Below is a post I wrote last year for the Kerith Worship blog. I hope you enjoy it! (apologies for the lack of original stuff but it’s been a big week!)
A psalm of David. When he was in the Desert of Judah.
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.
Last year the worship team introduced a new song to the church based on Psalm 63. It’s an incredible psalm full of some fantastic imagery – my NIV study Bible makes some good comments on it:
“A confession of longing for God and for the security his presence offers when deadly enemies threaten. That longing is vividly described by the metaphor of thirst (v.1) and hunger (v. 5). …This psalm was prescribed for daily public prayers of the early church.”
I’d like to tell you that I had been dwelling on this psalm for months, even years – or that I felt somehow drawn to it – but in truth, that’s not the case for this song. At the time, I was working through a ‘Bible in 90 days’ reading plan and was devouring the book of Psalms over a few days. The downside of such a fast reading plan is that you miss so much of the intricacies within every verse of every book. However, the upside is that you notice words and phrases that come up repeatedly. One particular phrase gripped me from the psalms – “in the shadow of your wings”. Here are a few examples:
Keep me as the apple of your eye;
hide me in the shadow of your wings
How priceless is your unfailing love! Both high and low among men find refuge in the shadow of your wings.
Have mercy on me, O God, have mercy on me,
for in you my soul takes refuge.
I will take refuge in the shadow of your wings
until the disaster has passed.
Because you are my help,
I sing in the shadow of your wings.
It came up enough for me to warrant checking my study guide to find out more about what it meant. Here’s what it said:
“shadow: a conventional hebrew metaphor for protection against oppression – as shade protects from the oppressive heat of the hot desert sun…
wings: Metaphor for the protective outreach of God’s power.”
What an incredible image of God! As a songwriter, I have a journal that I write any words or phrases that grip me to return to if I ever feel uninspired or stuck (a lot of the time) – naturally this went in for future reference. I eventually returned to this phrase, checked the context to make sure I actually understood the theology behind it and was blown away by the entire psalm. It’s a great testament to King David, who in the heat of the desert of Judah wrote of how he longed not for the shadow of a tree to cool him or for water to quench his thirst, but instead of how he longed for the protective refuge of God and how his soul thirsted for Him. Not only that, but it’s a real encouragement to us that despite all hardship that comes our way, there is only one thing we need. God’s love is better than life!
Like many of us, this is something I’ve really struggled with in my journey as a follower of Jesus. Andy Partington, an inspirational guy from our church said when interviewed at church last year that our relationship with God can be likened to the tide – at times we feel closer to God (the tide is in) and times we are much further out from God, even if our faith hasn’t entirely diminished. I’ve been a Christian for around three and a half years and already, the metaphorical tide has pulled in and out more than I can count. I’ve frequently messed up and despite the best intentions consistently fall short of what even I’d like myself to be, let alone where God wants me to be. A few months ago, I remember being in such a low place that I battled even with turning up to a rehearsal, as my focus was fixed solely on my problems and not on my Creator, where deep down I knew it should have been. I didn’t feel like what I had to offer was even remotely worthy of God. The saddest thing about that is that where I was at paled into insignificance in comparison to where some of you reading this post will have been at during the tougher times in your life. That evening I went to the rehearsal and God met with me powerfully – it was a reminder that God is bigger than our circumstances, despite how difficult it can feel sometimes.
It’s all too easy for us to shift our focus from God onto our own problems, but God is bigger than any of our issues! Equally, we aren’t called to hide any of our problems but instead to kneel before God, lift our hands and proclaim “Your love is better than life! Lord, things might be hard right now, but I amso grateful for all that you have already done in my life and for this relationship I have with you. For that and so much more, I will choose to praise you over and above my situation, because that is what you deserve.” The lyrics for the song based on Psalm 63 are below. I really hope they impact you in some way.
In the shadow of your wings, I will sing to you
In the darkness, you’re my refuge
My soul clings to you
O God, you are my God
Sincerely I will seek You
In your name I lift my hands
I will praise You, Lord
Your love is better than life
I will sing praise to You
I will sing praise to you
For all the days that I live
I will sing praise to you,
I will sing praise to you,
In the drought and in the desert
My soul thirsts for you
When I’m weary
When I feel broken
Lord I’ll live for you