We’ll touch on baptism a bit in this week’s sermon text (Ephesians 4:1–6). Dr. Mike Svigel has written a four-part series on Christian baptism that I feel is some of the best writing on the topic. Here are links to each part of the series:
Bob Dylan in his famous song “The Times They Are A Changin” warns all—the young and the old, the prophet, writers, and the critics, the fathers and the mothers, and all people—that change is coming, and it is coming fast. Ready or not. He gives the impression in the song that if you’re not ready for change and the way it turns everything upside down, the times will pass you by. Consider these lyrics from the song:
Come gather ’round people
Wherever you roam
And admit that the waters
Around you have grown
And accept it that soon
You’ll be drenched to the bone
If your time to you is worth savin’
Then you better start swimmin’ or you’ll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin’
There is a need to sharpen one’s spiritual life in order to get ready for the challenges ahead. Accompanying any season of change are many voices competing for one’s allegiance and offering influence. It is essential that we seek to experience God in the midst of change and transition. Specifically, it is important to remember that God alone satisfies the yearnings of the heart. This doesn’t mean we can’t embrace change, adventure, risk; however, it does call us to consider what treasure is there that we may seek that we do not already possess in God? Therefore, discovering anew in the midst of change that God is the one who satisfies keeps us anchored and equips us to transition well.
Tim Keller in his book Prayer (which I highly recommend to all of you) calls Psalm 63 a prayer of adoring communion toward God. It is a prayer centered on communion with God as opposed to say a prayer of duty or desperate petition crying out for God to act. Psalm 63:1–11 comes to us from a challenging season in the life of King David. He is in the wilderness of Judah, on the run from the fierce opposition of his own son, Absalom. You can read about this in 2 Samuel 16–17. I imagine that the writing of this Psalm in David’s personal prayer journal took place before the resolution of the situation. Regardless of what would happen (and we know what happened), David would face a new normal. His family and kingdom would never be the same after this. So, what does one do in such times of transition? Sometimes transition comes to us unexpectedly; other times, we know change is coming and can’t claim ignorance. Unexpected or expected, how can we be sure to persevere through change for God’s glory and to our benefit?
Discover God anew as the one who satisfies. Psalm 63 will show us that even in the midst of great change that (1) God Alone Satisfies the Neediest Desire of the Soul (Psalm 63:1–3); (2) God Alone Satisfies the Highest Devotion of the Lips (Psalm 63:4–6); and (3) God Alone Satisfies with the Strongest Deliverance (Psalm 63:7–11).
First, we want to believe that God alone satisfies the neediest desire of the soul (Psalm 63:1–3). In verse 1, the idea is that David longs for God; he is on the lookout for God; he is searching for a clearly defined object, namely his God. He is searching with his whole being—“soul” and “flesh.” The parallelism here repeats the same longing in different ways. The illustration here is so real to us. Imagine being in a desert with no water. Imagine your thirst; imagine how frantic your search. You need water to live! In the same way, seek to drink of God. You know where and how to find water. I also bet you know where and how to find God—don’t delay in taking a drink. David then remembers his past experiences with God in verse 2. He had “seen” and “witnessed” God, specifically his attributes of power and glory. It’s these experiences that once quenched his thirst for the divine for which he now longs, but he is in the present thirsty. We learn about the place of the past in the spiritual life here. When remembering encounters with God in the past, they should always stir our hearts toward a fresh experience of the same in the present. Imagine if we thought that we could be satisfied by one drink of water that we had two years ago! Surely we would die! A drink of God that took place a decade ago should stir us in the present to want to encounter God afresh. Beware of the nostalgia that cripples the experience of God in the present. In verse 3 now, the past experience and the present thirst meet as they should—the basis of wanting again to encounter God is made clear—experiencing God’s loyal love is better than life.
From here, we move from God as the one who satisfies my neediest desire to God as the one who satisfied the highest devotion of the lips (63:4–6). Here, the psalmist David reasons that worship is the appropriate next step of his desire. He commits to praise and prayer (“lifting up my hands”) “while he lives.” That is, he is not delaying or postponing his creaturely duty to worship God. Notice the emphasis placed on the lips or the mouth in verse 5. The lips of the psalmist David not only praise God, but they praise him with joy. As if the praise of the Lord were to the lips as the very best meat, so will David’s lips praise the Lord from the utmost satisfaction. Think of the best meal you’ve ever had. Recall how satisfying the flavor of the food was to your mouth; recall how it just completely met the desires of your hunger and the desire you had for something delicious. So are the praises of the Lord to our lips, especially when our lips render him praise in the midst of trial, transition, and trouble. The worship that began in verse 4 with the commitment to praise God during the earthly life now is made even more specific with a commitment to worship the Lord each night. The idea here is that the writer David remembers the Lord, meditating (i.e., talks to himself) about the Lord at night in bed. Tim Keller, again, in his book Prayer encourages us in this endeavor of nightly prayer as a couple. Keller writes that he and his wife Kathy had not missed a single night in prayer together for twelve years. Twelve years. Wow, may God grant us such a spirit of prayer.
