He was a 22-year-old college student from Australia who made headlines in 1992 when he survived the Himalayas in Nepal without food for 43 days. His name is James Scott. How did he survive? He survived on melted snowballs and one caterpillar. He wasn’t dressed properly and had to endure the isolation and hunger of being alone in the freezing mountains. He saw numerous attempts by helicopter to find him, but they never came. Only the scavenging birds circled over him as his body began to deteriorate. He lost 1/3 his body weight. Just how did he survive? He was young, fit, and used his training in karate to discipline himself. He was also in his senior year of medical school so he knew about how the body works.
He understood that he would not survive if he started vomiting and had severe cramping. So he would read two pages of a book between each mouthful of a snowball to pace himself so that he would not vomit. He also knew that most body heat was lost through his head so he used spare clothing to cover his head. Nobody predicted him to survive, but after 43 days his sister found him after a long and involved search process.
He wrote about his endurance and sustained hope in the book “Lost in the Himalayas”.
That’s an amazing story of a human being undergoing extreme weather conditions to survive.
Most of us will never relate to what he went through. How many of us have truly been hungry? Thirsty? How many of us have survived in the desserts of the Middle East under the excruciating heat? Our soldiers who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan understand this experience.
King David experienced hunger, thirst, isolation and pain in the wilderness of Judah.
Many years before, David committed adultery with Bathsheeba and murdered Uriah and even though his sins were forgiven, there would be dire consequences. Nathan, the prophet, told David that the “sword” would never depart from his house. In other words, from this point forward, David would have to see anger, jealousy, and violence tear apart his family. And as he is older, his son Absalom instigates an insurrection and tries to overthrow his father from the throne, so David has to flee into the wilderness and hide out so his son doesn’t kill him.
In 2 Samuel 15, we see Absalom’s conspiracy and how David has to flee Jerusalem and hide out in the wilderness.
Most scholars believe that this is the context for Psalm 63.
At a point of extreme pain and isolation in the hot dessert, David pens this Psalm as a lament to God for help. David is on the run. He is alone. He is hiding out. He is fearful for his life. His own evil son is unjustly pursuing him. He is also taken away from Jerusalem where the tabernacle and Ark of the Covenant and worship were vital to David’s spiritual growth. He is alone and he desperately wants to return to Jerusalem so that he can experience the manifest presence of the Lord again.
Read Psalm 63
Here is the overarching theme or big idea from this Psalm: The Lord satisfies those who earnestly seek Him.
From this Psalm, we see FOUR major movements or sections that show this overwhelming desire for God’s presence.
The first issue we see is in verses 1 and it is intense desire for God’s manifest presence.
David begins this Psalm with this intense desire for God’s presence. He earnestly seeks God. This word “earnestly seek” is a good translation of the Hebrew word because in the original language there is intensity to the seeking. It means to diligently or passionately seek God.
We often hear people talking about “seekers” or seeker-sensitive or seeker-driven worship services geared toward making the entire worship experience catered to non-believers who are seeking God.
It’s interesting that when we see people “seeking” God in the Bible, it is almost always used to describe God’s people, not non-believers. As a matter of fact, Romans 3 tells us that no one as a sinner dead in trespasses seeks after God.
The great paradox of being a Christian is that once we are saved, we are not content with just a simple knowledge of God, but we want to seek Him and passionately pursue Christ with all diligence. When the Bible shows this intense seeking and desiring of God it is almost always use of believers.
A. W. Tozer captured this idea of the Christian passionately seeking Jesus when he writes, “To have found God and still to pursue Him is the soul’s paradox of love.”
Do you see the paradox? We’ve found God. We’ve been saved. We are born again, but that’s not enough. We want to pursue and seek after Jesus. It’s the ultimate goal of our lives to pursue Jesus as our all in all.
We seek for God’s presence. Now why do I use the word “manifest presence” of God? Isn’t God everywhere present in what theologians call the omnipresence of God? Yes, that is true. God is infinite and He is always present and you can’t run away from God. What David wants is his “real” or “felt” presence. His manifest presence. To have that experiential knowledge deep in our souls that God is there. That God is near. It is that deep sense of joy and contentment and confidence that the Holy Spirit puts in our hearts to confirm God’s presence and love for us.
We thirst as David says. We faint.
David is using imagery that he was probably very familiar with as he was hiding out in the dessert wilderness. He is literally thirsty and hungry and weak and ready to faint physically, but he uses these physical descriptions to articulate spiritual thirst and hunger for the living God.
He is alone, hot, thirsty, tired, and weak and all he wants is God to show up.
Psalm 73:25–2625 Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. 26 My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
This is spiritual desperation. This is being poor in spirit. This is pouring your heart out to God and wanting nothing but Christ as your portion.
It’s very similar to the cry of Paul.
Philippians 3:8–108 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— 10 that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death,
Is this your passion? To know Jesus more deeply? To count all as rubbish for Him alone? To earnestly seek and hunger and thirst and faint for Jesus?
So the first thing we see is an intense desire for God’s manifest presence..
In the next post we will continue to explore this Psalm….