Updated: Jul 29, 2021
O God, You are my God, earnestly I seek You; my soul thirsts for You, 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.
So reads the first three verses of Psalm 63.
I can't stop thinking about David's declaration: Because Your love is better than life.
As a matter of fact, I've been meditating on this phrase for more than a decade now.
Because Your love is better than life.... This must be hyperbole, right? How can love can be better than life? As stirring as his confession of faith is, David can't literally mean it, can he?
I can't help but wonder what exactly led David to make his declaration: Because Your love is better than life. We have only the slightest of hints. Psalm 63 contains this subscription: A psalm of David. When he was in the Desert of Judah.
The brief context given in the subscription, along with the self-reference to king in the final verse of the psalm, leads scholars to believe that David composed Psalm 63 when he was literally on the run for his life. His own son Absalom had mounted a coup (2 Samuel 15). The consequences of David's adultery with Bathsheba were continuing to haunt him (2 Samuel 12:7-12).
Seemingly on the verge of losing everything, David declared that God's love was better than life.
Like I said, I've been meditating on this passage for more than a decade.
LONG BEFORE DAVID
God's people have long meditated on the love of their Savior. Centuries before David's time, the Israelites fell into gross idolatry by constructing, and then worshipping, the golden calf. Moses, in anger and horror, destroyed the first tablets of the covenant when he saw what God's people had done while he had been on the holy mountain.
Soon after this the Lord ordered Moses to climb Mount Sinai (Horeb) once more. In Exodus 34, we read:
The Lord said to Moses, “Chisel out two stone tablets like the first ones, and I will write on them the words that were on the first tablets, which you broke. Be ready in the morning, and then come up on Mount Sinai. Present yourself to Me there on top of the mountain. No one is to come with you or be seen anywhere on the mountain; not even the flocks and herds may graze in front of the mountain.”
So Moses chiseled out two stone tablets like the first ones and went up Mount Sinai early in the morning, as the Lord had commanded him; and he carried the two stone tablets in his hands. Then the Lord came down in the cloud and stood there with him and proclaimed His name, the Lord. And He passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet He does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation.”
God's people treasured the revelation of their Lord. Centuries later, David recalled it, incorporating God's self-disclosure into Psalm 103:
The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. He will not always accuse, nor will He harbor His anger forever; He does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His love for those who fear Him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us. As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him; for He knows how we are formed, He remembers that we are dust.
It astounds me that David could make his declaration, Because Your love is better than life. I find this truly amazing considering the fact that David did this a thousand years before his greater Son was born in Bethlehem. How could David make his truly remarkable confession of faith? He did so trusting God's Word, which he clung to like a rope when the bottom fell out of his life in the wake of his son Absalom's attempted coup.
Later, when just the right time arrived, Love walked the earth. The apostles never ceased to be amazed at the wonder of it all. In his first epistle, John would later write:
How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And this is what we are!
The apostle Paul marveled as well, writing to the Romans:
You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good one someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Down through the ages, the communion of saints has stood in awe of the love of God.
Two Twentieth Century women thought long and hard about this love.
Dorothy Sayers noted: None of us feels the true love of God till we realize how wicked we are. But you can't teach people that, they have to learn by experience.
Corrie Ten Boom, a Holocaust survivor, wrote after losing most of her family for sheltering Jews in her native Holland: There is no pit so deep that God's love is not deeper still.
WHAT ABOUT YOU?
When is the last time that you stopped to marvel at the grace of God, a love that is better than life?
As I've thought for more than a decade now about David's declaration, I've reached a simple conclusion: Christ could not love us more. He will not love us less.
The love of God that overwhelmed Paul on the road to Damascus was all that he could think about. It affected every aspect of his life, including his prayers. We see this in both his letter to the Philippians as well as to the Ephesians.
For this reason, I kneel before the Father, from whom His family in heaven and earth derives its name. I pray that out of His glorious riches He may strengthen you with power, through His Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled to overflowing with the fullness of God.
So wrote the apostle to the Ephesians. He wrote this prayer for the believers in Philippi:
And this is my prayer, that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.
To that, all I can add is: Amen!
Published by Josh Applegate on Unsplash