Psalms for Families: Devotions for All Ages, Psalm 63

Psalms for Families, by Robert J. Keeley and Laura Keeley, is a devotional book for the entire family designed to help parents explore the riches of the book of Psalms with their children and teens. These devotionals will help parents learn more about the psalms as they teach their children about praise, prayer, and lament. This book contains four devotionals on each of our selected psalms as well as notes for adults that provide additional information and background.

Introduction and Full Series

Devotional 1, Devotional 2, Devotional 3, Devotional 4, Notes for Adults

Psalm 63

A psalm of David. When he was in the Desert of Judah.

You, God, are my God,
    earnestly I seek you;
I thirst for you,
    my whole being longs for you,
in a dry and parched land
    where there is no water.
I have seen you in the sanctuary
    and beheld your power and your glory.
Because your love is better than life,
    my lips will glorify you
.
I will praise you as long as I live,
    and in your name I will lift up my hands.
I will be fully satisfied as with the richest of foods;
    with singing lips my mouth will praise you.
On my bed I remember you;
    I think of you through the watches of the night.
Because you are my help,
    I sing in the shadow of your wings.

I cling to you;
    your right hand upholds me.
Those who want to kill me will be destroyed;
    they will go down to the depths of the earth.

10 They will be given over to the sword
    and become food for jackals.
11 But the king will rejoice in God;
    all who swear by God will glory in him,
    while the mouths of liars will be silenced.

Prayer

Precious Lord,
We want to know you better. Your creation shows us your power and glory. We are amazed. Help us to think about you, even when we go to sleep. We know you will protect us when other people want to harm us. We sing praises to you. We love you, Lord. Amen.

 Psalm 63 Thirsty

Psalm 63
Devotional 1: Thirsty

Have you ever been really thirsty? I was. Once I was outside for hours on a hot day and I didn’t have anything to drink from about 3:00 in the afternoon until about 11:30 at night. I was at an outdoor concert, and I was really, really thirsty. When I finally got something to drink, I drank a whole can of soda right down—and then I grabbed another one and drank that too. I was that thirsty. I think about that time when I read the first verse of Psalm 63.

Read Psalm 63:1:

You, God, are my God,
   earnestly I seek you;
I thirst for you,
   my whole being longs for you,
in a dry and parched land
   where there is no water.

The psalm writer, David, says that he is thirsty for God just as if he were in a desert. I’ve never been in a desert. I have seen pictures of the desert. Maybe you have too. The pictures show lots and lots of sand, no green grass, no trees, not much of anything but sand. Imagine that you are in that desert. Your lips are dry. Hot air surrounds you. You need something to drink! All your thoughts are about water. You think about finding water. You wonder if you could dig for water. It’s hard to think about anything else but water.

Imagine being that thirsty. That is how much David wanted to be close to God. Have you ever wanted God that much? 

Enter the Psalm: List three things that you can do to be closer to God. Do one every day for the next three days.

Psalm 63 Praising God When You Need Help

Psalm 63
Devotional 2: Praising God When You Need Help 

When I’m really worried about things, I pray. In my prayer I begin with what’s worrying me. The first word that comes to mind is “help!” “God, help me to feel better.” “Help my sister to find a good friend.” “Please help me to get a job.” That seems only natural, doesn’t it? If we turn to God when we are worried or in a difficult situation, it makes sense to get right to the point.

In Psalm 63:9, David says, “Those who want to kill me will be destroyed.” People really were trying to kill David! You would think he would begin this psalm with something like “Save me, O God, from those who are trying to kill me.” But David doesn’t do that. He starts by saying how much he wants to be with God: “I thirst for you” (verse 1).

So what does David say next? Even though people are trying to kill David, he continues his prayer with praise to God. Read Psalm 63:2-5:

2 I have seen you in the sanctuary
   and beheld your power and your glory.
3 Because your love is better than life,
   my lips will glorify you.

4 I will praise you as long as I live,
   and in your name I will lift up my hands.
5 I will be fully satisfied as with the richest of foods;
   with singing lips my mouth will praise you.

David praises God, writing about how he has seen God’s power and glory in the sanctuary—perhaps in a place like your church. Then David praises God in a very personal way, using his body to show praise. He writes about his lips glorifying God, his hands being lifted up, and his mouth singing in praise.

Maybe we can be more like David. Even when we are worried we can try to praise God first.

Enter the Psalm: Think about how you can use your body to praise God. Try doing those things when you pray or sing. Perhaps you are more comfortable with music than you are with body movements. If so, find a line or two of the psalm, make up a simple melody for it. then sing it together.

Psalm 63 David's Enemies

Psalm 63
Devotional 3: David’s Enemies

David was a great and powerful king. However, he had enemies. Even David’s own son Absalom wanted to be king instead of David. Absalom planned for years to become king. He went out and talked to people. He sat at the city gate and told people he would help them since David was too busy. He spent a lot of time talking to people about what David wasn’t doing and what he, Absalom, would do if he were king. He did these things so that the people of Israel would like him.

After four years of working and planning, Absalom declared himself king and many people followed him. David was forced to leave his palace and run away because Absalom was coming to kill him. Things were looking pretty bad for David. But in Psalm 63 he seems pretty sure that things will work out well. David shows that he has confidence that God will deliver him. He even predicts that bad things will happen to his enemies.

Read Psalm 63:9-10:

9 Those who want to kill me will be destroyed;
   they will go down to the depths of the earth.
10 They will be given over to the sword
   and become food for jackals.

David knows that God will destroy his enemies. In response, does David say that he’ll be happy over the destruction of those trying to kill him? No, he doesn’t . David’s thoughts turn to God. Read Psalm 63:11:

11 But the king will rejoice in God;
   all who swear by God will glory in him,
   while the mouths of liars will be silenced.

