The Presence Of God: Psalms 63
Introduction: Are You Jesus?
A little boy was shaking my hand after church one Sunday morning. He looked up and asked me, “Are you Jesus?” As a young preacher in my first church, his question made quite proud. Something I had done or said, had made the little boy think that I was Jesus. I smiled and told him no, that I was the only a preacher, but not Jesus. He then looked with disappointment at his mother and asked, “I thought you said we were going to Jesus’ house today?”
That little boy had wanted to see Jesus that day and I was a very poor substitute. It made me wonder though, how many of us have that kind of desire. How many of us want to experience being in the presence of God? I’m not talking about the understanding Theology or doing a really good Bible study. No, I’m talking about experiencing, the spiritual reality of being with God.
Background of Psalms 63: When this Psalms was written by David, he is in the wilderness, the deserts that fill much of Israel. This was perhaps during the time he was hiding from Saul or more likely when Absalom rebelled against his own father and David had to flee Jerusalem and the Temple of God. In this place of loneliness and emptiness David has one great overriding desire, to experience the presence of God. Let me give you a quote from a Catholic Monk. You won’t find me doing that very often, but the Practice of the Presence of God is recognized as a Christian classic by many non-Catholics and even us Baptists.
The Practice of the Presence of God. The most holy practice, the nearest to daily life, and the most essential for the spiritual life, is the practice of the presence of God, that is to find joy in his divine company and to make it a habit of life, speaking humbly and conversing lovingly with him at all times, every moment, without rule or restriction, above all at times of temptation, distress, dryness, and revulsion, and even of faithlessness and sin. - Brother Lawrence in
Passion for His Presence Ps 63:1-2
(A Psalm of David, when he was in the wilderness of Judah.) 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’s Longs To Be With God
David calls out to God, his God because he has a personal relationship with the Lord Jehovah. This was a relationship began as a young boy while out watching his fathers sheep. It was a relationship grown through faith as he fought the lion and the bear. A relationship that gave boldness in his battle with Goliath and now it is a relationship being tested by the emptiness of wilderness.
David calls out to the one who has always been with Him, “I will seek thee.”
Notice the intensity of David’s seeking. “Early will I seek thee” this means seeking God would be David first priority. With the first light of the day, with the first thoughts of his mind, with the first stirrings of his heart he would seek God.
David says, “My soul thirsts for thee, my flesh longs for thee.” All of David’s body and soul craved the presence of God. He describes it as being like a man in the desert craving a cool drink of water. Every part of the dying man in the desert, longs for and needs what that only a cool drink of water can provide. Yet in the midst of all that is wrong and all that David must try to deal with, his overwhelming passion is to experience the presence of God.
He longs to see him as he has seen him in the sanctuary, in the assembly of God’s people gathered together in worship, praise and prayer. For David there can be no greater expression of God’s presence than in God’s assembled people worshipping.
Quote: I've experienced God's presence most powerfully in worship, often during the singing, I suppose because when we sing to him, we are looking hard in his direction. - J.I. Packer, Leadership, Vol. 12, no. 3.
That “looking hard in His direction” was what David was doing. That is what we need to be doing. We need to ask ourselves….
Do We Long for the Presence of the Lord?
After reading this passage of scripture, what I realized was that I don’t always have that same kind of passion for the presence of God. I know I love the things of God. I love learning about God but too many times, these become the end of my desire rather than a means to a much greater end which is knowing God and being in His presence.
I’m also afraid that what I realized about myself, is probably true for most Christians. We don’t really seek the presence of God. We love the things of the church, the culture of Christianity, or the trappings of tradition but many times there is no driving passion for God’s presence, no desire to truly experience Him in our everyday lives. We can’t say like David that we long for God like a man in the wilderness longs for a drink of water or like Packer we are not looking hard in His direction.
Quote: John R. W. Stott once admitted the truth that many of us have felt but failed to confess: "The thing I know will give me the deepest joy -- namely, to be alone and unhurried in the presence of God, aware of His presence, my heart open to worship Him -- is often the thing I least want to do."
Do you remember the story of ….
Illustration: Jesus after feeding the multitude John 6:24-30
When the people therefore saw that Jesus was not there, neither his disciples, they also took shipping, and came to Capernaum, seeking for Jesus. And when they had found him on the other side of the sea, they said unto him, Rabbi, when camest thou hither? Jesus answered them and said, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Ye seek me, not because ye saw the miracles, but because ye did eat of the loaves, and were filled. Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you: for him hath God the Father sealed. Then said they unto him, What shall we do, that we might work the works of God? Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent. They said therefore unto him, What sign shewest thou then, that we may see, and believe thee? what dost thou work?
