Psalm 63:1-3. 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.
2 So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary,
beholding your power and glory.
3 Because your steadfast love is better than life,
my lips will praise you.
What is the most precious thing in your life? What would you die for? What do you live for? Yes, these are deeply important questions, and for those of you who don’t like to think too deeply about things, I’m sorry (not really).
Tradition says that David wrote this psalm while on the run in the wilderness from his son, Absalom. Maybe more than anything else in life, our time spent in the “wilderness” causes us to ask these biggest of life’s questions. For David his greatest desire was God – O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you – and the thing he was willing to die for was God’s love – your steadfast love is better than life.
In Psalm 63:3 the word for “steadfast love” is the Hebrew word hesed. This is a very special and powerful word. It is almost always used to describe God’s covenant relationships. The Hebrew word for affectionate love is ahavah (as in “love the Lord your God” and “love your neighbor”). But the loyal, faithful, eternal, covenant keeping love of God is hesed. And God’s hesed is better than life. Why? Because it IS life. Literally. Because of God’s covenant steadfast love for us, his hesed, we have his very own eternal life. Without hesed, there is only death.
Let’s be clear, David isn’t just saying that God’s affection for him makes him feel good inside and that it is, in some esoteric way, better than “life itself.” No. David is saying that to be in a covenant relationship with God is to have a higher level of life. A life beyond this life. It is an eternal, spiritual life that is better than this temporal, earthly life. God’s covenant, his faithfulness, his loyalty, his discipline, his wrath, his promises, his salvation, and yes, his affection for us, is better than anything else this life could offer. Better than any status, pleasure, comfort, power or glory that this temporal earthly life could give or take away.
So let me ask you, would you die to keep God’s steadfast, loyal, covenant love? His hesed?
Here’s the good news – you don’t have to. You don’t have to die for God’s hesed because God died. God died for you on the cross of Christ so that you might have his hesed in spite of what you do or don’t do. And if and when we are ever asked to die for Christ, it will never be a means of keeping God’s covenant love. The privilege of dying for Christ will only be possible because we know that Jesus went to the cross to gain God’s covenant love for us.
Jesus is the one who ultimately prayed Psalm 63:3 – your love is better than my life. And then he laid down his life for us. Why? Because he knew that his death was a door into the everlasting life and love of God. Jesus’ death was no gamble. He trusted fully the Father’s covenant, steadfast love for him. Like the psalmist on the cross he cried, O God you are my God. He knew he could face temporal separation from God for us because the hesed of God would never abandon him to the grave.
And it won’t leave us there either. In Christ, we have been brought into the hesed of God. We have been brought into a higher level of life. Christ’s own life. Everlasting life that propels us into the fortress of God’s unbreakable commitment to us. Everlasting life that takes us beyond any of the suffering and successes of this life here and now. Everlasting love that never runs out and can never be shaken.
“To live is Christ” means living beyond this earthly life in the hesed of God that is beyond comparison. Now nothing done in this life is a gamble. Success or failure, win or lose, garden or desert, all can drive us deeper into the steadfast love of our covenant King.
What would you give your life for?
You in Christ
Do you believe that Christ’s life is far greater than anything this life offers?
Christ in you
How can the wilderness you’re in today drive you deeper into faith in God’s love for you?
Playlist: Better Than Life.
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