The Tenses of Psalm 63
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 your 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 (when I remember you in the future!) 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.
[Psalm 63.1-11 ESV]
Faith and Time
When I was a kid learning to play hockey there were several little sayings that were repeated all the time (like, ‘Keep your stick on the ice!’). Maybe it’s because I was more of a defensive player, but one that particularly sticks out to me is the phrase, ‘Keep your head on a swivel!’
What my coaches meant by that was that I needed to keep looking behind me, in front of me, and all around me, to make sure that I saw where my opponents were. I needed to know who to cover, where to move, what passing lanes to block, and where to anticipate beginning a break out if we recovered the puck.
I had to constantly look around me to get my bearings so that I wasn’t caught out of place at any given moment.
In Psalm 63, David has his head on a swivel. He looks to the past to determine what God has done, he looks forward to remind himself of what God will do — and what David hinself will do (i.e. worship) — and he uses those perspectives to make sure his present actions are grounded in faith. If God has been faithful, and God will judge the wicked, then I can worship him and rejoice in his love here and now.
That’s the kind of faith that I need. When my present circumstances move me to worry, fear, doubt, or discouragement, I need to look back and see his faithfulness. Then I need to project that same power, faithfulness, goodness, and justice into the future and believe what he will do. In light of what’s behind and what’s ahead, my faith can be grounded and sure in the present.
And then I’m free to be satisfied with his love right here and now, in the middle of my circumstantial desert.