Psalm 63 - Your Mercy is Better than Life
There are no requests in this psalm, but the entire psalm is addressed to God. When I sing this song in the morning, I am requesting these experiences.
heading - This psalm takes place in 1Sam 22-25 when David lived in the Judean wilderness as a fugitive from Saul. (Some think it is 2 Sam 15-17 when David fled from Absalom, his son, but this psalm is too joyful for that, and also David prays clearly against those who seek his life. In Absalom's case, David still loved Absalom and did not want him to die.)
According to one of the early Church fathers, John Chrysostom, this Psalm formed part of the daily worship in the assemblies of the primitive Church, while Delitzsch, on the authority of Athanasius and Eusebius, calls it "the morning Psalm of the ancient Church, with which the singing of the Psalms was always introduced at the Sunday service." The reason why the early church loved to dwell on it, and why it is still such a favorite among the little flock of Christ's true sheep, is, I believe, partly found in the title, which shows its special application to our present state.
It is "a psalm of David when he was in the wilderness of Judah," and this is where, spiritually, the Church of God still is; this is where we now are. ...
In course of time, when the Church became worldly, and when, because ungodly emperors and world power began to smile on her, she deluded herself with the thought that she had already reached the millenium, she ceased to sing this wilderness song, but by seasing to recognise her heavenly calling, and her present wilderness condition, she ceased to be the pure Church that she had been, and degenerated into Christendom. ...
The children of the world have also their wildernesses, but they cannot sing there; they an only sing amid flowers and sunshine. - David Baron in Types, Psalms and Prophecies
This was the favorite Psalm of M. Schade, the famous preacher in Berlin, which he daily prayed with such earnestness and appropriation to himself that it was impossible to hear it without emotion. - E. W. Hengstenberg
Gramatically this psalm is divided into 3 parts: Verses 1-8, verses 9-10, and verse 11. The "and"'s prefixed to nouns at the beginning of verses 9 and 11 start new paragraphs.
In this short psalm, there are many repeated words and phrases:
"my soul" is repeated 4x (v1, 5, 8, 9). There is a progression there: my soul thirsts, my soul is satisfied, my soul follows You closely, and there are people seeking my soul to destroy it.
"My lips" commend Thee in v 3 and sing aloud in v5.
"My mouth" sings praises in v5 but the "mouth speaking lies" shall be shut.
The 2nd person pronoun is used to refer to God 18 times:
"You" (as subject) are my God in v1, and became my helper v7
"You" (as object of my actions) 10x:
v1 I seek You early, my soul thirsts for You, how often my flesh for You
v2 to see You in the sanctuary
v3 my lips commend You
v4 thus I will bless You while I am living
v5 my mouth praises You
v6 I remember You on my bed, in the night watches I meditate and speak in You
v8 my soul cleaves to You
v2 to see Your strength and Your glory
v3 Your mercy is better than life
v4 in Your name I lift my palms
v7 in the shadow of Your wings I sing for joy
v8 Your right hand supports me
"life" 2x - Your mercy is better than life v3, Thus I will bless You while I am living v4
"As ... thus" 2x - As my soul and flesh thirst for You, Thus I've seen You in the sanctuary (vv1-2) & As Your mercy is better than life, Thus I will bless You while I live (vv3-4).
"hallel" praise 2x - as my soul is satisfied, my lips praise you v5, and all that swear in Him shall glory
my lips "sing aloud" v5 and in the shade of Your wings I "sing aloud".
"Early I seek Thee" - the Hebrew word shachar
also means "dawn".
The distinguishing word of this Psalm is EARLY. When the bed is the softest we are most tempted to rise at lazy hours; but when comfort is gone, and the couch is hard, if we rise the earlier to seek the Lord, we have much for which to thank the wilderness. - Charles Spurgeon
Most translate the last phrase as "my flesh yearns for Thee." The Hebrew word kama which they translate as "yearns" never means that anywhere else. So that is a guess based on the context.
The Hebrew word kama
means "how many" or "how many times" and is used 13 times
besides this verse. That is how LXX translated it. I would translate the last 2 phrases as:
My soul has thirsted for You, How many times my flesh for Thee?
How could my flesh thirst for the Lord? I think as described below with my mouth, hands and lips.
- As I am now in the desert, I long for God as I've seen Him in church meetings.
The first thing in the morning is to enter the holy of holies (Heb 10:19-22
Through this desire after Thee, or in consequence of it, I walk, though in the wildnerness, in communion with Thee, as really as if I were in the sanctuary. - Hengstenberg
- The division between the 2 sentences in this clause could be cut in 3 ways. If David wanted to make it clear, he could have added an "and" to divide it, but he didn't.
"while I live" could modify the preceding verb (bless) or the following verb (lift).
"in your name" could modify the preceding verb (live) or the following verb (lift). I think the meaning is that all of these are true:
Thus will I bless Thee while I live in Your name. While I live in your Name I will lift my palms in Your name.
