Psalm 63:3
We may imagine the psalmist in the wilderness. It is night. He stands at his tent door. The light of moon and stars falls on a sandy waste stretching into dimness and mystery. He is lonely and sad. The emptiness of all around and the memory of better times breed a great longing in his soul. It is not as if it were something new and strange, rather it is the revival of the deepest and strongest cravings of his heart, that as he muses gather force and intensity, and must express themselves in song. The key verses seem to be vers. 1, 5, 8.

I. THE SOUL'S LONGING. (Vers. 1-4.) When we "thirst for God," we naturally look back and recall the times when we had the truest and fullest enjoyment of his presence. We think of "the sanctuary." It was not the outward glory; it was not the splendid ritual; it was not the excitement of the great congregation; but it was the vision of God that then brought peace and joy to the soul. And that is what is craved again - more life and fuller: "To see thy power and thy glory." There are often circumstances which intensify and strengthen our longings. When we come to know God, not only as God, but as our God and our Redeemer, we feel that it is a very necessity of our being, that it is our life, to see him and to serve him, to love him, to worship him, to rejoice in him as all our Salvation and all our Desire.

II. THE SOUL'S SATISFACTION. (Vers. 5-7.) What alone can satisfy the soul is the vision of God; not God afar off, but nigh; not God in nature, or in the Law, or in the imagination of our hearts, but God in Christ. Here is true and abiding satisfaction, infinite truth for the mind, eternal righteousness for the conscience, perfect love for the heart. Philip said, "Show us the Father, and it sufficeth us;" and the answer of our Lord was, "He that hath seen me hath seen the Father." The more we meditate on this possession, the more we rejoice and give thanks. We cannot but praise. "As the spirit of the whole Book of Psalms is contracted into this psalm, so is the spirit and soul of the whole psalm contracted into this verse" (Donne). "Because thou hast been my Help, therefore in the shadow of thy wings will I rejoice" (ver. 7).

III. THE SOUL'S RESOLUTION. (Vers. 8-11.) There is mutual action. The soul cleaves to God, and God cleaves to the soul. There is a double embrace - we both hold and are upheld. The result is invigoration - the quickening glow of life through all our being, the free and joyous resolve to cleave to God, and to follow him in love and devotion all our days. Our needs are constant, and God's love never fails. When we are weak, his strength makes us strong; when we are weary, his comforts sustain our fainting souls; when we are ready to sink in the waters, his voice gives us courage, and his strong arm brings us salvation. God ever comes to those who want him. Desire on our part is met by satisfaction on his part. More and more as we love and serve we enter into the joy of our Lord. Our heart is prophet to our heart, and tells of vanquishment of the enemy, of the coming glory and the pleasures which are at God's right hand forevermore. - W.F.







Because Thy lovingkindness is better than life, my lips shall praise Thee.
This psalm is called "A psalm of David when he was in the wilderness of Judah." What prayers have been prayed by men in the wilderness, — by men in the darkness and mystery of life, — by men in their perplexity seeking for guidance, — by men whose "souls were discouraged because of the way." What prayers from men in dungeons, — from men in darkened homes, — from men who said "that all God's waves and billows had gone over them." Men pray better in darkness than in light, in adversity than in prosperity; they pray then with their whole heart — they mean what they say. If you had written your prayers, and had affixed the titles, you would find the heading of one, "A prayer after I had fallen into some great sin." It would contain the wail and lament of the heart, it would breathe the truest contrition and reveal the sorrow of a broken heart. It would be your penitential psalm. You would find another headed, "A prayer after backsliding." In it you would see the shame and humiliation which marked your return to God, and the fresh and earnest consecration of yourself to His service. There would be singular tenderness about it, for its words had been baptized with tears. Another prayer would have this title, "A prayer after I had lost my child." There are men who have a conscious thirst for God. "O God, Thou art my God; early will I seek Thee: my soul thirsteth for Thee, my flesh longeth," etc. Now, do you thirst for God? Can you say that the lovingkindness of God is better to you than life? Life stands to us for all that is valuable and precious, and if we wish to express our estimate of something that is all the world to us, we say — It is dear as life. "What is a man profited, if he gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?" Life is valuable not only in its highest, but its lowest forms, without its accessories and its ministration. I do not speak of the life that is "clothed in purple and fine linen, and that fares sumptuously every day," but life in toil and penury. Let a man be stript of everything — like a tree on an eminence, which has been scathed by the lightning, which boars the marks of many a storm, and tosses its bare branches in the bleak wind — and he will cling to life as much as if full of strength, as if he were crowned with verdure and fruitfulness. Take life in its best estate, surround it with all that can meet its needs, and even its imaginings — life in a palace rather than a cottage — there is something better, grander — something without which life is not worth living. "Thy lovingkindness is better than life." Why is lovingkindness better than life? Because it meets all the needs of life. Man has a physical nature, and its needs are met in the outward world, or it could not live. Light is for the eye — music for the ear — a thousand influences minister to the senses. Man has a higher nature; he has mind, he has capacity for thought; he has an emotional nature, a heart with boundless wealth. What is mind without culture, education, converse, literature? What is the heart without friends, relatives, love? Without lovingkindness how little is known of life! God can come to man; lie can dwell in man; He can reveal His love to man. The mind has life only in receiving truth. The heart has life only in love. You have life only in God. There is a sense in which the lovingkindness of God is so much better than life that it even reconciles us to the loss of life. We are delivered from the fear of death. "To die is gain." So shall we, divesting ourselves of the mortal, become immortal.

