Desiring God

Psalm 63

22 April 2012

Blenheim Free Church, Maidenhead

Morning service


What is the beating heart of the godly life? What is it that, if it were taken away, would most surely cause our spirits to wither and our souls to die? What is it that keeps us going, and keeps us growing in our life with God?

We know the right answer, don't we: it's the gospel. It's always the gospel. The grace of God in the death of Jesus in our place on the cross, and his being raised to life again to give us new life. The gospel is where we started our journey; the gospel is is how we carry on our journey day by day; the gospel is what promises us a glorious destination. Without the gospel we are dead.

And yet we can know the gospel—can't we?—we can recite the gospel, we can even tell others the gospel, and yet still live quite joyless and apathetic Christian lives. What's missing?

What about the Holy Spirit? Again, without the Spirit, we are dead. And yet, even with the Spirit, there are many Christians do not seem truly alive. Have you noticed that? What's missing?

Is it, faith? Love? Obedience? Confession? Prayer? Bible reading? All of these???

Well, as I've looked into my own heart over many years, and as I've watched and read about and listened to others in their walks with Jesus—and, above all as I've read the Bible, particularly the Psalms—it seems to me that there is one thing in particular that brings to life and animates all the others. One key principle that will make the gospel come alive for us, that will help us to be filled with the Spirit, that will motivate our prayers and drive us to the Bible, that will keep us from sin, that will feed our love and propel us to confession.

So what is it? What is this great principle, this beating heart of the Christian faith? Simply this: desire.

Desire for God; hunger for God; longing for God; thirst for God; need for God. I think it is this that we so often lack. Sheer desire for God alone, above all else.

How much do you desire God? How much do you long for him? Are you hungry for God? Are you thirsty for the Spirit of God? Are you passionate about his Son?

This is where Psalm 63 starts, and I want to look at it under three headings: God my Desire; God my Delight; and God my Defender.

God my Desire

First, verse 1, God my Desire.

One reason I have come to love the Psalms is that they are woven with desire for God. And here, in Psalm 63 verse 1, we find perhaps the strongest expression of it. 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.ref

We are told the setting of the Psalm, "A psalm of David. When he was in the Desert of Judah." This is probably the occasion in 2 Samuel 15 when David's son, Absalom, conspired against him, and David fled from Jerusalem.

So, David finds himself in a desert or wilderness, far from Jerusalem, far from the temple: apparently far from God.

No doubt, he is physically weary, hungry and thirsty. Yet, his hunger and thirst for God dominate all of this.

Look at how he expresses his desire for God: earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you. In the desert he is physically parched, he needs water, but he is thirsting for God even more.

There's no holding back, is there? It reads a bit like a love letter from someone who has been separated from his lover, doesn't it? An unembarrassed statement of sheer desire.

In some ways our situation parallels David's. In this life, we know God. We can say with David, you are my God. But we don't yet fully have God. In some respects he is still distant. Yes, he lives in us, and is with us by his Spirit, but we know only a little foretaste of his presence. As the Apostle Paul puts it in 1 Corinthians 13, Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.ref

Some years ago, when I proposed marriage to Penny, I argued strongly for a short engagement. Not for the last time I lost the argument, so we spent several months with me living in Reading and Penny living in Cambridge. During that time of separation, I felt this same desire, this longing for the future with her that David expresses here for God.

So it is with us and God. Our lives here are like an engagement period where we are committed to him, but separated from Him. Can we echo David's sheer desire for God?

That's the first heading, verse 1, God my Desire. We need to move on, and I've headed verse 2 to 7, God my Delight.

God my Delight

We desire what we delight in, don't we?

I saw an Aston Martin DBS Volante the other day, and I confess that I desired it deeply. Did you know that you can go to the Aston Martin website and play a range of engine sounds from the DBS? I recommend it, though it doesn't sound that great on my laptop speakers; but just astonishing with headphones! With apologies to Ford Focus owners, I don't delight in a Ford Focus; I don't desire a Ford Focus. But a DBS? Well, that's something special!

We desire what we delight in. Another Psalm links desire and delight in a verse you'll know: Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.ref. If we don't desire God very much, it is because we don't delight in God very much.

In verses 2 to 7, David tells us why he desires God so much. God is his delight.

Verse 2, I have seen you in the sanctuary and beheld your power and your glory.ref. David has experienced God, and he remembers that experience now. He has been close to God and longs to be close again. The believer can delight in the power and glory of God. For the unbeliever, the power and glory of God are terrifying; for us, clothed as we are in Christ, we have nothing to fear. We are free to delight and wonder in the infinite, unlimited glory of God; the power of the Creator himself. What is an Aston Martin compared to this? Not even a speck of dirt.

In verse 3, David delights in God's love. Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you.ref This is an extravagant statement!

How much more of God's love do we know than David? The Apostle John says, This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.ref David didn't know this, and yet still he could delight in God's love more than life itself. How much more can we, who know the gospel story of God's self-giving love—how much more can we delight in his love?