The Hebrew word chaylev
meaning "fat" could also be translated "milk" with different vowels. Followed by the word dashehn
which means either fat or ashes from fat, chaylev
should mean "fat" here rather than "milk".
lit. and with lips of singing my mouth will praise.
My soul's selfishness has been burned up to ashes which is satisfying to God and thus to my soul also (Ps36.8; etc
- David's bed at this time was the desert ground.
When David can't sleep he thinks of all the good that God has done for him.
This is what David speaks about in the night.
The desert sun is oppressive. It is such a relief to be in a shadow.
It were well if we oftener read our own diaries, especially noting the hand of the Lord in helping us in suffering, want, labour, or dilemma. This is the grand use of memory, to furnish us with proofs of the Lord's faithfulness, and lead us onward to a growing confidence in him. - Spurgeon
"cleave" expresses the most intimate possible relationship between the soul and God. The figure is probably taken from Gen 2:24
where the word is used
for the first time, and from Ruth 1:14
. - David Baron
lit. given over to the hand of the sword
Frequently have malicious men met with a fate so dire as to be evidently the award of retributive justice. Although the great assize (court) is reserved for another world, yet even here, at the common sessions of providence, justice often bares her avenging sword in the eyes of all the people. - Spurgeon
- Saul is king at this time, trying to kill David. David has been annointed king by Samuel the prophet, but is living in the desert as a fugitive. David's rejoicing is as the king of God's people.
But the mouth of them that speak lies shall be stopped. And the sooner the better. If shame will not do it, nor fear, nor reason, then let them be stopped with the sexton's (gravedigger's) shovelful of earth; for a liar is a human devil, he is the curse of men, and accursed of God, who has comprehensively said, "all liars shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone." - Spurgeon
- Steve Miller
copyright 1/6/2021 voiceInWilderness.info
Psalm 63 a psalm through David, when he was in the wilderness of Judah
Early I seek Thee.
My soul thirsts for Thee,
my flesh longs for Thee,
in a dry land and
faint, without water.
in the sanctuary
to see Thy power
and Thy great glory.
is better than life,
my lips commend Thee.
while I live. In
Your name I lift my hands.
my soul's satisfied.
And my lips singing,
my mouth sings praises.
Thee upon my bed,
I muse on Thee
in watches of the night
helper to me, and
in shade of Your wings
I do sing for joy.
My soul cleaved to Thee
as I follow Thee.
Your right hand has
taken hold within me.
soul to destruction
shall enter into
the earth's lowest parts.
They make men poured out
on hands of the sword.
The portion of
jackals they will become.
But the king shall joy,
rejoicing in God.
All that swear by Him,
shall make Him their boast
for shut up shall be
the mouth that speaks lies
for Your mercy
is e'en better than life.
- Steve Miller
copyright 1/6/2021 voiceInWilderness.info
1Samuel 22:5 And the prophet Gad said to David, Abide not in the stronghold; depart, and go into the land of Judah. Then David departed, and came into the forest of Hareth.
23:2 And David inquired of Jehovah, saying, Shall I go and smite these Philistines? And Jehovah said to David, Go and smite the Philistines, and save Keilah.
3 But David's men said to him, Behold, we are afraid here in Judah; how much more then if we go to Keilah against the armies of the Philistines?
4 And David inquired of Jehovah yet again. And Jehovah answered him and said, Arise, go down to Keilah; for I will give the Philistines into thy hand.
5 And David and his men went to Keilah, and fought against the Philistines, and brought away their cattle, and smote them with a great slaughter. So David saved the inhabitants of Keilah.
10 Then said David, Jehovah, God of Israel, thy servant hath heard for certain that Saul seeketh to come to Keilah, to destroy the city for my sake.
11 Will the citizens of Keilah deliver me up into his hand? will Saul come down, as thy servant hath heard? Jehovah, God of Israel, I beseech thee, tell thy servant. And Jehovah said, He will come down.
12 And David said, Will the citizens of Keilah deliver up me and my men into the hand of Saul? And Jehovah said, They will deliver thee up.
13 Then David and his men, about six hundred, arose and departed out of Keilah, and went whithersoever they could go. And it was told Saul that David had escaped from Keilah, and he forbore to go forth.
14 And David abode in the wilderness in strongholds, and abode in the mountain in the wilderness of Ziph. And Saul sought him every day, but God did not give him into his hand.
15 And David saw that Saul had come out to seek his life; and David was in the wilderness of Ziph in a wood.
16 And Jonathan Saul's son arose, and went to David into the wood, and strengthened his hand in God.
17 And he said to him, Fear not; for the hand of Saul my father will not find thee; and thou shalt be king over Israel, and I shall be next to thee; and that also Saul my father knows.
18 And they two made a covenant before Jehovah; and David abode in the wood, and Jonathan went to his house.
19 And the Ziphites came up to Saul to Gibeah, saying, Does not David hide himself with us in strongholds in the wood, on the hill of Hachilah, which is on the south of the waste?
