Please look with me if you would at this blessed psalm, Psalm 63. I want to read it in its entirety, though we’re just going to focus on the first part of Psalm 63, really just the first three verses.
Psalm 63 A Psalm of David, when he was in the wilderness of Judah. O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water. So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary, beholding your power and glory. Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you. So I will bless you as long as I live; in your name I will lift up my hands. My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food, and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips, when I remember you upon my bed, and meditate on you in the watches of the night; for you have been my help, and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy. My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me. But those who seek to destroy my life shall go down into the depths of the earth; they shall be given over to the power of the sword; they shall be a portion for jackals. But the king shall rejoice in God; all who swear by him shall exult, for the mouths of liars will be stopped.
I think we all know what it’s like to be thirsty. The athletes among us may feel this sensation more frequently than others. Those that work out in the gym may as well, but we all, even the youngest among us, have felt this sensation of thirst. And if you felt it, maybe in the midst of a marathon, what you don’t want is soda. When you’re thirsty, you’re thirsty. You don’t want soda, you want what will refresh and quench your thirst. But have you ever been exceedingly thirsty? I mean, desperate for something to drink? That is the metaphor that David employs in Psalm 63. He expresses a real desperation of thirst. Well, physical thirst, of course, is one thing, but I want to consider the theme of spiritual thirst.
Now, here’s the question. I’ll ask it a few different times in a few different ways. Where are the spiritually thirsty ones in the church today? I want to be careful that I’m not misunderstood this morning and that we instantly begin to think of the church at large, the church out there. And here I am in the pulpit merely bemoaning the state of the church as it is in America or in the earth, the dead orthodoxy or the blasphemous liberalism that is so pervasive today. That’s not my intention at all. I’m speaking to you, my own church, my beloved ones, my family. I’m speaking to Providence Chapel, not the church at large. So I ask, are you, are you thirsty for God?
A.W. Tozer said it this way, “One of the greatest forces of the Christian religion against the Christian religion is complacency. Orthodox Christianity has fallen to its present low estate from lack of spiritual desire. Among the many who profess the Christian faith, scarcely one in a thousand reveals any passionate thirst for God.” Now while Tozer is speaking to Orthodox Christianity at large, and that, many decades ago, it is only increasingly apparent that this complacency he identifies has only increasingly crept into even the healthiest churches today. Even this church. Even my heart and your heart.
Now, I know that there are many spiritually thirsty ones among us. Yet, it’s clear that there is so much ground to be gained even among those that are thirsty. Now I want to clarify just a few things briefly about spiritual thirst this morning, even before we begin to dig into the text. For starters, I understand the Bible to teach that all mankind is actually thirsty. This is what I believe the Bible teaches. Because humanity was created in the Imago Dei, in the image of God, we come out of the womb thirsty, we come out of the womb worshiping, we come out of the womb with a real, legitimate, lasting inward thirst. Before a person is born again, that inward thirst is unformed and sinfully deceived. That thirst is what led Augustine into pursuits of sexual immorality. That thirst is what led George Whitefield into the strictness of self-reformation. That thirst is what led Martin Luther into multi-hour, sometimes six-hour long, confessions of his sin. You see, these men, prior to conversion, are examples to us of how thirst can manifest itself, yes, in the life of an unbeliever. They’re thirsty and it’s very true what Augustine said when he opened the Confessions chapter 1 book 1, you have made us for yourself and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in thee. He spoke from the deep well of personal experience when he wrote what he wrote there. You see, a sinner’s thirsty heart will chase after 10,000 different idols in an effort to find rest. And every time, they’ll come up empty handed. Because that’s what a sinful and unformed thirst does. And we have all, every one of us, lived that kind of broken cistern life.
But once born again, once a child of God, once united to Jesus Christ as His bride, everything changes. The thirst doesn’t evaporate. No, the once unformed thirst is suddenly transformed. The newborn Christian is now no longer satisfied, no longer thirsty for the broken cisterns of this world, but now they are thirsty for God. Hungering and thirsting for righteousness, to use the language of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount. It’s part of the new creation. It’s part of what God works in His children according to their new life in Christ, which comes with a new thirst. So spiritual thirst, then, is an essential characteristic of Christianity. Not optional, not an upgrade. It is an essential part of who the believer is. And this is important. I want you to this way from Martin Lloyd-Jones who so pointedly asks a series of questions. He said, “and he felt like this, “The most vital questions to ask all who claim to be Christian is this. Have they a soul thirst for God? Is their life centered on him? Do they press forward more and more that they may know him?” There are the truly most vital questions. I believe the text before us speaks to this very reality.