The king—that’s David—will rejoice in God, not in the destruction of his enemies. David realized that all good gifts come from God, and even though he is happy that God is defeating his enemies, he rejoices because he can point to what God has done.

Enter the Psalm: What has God done for you? What can you rejoice about today?   Try to list three things.

Psalm 63 Repeating

Psalm 63
Devotional 4: Repeating

Have you ever seen something really great? My son and I went to a concert recently and it was amazing—one of the best we had ever seen. Afterward we kept talking about how awesome it was. After saying “That was awesome,” we felt like we had to say even more. We said “That was so awesome,” “That was really, really cool” and  “That was the best concert ever.” We found lots of different ways to say the same thing over and over, because once just wasn’t enough.

David, the writer of Psalm 63, uses repetition the same way. He says something, and then he says it again in a slightly different way.

Read Psalm 63:1:

1 You, God, are my God,
   earnestly I seek you;
I thirst for you,
   my whole being longs for you,
in a dry and parched land
   where there is no water.

David says, “ I thirst for you.” Then he says it again when he says, “my whole being longs for you.” The next phrase is “in a dry and parched land where there is no water.” Now think about that a minute. If the land is dry and parched, what is it missing? Water. Adding the phrase, “where there is no water” to the sentence doesn’t really say anything new, does it? Well, it turns out that it does.

The psalms are poetry. By writing the same idea in a new or expanded way, the reader gets a better idea of what the author is trying to say. It is like you saying, “I’m hungry.” Then to emphasize that you are really hungry, you might say, “I am so hungry I could eat a bear!” Now we have a better idea of how hungry you are, 

When I was younger I thought poetry had to rhyme. It turns out that a lot of poetry doesn’t rhyme. What makes it poetry is that the writer chooses words very carefully to say a lot with just a few words. Rhyming is just one of the devices that poets use. Repeating ideas, like in this psalm, is another one. This repetition is called “parallelism.”

The psalms often use parallelism. Here is another example, this time from verse 6:

On my bed I remember you;
   I think of you through the watches of the night.

At the time David lived, the people of Israel split the night into three parts called “watches.” Not the kind of watch for telling time—they were thinking about people staying awake and watching for strangers to come. So when David writes “I think of you through the watches of the night,” he is saying that he is thinking about God all night long. David says in the first phrase that he is in bed thinking about God. In the next phrase he says, “I think about God all night long.” He is saying the same thing in a new and interesting way.

We can do this too. Here is a start:

I think about God before I eat.
I remember to say my prayers before a meal.

Enter the Psalm: Try writing a repeating psalm yourself. Here are a couple of starter phrases. What could the next phrase be? 

          I love to pray to God . . .
or        I will sing my praises to God . . .  


Psalm 63
More—Longing for God (Notes for Adults)

The note at the top of Psalm 63 indicates that David may have written this psalm when he was fleeing from his son Absalom (see 2 Samuel 15). The notes at the beginning of many of the psalms locate them in a particular time and place, but these notes were often added years after the psalm was written. So Psalm 63 may or may not have been written by David at that particular time. But in this case, the psalmist refers to himself as king and appears to be in the desert (a dry and parched land) so it may well be that this was David’s own prayer when he was in the desert, fleeing from Absalom. At the very least, the psalm works well in that context.

The relationship between David and Absalom was complex, and this long story comes immediately after we hear the prophet Nathan rebuking David for his sin with Bathsheba. We first meet Absalom when his sister, Tamar, is raped by her half-brother and heir to the throne, Amnon. Absalom is furious with his brother Amnon but waits for two years before luring him to a faraway place and having his men kill him. Then Absalom flees and stays away for three years. David mourns the death of his son Amnon, but he also mourns because his son Absalom, who was a very handsome and charming man, is now in exile.

One of David’s men convinces David that it is time to bring Absalom home. David does bring Absalom back to Jerusalem but does not see him in person for another two years. When they finally do see each other, David kisses Absalom, welcoming him back into the royal family. What David did not do was seek justice or even ask if Absalom was sorry for murdering his brother.

Absalom began using his restored status in the kingdom to make people love him more than David. He paraded around Jerusalem, looking royal with a chariot and horses and fifty men around him. He would get up early and stand by the road that led to the city gate. When someone came with a complaint to make to the king, Absalom talked to him and listened to his complaint. He would then say that, even though the complaint was valid, the king didn’t have anyone who could address the problem. But if Absalom were appointed king, he said, things would be different. Everyone would get justice. Absalom did this for four years, building favor among the people. Finally Absalom took a trip to Hebron and there the people declared that he was king. David was afraid for his life, so he packed up, left the palace, and traveled to the desert. The people who still supported David wept.

This is the background to Psalm 63. What a terrible position David finds himself in—imagine being hunted by your own son! David must have felt betrayed and fearful. If we let the voice of David speak these words to us, we can hear how his voice aches to make things right: “My soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water” (v. 1)

It is interesting to think of how David approaches God in this situation. We would expect this to be primarily a plea for help. David is, after all, in a pretty bad predicament. But the psalmist first speaks of a longing for God. It’s as if the hunger and thirst he experiences in the desert remind him of how he longs for God. He allows his physical discomfort to draw him closer to God. He takes this metaphor a bit further when, in verse 5, he says, “I will be fully satisfied as with the richest of foods.”

In these devotionals we looked at some of the themes in this psalm without going deeply into the story of David and Absalom, because it’s a complex story with some elements that are difficult for children to deal with. But we can easily understand David’s feelings. We know what it’s like to be fearful, and we know what it’s like to desire God’s presence. David wrote this psalm during a difficult time in his life. It is our psalm too to use and learn from in the difficult times of our own lives.

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