau’s condition when returning from his hunt.) Here the land is imagined to be faint for want of water. The LXX. and Vulgate have “pathless.” The parched land thirsting for rain was a natural image, especially to an Oriental, for a devout religious soul eager for communion with heaven.



Psalm 63:1
, Psalm 63:5, Psalm 63:8.

It is a wise advice which bids us regard rather what is said than who says it, and there are few regions in which the counsel is more salutary than at present in the study of the Old Testament, and especially the Psalms. This authorship has become a burning question which is only too apt to shut out far more important things. Whoever poured out this sweet meditation in the psalm before us, his tender longings for, and his jubilant possession of, God remain the same. It is either the work of a king in exile, or is written by some one who tries to cast himself into the mental attitude of such a person, and to reproduce his longing and his trust. It may be a question of literary interest, but it is of no sort of spiritual or religious importance whether the author is David or a singer of later date endeavouring to reproduce his emotions under certain circumstances.

The three clauses which I have read, and which are so strikingly identical in form, constitute the three pivots on which the psalm revolves, the three bends in the stream of its thought and emotion. ‘My soul thirsts; my soul is satisfied; my soul follows hard after Thee.’ The three phases of emotion follow one another so swiftly that they are all wrapped up in the brief compass of this little song. Unless they in some degree express our experiences and emotions, there is little likelihood that our lives will be blessed or noble, and we have little right to call ourselves Christians. Let us follow the windings of the stream, and ask ourselves if we can see our own faces in its shining surface.

I. The soul that knows its own needs will thirst after God.

The Psalmist draws the picture of himself as a thirsty man in a waterless land. That may be a literally true reproduction of his condition, if indeed the old idea is correct, that this is a work of David’s; for there is no more appalling desert than that in which he wandered as an exile. It is a land of arid mountains without a blade of verdure, blazing in their ghastly whiteness under the fierce sunshine, and with gaunt ravines in which there are no pools or streams, and therefore no sweet sound of running waters, no shadow, no songs of birds, but all is hot, dusty, glaring, pitiless; and men and beasts faint, and loll out their tongues, and die for want of water. And, says the Psalmist, such is life, if due regard be had to the deepest wants of a soul, notwithstanding all the abundant supplies which are spread in such rich and loving luxuriance around us-we are thirsty men in a waterless land. I need not remind you how true it is that a man is but a bundle of appetites, desires, often tyrannous, often painful, always active. But the misery of it is-the reason why man’s misery is great upon him is-mainly, I suppose, that he does not know what it is that he wants; that he thirsts, but does not understand what the thirst means, nor what it is that will slake it. His animal appetites make no mistakes; he and the beasts know that when they are thirsty they have to drink, and when they are hungry they have to eat, and when they are drowsy they have to sleep. But the poor instinct of the animal that teaches it what to choose and what to avoid fails us in the higher reaches; and we are conscious of a craving, and do not find that the craving reveals to us the source from whence its satisfaction can be derived. Therefore ‘broken cisterns that can hold no water’ are at a premium, and ‘the fountain of living waters’ is turned away from, though it could slake so many thirsts. Like ignorant explorers in an enemy’s country, we see a stream, and we do not stop to ask whether there is poison in it or not before we glue our thirsty lips to it. There is a great old promise in one of the prophets which puts this notion of the misinterpretation of our thirsts, and the mistakes as to the sources from which they can be slaked, into one beautiful metaphor which is obscured in our English version. The prophet Isaiah says, according to our reading, ‘the parched land shall become a pool.’ The word which he uses is that almost technical one which describes the phenomenon known only in Eastern lands, or at least known in them only in its superlative degree; the mirage, where the dancing currents of ascending air simulate the likeness of a cool lake, with palm-trees around it. And, says he, ‘the mirage shall become a pool,’ the romance shall turn into a reality, the mistakes shall be rectified, and men shall know what it is that they want, and shall get it when they know. Brethren! unless we have listened to the teaching from above, unless we have consulted far more wisely and far more profoundly than many of us have ever done the meaning of our own hearts when they cry out, we too shall only be able to take for ours the plaintive cry of the half of this first utterance of the Psalmist, and say despairingly, ‘My soul thirsteth.’ Blessed are they who know where the fountain is, who know the meaning of the highest unrests in their own souls, and can go on to say with clear and true self-revelation, ‘My soul thirsteth for God!’ That is religion. There is a great deal more in Christianity than longing, but there is no Christianity worth the name without it. There is moral stimulus to activity, a pattern for conduct, and so on, in our religion, and if our religion is only this longing-well then, it is worth very little; and I fancy it is worth a good deal less if there is none of this felt need for God, and for more of God, in us.

