Psalm 63:3
Because thy lovingkindness is better than life, my lips shall praise thee.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(3) Because.—Such a sense of the blessedness of Divine favour—here in its peculiar sense of covenant favour—that it is better than life itself, calls for gratitude displayed all through life. “Love is the ever-springing fountain” from which all goodness proceeds, and a sense of it is even more than the happy sense of being alive. The following lines convey in a modern dress the feeling of this part of the psalm:—

“So gazing up in my youth at love,

As seen through power, ever above

All modes which make it manifest,

My soul brought all to a single test—

That He, the Eternal, First and Last,

Who in His power had so surpassed

All man conceives of what is might,

Whose wisdom too showed infinite—

Would prove as infinitely good.”

R. BROWNING: Christmas Eve.

Thusi.e., in the spirit in which he now speaks. For the attitude of the uplifted hands, see Note, Psalm 28:2.

Psalm 63:3. Because, &c. — Here we see the reason of the psalmist’s thirst after God, as is expressed in the two preceding verses; thy loving-kindness is better than life — That is, the discoveries and influences of thy grace and favour, which thou usually impartest to thy people in thy sanctuary, are more durable, and comfortable, and satisfactory than the present life, with all the imaginary advantages belonging to it. Mark well this declaration of the psalmist, reader. God’s loving-kindness is in itself, and in the account of all the saints, better than life, and all the comforts of life; life in its best estate; long life and prosperity. It is our spiritual and eternal life, and that is better than our natural and temporal life. It is better, a thousand times, to die in God’s favour, than to live under his wrath, under which we should of course be if we were deprived of his loving-kindness. My lips shall praise thee — Both for my former tastes and experiences of this truth, which I have just expressed, and for the assurance I have of being restored to the same blessed enjoyments which I have formerly had. Observe again, reader, those that have their hearts refreshed with the tokens of God’s favour, ought to have them enlarged in his praises. Great reason indeed have such to bless God, for they have better provisions and better possessions than the wealth of this world could afford them; and in the service of God, and in communion with him, have better employments and better enjoyments than they could have in the business and converse of this life.

63:3-6 Even in affliction we need not want matter for praise. When this is the regular frame of a believer's mind, he values the loving-kindness of God more than life. God's loving-kindness is our spiritual life, and that is better than temporal life. We must praise God with joyful lips; we must address ourselves to the duties of religion with cheerfulness, and speak forth the praises of God from a principle of holy joy. Praising lips must be joyful lips. David was in continual danger; care and fear held his eyes waking, and gave him wearisome nights; but he comforted himself with thoughts of God. The mercies of God, when called to mind in the night watches, support the soul, making darkness cheerful. How happy will be that last morning, when the believer, awaking up after the Divine likeness, shall be satisfied with all the fulness of God, and praise him with joyful lips, where there is no night, and where sorrow and sighing flee away!Because thy loving-kindness is better than life - Thy favor; thy mercy. This is of more value than life; more to be desired than life. Life is the most valued and valuable thing pertaining to this world which we can possess. See the notes at Job 2:4. But, above this, David valued the favor and friendship of God. If one or the other was to be sacrificed, he preferred that it should be his life; he would be willing to exchange that for the favor of God. Life was not desirable, life furnished no comforts - no joys - without the divine favor.

"My life itself, without Thy love,

No taste of pleasure could afford;

'Twould but a tiresome burden prove,

If I were banished from the Lord."

My lips shall praise thee - That is either

(a) because of this loving-kindness; because I have this trust in thy character; or

(b) because thou wilt restore me to the place of public worship, and I shall be permitted again to praise thee.

Probably the latter is the true idea.

3. Experiencing God's mercy, which exceeds all the blessings of life, his lips will be opened for his praise (Ps 51:15). This is the reason of the foregoing thirst after God.

Thy loving-kindness, i.e. the discoveries and influences of thy grace and favour, which thou usually impartest to thy people in the sanctuary.

Is better than life; is more durable, and comfortable, and satisfactory than the present life, with all imaginable advantages belonging to it.

My lips shall praise thee, both for my former taste and experiences of this truth, and for the assurance of my restitution to the same blessed enjoyments.

Because thy lovingkindness is better than life,.... For life without the love of God is nothing else than death: a man that has no share in the love of God is dead while he lives; all the enjoyments of life, health, riches, honour, friends, &c. are nothing without the love of God; the meanest temporal blessings with it are preferable to the greatest without it, Proverbs 15:17; it lasts longer than life, and therefore must be better than that; death cannot separate from it; it continues to all eternity. And that the saints prefer it to this natural life appears by their readiness to lay it down for the sake of Christ and his Gospel, in which the lovingkindness of God is so richly manifested unto them; to which may be added, that it is the love of God which gives to his people spiritual life, and which issues in eternal life, and therefore must be better than a temporal one. The Targum is,

"for better is thy kindness, which thou wilt do for the righteous in the world to come, than the life which thou givest the wicked in this world;''

my lips shall praise thee; that is, for thy lovingkindness, and because it is better than life, and any enjoyment of it.

Because thy lovingkindness is better than life, my lips shall praise thee.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
3. Because thy lovingkindness &c.] R.V. renders, For thy lovingkindness &c., a further reason for the longing of Psalm 63:1. But it is best to retain the rendering of the A.V. He has waited to see God’s power and glory, yet after all it is the lovingkindness of which he has personal experience that tunes his lips to praise. When Moses desired to see God’s glory, he was granted a revelation of His goodness (Exodus 33:18 ff). It is better than life, than that which men count most precious, for without it life would be a desert. His life was threatened, but the danger fades out of sight in the consciousness of God’s love. Note the connexion of God’s strength and lovingkindness (Psalm 63:2-3), as in Psalm 62:11-12.

shall praise thee] Shall laud thee, a different word from that in Psalm 63:5. The word is supposed to be a proof of the late date of the Psalm, as it is an Aramaic word, and is found elsewhere only in the later parts of the O.T. But it is precarious to argue from a single word, when the remains of Heb. literature are so comparatively scanty.

3–5. The joy of grateful praise.

Verse 3. - Because thy loving kindness is better than life, my lips shall praise thee. The complete resignation of the psalmist, his sense of God's "loving kindness," and his desire to "praise," not to complain, are, under the circumstances, most wonderful, most admirable, and furnish a pattern to the Church in all ages. Psalm 63:3If 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 loving-kindness...my 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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