They were seek the things that come with Jesus, the things that came from Jesus but they were not seeking Jesus Himself. Too often that is the reality in my own life.
But look what Jesus said in his most famous and tender invitation in Matthew 11:27-30 Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.
It wasn’t about things, it was all about Jesus. “Come unto me.” It was all about experiencing and being with Him.
Transition: When we seek the presence of God, we will find it, because there is nothing God desire more than to be with the children He loves. When we do come to his presence then the we will be changed, as we see David changed in verse 3-6
Praise In His Presence Ps 63:3-6
Because thy lovingkindness is better than life, my lips shall praise thee. Thus will I bless thee while I live: I will lift up my hands in thy name. My soul shall be satisfied as with marrow and fatness; and my mouth shall praise thee with joyful lips: When I remember thee upon my bed, and meditate on thee in the night watches.
David Meets with God and is Changed
In verses 3-6 we see that though David could not go back to the tabernacle and join the assembly of God’s people, his desire was such that he must worship and praise God right where he is at, there in the wilderness.
He gives two reasons he must praise God, in vs 3 “because of they lovingkindness and later in vs. 7 “because thou hast been my help”
In this section we can see the motions of his worship. He says, “My lips shall praise thee. I will bless thee. I will lift up my hands in thy name.”
This time of meeting with God and of being in His presence changes David, it gives him a new perspective of what he is going through.
His Values are changed: “Thy lovingkindness is better than life, my lips shall praise thee.”
Lovingkindness is the OT word for mercy, kindness, goodness. David says, “Your lovingkindness is more important than life itself.” Even here cut off from the Temple and away from God’s people, and running for his life, he experiences the grace of God and finds the taste of it more wonderful than the fears and doubts of life in that time of trouble. This loving kindness could only be found in the presence of God. After experiencing God’s overwhelming goodness and mercy he says, my lips will praise thee. What else could they do, he had been in the presence of God.
Nor could the praise be contained to just his lips, He says, “I will bless thee, I will lift up my hands in thy name.” The lifting up of hands was a gesture that showed the worshipper was receiving a gift from God. Just as all of David’s being longed for God, now in the presence of God, all of David must praise God. First with his lips, but now with his hands, first the inner praise from his heart and now the outward acknowledgment of receiving from God.
His emptiness is changed: “My soul shall be satisfied as with marrow and fatness.” Remember where David is, fleeing for his life, driven from all he had and yet he says “My soul is satisfied.” How can he say that? Because he has been filled by the presence of God. It does not matter what he has lost, he has God.
David says, “I will remember thee upon my bed and think of thee in the night watches.” In those times when anxious thoughts would rob him of his joy and peace, he will turn his heart and mind back to God during the long night.”
We Need to Find the Presence of God
Like David we must seek Him, set aside the time, set aside the place, set aside ourselves and seek the presence of God. And when we meet with Him, we will be changed.
Just like David or emptiness will be filled. Our loneliness will be forgotten, our pain will be eased and will we praise God with all our heart and body and soul.
If we truly seek His presence, we will find Him and when we find Him and experience the grace and glory of God, we must be changed. We will see with different eyes, we will work with different hands, we will feel with a different heart.
If you have truly been in the presence of God and known His loving-kindness then it will lift my vision, lift my hands, fill my soul and set my heart on seeking God morning and night.
I think of the story of Moses in Exodus 33 when God had appeared on Mt. Sinai and Moses was called up to the mountain while the people were content to cower in their tents at the presence of God. Moses, who had endured so much, had failed so much and yet had seen so much of God’s power, has one great desire that he asks of God.
Moses glimpses the glory of God and is changed when God’s presence passes by
Exodus 33:18-21 And he said, I beseech thee, shew me thy glory. And he said, I will make all my goodness pass before thee, and I will proclaim the name of the LORD before thee; … And the LORD said, Behold, there is a place by me, and thou shalt stand upon a rock:
Present Help In His Presence Ps 63:7-11
Because thou hast been my help, therefore in the shadow of thy wings will I rejoice. My soul followeth hard after thee: thy right hand upholdeth me. But those that seek my soul, to destroy it, shall go into the lower parts of the earth. They shall fall by the sword: they shall be a portion for foxes. 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.
David Knows God’s Help
David gives his second reason for praising God, because Thou has been my help. I believe this refers to what David had just experienced. The change of perspective and the filling of his desire by being with God in worship. Because of this help, right now, he will rejoice in the shadow of God’s wings. Like the eagle that spreads out its wings to protect and shield its young, so David is safe in the bosom of God.