So again I ask, dear ones, are you thirsty for God? Do you really want God this morning or are you simply stuck with wanting to want God? Are you really in pursuit of Christ? I believe this is where Psalm 63 can help us. I want to reread the first three verses, “O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water. So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary, beholding your power and glory. Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you. So I will bless you as long as I live; in your name I will lift up my hands.” (Psalm 63:1-3)
I’ve broken the remainder of the sermon into two parts. First, what the thirsty feel. Second, what the thirsty crave. I just want to begin where the text begins. What the thirsty feel. Consider the opening verse of the Psalm. This verse is packed with such emotion and longing. This is no dry-faced David as he’s penning this Psalm, nor is he penning it in the lap of luxury. He’s on the run in the wilderness of Judah, likely in the region of Ziph. He’s on the run for his life. Saul would like to kill him. And yet, in the midst of that perplexity, as David himself is pressed, he pens this Psalm by God’s grace, giving real insight into what true thirst for God looks like.
For starters, the metaphor that David employs is key, and I want you to see this. I believe this is the beginning point. If you’re ever to be thirsty for God, it really needs to start here. The psalm originates in this season where David is on the run in the wilderness. He is endeavoring to avoid capture and being killed. He knew then the physical realities of tremendous thirst, right? He didn’t have any vending machines nearby. He also knew the reality of supreme weariness. There was no nieghboring Holiday Inn and Suites. He knew the reality of exhaustion and the heat pressing upon him night and day as he’s traveling through this arid wilderness. So what does the metaphor communicate? What is he trying to say? He is verbalizing how deeply he feels, how deeply the Christian feels, how deeply you and I feel the harsh reality of this present world. He’s making this association between physical thirst and spiritual thirst. He’s including in that the daily threats and challenges, the significant responsibilities, the constant pressures that are upon him and us. And he describes it as something like a desert wilderness where there is no water. And this is our lives here and now. We, too, are wandering through this arid wilderness. No, we’re not running from a evil king intent on killing us, but rather the wilderness of this life, my life, your life. It’s very real today.
I could illustrate that briefly by just thinking of recent events among us. Many of them mentioned in our church’s weekly prayer email. And just this week, I want you to take this in. Tomi’s dad is told he has a few weeks to live. Darius’s dear friend Marcus with brain cancer is declining. A little girl is diagnosed with cancer. There are children among us, young and grown, that are dead in their sins. They need salvation. Jay falls last night and is hospitalized. And then there’s the persecuted church in the earth. One week, a brief snapshot. You see we’re in a dry and weary land. And I think it’s crucial that you see the inability of the world along with the things of the world to ever satisfy you. This is where we need to begin. The world and the things of the world can never satisfy you. It’s a dry and weary land. That’s all it has to offer, a place where there is no water. Not some water somewhere — no water. If we still hold on to hope that there’s something out there besides God, anything in the earth besides God that can actually satisfy us, then we will never be thirsty for God Himself.
So, the first thing that the Christian feels is a proper dissatisfaction with the world. A realization that the world and all the things of the world can never quench your thirst. This is the helpfulness of the dry and weary seasons that you and I encounter. The difficult days, the challenging weeks and months. They teach you and me to want most and to seek most what we need most. And that is God himself.
But David says even more than that in this opening verse, doesn’t he? He expresses how deeply personal God is to him. Oh God, you are my God. Much like Paul in our New Testament, as I cited last Sunday, Galatians 2.20, speaking of “….Christ who loved me and gave himself for me.” So deeply personal is the Christian’s relationship with God. To be truly thirsty for God then you must know the living God and you must know that God knows and loves you. There must be real relationship with God or you will never seek the living God. How many deists do you know are hungry for God? There aren’t any. If God isn’t personally known to you today, you can’t be thirsty for Him. You’ll never be thirsty for the God you don’t know.
