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 can 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".
v1 "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.
v2 - 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
v4 - 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.
v5 - 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).
v6 - 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.
v7 - 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
v8 - "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
v10 - 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
v11 - 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
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