And so I come to two classes of my hearers; and to the first of them I say, Dear friends! do not mistake what it is that you ‘need,’ and see to it that you turn the current of your longings from earth to God; and to the second of them I say, Dear friends! if you have found out that God is your supreme good, see to it that you live in the good, see to it that you live in the constant attitude of longing for more of that good which alone will slake your appetite.

‘The thirst that from the soul doth rise Doth ask a drink divine,’ and unless we know what it is to be drawn outwards and upwards, in strong aspirations after something-’afar from the sphere of our sorrow,’ I know not why we should call ourselves Christians at all.

But, dear friends! let us not forget that these higher aspirations after the uncreated and personal good which is God have to be cultivated very sedulously and with great persistence, throughout all our changing lives, or they will soon die out, and leave us. There has to be the clear recognition, habitual to us, of what is our good. There has to be a continual meditation, if I may so say, upon the all-sufficiency of that divine Lord and Lover of our souls, and there has to be a vigilant and a continual suppression, and often excision and ejection, of other desires after transient and partial satisfactions. A man who lets all his longings go unchecked and untamed after earthly good has none left towards heaven. If you break up a river into a multitude of channels, and lead off much of it to irrigate many little gardens, there will be no force in its current, its bed will become dry, and it will never reach the great ocean where it loses its individuality and becomes part of a mightier whole. So, if we fritter away and divide up our desires among all the clamant and partial blessings of earth, then we shall but feebly long, and feebly longing, shall but faintly enjoy, the cool, clear, exhaustless gush from the fountain of life-’My soul thirsteth for God!’-in the measure in which that is true of us, and not one hairsbreadth beyond it, in spite of orthodoxy, and professions, and activities, are we Christian people.

II. The soul that thirsts after God is satisfied.

The Psalmist, by the magic might of his desire, changes, as in a sudden transformation scene in a theatre, all the dreariness about him. One moment it is a ‘dry and barren land where no water is’; the next moment a flash of verdure has come over the yellow sand, and the ghastly silence is broken by the song of merry birds. The one moment he is hungering there in the desert; the next, he sees spread before him a table in the wilderness, and his soul is ‘satisfied as with marrow and with fatness,’ and his mouth praises God, whom he possesses, who has come unto him swift, immediate, in full response to his cry. Now, all that is but a picturesque way of putting a very plain truth, which we should all be the happier and better if we believed and lived by, that we can have as much of God as we desire, and that what we have of Him will be enough.

We can have as much of God as we desire. There is a quest which finds its object with absolute certainty, and which finds its object simultaneously with the quest. And these two things, the certainty and the immediateness with which the thirst of the soul after God passes into a satisfied fruition of the soul in God, are what are taught us here in our text; and what you and I, if we comply with the conditions, may have as our own blessed experience. There is one search about which it is true that it never fails to find. The certainty that the soul thirsting after God shall be satisfied with God results at once from His nearness to us, and His infinite willingness to give Himself, which He is only prevented from carrying into act by our obstinate refusal to open our hearts by desire. It takes all a man’s indifference to keep God out of his heart, ‘for in Him we live, and move, and have our being,’ and that divine love, which Christianity teaches us to see on the throne of the universe, is but infinite longing for self-communication. That is the definition of true love always, and they fearfully mistake its essence, and take the lower and spurious forms of it for the higher and nobler, who think of love as being what, alas! it often is, in our imperfect lives, a fierce desire to have for our very own the thing or person beloved. But that is a second-rate kind of love. God’s love is an infinite desire to give Himself. If only we open our hearts-and nothing opens them so wide as longing-He will pour in, as surely as the atmosphere streams in through every chink and cranny, as surely as if some great black rock that stands on the margin of the sea is blasted away, the waters will flood over the sands behind it. So unless we keep God out, by not wishing Him in, in He will come.

The certitude that we possess Him when we desire Him is as absolute. As swift as Marconi’s wireless message across the Atlantic and its answer; so immediate is the response from Heaven to the desire from earth. What a contrast that is to all our experiences! Is there anything else about which we can say ‘I am quite sure that if I want it I shall have it. I am quite sure that when I want it I have it’? Nothing! There may be wells to which a man has to go, as the Bedouin in the desert has to go, with empty water-skins, many a day’s journey, and it comes to be a fight between the physical endurance of the man and the weary distance between him and the spring. Many a man’s bones, and many a camel’s, lie on the track to the wells, who lay down gasping and black-lipped, and died before they reached them. We all know what it is to have longing desires which have cost us many an effort, and efforts and desires have both been in vain. Is it not blessed to be sure that there is One whom to long for is immediately to possess?

