The Righteous One’s
Refreshment in the Wilderness

a brief study of Psalm 63, adapted from PCC Prayer Meeting Exhortation on 15 August 2008

Psalm 63 is a very lovely psalm written by David at a time when he was in the wilderness of Judah. The wilderness of Judah is a vast wasteland West of the Dead Sea. David was known to have camped out there on two occasions. Once, he was fleeing from Saul. Another time, he was fleeing from his son Absalom. But which of these two occasions gave rise to this beautiful psalm is not as important as the spiritual and emotional experience of David on which this psalm took roots and grew.

This experience was, I believe, given to David as a foretaste of what the Greater David, Christ, would experience in His earthly ministry. It was an experience that enabled David to express by the inspiration of the Spirit of Christ, the very feelings and thoughts of our Lord during His earthly sojourn.

And these thoughts and feelings of our Lord would also be experienced by every believer at one time or another. Indeed, the Psalms would not only have been used by our Lord in His incarnation, they are intended for our use as those united to Him and bear His name. They are, as such, not songs which can be used by unbelievers meaningfully.

But what is the spiritual and emotional soil on which this psalm springs? Well, the answer is hinted in the prologue of this psalm: It is a wilderness experience or an experience of spiritual thirst. We may entitle this psalm: “The Righteous One finding Refreshment in the Wilderness.”

This psalm may be divided into 3 parts. The first part (v. 1-2) contains an expression of longing; the second part (v. 3-6) contains an expression of satisfaction; while the third part (v. 7-11) contains an expression of confidence.

Shall we not see these as expressions of the Lord? As Andrew Bonar puts it:

When we read all this as spoken of Christ, how much does every verse become enhanced. His thirst for God! His vision of God! His estimate of God’s loving-kindness! His soul satisfied! His mouth full of praise! His soul following hard after God!

So then, consider…

1. The Lord’s Longing

1  O God, thou art my God; early will I seek thee: my soul thirsteth for thee, my flesh longeth for thee in a dry and thirsty land, where no water is; 2 To see thy power and thy glory, so as I have seen thee in the sanctuary.

David would have taken these words in his lips with sincerity, but in whom but the Lord Jesus Christ could these words find their fullest meaning.

In His high priestly prayer, our Lord pleaded with His Father:

“And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was” (Jn 17:5).

Our Lord, more than anyone else, would have seen the power and glory of God in the heavenly sanctuary. What is it to see the glory of God, but to see the brightness of God’s face, as our Psalter has it? David would have seen but a shadowy display. Indeed, we have no record of David seeing anything extraordinary by way of the power of God in the sanctuary. David must be speaking about what he saw through eyes of faith, whereas our Lord saw the substance of the great power and glory of God.

Our Lord, more than anyone else, thirsted to be filled with a sense of the presence, favour and glory of God. Our Lord, more than anyone else, longed for the fellowship of His Father every morning. We are told of how He would rise up a great while before day to pray in a solitary place (Mk 1:35).

Oh that we may imitate His example! Oh that by His Spirit we may also thirst after the Lord—that we may sing this psalm with a true yearning in our heart. So beloved brethren and children, whenever we sing this psalm, let us ask the Lord to give us this thirst and yearning. Only those who hunger and thirst after the Lord will know the blessing of being filled by the Lord.

But let us be careful, brethren and children, that we do not become overtly dependent on feelings so that we become despondent when we do not sense the Lord’s presence in our lives.

For consider…

2. The Lord’s Satisfaction


3 Because thy lovingkindness is better than life, my lips shall praise thee. 4 Thus will I bless thee while I live: I will lift up my hands in thy name. 5 My soul shall be satisfied as with marrow and fatness; and my mouth shall praise thee with joyful lips:  6 When I remember thee upon my bed, and meditate on thee in the night watches.

Notice, that while he speaks of his thirst in the first part of the psalm, here in this second part, he is essentially saying that his thirst and hunger is actually being met by the Lord. “My soul shall be satisfied as with marrow and fatness” he says in verse 5. We must not mistake the apparent future tense (rendering of the Hebrew imperfect tense) here as referring to a distant future conditioned upon what God would do. No, no; the imperfect tense is used here to express the fact that the needs of his soul are being met by God, so that there is a spontaneous and continuous response of gratitude and praise.