But David goes on to say something else, “earnestly I seek you.” This is the activity of thirsty ones. It’s where the rubber meets the road, isn’t it? A real thirst for the living God actually mobilizes us to pursue Him. And that makes sense, right? That which we truly love will be that which we truly labor for. That is just how it works. It would be very hard to argue that you’re thirsty for God when you’re not in pursuit of God because that’s not what thirst produces in a life. That just doesn’t add up. You can’t tell me that you love Christ and not be pursuing Christ. That makes no sense. What kind of love is that? But sincere seeking, earnest pursuit with an intensity about it, that is what the thirsty give themselves to. And you need to see this, it’s this kind of intensity, it’s this kind of desire that cuts through ten thousand distractions and focuses us like nothing else can. So when you awake in the morning, the first cry of your heart is for the Lord. “Oh, Father, weak as I am this morning, frail as I am, creature of dust as I am, stir up my affections for you. I’m thirsty, but I’m not that thirsty. Increase my thirst for you. Breathe upon me this morning. New strength, fresh hope, renewed faith, come, Lord.” And then throughout the day, it is regular intervals of prayer and longing and thoughts hastening back to the Lord. The pulse of your thirst and desire races in the moments when you sense God’s activity in and around you. And so you press on. You’re in pursuit. You’re chasing after the one whom your soul loves. We all need daily infusions. of this kind of earnestness, beloved.
But David’s not done yet. He says something else critical. With metaphor in hand, he pictures for us the desperation of it all. He describes it again with the physical imagery of wandering in the desert, thirsty for even a drop of water, but there is no water to be found anywhere. Desperation. Total desperation, single minded, one track kind of desperation. I must have water or I die. It is a kind of life or death desperation. I want you to think back, dear believer, to a time when you were earnestly seeking Him. Desperate for Him. And He visited you in mercy. Do you remember the depth of longing? The deep desires of your heart? And then the sweetness of His coming? I submit there is nothing else that compares to communion with God in this life. There’s nothing like the peace and comfort and exhilarating joy of the presence of God. And we must recognize that God is most glorified when people know they will die unless they have Him. This is what the thirsty feel.
Now, what the thirsty crave. Look with me briefly at verse 2 and 3. “So I have looked upon you.” In light of this, David is saying, some translations render “so” as “thus” or “in light of this”. In light of this desperation, “I have looked upon you in the sanctuary, beholding your power and glory. Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you.” In short, dear ones, the thirsty crave God. They crave his love. Verse three, “your steadfast love”, It’s better than anything. It’s better than life. They crave his worship to be in the sanctuary. They crave his people. They crave his presence. They crave his nearness. Give me God is the cry of the thirsty heart!
As a dear pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you. (Psalm 42:1)
How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord of hosts. My soul longs, yes, faints for the courts of the Lord. My heart and flesh cry out for the living God.(Psalm 84)
One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after. that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in his temple. (Psalm 27)
That I may know him. And the power of his resurrection and may share in his sufferings… (Philippians 3)
There is simply no substitute for God Himself. Nothing else satisfies. Nothing else can ever quench your thirst. I love the language of the early American Puritan Thomas Shepard who wrote, “There is in true grace an infinite circle. A man by thirsting receives and receiving thirsts for more.” Because the believer thirsts for God, they seek Him. And they seek Him, according to verse 2, where He is preeminently to be found. This is what David is communicating when he says what he says in light of verse 1.
Dear ones, we must go in our thirst where God has promised to be, where He has promised to meet with us. This is the nuts and bolts of how we seek after God. And we seek Him with the promise that we will find Him. God is a rewarder of those that diligently seek Him. Or according to the prophet Jeremiah, “You will seek me and find me when you seek for me with all your heart. I will be found by you.” (Jeremiah 29:13)
So where can we find God? Well, David, as an Old Testament Jew, highlights the preeminent place in the mind of an Israelite, the sanctuary. The place of God’s worship in Old Testament Israel. Yet, today we have been gloriously liberated from a specific geographic location and we can meet with God in the closet, at the breakfast table, in the car, on the drive to work. It’s true. Thank of John 4 and Jesus’s conversation with the woman at the well. Not this mountain, not that mountain. And yet, there is something truly significant and special about the sanctuary, or what I’m saying is the New Testament modern equivalent of the public worship of God. You remember in Psalm 73, it wasn’t until Asaph, the psalm writer, went into the sanctuary of God, that he saw his error and was brought out of his frustrations into repentance and refreshment. It wasn’t until he went into the sanctuary of God.
