In his wilderness experience, David made five decisions that would deepen his connection with God. First, he decided to imagine the Lord's physical presence. Then he decided to express praise for God out loud. His third decision is to devote himself to a mental discipline many in the twenty-first century do not clearly understand: meditation. He decided to meditate on the Lord (63:6).
When I remember You on my bed,
I meditate on You in the night watches.
Hindu and Buddhist meditation involves clearing the mind of all distractions, including conscious thought. While there's value in setting aside the mental clutter of mundane daily matters, the purpose in Hebrew meditation is to make room for thoughts about God. The Hebrew term rendered "meditate" means "to utter, ponder, devise, plot." It's based on a verb that originally denoted "a low sound, characteristic of the moaning of a dove or the growling of a lion over its prey."1 Imagine someone closing his eyes and saying, "Hmmmmmm . . . "
This kind of meditation involves a conscious considering of information gathered during the day. David "remembers" God and then puts the data together for greater understanding of the Lord and His ways. According to Psalm 49:3, the mouth speaks wisdom but when the heart meditates upon God's Word, then comes understanding.
I find it noteworthy that in this sixth verse David refers to the night watches and being on his bed when he meditates. This suggests that one of the best times to ponder God's Word and allow the mind to dwell upon Him is when we retire at night. That's the time David said he remembered the Lord. Restless, fretful nights are calmed by moments of meditation.
He decided to sing for joy (63:7–8).
For You have been my help,
And in the shadow of Your wings I sing for joy.
My soul clings to You;
Your right hand upholds me.
David was in the wilderness. He had no audience, nor did he seek one. God was the single object of his worship and it was to Him his soul would cling. To strengthen the relationship between himself and his Lord, David sang for joy. Rare but blessed are those disciples of David who are relaxed enough in God's presence to sing.
When I was in the Marine Corps, stationed on Okinawa, I became good friends with a missionary with The Navigators. Bob Newkirk invested in my spiritual development at a time when I needed a mentor. It was also a critical time in his life; he was enduring a severe trial. I knew of it because he had shared it with me. I watched him to see how he would respond. He didn't seem discouraged nor did he lose his zeal. One evening I went to his home and was told by his wife that he was down at his little office in Naha, the capital city. I took the bus that rainy night and arrived a couple of blocks from his office. Stepping off the bus, I began splashing my way toward his office. Before long I began to hear singing. I realized it was his voice. The hymn was familiar. I remember the words so clearly.
O to grace how great a debtor,
Daily I'm constrained to be!
Let Thy goodness, like a fetter,
Bind my wandering heart to Thee.2
It was my missionary friend, singing before his Lord all alone at his study-office. He had learned the truth of this verse in Psalm 63. Under the stress of his trial, my friend sang for joy. As I listened, I felt as if I were standing on holy ground.
From Living the Psalms by Charles R. Swindoll, copyright © 2012. Reprinted by permission of Worthy Inspired, an imprint of Hachette Book Group, Inc.
Used with permission. All rights reserved.
In Embraced by the Spirit, we step away from the heat of theological battle that analyzes and criticizes and move quietly and closely to the One who has been sent alongside to help.