(H. J. Boris.)

I. THE PROPOSITION.

1. To take it literally; God's lovingkindness is better than life; that is, than life properly so called, namely, this temporal life which we lead here below.(1) It Is better than life, by taking life in the perfections and excellencies of it; if there be anything more than ordinarily desirable or commendable in this natural life, Shore is that in the favour of God which does transcend it and go exceedingly beyond it.(2) It is better than life, by taking life in the imperfections and defects of it; if there be anything wanting in this life, which does fail and come short of our desires, there is that again in the favour of God which does abundantly supply it, and make it up. Now, the improvement of this point by way of application comes to this —(1) It seems to teach us what we should chiefly look after and pursue. Let us with Mary choose the better part, let us not forsake the better, and give ourselves wholly to the worse.(2) This gives us a hint of the excellency of a Christian's condition above all other men in the world. All the happiness of others is confined only to this life; it they be miserable here they are the miserablest creatures that are, they have nothing in the earth to sustain them, and uphold them. Yea, it is otherwise now with the children of God, if they should miss of these earthly comforts and their cheerings of this natural life here below; yet they have somewhat better to refresh them, and to keep up their hearts. If their hopes were only in this life, they were of all men most miserable, as the apostle speaks. But now this is their comfort, that they have hope of better than life, even of the favour and lovingkindness of God. God's favour is better than life, because it brings us to a better life. It is better than life temporal, because it brings us to life eternal (2 Corinthians 5:1).

2. We may also take it in the moral, according to that which it implies and holds forth to us; and that is this, That God's favour is better than all. The lovingkindness of the Lord is the greatest happiness and advantage of a Christian. And here again, for our further explication and enlargement of this truth in hand, we must know, that by God's lovingkindness we may understand two things especially: either first of all, the affection; or secondly, the expression of the affection, either as it is immanent in Himself, or else as it is transient upon us. You know that in parents and friends there are both of these considerable. There is the favour in the thing itself; and there is the breathings of this favour in regard of outward manifestation of it towards the person whom it is fastened upon. Now, both of these from God to a Christian are exceeding beneficial and comfortable; God's favour, as ye may take it for His love; and God's favour, as ye may take it for His embracements and love expressed. Now, the application of all to ourselves will run out in a fourfold question. How shall we know whether we have it? How shall we get it if we want it? How shall we keep it when we have it? How shall we recover it when we have lost it?

1. How shall we know whether we have it? This is known divers ways.

(1)By His countenance. God looks otherwise upon us, as Jacob to his wives about Laban (Genesis 31:5).

(2)By His presence and communion. Can two walk together and not be agreed? God converses with those which are His favourites (Genesis 17:22). Talked with Abraham. And so with Moses (Exodus 33:11).

