Reading our Bibles should be a lot more like nosing around a sunlit garden than being shut-up in a room with a book. Of course, that’s exactly what we are––shut-up with a book––but we really shouldn’t think of it like that.
Imagine you’ve gone out the back door in the morning and the sun is just getting up. It’s stretched out its rays, though, and is warming the garden flowers and leaves and birds. The smells of darkness are lingering around the hedges and behind tree trunks but they too will soon be changed. And as the golden light slips ever so gracefully through the oak leaves it touches your face. It lights your eyes too and warms your skin. It rises higher and higher til the shadows truly begin to shrink with fear and tremble as it blasts into the sky with ever increasing glow. When it rose, It changed everything––it always does. And as it persisted it became the means by which you saw everything else. Yet, all too often we lie in bed with curtains drawn. Or perhaps glance for a moment through dusty windows or as we’ve gone out to get the morning paper. But in doing so, in failing to watch the light blanket everything we’ve ever known, and stay, we’re making a mistake. We, quite literally, are ignoring and belittling the source of light and life to the world, to us. We’re turning from what we truly need to live and what will truly satisfy.
Reading the Word of God ought to be a similar experience. Sure, I’m writing poetically and stuffing away most of the realism in some side bucket of words to sit this part out, but I really hope you see my point. If we don’t gaze, thoroughly, at the word of God and see it’s all-reaching power, it’s perfect relevance, essential light, and portrait of our Savior, something needs to change, fast.
Yet, I think it’s easy still, even with the language of ‘we shouldn’t do it out of duty but out of joy’, to miss the point. Let me be really honest with you for a moment, because I want to help you see what I’m getting at. There’s a tendency lodged down in the depths my heart somewhere to do something, or perhaps more accurately put, to not do something, that I wish to be quit and rid of. It’s a tendency that fancies momentary satisfaction over lasting pleasure and a tendency deeply misguided at its core. This tendency, put simply, is to read and peruse through the Bible topically and whimsically in order to gain quiet and temporary fulfillment in my actions. It’s casting a glance through the blinds of the window and saying, “Ah, yes. I saw the sun today”.
For example, it’s late, you’re tired, you’ve got to get up early, so you just open the God-breathed pages of scripture to quiet that murmur in the back of your mind. You don’t do it to see Jesus, to satisfy your soul with the riches of Christ, or even because you know you should and it’s necessary, but to check it off your list, to say you’ve done it, and so you can sleep.
I want to be careful here because if you were reading carefully you likely noticed I called a certain tendency, which I told you was reading scripture in a very specific way, misguided or wrong-headed. That being said, here’s exactly what I mean: Using the action of reading the Bible as a means to satisfy you entirely misses the point of reading scripture.
Listen, we can go to the Bible, to God’s word not in a begrudging fashion with a dutiful mindset, but with the aim of being satisfied and still miss. If we read because we want to be gratified by the action of reading, we’ve made a wrong turn, we’ll come up empty handed.
We need to be Psalm 63 Bible readers if we are to get it right, if we are to truly be satisfied, indeed, if we are to truly glorify God. I want to show you what I found in this passage and how it changed reading for me. Because, if true satisfaction for our souls, and genuine glory given to God is riding on the line, it’s infinitely important.
Psalm 63:5-6 speaks plainly of satisfaction and, at first glance, precisely how it may be attained. David writes, “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”.
There, in plain black and white, David tells us when his soul, indeed our souls, will be satisfied.
Without any thought, though, this satisfaction can sound a bit vague and unspecific––as if David, or us, becoming satisfied is the main goal and didactic helpfulness of the verse.
If we see these instructions for satisfaction like a recipe for dinner and aim at satisfaction in of itself as the end we desire, like the casserole coming out of the oven, we’ll miss. Indeed, that’s what I described in the introduction––seeking satisfaction for satisfaction sake.
So, we aren’t thinking of someone’s preference of one thing instead of another here. As if David’s words here are helpful to some and not others––as if someone happens to have a strong favoritism of breakfast with eggs and bacon to pancakes and syrup. Or, more relevant, being satisfied by the action of reading the Bible instead of what he sees in the Bible. Or, perhaps better written, “Who he sees”.
It’s imperative to see that the point is not satisfaction in of itself as if satisfaction was some great achievement or end all alone. Rather, we should see that the David only commends satisfaction here because of the object it lifts up and deems satisfying, namely God. Furthermore, It’s fathoms deeper than superficial satisfaction––the kind that wanes. Instead, it’s about eternal and full satisfaction, Psalm 16:11 satisfaction––”In your presence there is fullness of joy at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” There is no other fountain that we may drink from and truly be satisfied.
In other words, being satisfied in something isn’t the idea; being satisfied in God is. There is no room for ultimate satisfaction in places other than in God––that’s the definition of idolatry.
Just consider Jeremiah 2:13. “For my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water.”
Israel turned from God. They looked at what is truly satisfying and spit in his face. They turned around and deemed unsatisfactory things satisfactory––that’s pure evil.
Thus, we see that David’s satisfaction isn’t vague or general but specific. It’s satisfaction in God. That’s huge. Because everything just goes wrong start to finish if we don’t see that right off the bat. May God grant us the grace to place him at the center, always. For he is the center.
Let us set Psalm 63:5-6 before us again.
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.
David makes it perfectly clear when his heart or soul, the very core of his being, will be satisfied. He writes, “My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food” showing us that this satisfaction isn’t some meager “just getting by” gratification, but like consuming the choice pleasures of the land. This language echoes Psalm 16:5 where David writes “The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup”. Christ beats out, by infinite numbers, any other portion. He is selected with great joy amidst all the seemingly delectable pleasures laid out.
