The FISHERS Magazine (Issue 231)

The Man of Worship

Christian Living

1 O God, You are my God; I shall seek You earnestly; My soul thirsts for You, my flesh yearns for You, In a dry and weary land where there is no water.
Thus I have seen You in the sanctuary, To see Your power and Your glory.
3 Because Your lovingkindness is better than life, My lips will praise You.
4 So I will bless You as long as I live; I will lift up my hands in Your name.
5 My soul is satisfied as with marrow and fatness, And my mouth offers praises with joyful lips.
6 When I remember You on my bed, I meditate on You in the night watches,
7 For You have been my help, And in the shadow of Your wings I sing for joy.
8 My soul clings to You; Your right hand upholds me

(Ps 63:1-8)

We are made to worship. If we are Christians, we must be Christians in our marriage, in our family, at our workplace; and in church, we must be ardent worshippers of Christ. Only when we are regularly found in God’s presence, in worship and in prayer, will we grow in Christ-likeness and be useful to Him in every sphere of our life. Ultimately, a Christian is a man or a woman who worships God.

Psalm 63 is written by King David who was given the highest accolade by God when He called him “a man after My own heart” (Acts 13:22). David is a man after God’s own heart because of his passion for Him. He has an unceasing desire for God, the longings of his heart are for Him so that he often comes in humility before God, in prayer and in worship.

The context of this Psalm is when David was in the Judean wilderness, fleeing from Absalom his son, who was usurping the throne. Though David is distressed, exhausted and thirsty, his great concern is his distance from God.

A Thirst for God (vv. 1-2)
He begins by acknowledging God as his God (v.1). God is not just objectively the Sovereign over the universe, He is also David’s God; He is personally related to David in this way. “I shall seek You earnestly” – God is the object of his desire. He loves God Himself, not what He can give, not God and something else. You can love learning God’s Word, listening to good sermons, teaching Scripture, studying theology and the finer nuances of doctrine, but you can do all that without loving God.

The love of knowledge is dangerous, even biblical knowledge; and the love of hearing a good sermon is also dangerous. James says that you run the danger of actively deceiving yourself when you hear but not do God’s Word (James 1:22). If a well-known preacher comes and assumes the pastorate of a local church, and the numbers in the church begin to grow exponentially, it says absolutely nothing about the actual spiritual health of the church in God’s sight.

Some of the most painful indicators of the health of a church are attendance at prayer meetings, the number of believers who actively do evangelism, and the number of true believers that are involved in deep discipleship (that is, following Christ themselves, and helping others follow Christ). These are very basic, but very biblical, indicators of any church’s spiritual health, and sadly, many churches with large numbers do very badly in these areas. Why? Because ultimately, the sermon-hearers are not worshippers of Christ; the ‘Bible-studyers’ are not ‘Bible-obeyers’.

In contrast, the object of David’s devotion is God alone and so, here is a man of worship. To “seek” God is to search for God, in order to gain wisdom for how to live one’s life. This definition is important in all its respects.  A man of worship seeks God, and thereby lives a holy life of devotion. He first has to seek God, otherwise he cannot live a holy life. After he seeks God, he will move inevitably to a life of holy devotion. The two must come together, and must be held in the right order.

He also seeks God “earnestly”. Some translations have “seek You early”. The seeking of God is so earnest that one is prepared to rise up early in the morning, willing to forgo sleep. He seeks God earnestly, meaning that there is an urgency here, a seriousness about the search.

He clearly has an appetite for God which is not a momentary fervour, but a seasoned devotion. God has clearly already found him, for He acknowledges God as his God. However, he still says, “I shall seek You earnestly” – the seeker is one who is regenerate, who is born again. Given new life, he cannot stop thirsting for God.

“My soul thirst for You, my flesh yearns for You” - his soul and his flesh are both pining away for God, meaning that with all his being he longs for God. Every desire is for God, every affection and thought are set on God; every heartbeat pulsates for God while every muscle strains after God. He yearns, he faints for God.

David describes his longing for God as a thirst, an acute desire, one that demands to be met. When you are thirsty, you cannot help but think about your thirst; it plagues your mind, it does not allow you to think about anything else.

When David describes “In a dry and weary land where there is no water”, he is not saying that his thirst for God is like that of a parched man in a hot and arid environment thirsting for water. Rather, he is saying that he is in the desert wilderness and on the run from Absalom, but in his dehydrated condition, all he can think about is not water, but God. No doubt he is thirsty, but the intensity and fervency of his desire is for God, not water! He is being chased by his enemies and he feels, acutely, the pain of being far from God’s presence; he longs for a sense of God.

This is what we must be like as worshippers of Christ. When we have intense, acute pains, our desire for God must be stronger than our desire for relief from pain. In a world which manically pursues gold and glory, academic and economic success, happiness, prosperity and progress, we are willing to drop out of the rat race and pursue God.

Sometimes, God allows us to come into situations like David’s – with trials and tribulations – in order to drive us to God Himself. Could God have prevented those difficulties? Yes. Can God stop the suffering immediately? Yes. But did God do so? No! He wants to draw us to Him, to rekindle or ignite our passion for Him. These situations of pain and agony make the presence of God more desirable for us, and mould us into men and women of worship and devotion.

