1 A psalm of David, when he was in the wilderness of Judah.
2 O God, you are my God—
it is you I seek!
For you my body yearns;
for you my soul thirsts,
In a land parched, lifeless,
and without water.
3 I look to you in the sanctuary
to see your power and glory.
4 For your love is better than life;
my lips shall ever praise you!
5 I will bless you as long as I live;
I will lift up my hands, calling on your name.
6 My soul shall be sated as with choice food,
with joyous lips my mouth shall praise you!
7 I think of you upon my bed,
I remember you through the watches of the night
8 You indeed are my savior,
and in the shadow of your wings I shout for joy.
9 My soul clings fast to you;
your right hand upholds me.
10 But those who seek my life will come to ruin;
they shall go down to the depths of the netherworld!
11 Those who would hand over my life to the sword shall
become the prey of jackals!
12 But the king shall rejoice in God;
all who swear by the Lord shall exult,
but the mouths of liars will be shut!
p. 82: A love song. The favorite psalm of many. “For today, Psalm 63 invites us to consider what truly constitutes life for us in our time and place.”
Krauss (2): “Psalm 63 belongs to the category “prayer songs” in which an individual prays to the LORD in the second person. While the prayer to God is determinative in vv.1ff., the expressions of thanksgiving, of trust, and of confidence in vv. 3ff. represent the actual principal theme of the psalm. The intercession for the king should not simple be eliminated or be considered secondary; it may have been a solid ingredient of the prayer formularies in the Jerusalem sanctuary.”
Dahood (2): p. 96 “A king’s prayer for the beatific vision in the heavenly sanctuary. Scholars, who generally classify this poem as a lament or a song of trust (vss. 9-10), are wont to describe vs. 12, which mentions the king as a secondary addition.” Sees it as a shift from 1st person to 3rd person, a privilege of royalty to speak about themselves in 3rd person. Alternatively Dahood writes of a Levite longing to return to service in the temple during the 50 weeks of the year he is at home.
Notes on Verses 1-4
Helpfully, the ancient editors suggest a context for this psalm in the life of King David. But he is not the likely author nor is there any specific occasion in the life of the King clearly identified.
Body and soul in verse 2 not separate – Hebrew poetry’s habit of saying the same thing twice using different words.
p. 83: “In other words, verse 3 (4 in NAB) represents a sort of self-denial that paradoxically means the discovery of the fullness of life as God’s gracious gift.” This is the essence of many spiritualities as taught by our saints.
P 84: Our lives then characterized by praise, submission, and prayer
Verses 5-8 notes
Predominant metaphor in these verses shifts from the previous “thirst” to “hunger”.
Sanctuary images are present here – wings, watches of the night. This led some previous generations of scholars (Sigmund Mowinckel in particular) to speculate on how this psalm may have been used in particular liturgies in Temple times. Speculated on a sacred meal, staying overnight, oracle in the morning proclaiming judgment against a specified enemy. Krauss (2) on pp. 18, 19 takes this approach.
p. 85: “In any case, it is clear that the language and imagery of Psalm 63 have functioned metaphorically for generations of the faithful, who have used the words of the psalm to express their own trust in God’s life-giving, nurturing, protecting presence.”
Verses 9 – 11 notes
p. 86: “While it is important to recognize that the psalmists regularly express their trust in the ultimate enactment of Go0d’s purposes, it is also important to recognize that the enemies are virtually omnipresent in the Psalms. Apparently, God does not simply obliterate the enemies in some sort of swift, unilateral action.” Instead we experience God’s life-sustaining presence in the midst of the dangers. There is no joy without suffering, no resurrection with cross. We trust, however, in an ultimate justice in which the wicked get what they deserve.
p. 87 The mouth of liars will be stopped / closed, the mouths of those who love God will be open (to praise).
Robert Alter translates vs. 11 – “May their blood be shed by the sword, may they be served up to the foxes.”
Psalm 63 for today
Bishop Gerardi in Guatemala, Archbishop Romero in El Salvador, the nuns killed in El Salvador, those who led the civil rights marches in the 60’s in the south.
What are we willing to die for? What / how are we willing to live for?