Brief interpretation of Psalm 63
Psalm 63New King James Version (NKJV)
Joy in the Fellowship of God
A Psalm of David when he was in the wilderness of Judah.
63 O God, You are my God;
Early will I seek You;
My soul thirsts for You;
My flesh longs for You
In a dry and thirsty land
Where there is no water.
2 So I have looked for You in the sanctuary,
To see Your power and Your glory.
3 Because Your lovingkindness is better than life,
My lips shall praise You.
4 Thus I will bless You while I live;
I will lift up my hands in Your name.
5 My soul shall be satisfied as with marrow and fatness,
And my mouth shall praise You with joyful lips.
6 When I remember You on my bed,
I meditate on You in the night watches.
7 Because You have been my help,
Therefore in the shadow of Your wings I will rejoice.
8 My soul follows close behind You;
Your right hand upholds me.
9 But those who seek my life, 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 jackals.
11 But the king shall rejoice in God;
Everyone who swears by Him shall glory;
But the mouth of those who speak lies shall be stopped.
Here you have a brief interpretation of Psalm 63. The psalm’s primary message is communion with God, which is to be valued more than life itself (v. 3). Do we see God? Do we long for God? How does one draw near to the mystery of God? By means of the following steps and stages that are described in the psalm.
The first is nocturnal prayer and the ardent search for God, which we saw in the first verse. When I realize that, without God, I am truly a barren desert; when I feel my inner desolation and the suffering of my flesh, then I will seek God «in the night». We cannot say that we have a spiritual life if we do not rise at night to pray.
The second stage, which appears in the second verse, involves the separation of the heart and the mind from all that is within us and around us. For us there exists only one center of gravity, only one point on the horizon; one object alone is within our view, and this is God. Yet how many thoughts are crowded together in our minds and hearts! Upon how many objects do our eyes fasten! Perhaps we’re afraid that our life will become narrow and suffocating if our focus is restricted to one thing alone, and so we rush around desperately looking for something to satisfy us. We desire many things. We accumulate things compulsively; we spend our life collecting and hoarding things, as if we were the proprietors of a cheap junk shop. When I see people whose hearts and minds are distracted by worldly things – and I see this within myself as well – I think: small-time proprietors! We have become like petty, small-time proprietors! We waste our time gathering second-hand, discarded objects; we amass things with absolutely no value whatsoever. And so I will renounce everything, become a stranger to all things in heaven and on earth, for what have I in heaven? And besides You, O God, what have I desired upon the earth? (Ps 73:25). In order for my heart to be pure, it must be completely liberated from all earthly attachments, and then I shall know what Christ means when he says, Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God (Mt 5:8).
The third stage emerges from the fourth verse. To the extent that we separate ourselves from the world – so that God becomes the focus of our life and the meaning of our existence – all our strength and all our energies will be placed in His service.
The fourth stage, described in the sixth verse, is particularly important, involving, as it does, the ceaseless recollection of God and all His benefits. I remembered You on my bed. If we do not continually remember God, even upon our beds, there can be no union with Him. I remembered God and was gladdened (Ps 77:3). And let us also call to mind the words: Do this in remembrance of me (Luke 22:19), which the Lord said when he established the Mystical Supper, the mystery of the Holy Eucharist, which is both a memorial of, and communion with, Christ. Remembrance is thus a form of union, and there can be no union without remembrance. It is therefore essential to remember God, to hold God within memory, for memory fuels desire, and it is by means of desire that God becomes our possession. And thus we become «Words» of God, just as the Word of God became man. The memory of God should be constant, perpetual, ceaseless.
The fifth stage flows from the seventh verse. In light of the comments we made above, we understand how necessary it is for us to have experiences of God’s grace and His presence.
The sixth stage, which is the grace of God, appears in the eighth verse. We must realize the following truth: in order to begin to live a spiritual life, I must be vividly conscious of the fact that I am nothing, that I can do nothing, and that I am completely incapable and unworthy. It is only the right hand of the Most High, only God’s grace and power that can produce fruit in my spiritual life. Here we think of the words of Saint Symeon the New Theologian: «It is only when I lament and despair that He shows Himself and He looks at me, He who contemplates all creatures».34 When I have accepted the fact that I can do nothing, when all seems lost, then God visits me, and it is then that I see Him. And what is the result? Life becomes a vision, a delight, and a fulfillment. In the words of the Divine Liturgy of Saint Basil: «We have been filled with Your life that knows no end. We have feasted gladly on your inexhaustible nourishment». We are filled with life eternal. We feast on the food of heaven. But this food is not available to people who think that they are something, or that they can accomplish things without God. God cannot commune with people who think like that. Why? Because communion with God is contemplation, a vision of God, given to us by God himself.
God is the one who gives us joy, and we should ascribe all our joy to Him. The soul that thirsts for God, is continually bathed in divine light. The face of such a person becomes divinely luminous. You see him and you ask yourself, could this man be Christ? Thus the Christian becomes a strange spectacle: a Christ-bearer, a God-bearer, and a Spirit-bearer. He or she reveals the unsurpassable beauty of Christ. For our «desire for God transcends our desire for the world, and thus it cannot be satisfied by anything in the world».
My desire is for Christ; my longing is for Christ. It is for Him that my life is being transformed. My path is one of constantly seeking after the Lord. «And I strain my eyes to catch a glimpse of the One I desire, but He is invisible, and evades my sight». But eventually He rewards my efforts, and, as Saint Symeon says, «I am amazed at the beauty of His form… From every direction He shines upon me the light of His immortal splendor.