24 And they arose and went to Ziph before Saul; but David and his men were in the wilderness of Maon, in the plain on the south of the waste.
25 And Saul and his men went to seek him. And they told David; and he came down from the rock, and abode in the wilderness of Maon. And Saul heard that, and he pursued after David in the wilderness of Maon.
26 And Saul went on this side of the mountain, and David and his men on that side of the mountain; and David made haste to get away from Saul; and Saul and his men sought to surround David and his men to take them.
27 But there came a messenger to Saul, saying, Haste thee and come; for the Philistines have made a raid against the land.
28 And Saul returned from pursuing after David, and went against the Philistines; therefore they called that place Sela-hammahlekoth.
29 And David went up from thence, and abode in the strongholds of Engedi.
1 Samuel 24:1 And it came to pass when Saul had returned from following the Philistines, that it was told him, saying, Behold, David is in the wilderness of Engedi.
2 And Saul took three thousand men, chosen out of all Israel, and went to seek David and his men upon the rocks of the wild goats.
3 And he came to the sheepfolds by the way, where was a cave; and Saul went in to cover his feet; and David and his men were abiding in the recesses of the cave.
4 And David's men said to him, Behold the day of which Jehovah said to thee, Behold, I will give thine enemy into thy hand, that thou mayest do to him as it shall seem good to thee. And David arose, and cut off the skirt of Saul's robe secretly.
5 And it came to pass afterwards that David's heart smote him, because he had cut off Saul's skirt.
6 And he said to his men, Jehovah forbid that I should do this thing to my master, Jehovah's anointed, to stretch forth my hand against him, for he is the anointed of Jehovah.
7 And David checked his men with these words, and suffered them not to rise against Saul. And Saul rose up out of the cave, and went on his way.
20 And now behold, I know that thou shalt certainly be king, and that the kingdom of Israel shall be established in thy hand.
Isaiah 35:7 And the mirage shall become a pool, and the thirsty land springs of water: in the habitation of wild dogs, where they lay down, shall be grass with reeds and rushes.
Ecclesiastes 4:2 Then I praised the dead who are already dead more than the living who are yet alive;
8:15 And I commended mirth, because there is nothing better for man under the sun than to eat, and to drink, and to be merry; for that shall abide with him of his labor the days of his life, which God hath given him under the sun.
Proverbs 29:11 A fool brings out all his spirit; but a wise man stilleth it within him.
65:7 Who stilleth the raging of the seas, the raging of their waves, and the tumult of the peoples.
Genesis 47:8 And Pharaoh said to Jacob, How many are the days of the years of thy life?
2 Samuel 19:34 And Barzillai said to the king, How many are the days of the years of my life, that I should go up with the king to Jerusalem?
1 Kings 22:16 And the king said to him, How many times shall I adjure thee that thou tell me nothing but truth in the name of Jehovah?
2 Chronicles 18:15 And the king said to him, How many times shall I adjure thee that thou tell me nothing but truth in the name of Jehovah?
Job 7:19 How long wilt thou not look away from me, nor let me alone till I swallow down my spittle?
13:23 How many are mine iniquities and sins? Make me to know my transgression and my sin.
21:17 How often is the lamp of the wicked put out, and cometh their calamity upon them? Doth he distribute sorrows to them in his anger?
Psalm 35:17 Lord, how long wilt thou look on? Rescue my soul from their destructions, my only one from the young lions.
78:40 How oft did they provoke him in the wilderness, and grieve him in the desert!
119:84 How many shall be the days of thy servant? when wilt thou execute judgment on them that persecute me?
Zechariah 2:2 And I said, Whither goest thou? And he said unto me, To measure Jerusalem, to see what is the breadth thereof, and what is the length thereof.
7:3 and to speak unto the priests that were in the house of Jehovah of hosts, and to the prophets, saying, Should I weep in the fifth month, separating myself, as I have done now so many years?
Psalm 36:8 They shall be abundantly satisfied with the fatness of thy house; and thou wilt make them drink of the river of thy pleasures.
Isaiah 55:2 Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is not bread? and your labour for that which satisfieth not? Hearken diligently unto me, and eat ye that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness.
Jeremiah 31:14 And I will satiate the soul of the priests with fatness, and my people shall be satisfied with my goodness, saith Jehovah.
Mark 8:35 For whosoever shall desire to save his soul life shall lose it, but whosoever shall lose his soul life for my sake and the gospel's shall save it.
Hebrews 10:19 Having therefore, brethren, boldness for entering into the holy of holies by the blood of Jesus,
20 the new and living way which he has dedicated for us through the veil, that is, his flesh,
21 and having a great priest over the house of God,
22 let us approach with a true heart, in full assurance of faith, sprinkled as to our hearts from a wicked conscience, and washed as to our body with pure water.
Genesis 2:24 Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and cleave to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.
Ruth 1:14 And they lifted up their voice and wept again. And Orpah kissed her mother-in-law, but Ruth clave to her.