Then there is the other thought here, too, that when we have God we have enough. That is not true about anything else. God forbid that one should depreciate the wise adaptation of earthly goods to human needs which runs all through every life! but all that recognised, still we come back to this, that there is nothing here, nothing except God Himself, that will fill all the corners of a human heart. There is always something lacking in all other satisfactions. They address themselves to sides, and angles, and facets of our complex nature; they leave all the others unsatisfied. The table that is spread in the world, at which, if I might use so violent a figure, our various longings and capacities seat themselves as guests, always fails to provide for some of them, and whilst some, and those especially of the lower type, are feasting full, there sits by their side another guest, who finds nothing on the table to satisfy his hunger. But if my soul thirsts for God, my soul will be satisfied when I get Him. The prophet Isaiah modifies this figure in the great word of invitation which pealed out from him, where he says, ‘Ho! everyone that thirsteth, come ye to the waters.’ But that figure is not enough for him, that metaphor, blessed as it is, does not exhaust the facts; and so he goes on, ‘yea, come, buy wine’-and that is not enough for him, that does not exhaust the facts, therefore he adds, ‘and milk.’ Water, wine, and milk; all forms of the draughts that slake the thirsts of humanity, are found in God Himself, and he who has Him needs seek nowhere besides.


III. The soul that is satisfied with God immediately renews its quest.

‘My soul followeth hard after Thee.’ The two things come together, longing and fruition, as I have said. Fruition begets longing, and there is swift and blessed alternation, or rather co-existence of the two. Joyful consciousness of possession and eager anticipation of larger bestowments are blended still more closely, if we adhere to the original meaning of the words of this last clause, than they are in our translation, for the psalm really reads, ‘My soul cleaveth after Thee.’ In the one word ‘cleaveth,’ is expressed adhesion, like that of the limpet to the rock, conscious union, blessed possession; and in the other word ‘after Thee’ is expressed the pressing onwards for more and yet more. But now contrast that with the issue of all other methods of satisfying human appetites, be they lower or be they higher. They result either in satiety or in a tyrannical, diseased appetite which increases faster than the power of satisfying it increases. The man who follows after other good than God, has at the end to say, ‘I am sick, tired of it, and it has lost all power to draw me,’ or he has to say, ‘I ravenously long for more of it, and I cannot get any more.’ ‘He that loveth silver shall not be satisfied with silver, nor he that loveth abundance with increase.’ You have to increase the dose of the narcotic, and as you increase the dose, it loses its power, and the less you can do without it the less it does for you. But to drink into the one God slakes all thirsts, and because He is infinite, and our capacity for receiving Him may be indefinitely expanded; therefore, ‘Age cannot wither, nor custom stale His infinite variety’; but the more we have of God, the more we long for Him, and the more we long for Him the more we possess Him.

Brethren! these are the possibilities of the Christian life; being its possibilities they are our obligations. The Psalmist’s words may well be turned by us into self-examining interrogations and we may-God grant that we do!-all ask ourselves; ‘Do I thus thirst after God?’ ‘Have I learned that, notwithstanding all supplies, this world without Him is a waterless desert? Have I experienced that whilst I call He answers, and that the water flows in as soon as I open my heart? And do I know the happy birth of fresh longings out of every fruition, and how to go further and further into the blessed land, and into my elastic heart receive more and more of the ever blessed God?’ These texts of mine not only set forth the ideal for the Christian life here, but they carry in themselves the foreshadowing of the life hereafter. For surely such a merely physical accident as death cannot be supposed to break this golden sequence which runs through life. Surely this partial and progressive possession of an infinite good, by a nature capable of indefinitely increasing appropriation of, and approximation to it is the prophecy of its own eternal continuance. So long as the fountain springs, the thirsty lips will drink. God’s servants will live till God dies. The Christian life will go on, here and hereafter, till it has reached the limits of its own capacity of expansion, and has exhausted God. ‘The water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water, springing up into everlasting life.’

