On a recent trip to Arizona I was amazed at both the intensity of the desert heat as well as the seemingly complete absence of moisture in the air. I had heard about deserts, but had never experienced one during the heat of summer. The heat takes your breath away, and there is no escape. Thirst is almost constant; our 18 month old son was drinking water non-stop.
In that Arizona desert, I found myself frequently reflecting on Psalm 63:1: “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 Where there is no water.”
The title of this Psalm says that David wrote it, “In the wilderness of Judah.” This likely refers to the desert area just south of Jerusalem known as the Negev. The climate of this region is much like that of Arizona — hot, dry, and unforgiving, where summertime temperatures can easily exceed 105 degrees Fahrenheit.
Such a place would have been difficult to survive, especially in ancient times when travel was not as rapid, and water was even more scarce. Several observations come to mind concerning Psalm 63:1.
Desiring God is a matter of highest priority. It’s a basic law of economics that scarcity increases the value of a commodity. Thus, in a land, “where there is no water,” water could be valued more precious than gold itself. What is so fascinating about this passage is that David likened his search for God to his search for precious water in a desert. Today, people everywhere are expending their lives and energies seeking what they truly deem valuable. The inspired counsel of Psalm 63 declares that God ought to be desired even more than water in a hot, barren desert. What do your attitudes and behaviors say about how much you value God?
God is worth waking up for. The word, “early” in most translations of Psalm 63:1 is sometimes translated, “eagerly.” “Early” may be the preferable translation primarily because of where David was when he wrote this Psalm — in a desert. In ancient times, desert travelers would wake up very early and travel as quickly as possible before the heat of the day was most intense. This may explain why David said, “early will I seek You.” He realized that the intense spiritual “heat” of trials was coming, and David needed to seek God before those troubles consumed him. At the beginning of a difficult and demanding ministry, Jesus (perhaps following David’s example) arose early and spent time alone with God (Mk. 1:35ff). So many Christians give up because their roots are shallow (Mk. 4:16-17). How we need to realize that God really is worth waking up for!
Spiritual thirst needs attention. Every soul hungers and thirsts for God, but Satan is good at disguising it from us. The Samaritan woman was evidently trying to satisfy her thirst for God with mere human relationships (Jn. 4:17-18). The rich fool tried to satisfy his thirst with “things” (Lk. 12:15-21). We become truly wise when we realize that we will never be satisfied until our hearts find rest in God Himself (Ps. 37:4). Wise indeed is the weary traveler who says, “My soul thirsts for You!” For what do you thirst? —JB