David in the Desert: Worshipping God Always

The Psalm from today’s Mass, Psalm 63, holds a deeply personal message for me. This psalm of David, composed when he was in the dry and barren wilderness of Judah, is a particularly powerful reflection on the intimate relationship between God and worshipper — more specifically, between God and each one of us.

I think it’s important to start by highlighting a little of what’s going on in the psalm. As I mentioned, David is writing from the inhospitable desert of Judah where he is challenged by physical thirst and discomfort. In addition, and more difficult in David’s eyes, is his separation from God, because he is a long distance from the Temple. This distance is such a hardship because of the close personal relationship the king has with God.

As the psalm begins, David immediately declares his faith in God as his personal God. For him, God was not a distant and detached historical persona, but a living God intimately invested and active in David’s life. Today we can have that same personal relationship with God, through Jesus Christ! Although our sins in history and today separate us from God, we are redeemed through Christ’s Perfect Sacrifice. In His love for us and in the relationship that He desires with us, we have been offered this free gift, and all that we need to do to accept it is to put our complete trust in Jesus.

Even cast into the desert, away from his palace and the temple, David sings praises to God. Even after having lost everything, David, a king, turns to worshipping God, whom he loves and who he knows loves him beyond all comparison.

In my own years in the spiritual wilderness, in the time of my life when my soul was perpetually parched — and I often didn’t even know it — I had lost sight of what was most important. I got wrapped up by and trapped in the world and its “stuff,” and I projected that onto every reference and understanding of my childhood experience of the Catholic faith and, by extension, Christ.

As always, however, God had other plans for me. Since I wasn’t open to much of anything for a time, He was unrelenting and patient, sending me gifts like a well placed song on a mistuned radio (Christian praise and worship music was a foundation of my conversion of heart, which is a story for another day), an overheard sermon on a television at the health club, a moment of clarity of spirit I couldn’t explain. Woven throughout all of this over the course of years were references from this Psalm. When at last I sought Him out and looked here, I immediately recognized in myself the thirst of which David spoke. It doesn’t surprise me now that the very first time I returned to Mass, the responsorial psalm was, “My Soul is Thirsting.”

David knew that you worship the one thing you really want. When we worship God, we are saying that He is what matters most to us. When we act in worshipful ways toward anything other than God through Jesus Christ, we are saying that this person, thing, or experience is of the highest value in our lives.

Even a good thing can be dangerous if it is allowed to replace God in our hearts. That thing may be a relationship, a dream, position, status, something you own, a name, a job or some kind of pleasure, but whatever that thing might be, this is what you have concluded in your heart is worth most to you. Worship, in essence, is declaring what you value the most. Recognizing this is a large reason I was able to open the door of my heart to the steady whisper of God in the Holy Spirit calling me back to Him.

I also know that keeping that in front of me and living that daily worship is difficult. Sometimes the hardest thing for me and for many is being able to identify the ways we are worshipping things of the world. How do you know what and where it is that you worship? You follow the trail of your time, your affection, your energy, your money and your allegiance, and at the end of that trail you’ll find a throne. Whatever or whoever is on that throne is what is of highest value to you. On that throne is what you worship.

David is telling us here, “What I want most is God. You can have my kingdom; you can have my throne, but what I want is God.” In the midst of his poverty, David holds onto the most valuable of all gifts. . . his faith and complete trust in his God. Here in the worst circumstances, God brings out the best in David and David expresses his thirst for the living God. We can do no less.

 

Lisa Amos

Pastoral Associate

 

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