Psalm 63:1. O God — O thou who art God, and the only living and true God, the author and end of all things, the Governor and Judge of men and angels, and the sole object of their worship; thou art my God — Mine by creation, and therefore my rightful owner and ruler; mine by covenant and my own consent, and therefore the object of my highest esteem, most fervent desire, and most entire trust and confidence. Early will I seek thee — Which clause is all expressed in one word in the Hebrew, אשׁחרךְ, ashacherecha, (a most significant term, from שׁחר, shachar, aurora, vel diluculum, the dawn of day, or morning twilight,) a phrase which no translation can very happily express. Buxtorf interprets it thus, Quasi aurorare, vel diluculare dicas, words which will not admit of being rendered into our language. The sense of them, however, is, I will prevent, or be as early as the first approach of light in seeking thee. Perhaps no version can better express the precise meaning and force of the original term than that of the Seventy, namely, προς σε ορθριζω, but it is equally difficult, if not impossible, to be literally translated into English. We find the same Hebrew phrase Isaiah 26:9, which our translators interpret in the same manner, namely, “With my spirit within me will I seek thee early.” The primary meaning of the word early, in both passages, is early in the morning, or before, or with the dawn of day; which implies the doing it (namely, seeking God) with the greatest speed and diligence, taking the first and best time for it. And to seek him, the reader will observe, is to covet his favour as our chief good, and to consult his glory as our highest end: it is to seek an acquaintance with him by his word, and mercy from him by prayer: it is to seek union with him, and a conformity to him by his Spirit. My soul thirsteth for thee — Eagerly desires to approach thee, to have access to thee, and to enjoy communion with thee. Thirsting, in all languages, is frequently used for earnestly longing after, or passionately desiring any thing. My flesh longeth for thee — Or, languisheth, or pineth away, as כמה, chamah, the word here used, seems properly to signify. R. Sal. renders it, arescit, it is dried up, withered, or wasted. In some approved lexicons it is interpreted of the eye growing dim, the colour changing, and the mind being weakened. As used here by the psalmist, the word implies the utmost intenseness and fervency of desire; as though it impaired his sight, altered the very hue of his body, and even injured his understanding; effects oftentimes produced by eager and unsatisfied desires. In a dry and thirsty land where no water is — Where I have not the refreshing waters of the sanctuary, and where I thirst not so much for water to refresh my body, although I also greatly want that, as for thy presence, and the communications of thy grace to refresh my soul. He experienced the vehemence of natural thirst in a wilderness, where he could get no supply of water; and by that sensation he expresses the vehemence of his spiritual thirst, of his desire after God, and the ordinances of his worship.

63:1,2 Early will I seek thee. The true Christian devotes to God the morning hour. He opens the eyes of his understanding with those of his body, and awakes each morning to righteousness. He arises with a thirst after those comforts which the world cannot give, and has immediate recourse by prayer to the Fountain of the water of life. The true believer is convinced, that nothing in this sinful world can satisfy the wants and desires of his immortal soul; he expects his happiness from God, as his portion. When faith and hope are most in exercise, the world appears a weary desert, and the believer longs for the joys of heaven, of which he has some foretastes in the ordinances of God upon earth.O God, thou art my God - The words here rendered God are not the same in the original. The first one - אלהים 'Elohiym - is in the plural number, and is the word which is usually employed to designate God Genesis 1:1; the second - אל 'Êl - is a word which is very often applied to God with the idea of strength - a strong, a mighty One; and there is probably this underlying idea here, that God was the source of his strength, or that in speaking of God as his God, he was conscious of referring to him as Almighty. It was the divine attribute of power on which his mind mainly rested when he spoke of him as his God. He did not appeal to him merely as God, with no reference to a particular attribute; but he had particularly in his eye his power or his ability to deliver and save him. In Psalm 22:1, where, in our version, we have the same expression, "My God, my God," the two words in the original are identical, and are the same which is used here - אל 'Êl - as expressive of strength or power. The idea suggested here is, that in appealing to God, while we address him as our God, and refer to his general character as God, it is not improper to have in our minds some particular attribute of his character - power, mercy, love, truth, faithfulness, etc. - as the special ground of our appeal.