It was the sinful tax collector in the 18th chapter of Luke’s gospel that so met with God in the sanctuary that he went home a justified man. I often think that American Christians who have so long swam in the waters of good ole American independence, somehow lose an accurate and biblical picture of the priority and the preciousness of public worship on the Lord’s Day. It’s here that the Lord has promised to meet with us in song. He hears us in our corporate and pastoral prayer time. He speaks to his people through the proclamation of the Word. He draws near to us in the ordinances. Every Sunday that you gather here ought to be a morning of awe and wonder. A morning when you’ve come in and you’ve already sought the Lord and you’ve prepared your own heart for worship. A morning when you’ve interceded for the brothers and sisters in Christ that you will stand with side by side singing the songs of God because you long for them to meet with God and to receive needed mercies for the day. A morning when you’ve cried out to God for the preacher that He would preach with unction and power exactly what you need to hear. This is the way to approach this great gathering.
When was the last time you walked into this place flat-out thirsty for God, filled with expectations and longings and desires, eager to receive God’s multiplied bounties? When was the last time? This is what each Sunday should be to you and me. Bounty upon bounty. The joy of the Lord is our strength. Celebratory in a sense. Not that we come and merely go through the motions. Not that we come to hear a fine sermon. Not even that we come to see friends and catch up in Christian conversation. But that we come thirsty. Not knowing what God might do, expecting the supernatural, pleading for his magnificent presence, hoping that he might come powerfully and revive his weary church.
Wake up next Sunday morning and take your Lord’s Day preparations seriously. Pray that God would so manifest himself to us next Sunday that the unexpected happens. Don’t you want to come to church just wondering what God might do instead of expecting the same old quality stuff? We should always be thankful for the regular weekly Lord’s Day gathering but never content with the status quo. Thirst then, brothers and sisters, for more of God’s presence, for more of his power among us, for more of his saving work among us, for more of his reviving work among us, for more of his sanctifying work among us.
I so I so love and respect my wife’s grandfather, who has now been with the Lord six and a half years. If I’m honest, I’m sometimes envious of the fact that he’s beholding the face of Christ right now. As a preacher and evangelist for 61 years of his life, he longed, I think, for the vast majority of those years for genuine revival to come. He knew God. He was thirsty. And he had tasted firsthand of God’s reviving work. Many are the stories that he could tell, but several I remember especially well. He had been in East Texas in a church meeting. where God had so powerfully visited the place that he couldn’t even preach. He came to the pulpit and essentially felt like the Lord wouldn’t let him preach. And in those meetings, the church pianist publicly confessed to having an affair with the music leader. And he had real hope that the two of them were truly converted in the midst of those meetings. Many in the church confessed sin publicly and turned to the Lord in repentance. He would share about when he and the pastor of that church were together before the prolonged series of meetings began. How they both had such a hunger in their heart. Even as they prayed together that afternoon, how it physically hurt. And when they pulled up into the parking lot that evening it was already full, overflowing full. And the Lord just began to work. At other times in his preaching ministry, he saw those active in ministry converted. Later in his ministry, he was preaching one morning when a very rough Vietnam veteran, a friend of our family to this day, ran down the center aisle crying out, “I don’t want to go to hell.” That man was powerfully saved that morning.
Do you long for something like that to happen today? Do you pray for something like that to happen today? Do we even want someone to stand up in the middle of the sermon this morning and shout out, “What must I do to be saved?” Just imagine what Sunday mornings could be like when it’s not just the normal routine, when the corporate testimony time turns into something greater than those testifying. When hearts are aflame and people share spontaneously and joyfully. When instead of a couple of testimonies here and there, a couple of kind words about the church; it’s exhortation, it’s the Lord met with me in the scripture, let me show you this. It’s the God of heaven answered my prayer this week. And one after another, it compounds, it builds.
Or what about after the meeting. What is instead of the benediction, no one felt like ending the meeting. Instead, prolonged periods of prayer where you just don’t feel like you could get up yet and go on with your life, that some things need to be dealt with. Some things needs to be confessed. A right needs to be made wrong with a brother. Nothing prescribed but a worshipping people free in Christ to worship as he ought to be worshiped. Holy longings, expectation, deep desires. You see the truly thirsty crave God at all cost. They’re satisfied with nothing less than His presence.
Dear ones, please, I say this on behalf of all your pastors, please don’t become content with a mere theological conviction that it is good to thirst for God. Nor be content with merely wanting to want God. Nor grow content with merely having a reputation as one that is thirsty for God. But rather, don’t be content until you actually break through and taste and see that the Lord is good. That God is even better than this life.
