Psalm 63: Those Who Hunger and Thirst

Read Psalm 63.

Jonah didn’t want to be born, or at least that’s the way it seemed at the time. His delivery date came and went, and he stayed put. Our oldest was more than comfortable in his mama’s womb, it seemed. For a week, Laurin paced the house, waiting for kicks to become contractions. For a week, every time my phone rang at work, I jumped, thinking it was time to race to the hospital.  

When we returned to the doctor’s office for Laurin and Jonah’s forty-two week check-in, the doctor said it was time—not because Jonah had given any indication he was ready to make his grand exit/entrance, but because enough was enough. We went home, packed our things, and headed to the hospital, ready to have our first child.

The labor and delivery nurse gave Laurin something to induce labor. It worked, and it worked, and it worked. For twenty-four hours she had contractions. Then, the doctors said it was time to push. So Laurin pushed. For two hours, Laurin pushed. Nothing. A lot of pain but no baby. Finally, the doctor called it. She told a nurse to prep Laurin for the operating room. Jonah was coming out, one way or another.

About a half-hour later, we met our son. He was beautiful (and mad as a swarm of murder hornets to be detached from his mama).

It took another hour or so to get Jonah cleaned up, Laurin sewn up, and the hospital room made up. Once we were in the room, a string of nurses and doctors and specialists were waiting to give us information about breastfeeding, skin-to-skin time, the nursery, circumcision, vaccinations, vitamin K supplements, and other things I’ve since forgotten about.

At some point during this parade, an orderly brought Laurin a tray of breakfast. It was then that I realized I hadn’t eaten anything in about thirty-six hours. Now that the adrenaline was wearing off, it finally hit me that I was hungry—about as hungry as I’d ever been. I wasn’t about to ask Laurin to share. She’d earned whatever it was the hospital was passing off as food.

About four hours later, though, things were finally in a peaceful spot. Laurin was resting, Jonah was resting, and no one from the hospital was demanding our attention. I stepped out and had the most glorious meal I’d ever eaten: a Chick-fil-A sandwich with extra pickles, waffle fries, and a Coke Zero. It was amazing.

As I read Psalm 63, this story came to my mind. But in order to speak David’s words as my own, I would have to imagine that instead of driving across the street from the hospital to that blessed Chick-fil-a, I drove to some small chapel or wooded trail to spend some time alone with God. That’s the kind of situation David is describing when he writes, “You, God, are my God, earnestly I seek you; I thirst for you, my whole being longs for you, in a dry and parched land where there is no water” (Psalm 63:1). He’s thirsty—ridiculously thirsty—wandering in a land stricken with drought, but he’s not looking for water; he’s looking for the Lord.

We humans have a weakness for our flesh. Time and time again in Scripture, people chose food and drink over the presence of God. Eve did it in the garden. Seeing that the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was “good for food” (Genesis 2:6), she ate and gave some to Adam (v. 7). Esau traded his birthright and the promises of God for a measly bowl of stew (25:29–34). After the miraculous feeding of the five thousand, the crowds followed Jesus, not because they understood He was the Messiah and the Son of the living God, but because, as Jesus put it, “you ate the loaves and had your fill” (John 6:26).

The Bible also tells us that when Jesus was hungry, the devil came to tempt Him. And what was Satan’s first temptation? “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread” (Matthew 4:3). There’s nothing wrong with eating bread when you’re hungry (unless you’re on a gluten-free diet), and I can’t see why it would be inherently wrong for Jesus to turn stones to bread. He is God after all. The world is His to do with as He pleases. What made the devil’s proposition a temptation to sin rather than an invitation to a practical miracle was that it was predicated on pride—“If you are the Son of God….”

The devil’s words were designed to make Jesus think, Why shouldn’t I make bread from these stones? I have every right. After all, I am the Son of God. But when the Son came to earth it wasn’t on an independent mission. Everything Jesus did was done in concert with the Father. In His own words, this is how Jesus described His work in this world:

My food… is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work. (John 4:34)

Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. (John 5:19)

By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me. (John 5:30)

The works that the Father has given me to finish—the very works that I am doing—testify that the Father has sent me. (John 5:36)

For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. (John 6:38)

My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will. (Matthew 26:39)

So of course Jesus turned to the devil in His moment of trial and said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God’” (Matthew 4:4). Jesus hungered for the Father more than He did for food.

We need food and drink. We can’t live without them, and our flesh reminds us of these needs all the time. (Actually, as I type these words my flesh is reminding me that I could stand to grab a bite.) But there is something we need more than food and drink: the presence of God. There’s nothing wrong with eating and drinking—the experience is one of the great blessings of life (Ecclesiastes 3:12–13)—but our flesh doesn’t get to set our priorities.

“Then Jesus declared, ‘I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty’” (John 6:35). As God’s people, may we hunger and thirst for God. May every growl of our stomachs and every scratch in our throats remind us to go to the only One who can satisfy our deepest cravings.

What is this all about?

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