Early will I seek thee - The word used here has reference to the early dawn, or the morning; and the noun which is derived from the verb, means the aurora, the dawn, the morning. The proper idea, therefore, would be that of seeking God in the morning, or the early dawn; that is, as the first thing in the day. Compare the notes at Isaiah 26:9. The meaning here is, that he would seek God as the first thing in the day; first in his plans and purposes; first in all things. He would seek God before other things came in to distract and divert his attention; he would seek God when he formed his plans for the day, and before other influences came in, to control and direct him. The favor of God was the supreme desire of his heart, and that desire would be indicated by his making him the earliest - the first - object of his search. His first thoughts - his best thoughts - therefore, he resolved should be given to God. A desire to seek God as the first object in life - in youth - in each returning day - at the beginning of each year, season, month, week - in all our plans and enterprises - is one of the most certain evidences of true piety; and religion flourishes most in the soul, and flourishes only in the soul, when we make God the first object of our affections and desires.

My soul thirsteth for thee - See the notes at Psalm 42:2.

My flesh longeth for thee - All my passions and desires - my whole nature. The two words - "soul" and "flesh," are designed to embrace the entire man, and to express the idea that he longed supremely for God; that all his desires, whether springing directly from the soul, or the needs of the body, rose to God as the only source from which they could be gratified.

In a dry and thirsty land - That is, As one longs for water in a parched desert, so my soul longs for God. The word thirsty is in the margin, as in Hebrew, weary. The idea is that of a land where, from its parched nature - its barrenness - its rocks - its heat - its desolation - one would be faint and weary on a journey.

Where no water is - No running streams; no gushing fountains; nothing to allay the thirst.


Ps 63:1-11. The historical occasion referred to by the title was probably during Absalom's rebellion (compare 2Sa 15:23, 28; 16:2). David expresses an earnest desire for God's favor, and a confident expectation of realizing it in his deliverance and the ruin of his enemies.

1. early … seek thee—earnestly (Isa 26:9). The figurative terms—

dry and thirsty—literally, "weary," denoting moral destitution, suited his outward circumstances.

soul—and—flesh—the whole man (Ps 16:9, 10).

1 God, thou art my God; early will I seek thee: my soul thirsteth for thee, my flesh longeth for thee in a dry and thirsty land, where no water is;

2 To see thy power and thy glory, so as I have seen thee in the sanctuary.

3 Because thy lovingkindness is better than life, my lips shall praise thee.

4 Thus will I bless thee while I:live: I will lift up my hands in thy name.

5 My soul shall be satisfied as with marrow and fatness; and my mouth shall praise thee with joyful lips"

6 When I remember thee upon my bed, and meditate on thee in the night watches.

7 Because thou hast been my help, therefore in the shadow of thy wings will Irejoice.

8 My soul followeth hard after thee: thy right hand upholdeth me.

Psalm 63:1

"O God, thou art my God;" or, O God, thou art my Mighty One. The last Psalm left the echo of power ringing in the ear, and it is here remembered. Strong affiance bids the fugitive poet confess his allegiance to the only living God; and firm faith enables him to claim him as his own. He has no doubts about his possession of his God; and why should other believers have any? The straightforward, clear language of this opening sentence would be far more becoming in Christians than the timorous and doubtful expressions so usual among professors. How sweet is such language! Is there any other word comparable to it for delights? Meus Deus. Can angels say more? "Early will I seek thee." Possession breeds desire. Full assurance is no hindrance to diligence, but is the mainspring of it. How can I seek another man's God? but it is with ardent desire that I seek after him whom I know to be my own. Observe the eagerness implied in the time mentioned; he will not wait for noon or the cool eventide; he is up at cockcrowing to meet his God. Communion with God is so sweet that the chill of the morning is forgotten, and the luxury of the couch is despised. The morning is the time for dew and freshness, and the Psalmist consecrates it to prayer and devout fellowship. The best of men have been betimes on their knees. The word "early" has not only the sense of early in the morning, but that of eagerness, immediateness. He who truly longs for God longs for him now. Holy desires are among the most powerful influences that stir our inner nature; hence the next sentence, "My soul thirsteth for thee." Thirst is an insatiable longing after that which is one of the most essential supports of life; there is no reasoning with it, no forgetting it, no despising it, no overcoming it by stoical indifference. Thirst will be heard; the whole man must yield to its power: even thus is it with that divine desire which the grace of God creates in regenerate men; only God himself can satisfy the craving of a soul really aroused by the Holy Spirit. "My flesh longeth for thee;" by the two words "soul" and "flesh," he denotes the whole of his being. "The flesh," in the New Testament sense of it, never longs after the Lord, but rather it lusteth against the spirit; David only refers to that sympathy which is sometimes created in our bodily frame by vehement emotions of the soul. Our corporeal nature usually tugs in the other direction, but the spirit when ardent can compel it to throw in what power it has upon the other side. When the wilderness caused David's weariness, discomfort, and thirst, his flesh cried out in unison with the desire of his soul. "In a dry and thirsty land, where no water is." A weary place and a weary heart make the presence of God the more desirable; if there be nothing below and nothing within to cheer, it is a thousand mercies that we may look up and find all we need. How frequently have believers traversed in their experience this "dry and thirsty land," where spiritual joys are things forgotten! and how truly can they testify that the only true necessity of that country is the near presence of their God! The absence of outward comforts can be borne with serenity when we walk with God; and the most lavish multiplication of them avails not when he withdraws. Only after God, therefore, let us pant. Let all desires be gathered into one. Seeking first the kingdom of God - all else shall be added unto us.

