May 12, 2020 by Bob Whitaker
In Psalm 63 David makes a dramatic statement. “Your love is better than life.” When David writes this Psalm he is living in the desert of Judah. He might be fleeing from King Saul or more likely he is running for his life because of a revolution within his own household – Absalom. In either case the most primal instinct of human nature is to preserve one’s life and this is precisely what David is attempting to accomplish. In light of that condition he pauses to consider something that is an even greater priority than human life. During these difficult circumstances he expresses his praise to God in several ways.
When we consider the way that David praises God in the Psalms it becomes clear that worship/praise of God is a complete activity, encompassing all of what it means to be fully human. First, notice that David praises God for his love with his lips (v. 3). Second, he describes his tongue as blessing the Lord (v. 4). Third, he lifts up his hands to praise God (v. 4). Fourth, he praises God through his memory (v. 6a). Fifth, he contemplates or meditates on God through the watches of the night (v. 6b).
This Psalm along with many others reminds us that praise of God is or ought to be at the center of our human existence. The praise of God is not something we do with only one part of our being, it is something we do with every fiber of our being – our hands, voice, words, intellect and will. We might wonder how David arrived at the perspective that is expressed in this Psalm – “Your love is better than life”. Let me suggest that there are at least two things that contributed to his perspective.
First, it is the activity of praise which produces this perspective. In other words we don’t usually have a momentary epiphany that brings us to the place where we recognize that God’s love is better than life. It is more likely that we arrive at that understanding because we are involved in the activity of praise with our hands, voice, words, intellect and will. When we seek God earnestly he becomes like the water in a dry land. St. Augustine once said God comes to the humble at heart and that the proud cannot find him no matter how hard they study. In order to know God and his great worth, to realize that he is greater than life, we must engage in worship, adoration and praise of God.
There is a second reason that David has adopted this perspective. Quite simply, he is experiencing great loss and God has become his only hope. Difficult circumstances tend to bring into focus the things that are most important – this is David’s situation. The further he moves away from Jerusalem and the Temple the more he feels the absence of God. The dry and barren desert reminds him of his true source of life – God himself.