Monday, March 13, 2017

A Day with God; Psalm 63

I hope that in this season of Lent, your desire is to deepen your relationship with God. We recognize our need for God and our world’s need for God. In Psalm 63, David begins and ends his day with God and acknowledges his longing for and dependence upon God in body and soul every moment. Psalm 63 was sung as the opening to every worship service during the 4th Century. It is known as the morning psalm because it begins with “Early in the morning, will I seek Your face.” It is full of joyful anticipation, yet can be sung like blues because of the deep yearning and desire for intimate relationship with God. Nor was it written during an easy time. David is literally in a desert, the Judean wilderness. While some scholars think this was written while David was fleeing Saul, it is more likely that it was written when David was fleeing his son, Absalom. David literally knew what is was to be in thirsty in a land where water was scarce. His life was literally in danger. He was being hunted, and yet even in this place, David worshipped God and oriented his life to God. For what do you thirst? Would it be Jesus? Someone said, “That which we long for is proof of its reality.” We long for God because God is real. Maybe David wrote this on a Sabbath day. He cannot be in Jerusalem to worship, but he remembers with great fondness what worship on Mt. Zion is like. Though he cannot go to the house of the Lord, David knows he can worship anywhere. Or, it may not have been a Sabbath, and we’ve already described how David was in a difficult situation, but David knows he can worship God anytime. He spends his day with God. What would it look like if we spent a day with God? I can tell you that it is more than just coming to church on a Sunday morning for a couple of hours. Frankly, I’m pretty bad a typical Sabbath-keeping, but according to the New Testament, Jesus is our Sabbath rest. We are told again and again not only by Paul and the other NT writers, but by Jesus Himself, to rest in Him. To rest in Jesus is to lean on Jesus, to trust Him, and depend on Him, to orient our lives in Him, which is what David does with God. Our relationship with God is personal. David calls Yah, “his God.” Do you have a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ? David commits to seeking the Lord early in the morning. This isn’t just about praying about the day’s concerns or seeking guidance from the Lord, although, to be sure, David did that, but David anticipated being with God. He sought God’s face, God’s presence. The way David writes in this psalm is like a lover for his beloved. One of the primary metaphors in Scripture to describe our relationship with the Lord is a marriage. Earthly marriage is a type for Christ’s relationship to the Church and God’s relationship with God’s people. Early in our dating relationship, Jim called me relatively early on a Saturday morning (it was barely 8am), even though we had talked the day before. He was inviting me to lunch with another couple. I’m not fond of being invited to things at the last minute. We Myers-Briggs J-type people do not find that at all appealing, and I told Jim, I didn’t want to be an afterthought. He replied that’s why he called me so early, because I was his first thought. He had only gotten the invitation the day before. Is God your first thought or an afterthought? Do you seek God’s face early in the morning? If you do, is it because you enjoy being in God’s presence? Generally, I look forward to meeting with God in the morning. But other mornings, I do it out of duty. And some mornings, I don’t meet with God at all. Better to meet with God out of duty and pray for a rekindling of desire to be with God then to neglect your relationship with God. Our relationship with God is physical as well as spiritual. Next we see David saying that not only does his soul thirst for God, but his body longs for God as well, even more than the water that he needed to survive in the desert. In other words, he desires God with everything he’s got, with all that he is. This is what it looks like to love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength. When we are sick or in pain, it is easy to long for God with our bodies, isn’t it. We want to know God’s power in our bodies. And maybe David was having some physical difficulties, but I believe it goes beyond that. Again, think of lovers. We want to feel the love of our spouses, and we desire to be known by them, but we also want them physically. We want their company, we want their touches, their hugs and kisses, and yes, sex, which ideally is a body and soul connection. We are made for union with God. Our bodies have become the dwelling place of God. The Holy Spirit, while not confined to our bodies, does dwell in our physical bodies. And it isn’t just our souls that are redeemed by Jesus, but our bodies are too. One day, we will be raised in body to be with the Lord forever. And love for God results in physical response. We praise with our lips. We lift up our hands, a sign of praise and of surrender to God’s lordship over our lives. He knows he is dependent upon God for everything, and it is a joyful dependence. Sometimes we are reluctantly dependent upon God. We rely on God because it becomes necessary, not because we have a choice, event though we cannot choose otherwise because our self-sufficiency fails, and other people disappoint us, and systems and things are unreliable. Joyful dependence brings peace and comfort, knowing there is Someone out there who knows more than we do, who is wiser and stronger than we are, who really does have all the answers. We can surrender in joyful dependence upon God, even when it doesn’t seem necessary, even though it always is. We are at the mercy of God for everything every day, for every moment, every breath. David says God’s love, grace, mercy, lovingkindness is better than lives—than life itself. Certainly God’s lovingkindness extends beyond this mortal life. God loves us forever. And God loved us before the world was created. It’s hard for us to picture how that can be. David treasured this love. He describes the experience as having a full soul, like how your belly feels after you eat a hearty and delicious meal of rich foods and delicacies. Maybe Fig Newtons aren’t your thing, but think about your favorite indulgent foods. We are reminded that Jesus is the Bread of Life and that His blood is the cup of salvation, and that He gives the living water. Are you filled with the Holy Spirit in the same way? What does God’s love mean to you? How much do you value God’s love? A day with God ends as it begins, by spending time with God in prayer and thinking about God. David is comforted because he reflects on how God has helped him through the day. He can rest in peace, knowing God is still with him. Do you take time at the end of the day to look back on how God has helped you through the day? Where did you see God’s hand in the day? When sleep eludes us, prayer is a good cure as well. Matthew Henry says, “When sleep departs our eyes (through pain, or sickness of body, or any disturbance of the mind) our souls, by remembering God, may be at ease and repose themselves. Perhaps an hour’s pious meditation will do us more good than an hour’s sleep would have done.” David also says he meditates on God in the watches. Those are different times of the day and night. Watches for guards were set up in 3 hour intervals. Apparently, the Levites kept watch in the temple as well and were on duty for 3 hours intervals 24 hours a day. Have any of you ever participated in a 24 hour prayer vigil? Usually the intervals are set up in 15 minutes to 1 hour. Any of you ever sign up for those wee hours of the morning? It sounds as if there were times when David would join with the Levites in their nightly prayer vigils. Finally, a day spent with God results in confidence, even in difficult times. David is confident of victory over his enemies even while in the desert. He trusts he will be saved and that his enemies will be defeated. He writes, “The King will triumph.” Certainly, he is speaking of himself as king, but he is also speaking prophetically of Jesus. King Jesus will triumph. We know that Jesus has already triumphed over the grave, and we know that He will triumph over all enemies. Also keep in mind that the psalms are the prayers of Christ. As Jesus prayed this in His desert times, He kept in mind that He would triumph. Remembering that the King triumphs certainly ought to give us peace and confidence as well, even when we are in the desert. We must go through the desert to reach the joy of Easter resurrection, and yet Jesus is no less present in the desert. He is our Good Shepherd who leads, feeds, protects, and guides us. In good days and difficult days, may we be those who delight to spend each day with God, whose lovingkindness is better than life.


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