Psalm 63:2

"To see thy power and thy glory, so longed not so much to see the sanctuary as I have seen thee in the sanctuary." He as to see his God; he looked through the veil of ceremonies to the invisible One. Often had his heart been gladdened by communion with God in the outward ordinances, and for this great blessing he sighs again; as well he might, for it is the weightiest of all earth's sorrows for a Christian man to lose the conscious presence of his covenant God. He remembers and mentions the two attributes which had most impressed themselves upon his mind when he had been rapt in adoration in the holy place; upon these his mind had dwelt in the preceding Psalm, and the say our of that contemplation is evidently upon his heart when in the wilderness: these he desires to behold again in the place of his banishment. It is a precious thought that the divine power and glory are not confined in their manifestation to any places or localities; they are to be heard above the roaring of the sea, seen amid the glare of the tempest, felt in the forest and the prairie, and enjoyed wherever there is a heart that longs and thirsts to behold them. Our misery is that we thirst so little for these sublime things, and so much for the mocking trifles of time and sense. We are in very truth always in a weary land, for this is not our rest; and it is marvellous that believers do not more continuously thirst after their portion far beyond the river where they shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more but shall see the face of their God, and his name shall be in their foreheads. David did not thirst for water or any earthly thing, but only for spiritual manifestations. The sight of God was enough but nothing short of that would content him. How great a friend is he, for him, the very Sight of whom is consolation. Oh, my soul, imitate the Psalmist, and let all thy desires ascend towards the highest good; longing here to see God, and having no higher joy even for eternity.

Psalm 63:3

continued...Where he hid himself from Saul, 1 Samuel 22:5 23:14,15 26:1,2David in the wilderness, complaining bitterly of his banishment from God’s house, thirsteth and longeth for it, Psalm 63:1-3. His manner of blessing God. His experience, hope, and delight in God, Psalm 63:4-8. Comforteth himself that his enemies shall be destroyed, and that he shall be in safety, Psalm 63:9-11.

My God; in covenant with me.

Early, Heb.

in the morning; which implies the doing it with greatest diligence and speed, taking the first and the best time for it, as Job 8:5 Psalm 78:34 Proverbs 1:28.

Thirsteth for thee, i.e. for the presence and enjoyment of thee in thy house and ordinances, as the next verse declareth it.

Longeth; or, languisheth, or pineth away. The desire of my soul after thee is so vehement and insatiable, that my very body feels the effects of it, as it commonly doth of all great passions.

A dry and thirsty land, where no water is; so called, either,

1. Metaphorically; in a land where I want the refreshing waters of the sanctuary. Or,

2. Properly; I thirst not so much for water (which yet I greatly want) as for thee.

O God, thou art my God,.... Not by nature only, or by birth; not merely as an Israelite and son of Abraham; but by grace through Christ, and in virtue of an everlasting covenant, the blessings and promises of which were applied unto him; and he, by faith, could now claim his interest in them, and in his God as his covenant God; who is a God at hand and afar off, was his God in the wilderness of Judea, as in his palace at Jerusalem. The Targum is,

"thou art my strength;''

early will I seek thee; or "I will morning thee" (o); I will seek thee as soon as the morning appears; and so the Targum,

"I will arise in the morning before thee;''

it has respect to prayer in the morning, and to seeking God early, and in the first place; see Psalm 5:3; or "diligently" (p); as a merchant seeks for goodly pearls, or other commodities suitable for him; so Aben Ezra suggests, as if the word was to be derived, not from "the morning", but from "merchandise"; and those who seek the Lord both early and diligently shall find him, and not lose their labour, Proverbs 2:4;

my soul thirsteth for thee; after his word, worship, and ordinances; after greater knowledge of him, communion with him, and more grace from him; particularly after pardoning grace and justifying righteousness; see Psalm 42:1; My flesh longeth for thee; which is expressive of the same thing in different words; and denotes, that he most earnestly desired, with his whole self, his heart, soul, and strength, that he might enjoy the presence of God;

in a dry and thirsty land, where no water is; such was the wilderness of Judea, where he now was, and where he was destitute of the means of grace, of the ordinances of God's house, and wanted comfort and refreshment for his soul, which he thirsted and longed after, as a thirsty man after water in a desert place.