But how? How is the desire of his soul being met? The desire of his is being met at simple thought of the loving-kindness of the Lord for His covenant people! That is what the Hebrew word translated ‘lovingkindness’ (ds,j,) means. Whenever it is used in the Old Testament to describe God, it describes His loving kindness or special covenant love towards His people.

Thy lovingkindness is better than life”, muses our Lord. Life is the greatest of earthly blessings. Everything other blessing on earth is included in life and depends on life. For this reason, Satan insinuates in Job 2:4—“Skin for skin, yea, all that a man hath will he give for his life” (Job 2:4).

But not so our Lord. “Thy lovingkindness is better than life.” To know God’s lovingkindness is more important and more comforting to Him than to experience a life of ease and plenty.

In other words, our Lord is not looking to any mystical experience when He speaks about the thirst in His soul. Neither is He saying that His soul was empty until He enjoyed fully the presence of God. No, no; while He longs to enjoy the love of His father in close fellowship, His soul was satisfied even while waiting for the day to come.

His soul is satisfied merely by the thought that God is merciful, loving and kind. Therefore, He would praise Him with joyful lips. Therefore He would fill his mind with the thought of God in the night when He finds himself awake. Indeed, the lovingkindness of God is so much better to Him than life, that He willingly laid down His life in order that His people might enjoy the love of God as He did.

Herein is a secret, beloved brethren and children. Whenever your soul has reason to fret or to become discontented, do not think about how bad things are, or how good they could be. If you fill your hearts with these thoughts, you shall become more and more discontented, and more and more fretful and fearful. What then should you think about? Learn from the example of our Lord. Meditate on the lovingkindness of God! Think of how the love of God was brought to you by the Lord in His death so that nothing shall separate you from God’s love.

Be careful! When you do so, you may be kept up all night with excitement and joy (v. 6). But at least you will not be kept up all night with worries and regret. Indeed, I believe that as the Lord gives His beloved sleep, so those who meditated on the lovingkindness of the Lord will not lack sleep. They will sleep peacefully and joyfully, they will awake with fresh expectancy and confidence as they look to the Lord for a new day of challenges.

And consider…

3. The Lord’s Confidence

7 Because thou hast been my help, therefore in the shadow of thy wings will I rejoice. 8 My soul followeth hard after thee: thy right hand upholdeth me.

God is our ever-present help. Sometimes, He helps us by delivering us out of a danger or out of a difficult situation. Other times, He helps us by His Spirit working powerfully in our hearts, and assuring us of God’s loving kindness.

Our Lord in His earthly sojourn experienced the Father’s help over and over again, just as David must have experienced deliverance and encouragement many times. Thus, He is not afraid of any storm ahead. He learned to rejoice in the shadow of His Father’s wings and sought to follow after Him even when the way ahead may be difficult and fraught with danger.

He knew that the Father would uphold Him even in the darkest hours (v. 8).

He knew also that that those who sought His destruction and everything else that bring pain and sorrow to His heart will be dealt with by the Father, verse 9—

9 But those that seek my soul, to destroy it, shall go into the lower parts of the earth. 10 They shall fall by the sword: they shall be a portion for foxes.

That is to say, they will be dealt with dramatically and powerfully by the Father.

On the other hand, verse 11—

11 But the king shall rejoice in God; every one that sweareth by him shall glory: but the mouth of them that speak lies shall be stopped.

Who is this king? David has long ceased to be king. But there is yet a king who reigns. He is none other than the King of kings and Lord of lords, the Lord Jesus Christ. All who name the name of Jehovah, the living and true God, and swear by His name will glory in the King. H

We will rejoice with Him today. We will rejoice in Him for ever and ever.

But all who speak lies will forever be stopped, as will their father, the devil. No, they will not be silenced completely, for in hell, there is weeping and gnashing. There is groaning and regrets. But they shall no longer be able to afflict God’s people with their lies.


Beloved brethren and children, what is this psalm to you? For me, it is one which I turn to very often. It is a psalm that automatically fills my heart when anxiety and fears begin to cloud my thoughts in the morning. It is a Psalm which my family will use when troubles cloud our minds and we long for the relief of the Lord.

The love of God towards me, and His lovingkindness towards His people, are very precious to me. Have I not the assurance of His love, I shall have no strength to live another day in the face of all the trials and discouragements that often assault my soul.

Sing this psalm, beloved brethren and children. Sing it with the Lord. Sing it to encourage yourself and to encourage one another as we journey together to see the brightness of the face of our King. Amen.

—JJ Lim