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When the Well Runs Dry
Psalm 63
March 15, 2015

Many years ago — in what was probably one of the last great adventures my brother and I had before I got married — we went on a day hike in the Cleveland National Forest in CA. We didn’t make plans that were too extensive; after all it was only a day hike. We knew the day would be warm, so we took a couple of canteens and a few oranges. We didn’t plan on being in the sun, or being out all day.

We got to the trailhead at a reasonable time and planned to pick up a trail map. But there were no maps. “Well, that’s okay,” we reasoned. “The trail appears to be marked pretty well.” So we took a good look at the permanent map on the board at the trailhead, fixed the route in our minds, noted the length, and figured how long it should take us.

And we set out.

Initially everything was fine and we enjoyed each other’s company, talking and laughing, enjoying the leisurely walk. And then we noticed that the trail started to get less distinct. So we began paying more attention to where we were going. And then we came out of the tree line and we were in full sun. And the day wasn’t just warm; it was hot. And the trail markers weren’t just indistinct. They were gone. And we each had a whole canteen of water. And one orange. And then I took a sip of my canteen water. Soap. Someone had washed out our new canteens with dish soap and they hadn’t been rinsed properly. So there we were in the heat, lost, with canteens of soapy water. And one orange each.

The more we walked the more lost we seemed to be and the hotter and more tired we were. So I reached again for my canteen. My brother cautioned me, “Take small sips — you don’t know when we might be found.” I knew he was right. But I drained my canteen anyway. I had never been so thirsty before (or since). On we trudged. Soon our canteens were both empty and both oranges were gone.

Well, you know the story has a happy ending because I’m here. Eventually we came across a road, and realized it as the road we had traveled to the trailhead. We were way off course and well down the mountainside. The only way out was up. In the heat. With no water and no orange. And in God’s grace, a man came along in a pickup and he gave us a ride up the mountain to our car. And as we rode up to the car, we both thought and said, “there’s no way we would have made it on our own…”

That day has become a picture for me of spiritual life. There are times when we get off the trail. What do you do when you are parched with thirst and the well runs dry? And there is no brother to give you his water? And there is no truck to give you a lift up the mountain? What do you do?

What do you do when your spiritual tank runs dry and you need more “water” for ministry? What do you do when circumstances derail you spiritually and yet people still expect a certain measure of “spirituality” from you?

In a Psalm based on one of the dark moments of his life, David tells us his response when his spiritual well ran dry. The superscript tells us that the psalm was written when David was in the wilderness of Judah. It could be that it happened when he was running from Saul. But since it appears that he has already assumed the throne as King of Israel (vv. 5, 11) it is more likely that this psalm came from the circumstance of running from his son Absalom who was attempting to usurp the throne from David. Second Samuel 15:1-16:23 gives us the account; not only was David afraid for his physical life, he was perplexed about his spiritual life. In his hasty retreat, David was confronted by a Benjamite follower of Saul named Shimei who continually threw stones and dust and cursed David and his servants. “Let me cut off his head,” suggested David’s servant Abishai. “No,” responded David, “If he curses, and if the Lord has told him, ‘Curse David,’ then who shall say, ‘Why have you done so?’” (16:10). David, like Job, was clueless as to why these events were happening, and was open to the suggestion that perhaps they were coming from the hand of God for some unknown reason. And his desire was to submit himself to God’s work, regardless of the personal cost to him.

This psalm then recounts how David processed and thought about his spiritually dry circumstances. As we begin our look at this psalm I want you to notice two things in particular:

  • There is no request in this psalm. The psalmists usually have some requests of God in their sorrows and laments; but here David only tells God what he will do.
  • The word flesh (or soul) is used four times in the passage (vv. 1, 4, 8, and 9) and those uses seem to provide the structure of the passage — each of the first three uses introduce a new section in the psalm.

When your soul runs dry, find your refreshment in God.

In this psalm we will see David find refreshment in God in three stages.

  1. David’s Desire for God: the Soul in Distress (vv. 1-4)
  2. David’s Satisfaction with God: the Soul at Rest (vv. 5-7)
  3. David’s Trust in God: the Soul Alive (vv. 8-11)

Download the rest of this sermon on Psalm 63.

The audio will be posted on the GBC website later today.