(o) "sub auroram quaero te", Piscator. (p) "Studiosissime", Gejerus, Michaelis.

<{a} wilderness of Judah.>> O God, thou art my God; early will I seek thee: my soul {b} thirsteth for thee, my flesh longeth for thee in a dry and thirsty land, where no water is;

(a) That is, of Ziph 1Sa 23:14.

(b) Though he was both hungry and in great distress, yet he made God above all meat and drink.

1. O God, thou art my God] Elohim, thou art my El. He addresses Jehovah, for Elohim here is the substitute for that Name (cp. Psalm 140:6), as the Strong One to whom he can appeal with confidence in his need. Cp. Psalm 42:2; Psalm 42:8-9; Psalm 43:4.

early will I seek thee] So the LXX, πρός σε ὀρθρίζω (the word used in Luke 21:38); and hence the use of the Psalm as a morning Psalm. Rather, however, earnestly will I seek thee; though sometimes (e.g. Isaiah 26:9) the word seems to be used with allusion to the supposed derivation from shachar, ‘dawn.’

my soul … my flesh] My whole self, soul and body. Cp. Psalm 84:2, ‘soul, heart, flesh’: the emotions, the reason and the will, the physical organism in and through which they act.

thirsteth for thee] See Psalm 42:2, note; Psalm 84:2.

longeth for thee] Pineth for thee, a strong word, occurring here only, meaning probably, ‘faints with desire.’

in a dry and thirsty, land] In a dry and weary land (Psalm 143:6; Isaiah 32:2). These words are certainly metaphorical, not literal: it is the ‘water of life’ for which he thirsts; the spiritual refreshment with which God revives the fainting soul. But the metaphor was naturally suggested by the circumstances in which David was situated.

1, 2. Recalling the glorious visions of God which he has enjoyed in the sanctuary, the Psalmist thirsts for a renewed sense of His Presence.

Verse 1. - O God, thou art my God; or, my strong God (Eli) - my Tower of strength. Early will I seek thee. The song was, perhaps, composed in the night watches, and poured forth at early dawn, when the king woke "refreshed" (comp. vers. 5, 6; and 2 Samuel 16:14). My soul thirsteth for thee, my flesh longeth for thee; or, pineth for thee (the verb occurs only in this place). Soul and body equally long for God, and especially desire to worship him in the sanctuary (ver. 2). In a dry and thirsty (or, weary) land, where no water is. This is figurative, no doubt; but it may also contain an allusion to the literal fact (2 Samuel 16:2; 2 Samuel 17:29). Psalm 63:1If the words in Psalm 63:2 were אלהים אתּה אשׁחרך, then we would render it, with Bצttcher, after Genesis 49:8 : Elohim, Thee do I seek, even Thee! But אלי forbids this construction; and the assertion that otherwise it ought to be, "Jahve, my God art Thou" (Psalm 140:7), rests upon a non-recognition of the Elohimic style. Elohim alone by itself is a vocative, and accordingly has Mehupach legarme. The verb שׁחר signifies earnest, importunate seeking and inquiring (e.g., Psalm 78:34), and in itself has nothing to do with שׁחר, the dawn; but since Psalm 63:7 looks back upon the night, it appears to be chosen with reference to the dawning morning, just as in Isaiah 26:9 also, שׁחר stands by the side of אוּה בלּילה. The lxx is therefore not incorrect when it renders it: πρὸς δὲ ὀρθρίζω (cf. ὁ λαὸς ὤρθριζεν πρὸς αὐτὸν, Luke 21:38); and Apollinaris strikes the right note when he begins his paraphrase,

Νύκτα μετ ̓ ἀμφιλύκην σὲ μάκαρ μάκαρ

ἀμφιχορεύσω -

At night when the morning dawns will I exult around Thee,

most blessed One.

