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Enlightenment and psalm 63


 Psalm 63 reads as follows from the NIV version of the Bible:

 1 O God, you are my God,
       earnestly I seek you;
       my soul thirsts for you,
       my body longs for you,
       in a dry and weary land
       where there is no water.

 2 I have seen you in the sanctuary
       and beheld your power and your glory.

 3 Because your love is better than life,
       my lips will glorify you.

 4 I will praise you as long as I live,
       and in your name I will lift up my hands.

 5 My soul will be satisfied as with the richest of foods;
       with singing lips my mouth will praise you.

 6 On my bed I remember you;
       I think of you through the watches of the night.

 7 Because you are my help,
       I sing in the shadow of your wings.

 8 My soul clings to you;
       your right hand upholds me.

 9 They who seek my life will be destroyed;
       they will go down to the depths of the earth.

 10 They will be given over to the sword
       and become food for jackals.

 11 But the king will rejoice in God;
       all who swear by God’s name will praise him,
       while the mouths of liars will be silenced.

Central to this psalm is contrasting the desert experience of the soul to the expanse of the presence of God. Verse 1 says, “O God, my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land, where there is no water.”

In this case, the psalmist felt physically bereft, which can begin to happen to anyone. There was a degree of deprivation that was experienced physically. It is possible here, that someone might not recognize as the psalmist did, that there was also a felt deprivation of the soul, as well as a physical thirst. The reality is, it might be difficult to know exactly where one begins and one leaves off and the idea for prayer is to ask God for the needs of the soul even though they might not be as recognized by you as the prayer is made but God is recognizing all needs which include needs of the soul as it would be possible to come back from the desert experience and have all the needs of the body met, and still be soul deprived. Tom Hank’s character, in the movie Castaway, ultimately was rescued from his aloneness on the island, but continued to experience the emotions of being castaway right to the end of the movie and this castaway experience did not end for him. He had been left behind due to circumstances not of his own choosing, but the rescue was not able to fully lift him back at the level of soul. Someone might say, if I could only have that moment back, that day back.

A major theme here is remembrance on the part of the psalmist. Verse 2 says, “I have seen you in the sanctuary, and beheld your power and glory.” He remembers this while sojourning thru the desert and lacking even water. Even from this dreadful place he was in right now, he had another enlightened view. In the New Testament, due to his own errant ways, the prodigal son remembers as well, as his enlightenment as to what to do, involved remembrance of his fathers house, corresponding in this psalm to the sanctuary of God mentioned in verse 2. Verse 5 says,” My soul will be satisfied, with the finest foods.” There are pretty strong words for walking in an outright desert but these words come even from a place of deprivation out of enlightenment. At best, most would say, “ I might be out of this or somehow I might get out this.” Here the psalmist is saying, I will get out of this, I will be satisfied, with the finest of food, even though I am lacking even water now. For now he is still in the desert but he has the enlightenment he needs.

Verse 3 says, “Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you.” This verse is indicative that the relationship that signifies as personal between him and God, contains God’s love which includes things better than this life, indicating that the palmist believes that there is more than this life, all contained within the sanctuary of God’s love for him. God will balance things out, and only God can help us have these other things and still have the balance towards him and what is better. Verse 6 thru 7 says,” On my bed I will remember you, I think of you through the watches of the night, because you are my help, I sing in the shadow of your wings.”

Here, the theme again is remembrance, the psalmist letting his thoughts center of remembering the presence of God.

It is particularly interesting that the psalmist sees God’s help as a hovering presence above him, as the shadow of his wings, extends over all his troubles, and this shadow protects from the elements that might be troubling him. If someone was walking on the sand, you might see your own shadow, but here the psalmist sees a second shadow, of the hovering presence of God, indicative of closeness as one only sees shadows of something that is close. He felt so sure of what this shadow was and what it meant, that he was able to sing under its presence. He certainly had confidence in the sheltering presence of the shadow. He is walking on the sands of the desert, but he is enlightened as to the hovering shadow of the presence of the Lord.

Verse 8 says,” My soul clings to you, your right hand upholds me.” Not only was he physically parched in the desert, but his soul felt that way as well, and as he clings his soul to the Lord, the Lord is upholding him with His right hand, upholding him from the desert. This is what was actually happening, it was a reality, he was now being upheld by the right hand of the Lord. It wasn’t too early to seek the Lord, and the shadow of his wings being the reality of his help now. The subject of his enlightenment was both physical and of the soul.

The final verse, 11 says, “But the King will rejoice in God, all who swear by his name will praise him, while the mouths of liars will be silenced.” Again, he is saying, he will rather than might or this might be one of his options. He will rejoice even as what he found was from the wayfaring place his faltering march on the sands of a desert.  There will be others with him and those that aren’t with him ultimately will be silenced, and their words will not matter. The dialogue ultimately will only remain to those and with those who remain in Him. 

There is a song with the words, “I know my redeemer lives and with Him I will rise again.”  Even according to this psalm, from the desert.



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