Your love is better than life. Taking delight in God's love will transform our Christian experience. As we meditate on God's love and all that it means it will help us it will enable us to do what Jesus commands in Mark chapter 8, If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it.ref. Do you delight in God's love?

Our problem, verse 5, is that we satisfy ourselves with too little. David is hungering and thirsting for God, because he knows that only God can satisfy him. He can live with being spiritually hungry and thirsty now, because he knows that one day [his] soul will be satisfied as with the richest of foodsref. His soul's hunger in the wilderness will be satisfied by a banquet beyond imagining. He knows that one day he will feast on God. And David won't let himself be satisfied with anything less.

We, however, try to satisfy ourselves with so much less. We settle for too little. We dull our hunger for God by turning to things which are not God.

John Piper, in his book, A Hunger For God, makes this observation,

The greatest enemy of hunger for God is not poison but apple pie. It is not the banquet of the wicked that dulls our appetite for heaven, but endless nibbling at the table of the world. It is not the X-rated video, but the prime-time dribble of triviality we drink in every night.

It's no wonder that our desire for God is so feeble if we are constantly deflecting it towards things of the world. Always snacking on sweets instead of longing for the banquet. Why delight in a fake when we can have the real thing? Why delight in vinegar when we can have vintage wine? Why delight in a slum when you can have a mansion? Why delight in a pedal car when we can have an Aston? We satisfy ourselves with too little. We ought to delight in God himself.

In verse 6, David gives us a test to find out we delight in. When you can't sleep at night, when you wake up early and can't get back to sleep, what do you find yourself thinking about?

If God is truly our delight, then we will surely find him filling our thoughts, won't we? We will find that we remember him constantly. That, when our minds are roaming freely in the "watches of the night" that our thoughts turn easily an naturally to him.

In verse 7, we find David delighting in the fact that God is his help and upholds him, which leads us into the last point.

But first a recap. There are several forces that would seek to rob us of our hunger for God.

In the first place, there is sin. Our sinful natures will pervert our desires and turn them away from God. Instead of desiring God for his own sake, we find ourselves desiring status, or power, or comfort, or security, or pleasure, or whatever. Not all wrong things in themselves, but very wrong if they are the goal themselves. If I desire security for its own sake, rather than desiring security in God, then that is a sinful desire that robs me of hunger for God. The antidote to sinful desire is this: God my Desire.

In the second place, there is the world. As we look at the world around us we see things which seem delightful: a big house; a beautiful garden; prestige at work; prestige in the church; trivial entertainment; expensive cars; small china ornaments of cute animals. As we delight in things like these rather than delighting in God, our hunger for God is dulled. Our Christian lives become feeble and apathetic. We end up a bit useless. The antidote to the world's delights is this: God my delight.

God my Defence

The third enemy of our hunger for God is the devil, and that's what we'll look at now under the heading God my Defence.

With his heart set on God, David's thoughts at the end of the Psalm turn to his enemies. And, as so often in the Psalms, the language is brutal and uncompromising: They who seek my life will be destroyed; they will go down to the depths of the earth. They will be given over to the sword and become food for jackals.ref Those who have set themselves up as the enemies of David, God's anointed, have ultimately set themselves up as enemies of God. In which case, no language is too harsh.

How can we understand and apply verses like this ourselves? They seem very alien. We, of course, are commanded to love our enemies; language like this is too strong for us.

But there is an enemy who seeks our life. And, if he cannot actually take our lives, he will at least seek to wreck them. And one of his most effective means is to dull our desire for God.

The devil will use our sin, our pride, our insecurity, our greed and turn our desires away from God. The devil will draw us towards the world, filling our time with soap operas, pointless entertainment, and trivial activities and we will delight in these things rather than delighting in God.

James says, resist the devil and he will flee from youref. God is our defence. He will destroy the devil; he has no power over us. We need only to recognise his works and resist them. God my Defence.


In conclusion, we've seen that David has a deep hunger for God: God my Desire; God my Delight; God my Defence.

All of these spring out of his very opening statement. He starts with the cry, O God, you are my Godref.

David's relationship with God is not abstract, it is personal. God is not an idea; he is a person. God is not "somewhere out there" for David; he has made God his own: you are my God. A God who is desirable, a God who is delightful, a God who defends him.

David's God is our God. The glorious Father: our Father. The Son who clothes us. The Spirit who fills us and comforts us. How much more clearly we see these things than even David did. O God, you are my God

What sort of God do you have? Is he desirable? Do you long for him? Can you delight in him? Is he wonderful? Can you say to him, you are my God?

Just a final thought. I began by talking about desire. As I speak the London Marathon is taking place. Tens of thousands of amateur runners will be wearily dragging their reluctant bodies towards the finish line. For some it will take hours. They may be thirsty, breathless, perhaps near exhaustion. What is keeping them going? What will keep them going until they finally cross that finish line? Only this: desire.