The supposition that בּארץ is equivalent to כּאשׁר בּארץ, or even that the Beth is Beth essentiae ("as a," etc.), are views that have no ground whatever, except as setting the inscription at defiance. What is meant is the parched thirsty desert of sand in which David finds himself. We do not render it: in a dry and languishing land, for ציּה is not an adjective, but a substantive - the transition of the feminine adjective to the masculine primary form, which sometimes (as in 1 Kings 19:11) occurs, therefore has no application here; nor: in the land of drought and of weariness, for who would express himself thus? ואיף, referring to the nearest subject בּשׂרי, continues the description of the condition (cf. Genesis 25:8). In a region where he is surrounded by sun-burnt aridity and a nature that bears only one uniform ash-coloured tint, which casts its unrefreshing image into his inward part, which is itself in much the same parched condition, his soul thirsts, his flesh languishes, wearied and in want of water (languidus deficiente aqua), for God, the living One and the Fountain of life. כּמהּ (here with the tone drawn back, כּמהּ, like בּחר, 1 Chronicles 28:10, עמד, Habakkuk 3:11) of ardent longing which consumes the last energies of a man (root כם, whence כּמן and כּמס to conceal, and therefore like עטף, עלף, proceeding from the idea of enveloping; Arabic Arab. kamiha, to be blind, dark, pale, and disconcerted). The lxx and Theodotion erroneously read כּמּה (how frequently is this the case!); whereas Aquila renders it ἐπετάθη, and Symmachus still better, ἱμείρεται (the word used of the longing of love). It is not a small matter that David is able to predicate such languishing desire after God even of his felsh; it shows us that the spirit has the mastery within him, and not only forcibly keeps the flesh in subjection, but also, so far as possible, draws it into the realm of its own life - an experience confessedly more easily attained in trouble, which mortifies our carnal nature, than in the midst of the abundance of outward prosperity. The God for whom he is sick [lit. love-sick] in soul and body is the God manifest upon Zion.

Now as to the כּן in Psalm 63:3 - a particle which is just such a characteristic feature in the physiognomy of this Psalm as אך is in that of the preceding Psalm - there are two notional definitions to choose from: thus equals so, as my God (Ewald), and: with such longing desire (as e.g., Oettinger). In the former case it refers back to the confession, "Elohim, my God art Thou," which stands at the head of the Psalm; in the latter, to the desire that has just been announced, and that not in its present exceptional character, but in its more general and constant character. This reference to what has immediately gone before, and to the modality, not of the object, but of the disposition of mind, deserves the preference. "Thus" is accordingly equivalent to "longing thus after Thee." The two כן in Psalm 63:3 and Psalm 63:5 are parallel and of like import. The alternation of the perfect (Psalm 63:3) and of the future (Psalm 63:5) implies that what has been the Psalmist's favourite occupation heretofore, shall also be so in the future. Moreover, בארץ ציה and בּקּדשׁ form a direct antithesis. Just as he does not in a dry land, so formerly in the sanctuary he looked forth longingly towards God (חזה with the conjoined idea of solemnity and devotion). We have now no need to take לראות as a gerundive (videndo), which is in itself improbable; for one looks, peers, gazes at anything just for the purpose of seeing what the nature of the object is (Psalm 14:2; Isaiah 42:18). The purpose of his gazing upon God as to gain an insight into the nature of God, so far as it is disclosed to the creature; or, as it is expressed here, to see His power and glory, i.e., His majesty on its terrible and on its light and loving side, to see this, viz., in its sacrificial appointments and sacramental self-attestations. Such longing after God, which is now all the more intense in the desert far removed from the sanctuary, filled and impelled him; for God's loving-kindness is better than life, better than this natural life (vid., on Psalm 17:14), which is also a blessing, and as the prerequisite of all earthly blessings a very great blessing. The loving-kindness of God, however, is a higher good, is in fact the highest good and the true life: his lips shall praise this God of mercy, his morning song shall be of Him; for that which makes him truly happy, and after which he even now, as formerly, only and solely longs, is the mercy or loving-kindness (חסד) of this God, the infinite wroth of which is measured by the greatness of His power (עז) and glory (כבוד). It might also be rendered, "Because Thy loving-kindness is better than life, my lips shall praise Thee;" but if כּי is taken as demonstrative (for), it yields a train of thought that that is brought about not merely by what follows (as in the case of the relative because), but also by what precedes: "for Thy lips shall then praise Thee" (ישׁבּחוּנך with the suffix appended to the energetic plural form ûn, as in Isaiah 60:7, Isaiah 60:10; Jeremiah 2:24).

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