The Book of Psalms

Thursday: A Love Better Than Life


Theme: Two Results of Being Satisfied in God
In this week’s lessons we learn from the psalmist what it is to truly desire God.
Scripture: Psalm 63:1-11
Let me suggest another way of looking at this section of the psalm. We can see it as statements, first, of David’s satisfaction in God and then of two results flowing from it.
David is satisfied with, in and by God. This is the main point of what he is saying certainly, and it flows from his opening expression of deep longing. David longs for God, and therefore David is satisfied with God. God does not hold himself back from those who seek him. Rather he gives himself to them fully and in increasingly fuller ways. That is why David can speak of past, present and future satisfaction.
It is also why he speaks of God’s love being “better than life” (v. 3). This verse contains two things, each of which is acknowledged as good, and it compares them, concluding that the loving-kindness of God is best. Everyone acknowledges that life is good. Therefore, most of us try to hang on to life at whatever cost. We will give up our money rather than be shot by a thief who wants our wallet. We will submit to painful surgical procedures or even to amputations of a limb if those things will restore us to even partial health and prolong our days. Satan used this truth to slander righteous Job, declaring, “Skin for skin. A man will give all he has for his own life” (Job 2:4). For nearly everyone, life is the most precious of all possessions.
However, says David, there is something even better than life, and that is the love of God. The word he uses is hesed, which is often translated “loving-kindness” or “covenant-love.” It stresses the faithful continuance of God’s love. God’s love is steady or unchangeable, which is why it is better than even the best thing in life, which is life itself. Life itself can be lost, even though we value it and try to protect it at all costs. However, the covenant love of God can never be lost. The Apostle Paul wrote, “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 8:38, 39).
In view of such great love, isn’t it strange that we spend so much time trying to find satisfaction elsewhere, even in earthly loves, and so little time seeking and enjoying the lasting love of God?
When I remember that David wrote earlier in the psalm about seeking God as a thirsty man seeks water, I think of a fountain on Sedgley Hill in Philadelphia, where I live. If a person makes his way out along the eastern side of the Schuylkill River, he will come to the statue of a pilgrim where a small spring empties into the river. Then, if he follows the course of that stream upward onto the hill, he will come to a spring, which is its source, and he will see an inscription erected there years ago by the government of the city. It reads: “Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again,” a quotation from Jesus’ conversation with the woman of Samaria (John 4:13).
That quotation tells us that all earthly satisfactions ultimately are unsatisfying, just because they are earthly. That is, they are not eternal and we are beings made for eternity. However, we may remember that in the original quotation (which is not included in the inscription at the source of Sedgley spring) Jesus went on to say, “But whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4:14). David had drunk of the spring of the covenant love of God, and he was forever satisfied.
As a first result of being satisfied by the eternal loving-kindness of God, David praises God. David was so abundantly satisfied with the love of God that he wanted everyone else to know about God’s love too.
In the days of Elisha the armies of Ben-Hadad, the king of Aram, were besieging Samaria, and God scattered them by causing them to hear the sound of chariots, horses and a great army so that they panicked and fled, leaving their tents and provisions behind and their arms and other valuables strewn over the route they fled by. There were about forty lepers at the entrance of Samaria’s city gate. They decided to go to the camp of the enemy soldiers to get some food from them, because the lepers, like the shut-up citizens of Samaria, were starving. When they arrived in the camp they discovered that it was deserted. So they had a great time. They ate and drank and took the silver and gold and costly clothing and carried it off and hid it. Then they came back and took more.
At last they came to their senses and said, “We’re not doing right. This is a day of good news and we are keeping it to ourselves. If we wait until daylight [that is, until tomorrow], punishment will overtake us. Let’s go at once and report this to the royal palace” (2 Kings 7:9). They did, and by nightfall sacks of flour and barley, that had been nearly non-existent just a day before, were being sold for pennies in the market.
The point is that it is both natural and right to share good news. King David knew this, and his song of unmixed praise of the God who satisfies our deepest longings is the result. Verse 3 says, “Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you,” and verse 7 makes the same connection: “Because you are my help, I sing in the shadow of your wings.” John Donne wrote of verse 7 that “as the spirit and soul of the whole book of Psalms is contracted into this psalm, so is the spirit and soul of the whole psalm contracted into this verse.”1 He meant that the Psalter shows how the person who has found satisfaction in God sings about it.
As a second result of being satisfied by the great loving-kindness of God, David wants to stay close to God. This too is a natural consequence of being deeply satisfied. Verse 8 says, “I stay close to you.” Stay close is actually “cleave to you,” a term that is used of the attachment between a husband and wife or of other tight relationships, such as Ruth’s attachment to her mother-in-law Naomi (Ruth 1:14). If you have been satisfied by God, isn’t it true that you will want to stay close to him too? If you are not cleaving to him, perhaps it is because you have never sought him enough to be truly and deeply satisfied.
1John Donne, Sermon 66, quoted by J.J. Stewart Perowne, Commentary on the Psalms, 2 vols. in 1 (Grand Rapids: Kregel, 1989), vol. 1, p. 489.
Study Questions:

What does God do for those who seek him?
What does Romans 8:38, 39 teach us about God’s love?
Why aren’t the things of this world ultimately satisfying?
What is the result of David’s satisfaction with God?

Reflection: Examine your own attitudes about the value of life versus the love of God.

Study Questions
Tagged under
More Resources from James Montgomery Boice

Subscribe to the Think & Act Biblically Devotional

Alliance of Confessional Evangelicals

About the Alliance

The Alliance is a coalition of believers who hold to the historic creeds and confessions of the Reformed faith and proclaim biblical doctrine in order to foster a Reformed awakening in today’s Church.

Follow Us

Canadian Donors

Canadian Committee of The Bible Study Hour
PO Box 24087, RPO Josephine
North Bay, ON, P1B 0C7