I am concerned for the Reformed community today. More and more I see leaders within the movement promoting theological precision. I love theological precision. But neglecting experiential themes like revival, prayer, intimacy with Christ, thirsting after God is Biblically responsible. Your elders do not want this church to become so theologically rigorous that we lose the rigorous elements of experiential Christianity. We love doctrine. We don’t admire sloppy theology. We want to grow and mature and raise up Christians here that are thirsty for the living God. Men and women and children who have a big view of God and an insatiable appetite for Christ.
Indeed, we prize personal holiness over academics. We prioritize a life of prayer over the ability to engage in public discourse. We prioritize seeking the face of Christ over everything else in the world. That’s the kind of church we feel the New Testament calls us to be. To be the most academic or intellectual Reformed church in town is not our aim. God willing, may it never be our aim. But to cultivate a thirst for God that leads to true tasting and seeing, this is the need of the day. This is the Christianity Denton County needs today.
If a greater thirst for God is what you’re looking for, then I trust you’ve landed in a good place. To be among a people thirsty for God will only encourage your own thirst for God. And if more of a thirst for God is what you long for, dear ones, such longing is never in vain. God comes to thirsty ones. He comes! And I believe you can have as much of this great God as you want. He simply is not stingy with his presence. So don’t be discouraged to the point of inactivity this morning. It would be easy for any of us to be discouraged merely at the question of are you thirsty for God? My intent is not to discourage you, especially to the point of inactivity. Rather, I want you to be convicted to the point of repentance, to the point of turning.
I love what John Piper once wrote. He said, “If you don’t feel strong desires for the manifestations of the glory of God, it is not because you have drunk deeply and are satisfied. It is because you have nibbled so long at the table of the world. Your soul is stuffed with small things and there’s no room for great things. God did not create you for this. There is an appetite for God and it can be awakened.” I like that.
Or as C.S. Lewis said, “We are half-hearted creatures fooling around with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered to us. Like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at sea, we are far too easily pleased.”
I’m urging you, be content with nothing less than God himself. And let this morning’s sermon just be a wake-up call for you, dear brother and dear sister. If you failed in thirsting after the living God for a day, an hour, a week, a month, or years on end, if you failed to cultivate this thirst in your life, just repent. He will embrace you in His arms. There is grace for you. There’s a merciful Savior eager to receive you. You don’t have to delay. You don’t have to beat yourself up. You don’t have to pursue the path of self-reformation. You just turn to Christ, the one who offers free and full forgiveness, the one who has promised to sanctify you! If you’re lacking in thirst for God, ask Him to make you more thirsty. It’s not rocket science. Are your priorities so out of whack, so misdirected that you feel like you don’t even have time to be thirsty for God? Plead for grace. Let God mercifully wash and renew you. Plead for new desires and clear thinking and power to correct what you have so messed up. The Lord will do that. He does it all the time for his kids. Christ loves to come to the aid of returning ones.
God has longings for you. Will you long for him? I believe it’s time to shake off the stupor of your complacency. It’s time to let go of any worldly delights that distract you from the supreme delight. It’s time to press in closer and closer to the Lord, thirsting for Him. I want this for me, and I want this for you. So can we, brother, sister, member of Providence Chapel, my dear church family, can we hand in hand thirst for God and expect with eagerness these manifestations and movements of God among us and pray and pray and pray until the blessings come. Won’t you come with me as we thirst for God together? Can David’s testimony and desire be your testimony and desire? Even when he said, I was glad when they said to me, let’s go to the house of the Lord. The greatest way you can benefit a fellow believer is to inspire them into a deeper thirst for God. Oftentimes the greatest ministry you can have to your church family here at Providence Chapel is an abiding commitment to pray them into an increased thirst for God. I’m not sure if you’ve ever thought about it this way, but it’s true.
Thankfully, we are called to be thirsty only for God who satisfies. God doesn’t send us to broken cisterns, which can never quench a man’s thirst. He sends us to himself, the fountain of living water, the only one who can satisfy the thirsty soul. So, be thirsty and drink deeply. There’s more than enough of God for you and me. And there’s no life more exhilarating, more thrilling, more fulfilling, more joyful than a life of intimacy with God. Be thirsty for Him!