(3)By His love-tokens and sprinklings of favour. The hidden manna (Revelation 2:17). The earnest of the spirit (2 Corinthians 1:22), etc.

2. How shall we get it if we want it?

(1)By labouring to be acquainted with those which are about Him. Thus men get to be acquainted with great ones.

(2)Circumspect carriage and behaviour, walking exactly (Ephesians 5:15).

(3)Industry and diligence in a man's place.

(4)Study the temper and disposition of Him whom we seek to.

3. How shall we keep it when we have it?

(1)By universal compliance; indulge no one lust whatsoever.

(2)By sobriety and humility of enjoyment, not proud and lifted up.

(3)By shunning of all occasions of offence.

4. How shall we recover it when we have lost it?

(1)By an ingenious acknowledgment of our miscarriages past.

(2)By doing our first works (Revelation 2:5).

(3)By double diligence and zealousness for time to come.

II. THE INFERENCE. "My lips shall praise Thee." When it is said here his lips, we must not take it exclusively, his lips and nothing else; but effectively, his praise should break forth at his lips; this he promised. As where the inward man is rightly qualified, it will show itself in the outward. The connection seems to be double; either referring to the former verse, "Early will I seek Thee, because Thy lovingkindness is better," etc. And so here's an account of his importunity. Or else referring it to the latter, "My lips shall praise Thee, because Thy lovingkindness is," etc, And in this latter we now take it. David praises God for the excellency of His lovingkindness. First, what it was in itself, in its own nature, considered in God Him. self; God is to be praised for that which He is (Psalm 92:12). Secondly, for what he was to David; because I do enjoy this lovingkindness of Thine, which is better than life. David did not bless God only for a notion, but for an experiment, and the sense of God's love to Himself. And here now comes in the second notion of God's lovingkindness in the expression of it. First, out of a principle of joy which is communicated and full of diffusion. Secondly, out of a principle of love, as desiring to make others which were his brethren sensible of the same favour. Thirdly, out of a principle of thankfulness and ingenuity. Here's the difference betwixt the saints and the world. The world thinks the favour of God not worth the observing; God's people do much rejoice in it, and bless Him for it.

(T. Horton, D. D.)

The wisdom of the human mind is manifested by the estimate which it forms of principles and of things. But, as it requires a good ear to be a judge of music, and a good eye to be a judge of colours, so it requires an enlightened and spiritual mind to form a just estimate of things eternal. We often estimate things by comparison; we draw our conclusions of their importance and value from their different natures, use, and duration. Thus we compare gold with silver, and jewels with gold; and we say gold is better than silver, rubies are better than gold; but "skin for skin, yea, all that a man hath, will he give for his life." Such is the estimate which men form of life, that they will give gold and silver, and all that they have for food, when they are likely to perish without it. But David rises still higher in his estimate, and says, 'Thy lovingkindness is better than life."

I. WE HAVE AN INTERESTING SUBJECT. The Iovingkindness of God.

1. The excellence of the principle. Its want the cause of all misery; its presence, of all joy.

2. Its comprehensive import. It includes all the attributes of God. All are of His love. We sometimes speak of water as conveying to our minds an idea of that one element; but to vary it, we speak of the ocean; and for limitation, we speak of the Atlantic, the Pacific, the German Ocean; to limit ourselves still more, we speak of the sea; and then we name the Red Sea, the Mediterranean, the Baltic Sea; sometimes we speak of the shores it washes, as the Ganges, the Mississippi, the Thames, or we name some of its various forms, as rain, dew, snow, etc. But we are still speaking of water; it is still the same element we have in view. On the same principle we speak of the subject in the text. When God pities the miserable, we call it compassion — when He shows favour to the unworthy, we call it grace — when He exercises it in a way of pardon, we call it mercy — when He fulfils His promises, and accepts the penitent, and justifies him, we call it faithfulness: still it is only lovingkindness — it is so many various means of making us happy. "Thy lovingkindness is better than life."

3. Its powerful and beneficial influence. The power of love has often been evinced. "God so loved the world," etc.

4. Its duration. It is immutable, it is "everlasting love." Those who are delivered from guilt and depravity by it shall be preserved by it for ever.