David has a surety that God would not fail him. He looks to the time when he will be past the troubles that drove him from Jerusalem and knows that, “The king shall rejoice in God, everyone that swears by him shall glory.”
Being with God had filled David with joy, assurance and hope for the future. If it did all that for David in the midst of his great troubles, shouldn’t we be seeking God in the midst of ours?
Will you Go to God?
Will you go to God, when your soul is troubled because you are lost and have no assurance of eternal life? Will you go to him for comfort when facing death of a loved one? Will you go to him in those times of desperation when all seems lost? If you will go to Him, if you will seek Him, long to be with Him as David did, then just like David you will know the wonder and the power of the presence of God.
And when you have been in his presence you will find that everything changes and you will see that of all the things that are given to the child of God, none is more precious than the gift of God himself.
Isn’t this what Jesus promised on the last night he would spend with his apostles? While everything around them was falling apart, with their Lord telling them that he was to be taken and killed, he tells them one thing that was meant to carry them through and give them hope. He tells them I will still be with you, I will still comfort you through the gift of the Holy Spirit, I give my presence to you always.
Scripture: John 14:16-20 And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you. I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you. Yet a little while, and the world seeth me no more; but ye see me: because I live, ye shall live also. At that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you.
You know what we do sometimes in the midst of our loneliness, our fear and our trials? We ask God for something to help us, something to overcome the difficulties. We ask for something out there to be delivered to us and helps us but we fail to realize that we already have what we need in here. Its not something that is needed it is someone and that someone is God. It is His overwhelming presence that we need. Then we will have assurance and hope. Then we will praise Him for his lovingkindness and rest under the shadow of His wings. We just need to walk with Jesus and trust the gift of the Spirit and we like David shall rejoice and glory no matter what wilderness we are crossing.
I think that is what the missionary Jim Eliot wrote about in his diary before he went to Ecuador and was killed by the Auca Indians.
Illustration: Jim Eliot’s Diary
I walked out to the hill just now. It is exalting, delicious. To stand embraced by the shadows of a friendly tree with the wind tugging at your coattail and the heavens hailing your heart, to gaze and glory and to give oneself again to God, what more could a man ask? Oh, the fullness, pleasure, sheer excitement of knowing God on earth. I care not if I never raise my voice again for Him, if only I may love Him, please Him. Mayhap, in mercy, He shall give me a host of children that I may lead through the vast star fields to explore His delicacies whose fingers' ends set them to burning. But if not, if only I may see Him, smell His garments, and smile into my Lover's eyes, ah, then, not stars, nor children, shall matter--only Himself. - Jim Elliot in The Journals of Jim Elliot; entry of January 16, 1951. Christianity Today, Vol. 39, no. 7.
Conclusion: The Old Scot:
Leslie Weatherhead tells the story of an old Scot who was quite ill, and the family called for their dominie, or minister. As he entered the sick room and sat down, he noticed another chair on the opposite side of the bed, a chair which had also been drawn close. The pastor said, "Well, Donald, I see I'm not your first visitor for the day."
The old man looked up, was puzzled for a moment, then recognized from the nod of the head that the pastor had noticed the empty chair. "Well, Pastor, I'll tell you about that chair. Many years ago I found it quite difficult to pray, so one day I shared this problem with my pastor. He told me not to worry about kneeling or about placing myself in some pious posture. Instead, he said, 'Just sit down, put a chair opposite you, and imagine Jesus sitting in it, then talk with Him as you would a friend."' The aged Scot then added, "I've been doing that ever since."
A short time later the daughter of the Scot called the pastor. When he answered, she informed him that her father had died very suddenly, and she was quite shaken for she had no idea death was so near. Then she continued, "I had just gone to lie down for an hour or two, for he seemed to be sleeping so comfortably. When I went back he was dead." Then she added thoughtfully, "Except now his hand was on the empty chair at the side of the bed. Isn't that strange?"
The minister said, "No not really, it's not so strange at all”
-James S. Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, 1988), p. 416.
What is it you really need this morning? What wilderness do you find yourself in? It doesn’t matter what the details are because the solution is the same for every desperate situation. In the pain, the sorrow and the fear, seek the presence of God. You’ll find Him in the pages of scripture, you’ll find him in your prayers and you will find him in His sanctuary, the church. Find God and find praise. Find God and find assurance. Find God and find hope. You don’t need something you just need Someone, the great I AM, Jehovah God is who we all need.
Will you seek Him with me this morning? Will you seek Him here at the front of the church? Will you seek him like a man in the desert desires a drink of water? Will you seek him while we sing and while we pray?