There are some Psalms that I read and think to myself, “what the heck are we even talking about?” Psalm 63 is one of those psalms.
The Psalm is attributed to David, who composed the sonnet in the wilderness. A place where there is “no water” and where everything is bone-dry. Despite all of this, the writer of the psalm seems only to need God—he yearns for God above all else.
I’ve personally never felt this way. I’ve fasted; I’ve meditated; I’ve remained chaste—but during all of that never have my desire for a disembodied God outweighed my desire for basic human needs. So, when I read these sorts of psalms I initially feel… guilty, I suppose. I think, “why can’t I want God the way this person wants God,” and then I try to make myself a certain way to emulate the psalmist. At least that’s what I used to do.
Now I’m a little older, and a little wiser, I know who I am a bit better, and I know the way I experience the divine. I experience God in companionship. I feel God in intimate moments with my partner. I had a cheese just the other week that I swear had to have fallen from heaven. These are the ways I feel God and experience God.
Some may say that these are reveries, guilty pleasures, and distractions from God. However, I encourage my audience to read on to the end of this Psalm. While the lectionary suggests we conveniently not engage the last part of the chapter, I think that what happens in verses 9-11 is most important.
In them, we see the reason why the psalmist is praising God in such an extravagant, nonsensical manner. After all of smoke blowing, the psalmist casually slips in a request that God destroy his enemies. He wants them to be slain by the sword and fed to jackals, while he, the king, sits on his throne and laughs maniacally (v.9-10). In short, this psalm doesn’t make much sense, because it’s less of a praise and more of a means to coerce God into destroying the king’s opposition. It feels artificial because it is.
From this I render the following meaning: God works how God works, and always does so by material means. The king looks hawkish and idiotic here because he doesn’t get that. God acts, and we must look for God acting. God does not and will not “destroy my enemies” at my beck and whim. Such a prayer is nonsense.
In conclusion, if you so choose to read this text this Sunday, engage all of it. I think that without verses 9-11, the psalm doesn’t make any sense; yet, when included it can spur a conversation of value and reflection.