II. AN IMPORTANT TRUTH AFFIRMED. "Thy lovingkindness is better than life.

1. It makes up all the deficiencies of life.

2. It alleviates life's sorrows.

3. It adds blessedness to the blessings of life.

III. THE RESOLUTION HERE FORMED. "My lips shall praise Thee." For the manifestation and the application of Thy love. My lips shall do this, by commending Thee to others.

(J. Griffin.)

Homilist.
This utterance is somewhat extraordinary, for —

1. What is lovingkindness without life? Had we no existence, though lovingkindness flooded the universe, it would he nothing to us. Life is necessary to discern and appreciate lovingkindness.

2. What would life be without lovingkindness? A desert unrelieved by a single blade, a midnight without a ray. Certainly "lovingkindness is better than life " in such a state. In truth the language implies that life in itself, life even apart from lovingkindness, is a good thing. To be is better than not to be. In many respects the text has a meaning.

I. Lovingkindness is INDEPENDENT of life. Had no creature existed, had the Eternal existed alone, without one solitary existence in any part of immensity, lovingkindness would have been as full and complete as now. It would have been the life and consciousness of the Infinite. "God is love."

II. Lovingkindness is the CAUSE of life. The universe is a tree rooted in the river of love, ever growing, ever green, ever fruitful. From love it sprang, by love it grows. As clouds to the ocean, so is all life to lovingkindness, they rise from its boundless billows and break into their fathomless depths again.

III. Lovingkindness is the REDEMPTION of life. Lovingkindness expressed, embodied, and administered by Christ redeems the fallen race. What lovingkindness there is here, "God so loved the world," etc. "He that spared not His only son," etc.

IV. Lovingkindness is the HEAVEN of life. It is the beauty of every leaf, the fragrance of every flower, the brightness of every star, the life of every breeze, the music of every sound, the charm of every scene, the flavour of every fruit in Paradise.

(Homilist.)

I. THE TEXT REFERS TO SOMETHING, THAT IS GOOD — "Life." Life is a mystery which no subject of it can understand, any more than a machine can understand the force that propels it. God understands it, because He is its Author. Life in man is threefold; animal, moral, intellectual. In these there are degrees. This trinity of life in man lifts him up to supremacy among all earthly living existences. Man, with his threefold life, has accomplished marvellous things for himself and for humanity, looked at only as an inhabitant of earth. But good as life may be, as a gift from God, and used by man in the spheres of his present being, there is something better. Hence —

II. LET US NOTICE IN THE TEXT WHAT THAT SOMETHING IS: "Thy lovingkindness is better than life."

1. The lovingkindness of God is better than life in its nature. What is life but a dream, a vapour, a shadow, a tale that is told, subject in its brevity to numberless vicissitudes? But the lovingkindness of God is a substantial reality. It comes to us in ten thousand ways of good things, both in providence and in the Gospel.

2. It is better in its promises. What are the promises of life but few and feeble? But the lovingkindness of God comes to us not only with promises of present good, but with "exceeding great and precious " promises of good things in the future.

3. It is better in its pleasures. The pleasures of life are carnal, fickle, superficial, unsatisfying. But the pleasures of God's lovingkindness are spiritual, real, enduring, satisfying. God's lovingkindness is a "feast of fat things." It is a river. It is the fulness of God.

4. It is better in its pursuits. The pursuits of life, how low, how little, how transitory! But the pursuits of God's lovingkindness, as it influences us, are prayer, praise, obedience, and heaven; spiritual, noble, eternal.

5. Better in its issues. The issues of life are often disappointment, mortification, loss, and inevitably death. But the issues of God's lovingkindness are the realization of our hopes, answers to our prayers, increase in every good thing, and at last everlasting life.

III. THE REASON FOR PRAISING GOD, AS CONTAINED IN THE TEXT.

1. To praise God for His lovingkindness is good. It is pleasant. It is comely (Psalm 145:1).

2. It is in harmony with all His works: "All Thy works praise Thee"; with the angels; with the saints glorified.

3. It is a becoming return for God's lovingkindness. If a father does well for his child, does not the child praise him? If you give a charity to a beggar of an unusual kind, does he not praise you? Then, how much more ought we to praise our God for His unmerited, abundant, and unparalleled lovingkindness bestowed upon us! "My lips shall praise Thee." In the congregation of Thy people. In my family. In my private life. In all times and places.

