Faking Gratitude Psalm 63 November 30, 2008 [11/8/92]
Did you go around the table and have everyone mention one thing they’re grateful for? Some families do that – and people say thanks for pets, parents, children, jobs and health. We give genuine thanks for the good things we’ve actually experienced.
It’s hard to give thanks for things we don’t like – my little brother who didn’t like potatoes, asked to pray for the food, would say, “And please take the potatoes away.”[Prayer was answered – my mother always took them away.]
And we give thanks for things we have experienced – otherwise it’s feels fakey like a beauty pageant where the contestant says what she’s supposed to: “All I want is world peace.” But love songs overflow with genuine thanks, they grope and reach for words: “ she's so high above me, she's so lovely... Like Cleopatra, Joan of Arc, or Aphrodite. She's so high... High above me.” Part of us says, “O come on now,” but after experiencing loving and wanting someone like this, we say, “I know what he’s trying to say.”
Is thanking God in the same category? Thanking the Lord God often becomes something we’re supposed to do, rather than the overflow of a heart that has experienced the beauty, power and glory of God. This Psalm shows us that it is possible to experience and enjoy the glory of God.
I. This Psalm is reaching for words to describe what is in his heart.
A. Verse 1 – He is heartbroken when he is away from the one he calls “My God.”
1. He hunts for God. This is not an abstract idea of God – the “prime mover” or “man up there,” This is someone he longs for.
2. As in a dry and weary land: “Like it’s 100 degrees, high humidity and I’m longing for shade and cool water.” He is restless and worried and hungry without God.
B. Verse 2 – And memories make things worse.
1. I wish I had never had a “buttery yum-yum”: baked by the Flushing Bakery, and sold out by 6:30 a.m. And now the bakery is out of business, and the recipe lost for all eternity! If I had never tasted it I wouldn’t dream of it now.
2. But David’s appetites are so much higher and nobler than mine: he thinks back to worship and music and scripture that he heard in the temple, the memories of sweet times with God it makes it even worse: “I wouldn’t know what I was missing if I hadn’t tasted your power and glory!”
C. Verse 3, 4 –Nothing compares to God Himself. He’s experienced the power of being a king, victories in war, had wives and children. But, “Experiencing your love and mercy is sweeter than all that!”
D. Verse 5 – And the thought of being with God looks better than a table full of food to a starving man.
E. Verse 6 – And he dreams about God.
1. It’s thanksgiving night and there is a satisfied grumbling in your belly – your favorite pies, the kind of stuffing you like – not the one your Aunt makes that has weird spices and you have to eat out of politeness, but the good stuff. You’re smiling – that was good!
2. So, he thinks about the glory of God displayed in the heavens, and the last residue of conscious thought is the way God has loved him.
F. Verse 7, 8 – And he hangs on to God with all his might.
1. Not because he’s afraid he’ll fall away or that God will let go – no, God has him in His grip (8b)!
2. But he clings because he wants to be as close as possible. It’s the same word used in Gen. 2:24 of a husband and wife clinging to each other. It is not because the husband is afraid of the wife leaving, but because he wants her as close as possible.
G. Verse 9 -11 – This is praise in a dark and lonely time.
1. Probably (II Sam. 15:23, see the title) when David’s son Absalom had led a rebellion against the rule of his father, and David escaped to the wilderness – away from his throne, the temple and the city of Jerusalem, in a dry and lonely place sleeping on rocks and in caves.
2. But God has not forgotten him – this is his comfort: the one who loves him is in charge!
II. This is not the picture of a man mindlessly reciting a creed or singing a hymn, but one who has experienced something wonderful.
A. To some these verses may almost sound too intense.
1. His flesh is aching, he is hungering and thirsting. “I don’t want to be like this! I want to be calm and in control.”This is over the top!
2. A woman prayed for years for her husband to come to faith in Christ. He was crude and cold hearted but he came to faith in Christ and the Lord did something big. This guy wanted to learn everything he could about this new life, and he consumed the bible. She came to me, “Well, it’s nice but I didn’t want him to go overboard like this!” She just wanted a little dose – just enough to tame him.
B. Yet, Jesus commanded us too, “Love the Lord your God with all your mind, strength and soul!” (Ps. 27, Phi. 3:6) Don’t you see that in this Psalm?
1. The problem is not losing our head, but losing our head over the wrong things.
2. This passion properly belongs only to God. “You are my God” – not sex, not alcohol, not pot, not work. They have no rights over me, they must not control me because they are not God, but YOU are my God!
3. So Eph. 5:18 says, “Don’t be drunk with wine… but be filled with the Spirit…” We were not made by wine for wine, but we were created by God for God – verse 1 is the picture of a healthy soul.
C. Here’s a heart prepared to give genuine thanks.
1. We’ve all been deeply grateful for water on a hot day, for good food when we’re hungry; even for family and friends. On Thanksgiving the bulk of our thanks goes to those things because we’ve experienced satisfaction there.
2. Praise and thanksgiving for God comes from a satisfying experience of His lovingkindness – as in this Psalm.
III.All right then, How can I experience God like this?
A. Verse 2 – In the Sanctuary.
1. God wrote it in His appointment – one day in seven to meet with you. So pray, “This is my time with my God. Wonder what He has for me today.”
2. Don’t sit back like a critic, because really you’re on the stage: The action is not on the platform, but the stage where God is working is your heart and your life. You’re not watching, you’re part of it!
3. Let the “power and glory” (2) of God enter your heart. Sometimes it’s scary because God’s power and glory is louder and brighter than lightening (Job 38), and shakes mountains; His glory is like a blanket that covers the seas (Isaiah), and men and angels fall faint when they glimpse it. But God’s people – like the Psalmist – yearn for it.
B. Verse 3 – 5 – In tasting God’s love and mercy.
1. “Lovingkindness” speaks of God’s love, mercy and grace rolled into one word.
2. But when we experience God’s love and grace, it makes us hungry for more. Some say, “Don’t talk about grace because people not care how they live.” But “it’s better than life!” Someone who is offered steak and chocolate is not going to be tempted to eat dirt! Experiencing the lovingkindness of God draws us closer to our holy God.
3. So David (vs. 8) says my soul clings to You – he does not want to get away from this!
C. In the wilderness – see the title: in trouble and affliction and deprivation (9).
1. We can experience the satisfied gratitude of verses 3-5 when we are laughed at, afflicted, in pain and lonely.
2. David had the heartbreak of a son who had become an enemy. And, perhaps worse, the sorrow that he didn’t come to his aid when he could have, and didn’t show mercy when he should have. How helpless you feel when you can’t go back and undo what you have done wrong. But that’s where he wrote this beautiful Psalm! The Spirit of God was on him, he knew the hand of God holding Him up! (8)
3. When you’re so lonely that you feel like no one on the whole earth is even thinking of you is when you can experience God’s love. When you’re defeated, sure that your life is not going to amount to anything is when the Spirit of God whispers to you that you’re His son or His daughter. When your body is racked with pain, when your heart is failing because you’ve heard terrible news about someone you love, when you don’t know how you’re going to pay the bills – that’s when you’ll experience the deliverance of God.
IV. It’s good to talk about our Lord, read about God, think about God – but God is not just an idea, He is more real than the world He created. This Psalm is a promise that we can drink in the glory and power of God, to taste His grace and mercy so that we can say with all your heart, “Your lovingkindness is sweeter than life.”