September 2, 2009
Another DAWG Day and how wonderful it has been! I returned to South Fork Campground, set up my tent trailer and am enjoying a cool retreat at about 6000 ft elevation, away from the intense heat in the valley below. Now there are thunderclouds shading the earth and a gentle breeze of cool air with a slight scent of rain. I feel like I’m miles away enjoying the mountains that I love so much. I did pray a minute ago for protection from fires after hearing a clap of thunder (oops, there’s another). Lightning of course starts fires – rare here in SoCal, but I still feel the danger, especially after this week of some major fires that are still being fought as I type.
After setting up this morning, I spent some time in the hammock reading the Scriptures and praying – part of the slowing down process. I desire to hear from God on a number of things, but more than that, just want to hear from him through his Word and through his Spirit alive within me. Afterwards, I set out for a hike with my ipod – my helper in memorizing Psalm 63. SonLight led us in a “Peace Meditation” on Sunday and when this Psalm was spoken, my heart felt that yearning that it speaks of. And so I set out to memorize it, ending up sitting on a small bridge across a bubbling creek, finally able to do it. I will write it out here:
O God, you are my God. Earnestly I seek you. My soul thirsts for you
and my body longs for you in a dry and weary 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. My soul will be satisfied as with the richest of foods and 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. My soul clings to you and your
right hand upholds me. They who seek my life will be destroyed. They
will go down to the depths of the earth. They will be given over to
the sword and will become food for the jackals. But the king will
rejoice in God. All who swear by God’s name will praise him, while the
mouths of liars will be silenced. (Psalm 63, NIV)
Okay, I did have to fix a few parts, but got the gist of it. I love this Psalm because it captures desire! The spiritual life is nurtured through desire – beginning with the Father’s desire to know us fueling our desire in response to know him. Oh that I might desire the right things – the best things and forsake what is not! This psalm also demonstrates a trusting relationship in the Lord. David joyfully remembers past experiences, and expresses hope of future victory with God in the center of it all. David is hiding in a cave in the desert from his enemies and we get to see how he worships in this needy and vulnerable moment.
First, David has a relationship with the Father – God is “my God.” This is deeply personal! God is not just some powerful deity to be afraid of, but a loving God who delights in being called “my God.” David seeks God, earnestly. He doesn’t complain. He doesn’t try to fix the situation. He doesn’t blame God for his undesirable circumstances. He seeks God and the language he uses is desperate language – a longing thirst in a barren desert where there is no water. And then he remembers.
“I have seen you in the sanctuary.” In the midst of this lonely desperate moment he remembers a worship service. He saw God in the sanctuary and beheld his power and his glory! The sanctuary was a place of corporate worship and so this is most likely an experience he shared with others. Wow, do the worshipers I lead from week to week see God through the course of our worship service? Do we behold his power and his glory together? Is it so significant, that the experience will carry us through the lonely moments? Yes, I have seen God and experienced him in a deep way in our sanctuary. I confess, not as often as I would like, but certainly there have been moments where all present are beholding his power and his glory. We who lead worship and preach the Word of God must prepare with the intent to help our congregation “behold his power and his glory” right then and there! The Word of God and the Holy Spirit are the only means by which this will happen.
David also experienced the love of God – the “hessed”, that is the loyal love of the Father. In fact, this love, he declares, is better than life itself. Christians have always been enamored with the love of God from the beginning of time until now. And so we should be! “Love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all.” (from When I Survey the Wondrous Cross by Isaac Watts) I heard this amazing new song called, “How He Loves Us,” about God’s love by Eddie Kirkland. Crowder decided to release it as his first single from his about-to-be-released Church Music EP. I’ve attached the first recording I ever heard by Kim Walker and it is powerful. One point of contention I have with this worship moment is that it is not grounded in the Word of God and in the person of Christ. While it is true that God loves us, his greatest demonstration, well, the Scriptures say it best:
“…but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8 ESVS)
Fellow worship leaders, our emotional experience of God must be rooted in and spring forth from the unchanging truth of the Word of God as it reveals to us our Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ. Anything less than this is like the foolish man building his house upon the sand, in grave danger of being here today and gone tomorrow. That said, this is a great song, and this recording is powerful.
“My soul will be satisfied as with the richest of foods…” Jumping back into Psalm 63, David pauses here to declare his intent to always praise God and then notes the satisfaction that it brings. My formation in the early years of my worship leading came in part from reading John Piper’s Desiring God. I felt the pleasure that came from praising the Lord, but felt that I should restrain it, as if unbridled joy in the sanctuary is wrong. Piper’s book convinced me that it was my flesh that would say, “restrain” and it was the Spirit that says, “You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.” (Psalms 16:11 NIV) Piper says, “God is most gloried in us when we are most satisfied in him,” and this becomes his manifesto as a Christian hedonist. This freed me to pursue that pleasure all the more through the times I corporately worship the Lord. Thank you John Piper for helping me think rightly about this!
Interesting to note that his mind for the first part of Psalm 63 has been filled with the greatness and loyal love of God and he has assumed the posture of praise as a result. As Mark Brown stated this week in his sermon on the peace of God (worth checking out The Promise of God’s Peace), “Either your problems are this big [holds out his hands to indicate “huge”] and your God is this big [small], or your God is this big [huge] and your problems are this big [small].” David had a big God, but he was realistic in his expression of worship and so came back to his problems.
“On my bed I remember you, I think about you in the night watches.” Interesting to note that David was not sleeping very well if he was remembering and thinking. Neither would I if I was hiding in a cave from my enemies who wanted to kill me! Yet in his wakeful hours in the night he keeps declaring over and over again, “Because you are my help I sing in the shadow of your wings. My soul clings to you and your right hand upholds me.” Do you turn your wakeful hours into a moment of worship? Once again, David feels his neediness and clings to his Father, his Savior who is holding him up. We don’t experience the “holding up” of our Fathers arms until our soul learns to “cling to” him.
And then David closes with the reality of his situation – enemies that are seeking his life. Yet he has hope that he’s on the right side, trusting in the Lord to help, to deliver him once again from the hand of his enemies. Not only that, but to destroy them so that they are no longer a threat. And he ends with the confidence that he is a worshiper of God, using his voice to proclaim truth while the others are liars and will be forever silenced. Okay, I’m glad I’m on the “worshiper of God” side with David.
So David models how to worship God in the dark night of the soul – in the most desperate of times. We too should follow suite and in these times turn our attention to our God, earnestly seeking him, declaring our praise as we reflect on our past experience with him, trusting him completely in the moment, being completely honest, but never forsaking the privilege of using our mouths to bring him praise in all circumstances.