(J. Bate.)

I. HOW IT IS MANIFESTED.

1. In the gift of Christ.

2. In affliction.

3. In providence.

4. In the promise of the future life.

II. ITS VALUE. "It is better than life," because —

1. Not brief as is life.

2. It fully satisfies.

III. THE EFFECT IT SHOULD HAVE UPON US. "My lips shall praise Thee." This should be —

1. A life work.

2. A heart work.

IV. CONCLUSION.

1. We all receive of God's lovingkindness.

2. Do we all praise Him?

(Frederic Bell.)

I. THE FAVOUR RECOGNIZED. "Thy lovingkindness."

1. Its source. "Thy." The fountain of wisdom, love, and power.

2. Its quality. "Lovingkindness." Not kind acts merely, but the kindness of love.

3. Its constancy.

4. Its comprehensiveness.

II. THE ESTIMATE FORMED. It "is better than life." The second death consists not in the destruction of being, but of well-being. Sin destroyed man's eternal well-being, but the "lovingkindness" of God restores it.

1. It harmonizes man with his surroundings.

2. It extracts the sting of death.

3. It sanctifies life's sorrows.

4. It endears and sweetens life's comforts.

III. THE RESOLUTION MADE. "My lips shall praise Thee."

1. Piety is intensely personal. "My lips." If "my lips" have no praise, my heart has no love. Internal life must find external expression.

2. Piety is joyous devotion. "Shall praise."

3. Piety is personal, joyous devotion to a personal God.

(Thomas Kelly.)

I. CONCERNING THE LOVINGKINDNESS OF THE LORD. It appears —

1. In the constitution of the Mediator between God and man.

2. In the establishment of the covenant with His own Son in the office of mediation.

3. In the mission of His only-begotten Son to do the work of mediation in our nature;

4. In reconciling sinners to Himself by the death of His Son.

5. In drawing men to Christ.

6. In crowning men in Christ with all spiritual blessings.

7. In the work of providence. This work is long, and exceeding broad. Hold the glass to the right eye, and look through it on these pieces or dispensations which seem to have a dark ground, and praise the lovingkindness of the Lord, and magnify the work that is after the counsel of His own will.

II. CONCERNING THE COMPARATIVE EXCELLENCE OF THE LOVINGKINDNESS, which is a glory in the face of God reconciling the world to Himself through the mediation of His beloved and only begotten Son in our nature. Comparing it with life, the psalmist pronounces it better.

1. Lovingkindness appearing in the face of God toward us in Christ Jesus is earlier than life.

2. Longer than life. In its duration is neither beginning nor end of days.

3. Richer than life. Lovingkindness is the fountain of redemption, reconciliation, pardon, acceptance, holiness; of the earnest, the seal, the anointing of the Spirit; and of all the streams of grace, and mercy, and goodness, which enrich the valleys of Zion, and make her wastes to shout and sing.

4. Sweeter and more pleasant than life.

5. Gives seasonings and relishes to the blessings and comforts of life.

III. CONCERNING OUR PRAISING THE LOVINGKINDNESS OF THE DEITY. This includes —

1. The perception of His lovingkindness in Christ Jesus by the understanding. Christ dying for sinners is the commendation of loving. kindness.

2. The belief of His lovingkindness with the heart. If we believe, we will praise; and when we praise, we will believe.

3. The exercise of our affections toward the lovingkindness which is a glory of the face of God in Christ Jesus. The lovingkindness of God is transcendently amiable. When He lifts up the light of it upon the new creation, their affections are aloft, and mount up in joy and praise with wings as eagles. Their affections are fruits of His Spirit, dwelling and working by His Word in their heart.

4. A conversation becoming His lovingkindness.

5. Offering thanksgiving continually for the kindnesses of His love in Christ Jesus. Let the praises of it be founded with the voice of thanksgiving in His courts, and around His holy hill, in our chambers, and houses, and villages, and in all the forests and wastes where we sojourn.

(A. Shanks.)

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