David has encountered God this way before, in all His might and His splendour (v.2). The ultimate ground of true spiritual passion for God is God Himself. In gazing at the loveliness of God, we are captivated by God Himself, and we worship.

A Thankfulness to God (vv. 3-5)
God’s lovingkindness is “better than life” – not just better than the best things in life, but better than life itself and better than all our existence (v. 3). The word “lovingkindness” is hesed in Hebrew and it means His steadfast love, His eternal, unchanging, undying love. It is necessarily unconditional, because it is unchanging despite all our ups and downs. It is a gracious love, because we certainly do not deserve such love. Yet it is a determined love, that despite the trouble and sacrifices it requires, insists on loving. It is a faithful, loyal love that stays with us, even though we stray from God.

In the middle of a major crisis in his life and his kingship, David affirms this. Absalom has succeeded in kicking David out of his palace. He is in the process of turning the people’s hearts against David, and he is hunting David down in order to kill him. Yet David says, “God’s lovingkindness is better than life itself!” This is a man who knows God, hence he knows His love, marvels at it, and worships Him for it.

Verbs of praise dominate verses 4-5.  The psalmist’s thanksgiving is no hidden or silent prayer, but a public display that involves the spoken testimony, “My lips will praise You”, physical gestures, “I will lift up my hands” and joyous singing, “my mouth offers praises with joyful lips”This is deep gratitude; David is filled with thankfulness unto God.  David knows he deserves nothing from God, and so he realises the depth of God’s grace to him.

But also note how he says, “My soul is satisfied as with marrow and fatness”. Just four verses ago, in describing his spiritual condition before he began his prayer and contemplation, he said, “My soul thirsts for You”. Now he says, “My soul is satisfied”. What changed? Did his circumstances change? Did Absalom repent and give up murderously chasing David down? No. In v. 3, he considers God’s lovingkindness, and that changes everything.

A true Christian stands before God’s steadfast love, studies it, meditates on it, and is enraptured by it more and more.  And thus, he becomes a man of thanksgiving, a man of worship.

A Trust in God (vv. 6-8)
The military practice then was for guards to stand night watches that changed every four hours. They were out in the open, in the wilderness, and the troops with him did guard duty. But David lay in bed remembering God, and he meditated on God as one rotation of guards followed another (v. 6).  And far from feeling unsafe, David basks in the protection of Yahweh (v. 7).

Here, David expresses His trust in God; he “clings” to God (v. 8). This is a word of closeness of relationship, of a strong bond of relationship. This is the same word as used in Genesis 2:24, “For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.” Just as husband and wife cleave together in intimate relationship, so David clings to Yahweh.  But there is much more to this.

What was the fundamental sin of mankind in the Garden of Eden? It was a declaration of independence, a declaration that they did not want to depend on God. Independence is an unwillingness to live with God, a refusal to trust in Him. It is a desire to want to strike out on our own, an arrogance to think that we can do it. But we can’t. God made us to need Him; and a man of worship is content to depend on God, rely on Him, publicly declare his inadequacy and hence his need for God. 

But note that v. 8 says, “My soul clings to You; Your right hand upholds me”; this is the divine-human interplay – verse 8a is our part, verse 8b is God’s part. The right way to understand these two is that verse 8a is proof of verse 8b.  In our relationship with God, God is always the initiator, He always takes the lead. It is not because we cling to Him that His right hand upholds us; rather, it is because His right hand upholds us that we cling to Him.

God is loyal to us and that is why we respond in worship and trust, and endeavour to be loyal to Him. The sign that God is holding on to us is that we cling to him. The proof that God holds me is that I cling to Him in return. God acts first, and our response to Him is not passivity, but that we cling on to Him for dear life; we cleave to Him in an ever growing intimacy of worship.

Clinging to God is not a sign of weakness, it is our declaration of dependence on Him. And we place our faith in Him, we trust Him, only because He has first saved us. It is like Jacob, who when wrestling with God by the Jabbok river, ended up clinging to God after God touched him and crippled him. If we have a desire to cling on to Him, it is because God is clinging on to us in the first place.

Notice that David clings to God, but not for what God can give. He is willing to let go of even all that God has given him in the past, just so as to only have God. This is the problem with many of us today. We like to have our ears tickled academically listening to good sermons. Yet we ultimately derive nothing for our souls, because we are not disciplining ourselves to have the Word change our lives. Then after a while, in the midst of a regular habit of hearing good sermons, our souls dry up. We withdraw from fellowship, from church. Why?  Because our souls were withering for lack of worship of God Himself. Our spiritual rottenness was regularly papered over by the hearing of good sermons and this is deadly. Let us make sure that we are genuine worshippers of the Son, not just professional hearers of sermons.

The marks of a man of worship are that his entire life is characterised by continually swinging from thirsting for God, to thankfulness to God, to trusting God. Are you a man or woman of worship?

Tan Soon Yong
- Tan Soon Yong is a pastor of The 'Fisherman of Christ' Fellowship and an editor of Fishers.

Back to FISHERS 231's mainpage