Lastly, God alone satisfies with the strongest deliverance (63:7–11). God is my desire; God is my devotion; God is my deliverer. Beautiful—all penned during days of uncertainty and family turmoil. “For” or “Because” in verse 7 explains that God alone is the place of help and refuge. He is our safety. The common poetic image of “the shadow of your wings” is employed here. It is also used in Psalm 91, which some have referred to as the soldier’s prayer, “He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the Lord, ‘My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.’ For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from the deadly pestilence. He will cover you with his pinions, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness is a shield and buckler” (Ps. 91:1–4). Capture the image loved ones—whatever you are facing, know that you stand in the shadow of God. What does this mean? For there to be a shadow, he must be near. For there to be a shadow that covers you, he must be big. Further, when we return to Psalm 63:7, we read that his wings that cover us are creating the shadow. His “wings” envelope us and cover us. What protection! David states in verse 8 that under the help and refuge of the Lord he clings to the Lord. The word for clings is the same word used to describe the bond of marriage in Genesis 2:24, and the Lord returns the embrace with his strongest hand—his right hand. Therefore, even though his enemies sought to destroy and ruin David’s life—they will experience a terrifying catastrophe because the Lord is David’s deliverer: (1) they will descend into the depths; (2) they will be delivered over to the sword; (3) they will be devoured by the basest of human scavengers, bringing them to a most dishonorable end. The king and those who find their satisfaction in God will use their mouths to rejoice and live to make new commitments to the Lord. In verse 11, the praises and oaths of the righteous will be vindicated, but the mouths of liars will be shut up and stopped.
God, my desire; God, my devotion; God, my deliverer. I can’t help but look at King David and then turn my thoughts to the Lord Jesus. Did he not desire fellowship with his Father above all else? Did he not grant the Father the highest devotion of his lips? Did he not trust his Father as his deliverer, even in the face of death? All of this he did at the moment in history when everything changed and transitioned. When facing change, may we follow in his steps. Consider these words from the hymn entitled “Satisfied,”
All my life I had a longing
For a drink from some clear spring,
That I hoped would quench the burning
Of the thirst I felt within.
Refrain: Hallelujah! I have found him
Whom my soul so long has craved!
Jesus satisfies my longings,
Through his blood I now am saved.
Feeding on the husks around me,
Till my strength was almost gone,
Longed my soul for something better,
Only still to hunger on.
Poor I was, and sought for riches,
Something that would satisfy,
But the dust I gathered round me
Only mocked my soul’s sad cry.
Well of water, ever springing,
Bread of Life so rich and free,
Untold wealth that never faileth,
My Redeemer is to me.
Thoughts on Psalm One
Psalm 1 begins with a description of the “Blessed Man” (vv. 1–2). Notice that the man is “blessed,” which is a statement of God’s grace. Blessing only comes from heaven, not manufactured by the hands of men. The text lists negations and positive statements that make up the full description. Next, the “Blessed Man” is contrasted against the “Wicked,” specifically the endurance of each way of life is compared—wherein the “Blessed Man” produces a timelessly prospering life, but the “Wicked’s” life is soon driven away by “the wind” (vv. 3–4). Maybe it is nothing, but in my own devotional time here in Psalm 1, I found the proportion interesting—the “Blessed Man” is grammatically singular whereas the “Wicked” is plural; that is to say, the “Wicked” out number the “Blessed.” Finally, the destiny of every man is a meeting & reckoning with the Lord. The final destiny of the “Blessed Man” will find favor and protection from the Lord. The “Wicked” faces a final destiny fixed with crippling judgment, deplorable shame, and certain death (vv. 5–6).
A Prayer from Psalm One
Oh Lord, by your grace in the riches of Christ, please make me a Blessed Person! Set me free in every way from the route of the wicked and set my feet firmly on the road of the righteous. Make me blessed and a blessing to all those around me for your glory and praise. In Christ’s name and by the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen.