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Psalm 63

The God who puts our fears to flight

Life with God is often circular. We experience God, we cry out to him in our need and we worship him when he rescues us—and beforehand too. As we cling to him, he’s the one who holds us fast.

A David psalm. When he was in the Judean wilderness.[1]

O God, you’re my God—
I seek you with the dawn’s first light.
My soul thirsts for you
my body faints for you
in a wasteland, dry and desolate.
I long to see you as I have in the sanctuary
beholding your power and glory.
Since your unfailing love is better than life
I overflow with praise.

I’ll bless you as long as I live
lifting up my hands in your name.
Satisfied, like I’ve just enjoyed a rich feast
I’ll praise you with joyful song!
Lying awake in bed, I remember you—
think of you through the night’s long hours.
Because of how you’ve helped me
I sing for joy in the shadow of your wings.
While I cling to you
your right hand holds me fast. 

But those seeking to destroy my life
will end up dead.
10 Felled by the sword
they’ll be carrion for jackals!
11 With their lying mouths shut in death
the king will rejoice in God.
And all who serve him[2] will celebrate.

David weaves his verbal tapestry out of three intertwining strands—longing for God, experience of God and worship of God. Dire though his situation is, he describes it only in the psalm’s last section in order to keep his focus on God, his situation’s all-important factor. But David has fled to the Judean wilderness because men who twist the truth about him are trying to kill him.

David knows he can’t live without God, whose love is better than life itself. He’s seen God’s glorious power revealed in the sanctuary and found shelter beneath God’s gracious outspread wings. So he commits himself to him and seeks him every waking moment, come what may. As he does, God assures him he’ll come through for him, satisfy him like a rich feast would, and David worships in anticipation.

For everything David does for God, God does far more for him. David clings to God, but it’s God who holds him fast. David sings his thanks for all God’s help. God will have David’s would-be killers killed and that, ignominiously. With their lying mouths shut for good, David’s mouth overflows with joyful praise. And he doesn’t celebrate God’s goodness alone for all God’s people join in.

O God, you’re my God. I long for you like parched land for rain. You’ve been my helper, and I rest under the shadow of your wings. Help me to seek you more than anything else life offers. Deliver me from the evil one, save me from myself, and fill my mouth with joyful songs of praise. Amen.

In your free moments today, pray this prayer:

Because of how you’ve helped me
I sing for joy in the shadow of your wings.


[1] This may refer to David’s escape from Absalom (2 Sam. 15:28, 16:14).

[2] Lit., swear by him.

Why Yahveh?

Every translator of the Psalms must decide how to handle God’s personal name, YHWH, which occurs repeatedly in its Hebrew text. Translators of the King James Version usually translated it “LORD” (all caps) and occasionally transliterated it (badly) as “Jehovah.” Modern translations, likewise, either translate or transliterate it. While translating it aims to make it more accessible to readers, transliterating it is more faithful to the text since it’s not a word at all, but rather God’s uniquely personal name. I’ve chosen to transliterate it to root it more firmly in the biblical story as the name—meaning the “self-existent One”—that God revealed to Moses on Mount Sinai. This name set Israel’s God apart from all the gods of Israel’s neighbors.

Personal names are, well, very personal. Even the sound of a name can evoke strong emotion. One problem with YHWH is that we aren’t sure how it was pronounced since Jews long ago stopped saying it in order better to hallow it. In transliterating it, I follow the advice of my esteemed Hebrew professor, Raymond Dillard. He advocated transliterating it as Yahveh—pronounced yah·vay—arguing that following the modern Hebrew pronunciation of its third consonant makes the name sound more robustly Jewish than Yahweh.
May these psalms be a light to you in dark times. You can read more of Mark Robert Anderson's writings on Christianity, culture, and inter-faith dialogue at Understanding Christianity Today.