David in the Wilderness: Psalm 63 (part 1)

“A psalm of David, when he was in the wilderness of Judah”

(Psalm 63:1 {superscript in English Bibles})


It is always helpful when psalms contain superscripts, which can introduce for us the context and the historical setting of the psalm (remembering that in the Hebrew Bible, the superscripts are part of the inspired text).  Even so, many of the superscripts still leave us with the responsibility of doing some footwork in the historical books if we want to narrow down the context more exactly.  And, in this case, we really have two possibilities that could provide the context for this psalm.

The earlier of the two possibilities would be found in 1 Samuel 23, when David was fleeing for his life from Saul.  He spent much time in the Judean wilderness (for example, see 1 Samuel 23:15).  The difficulty that some have with this earlier dating is that David refers to himself as “king” in this psalm (verse 11 in English Bibles) and technically, Saul was still the king of Israel.  At the same time, David had already been anointed by Samuel to be King of Israel by this point (1 Samuel 16), and though he had not yet assumed the role of King, the office was rightfully his.

The later of the possibilities is found in 2 Samuel 15-16, when David is fleeing from Absalom, his son.  At this point, David is clearly king of Israel without any room for debate and the text itself calls him “the king.”  David is found to spend time in the wilderness of Benjamin (which is often seen as part of the Judean wilderness) and Judah as he flees for his life again.  In turn, this second, later, choice may be a better option to fit the context of the psalm, though both are possibilities.

Whichever option you choose, what is perhaps more important is that the early church saw this psalm as a hymn that was reflective of their condition.  The church is a church in the wilderness heading for an eternal promised land that Christ has prepared and preserved for us, but for now, we are tested and tried here in this sinful world.  The early church especially also clearly understood what it meant to have people seek to destroy them as persecution abounded during those days (and still does today in other parts of the world).  Thus, tradition tells us, that men and women in the Early church often sang this particular psalm daily as a reminder of where they were and of God’s hand of provision in their lives.

Beloved, as you reflect on the words of this psalm, remember the context from which it comes—it is one of trust in God even in the midst of having to flee for your life.  Oh, how we can learn from those ancient saints who clung to this psalm for encouragement in the midst of their great trials.  Oh, how we would grow if we saw trials for what they are—not things to be feared, but opportunities for God to demonstrate his provision to us.  Loved ones, do not seek the easy life that finds its comfort in worldly things; seek the life that rests in God’s hand for all needs even in the midst of great tribulations.

About preacherwin

A pastor, teacher, and a theologian concerned about the confused state of the church in America and elsewhere...Writing because the Christian should think Biblically.

Posted on June 16, 2008, in Expositions and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. Mrs. Washington

    Beatiful words of encourage! I’m a Pastor’s wife in Miami, Fl. This was truly a great study on David’s wilderness experience and the encouragement from the message from you really helped me today.
    Thank you so much!

    Sister Washington
    First Lady



  2. I am glad that these reflections have been a blessing to you. Blessings in Christ,



  3. It was told to me in a recent sermon on David’s experience in the wilderness that he learned 14 things while there. Can you name them.


    • I expect that one might list many things that David would have learned during his wilderness experience: trust in God, respect for God’s providence and even for God’s anointed king, reliance on the other mighty men, he certainly identifies with God’s people in the wilderness coming from Egypt and gives us a typological picture of the Church’s time in the wilderness to come, and the principle that sometimes the ceremonial law of God is in submission to God’s redemptive history (the shewbread incident). Those are the things that immediately come to mind, but I am sure that there are others that one could list. What were your pastor’s 14 points?




  4. Good helping me when iam studying bible


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