The Soul's Thirst and Satisfaction
Psalm 63:1-11
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…

(with vers. 5, 8): —

1. THE SOUL THIRSTING FOR GOD. (ver. 1). Now, the psalmist is a poet, and has a poet's sensitiveness to the external aspects of nature, and the imagination that delights in seeing in these the reflection of his own moods. So, very beautifully, he looks upon the dreary scene around, and sees in it symbols of the yet drearier experience within. He beholds the grey monotony of the waterless wilderness, where the earth is cracked with clefts that look like mouths gaping for the rain that does not come, and he recognizes the likeness of his own yearning spirit. He feels the pangs of bodily weariness and thirst, and these seem to him to be but feeble symbols of the deeper-seated pains of desire which touch his spirit. All men thirst after God. The unrest, the deep yearnings, the longings and desires of our natures — what are they all except cries for the living God, the tendrils which are put forth, seeking after the great prop which alone is fit to lift us from the mud of this lower world? But the misery is that we do not know what we want, that we misinterpret the meaning of our desires, that we go to the wrong sources for our need; that when our souls are crying out for God we fling them worldly good and say, "There, satisfy yourselves on that!" At man that has a wild thing in a cage, and does not know what its food is, when he hears it yelping, will cast to it what he thinks may fit it, on which it eagerly springs, and then turns from it in disgust. So, men seek to feed their souls on the things of earth, and, all the while, what they are crying for is, not earth, but God. Shipwrecked sailors drink salt water in their wild thirst, and it makes them mad. Travellers in the desert are drawn by the mirage to seemingly shimmering lakes, fringed with palm trees; and it is nothing but sand. "My soul thirsteth for Thee."

II. THE SEEKING SOUL SATISFIED (ver. 5). The imagery of a feast naturally follows upon the previous metaphor of the soul's thirst. Now, it is to be observed here with what beautiful and yet singular swiftness the whole mood of the psalmist changes. People may say that that is unnatural, but it is true to the deepest experiences, and it unveils for us one of the surest and most precious blessings of a true Christian life — vim that fruition is ever attendant upon desire. God's gifts are never delayed, in the highest Of all regions. In the lower there often are long delays — the lingerings of love for our good — but in the loftiest, fruition grows side by side with longing. The same moment witnesses the petition flashed to Heaven, as with the speed of lightning, and the answer coming back to the waiting heart; as in tropical lands when the rain comes, what was barren baked earth in a day or two is rich meadow, all ablaze with flowers, and the dry torrent beds, where the stones lay white and glistening ghastly in the hot sunshine, are foaming with rushing streams and fringed with budding oleanders. This verse also tells us that the soul thus answered will be satisfied. If it be true that God is the real object of all human desire, then the contact of the seeking soul with that perfect aim of all its seeking will bring rest to every appetite, its desired food to every wish, strength for every weakness, fulness for all emptiness. Like two of the notched sticks that used to be used as tallies, the seeking soul and the giving God fit into one another, and there is nothing that we need that we cannot get in Him. Further, as our psalm tells us, the satisfied soul breaks into music. For it goes on to say, "My mouth shall praise Him with joyful lips." Of course, the psalmist had still many occasions for sorrow, and doubt, and fear. Nothing had changed in his outward circumstances. The desert was still round him. The foe was still pursuing murderous in heart as before. But this had changed — God was felt to be as close as ever He had been in the sanctuary. And that consciousness altered everything, and turned all the psalmist's lamentations into jubilant anthems. It transposed his music from the minor key, and his lips broke into songs of gladness. Translate these particulars into general thoughts, and they are just this: — No sorrow, nor anxiety, nor care, nor need for vigilance against danger ought to check the praise that may come, and should come, from a heart in touch with God, and a soul satisfied in Him. It is a hard lesson for some of us to learn; but it is a lesson the learning of which will be full of blessedness. There is a bird common in our northern districts which people call the storm-cock, because his note always rings out cheeriest in tempestuous weather. That is the kind of music that the Christian's heart should make, responding, like an AEolian harp, to the tempest's breath by music, and filling the night with praise. It is possible for us, even before sorrow and sighing have fled away, to be pilgrims on the road, "with songs and everlasting joy upon our heads."

III. THE SATISFIED SOUL PRESSES CLOSER TO GOD (ver. 8). Literally translated, though, of course, much too clumsily for an English version, the words run — "My soul cleaveth after Thee," expressing, in one pregnant phrase, two attitudes usually felt to be incompatible, that of calm repose and that of eager pursuit. But these two, unlike each other as they are, may be, and should be, harmoniously blended in the experience of a Christian life. On the one hand there is the clinging of satisfaction, and, on the other hand, the ever-satisfied stimulus to a closer approach. The soul that is satisfied will, and ought to, adhere with tenacity to the source that satisfies it. The dove folds its pinions when it reaches the ark, and needs no more to wing its weary way over sullen waters, vainly searching for a resting-place. Nomad tribes, when they find themselves in some rich valley, unload their camels, and pitch their tents, and say, "Here will we dwell, for the land is good." And so we, if we have made experience, as we may, of God and His sweet sufficiency, and sufficient sweetness, should be delivered from temptation to go further and fare worse. And then this clinging, resulting from satisfaction, is accompanied with earnest seeking after still more of the infinite good. In other regions, and when directed to other objects, satisfaction is apt to pass into satiety, because the creature that satisfies us is limited. But when we turn ourselves to God, and seek for all that we need in Him, there can be no satiety in us, because there can be no exhaustion of that which is in Him. The blessedness of search that is sure of finding, and the blessedness of finding which is calm repose, are united in the Christian experience. And we may, at every moment, have all that we want given to us, and by the very gift our capacity, and therefore our longings, be increased. Thus, in wondrous alternation, satisfaction and thirst beget each other, and each possesses some of the other's sweetness.

(A. Maclaren, D. D.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: {A Psalm of David, when he was in the wilderness of Judah.} O God, thou art my God; early will I seek thee: my soul thirsteth for thee, my flesh longeth for thee in a dry and thirsty land, where no water is;

WEB: God, you are my God. I will earnestly seek you. My soul thirsts for you. My flesh longs for you, in a dry and weary land, where there is no water.

The Saint Thirsting for God
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