Furthermore, we learn that being satisfied in God is part and parcel with rejoicing in, or praising, God. 63:5 continues, saying, “My mouth will praise you will joyful lips”. So, David is telling us, here, that being satisfied in God and praising him are in unison with one another. Jesus’ words in Luke 6 are in full affirmation of this. Luke records Christ’s words for us in verse 45, “Out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks”.
We also learn, amazingly, exactly the means of how David’s soul is satisfied, and his mouth joyfully praising the Lord––he says it straight away. “My soul will be satisfied… when I remember you upon my bed and mediate on you in the watches of the night.”
That’s titanic. Whether embraced or not Jesus is what every single soul hungers and thirsts and longs for (Romans 1, John 6). Jesus says in John 6:35, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.” There is no other place to find and eat the true bread for your soul. If you go looking for satisfaction anywhere but in Jesus you are going to come up short, infinitely short––for Jesus is infinitely satisfying (Psalm 16:11, Jeremiah 2:13).
Looking again at Psalm 63-5-6, there are two things shown to us that are key in being satisfied.
The first, remember Christ upon your bed. And the second, mediate on Him in the watches of the night. Put simply, remembering Christ upon your bed means committing your day to him at its beginning, it means rising in the morning and setting the Lord before you. Psalm 16 aids again in helping us to understand this passage. 16:8 says, “I have set the Lord always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken.” David continues and writes, “Therefore my heart is glad and my whole being rejoices”. There’s a connection to be seen here in these pages. Remembering the Lord upon your bed equals satisfaction and joy, and setting the Lord continually before you equals gladness to the very core, or satisfaction, and rejoicing, or praise.
Additionally, we should note that this “remembering upon our bed” certainly speaks to a scripture saturated mind. Like in Psalm 1 when we read that the blessed, or happy, man mediates on the word “day and night”, we would be wise to realize a frequent reeling over God’s promises and his character are essential. How would we remember God upon our beds, in the quiet of the morning or evening, if we don’t know anything about him, or, we can’t remember anything in regard to his character?
That second part, mediating on the Lord the watches of the night, isn’t complicated, either. That’s solitude. That’s quiet. That’s praying and reading and seeking God where you will not be interrupted. It’s being shut up to the world and enthralled and focused on God. It is no wonder, then, that psalmist in 119:148 joyfully writes, “My eyes are awake before the watches of the night, that I may meditate on your promise.” It’s alone time with God, with the bread of life, and it’s wonderful.
To this same end, Psalm 119:14 reads, “I the way of your testimonies I delight as much as in all riches”. Likewise, Psalm 4:7 says, “You [God] have put more joy in my heart than they have when their grain and wine abound”. And again, Psalm 63:5-6 says, “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”.
Thus, according to these verses, we will delight in God and his word more than all riches and have more joy in him and his instruction than the choice pleasures of the land when we meditate on him in solitude, in the watches of the night and set God and his word before us each day and hour.
Yet, I think we’re missing something. And it’s not so much like missing something when you can’t find the final piece or two of a 1,000-piece puzzle but when you only have a piece or two of the 1,000-piece puzzle. You see, If we view this lot of verses in Psalm 63 as useful instructions to attain satisfaction from total dissatisfaction, from nothing, we’re not going to make it––ever.
One cannot simply decide to eagerly desire the night watches, the alone time with God. Nor, can someone mediate on the world and joyously remember the Lord. Paul, in Romans chapter 5, plainly tells us that we are naturally enemies of God because of Adam’s sin. Apart from Christ we can’t do any of this––period.
Thus viewing verses 5-6 as instructions to become satisfied without being born again is like trying to make that casserole with out any ingredients at all. Thus, I submit that the rebirth is the creation of new spiritual appetites, of the ingredients.
Therefore, we should see that satisfaction in God requires that we seek and desire him in the watches of the night and muse about him and his word on our beds–– which also requires satisfaction in God. That’s a circle without an entry point for one who hasn’t been born again, hasn’t been given satisfaction in the Lord.
It’s Grace! It’s the gospel!––that’s the hurricane-force undercurrent of these words.
I reason, then, that these words shouldn’t be mere cold instructions for anyone, but a demonstration of the calling of a believer. We are called to be satisfied in God more than anything or anyone else. Therefore, this isn’t an optional activity but the natural channel of the Christian life. The very fact that David writes this seems to indicate that he knows there is a battle, there is a stray from this lifestyle. Yet, there is no permeant stray for the believer––Jesus the good shepherd will bring as back with the same grace he brought us in. Namely, the blood-price paid for us on that hill called Golgotha.
We can’t look at the book, or at the sun to continue with the initial metaphor, as an action that will cause satisfaction. Just like David, or anyone else, can’t simply desire the night watches or meditate without something happening, something supernatural.
I believe that now we’ve begun to scrape bottom. Yes, “My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food, and my mouth will praise the Lord with joyful lips, when I remember the Lord upon my bed, and meditate on him in the watches of the night”. But without the Holy Spirit working in my heart and Jesus paying the blood-price for my sin, I am helpless. Oh to grace how great a debtor daily I’m constrained to be.
So, acknowledging that the sun is in the sky and that it’s lighting up the world around us isn’t the goal. Nor is reading the Bible in itself. Rather, it’s seeing the sun and loving it and what it shows us. The Word of God is the sunlight and if we don’t see/read it for a greater purpose than satisfaction in our actions we’ve gone wrong. May we see the glorious rays of scripture and love them because they show us Jesus Christ, not for a completion of an action. May we fight the desire to fail to open the blinds or shut the door after a quick look with a cheap momentary fulfillment. May we see the all-encompassing reality of the word of God and be satisfied in God. May we pray and ask him––for we’re helpless on our own. For his glory, for our joy, for they are one.