David's song of the thirsty soul, preserved for us as Psalm 63, may resonate deeply with you. Perhaps you have finally come to the end of rat-race religion. Hopefully, you have decided to leave the hurry-worry sindrome and find complete satisfaction in the Savior, in the worship of Him alone. If so, you are rare. In fact, you are almost extinct! But, if you have come to the end of religious activity only to feel more emptiness, then this ancient song is for you. If you have not, it will sound mystical, perhaps even dull. David's quiet song, you see, is written for the few who are still thirsty—for those who prefer depth to speed.
The superscription reads: "A Psalm of David, when he was in the wilderness of Judah." David composed this ancient hymn, not while serving in the tabernacle, but in the isolation of the rugged wilderness south of Jerusalem. Most likely on the run from Saul, David found himself alone, removed, obscure, separated from every comfort and friend, acutely feeling the effects of thirst, hunger, pain, loneliness, and exhaustion. Even so, he didn't regard these as his most pressing needs. He identifies his deepest need in the first verse:
O God, You are my God; I shall seek You earnestly;
My soul thirsts for You, my flesh yearns for You,
In a dry and weary land where there is no water.
Right away we see that he was not seeking literal food, water, comfort, or rest; he needed communion with his Lord. The "dry and weary land" is a vivid picture of his surroundings in the Judean wilderness, as well as our world today. So few believers are living above the daily grind of activity. So many today are captivated by an obsession for collecting "stuff," storing their "stuff," and then pursuing more "stuff." As a result, their homes become cluttered while their souls grow more hollow. The land is indeed "dry and weary," but that only makes the yearning stronger! Since "there is no water" in that kind of land, David longs for his thirst to be quenched from above.
The next verse begins with "Thus," which is a very significant connective. The idea here is "So then" or "Therefore." Because the land is so barren of anything satisfying to the soul, David longs for God. He says, in effect, "So then, since nothing around me cultivates a sense of closeness and companionship, I must cultivate it myself." Actually, the "Thus" of verse 2 introduces several changes David makes to find satisfaction for his inner longing, his deep desire for a meaningful walk with his Lord. I find some decisions the songwriter makes to help him find satisfaction in his Maker.
The first decision involves the songwriter's imagination: he decided to create a mental picture of the Lord (63:2).
Thus I have seen You in the sanctuary,
To see Your power and Your glory.
When he writes, "I have seen You," we understand he means that he imagines the Lord's power and glory in the thought processes of his mind. David couldn't go to the tabernacle to see the Lord in that sanctuary, so he spends time in the wilderness framing a mental picture of the Lord in power and glory on His heavenly throne. He takes the Scriptures he knows regarding the Lord God and allows them to "sketch" in his mind a mental image of Him. In other words, he sets his mind upon and occupies himself with the Lord. That is a great way to remove the wearisome ritual from religion.
The imagination can be a powerful instrument, for both good and evil purposes. The mind can be an instrument of pride, lust, hatred, or jealousy; we can create in our minds vivid pictures which can lead to terrible sins. This is precisely the case of "committing adultery in the heart" that our Savior mentions in Matthew 5:28. Lustful imaginings can ultimately result in illicit acts of passion. But the mind can also become an amazing means of communion with God. David spent his lonely moments in the wilderness picturing the Lord Himself.
To cultivate a closer relationship with God, use your imagination to "see" Him.
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.