This week’s treatment of the International Sunday School Lesson (for October 31) is written by Bruce Stoker who serves as adult education minister with Memorial Church of Christ in Livonia, Michigan.
God’s Comforting Presence (Psalm 63)
By Bruce Stoker
I suppose wilderness is a matter of perspective. What most of us might call wilderness, Bear Grylls or Les Stroud might call an ideal location for a family picnic (where ants would not only be welcome but also likely on the menu).
While I’ve never seen a desert, as a teen I spent several hours lost in a remote, swampy wilderness. Even though I had a map, compass, previous experience, and a backup “escape plan,” I panicked. In fact, when I saw another person in the distance, my panic led me to avoid him, even though he might have been able to help me. I had found myself lost and alone, and for reasons unknown, I chose to remain lost and alone.
Different Kinds of Wilderness
You don’t have to be in a desert wasteland or in a dank, dark swamp or in a remote, tangled forest to be lost in a wilderness. Some people find themselves lost in a wilderness of unfamiliar faces, having moved to a new community or started a new job. Some people are lost in a wilderness where the environment might be hostile to their faith, race, gender, or any of a variety of traits or characteristics. Some might even find themselves separated from others because of a sinful past or present, or because of other people’s sins, or even because of circumstances related to physical or mental health.
For whatever reason, many people find themselves lost and alone, and many choose to remain that way. God’s people, however, are able to find comfort despite being in the wilderness.
In Psalm 63, we see David in both a physical and spiritual wilderness. He literally was on the run in a desert, and though he was with his men, David found himself alone, feeling separated from God. Throughout Psalm 63 we see descriptions of David’s two wildernesses. He was thirsty (v. 1), hungry (v. 5), tired (v. 6); and hounded (v. 9).
Despite his circumstances, however, David chose to remain focused on God. In fact, even though David felt separated from God—verse 1 says he was seeking, thirsting, and longing for God—David also believed it was God who sustained him during his time in the wilderness (vv. 7, 8).
God’s Comforting Presence
We know David was in a tough spot because we recognize similarities with our own experiences. Even though we know God is present, sometimes we just don’t feel it. David admitted as much, having seen God’s power and glory (v. 2) but confessing that he was thirsty, that he longed for God.
The difference we might discover between our times in the wilderness and David’s is that David wasn’t specifically seeking to get out of the wilderness. Despite being pursued by his enemies through a dangerous place, David didn’t ask God to deliver him. David simply sought comfort in God’s presence. He didn’t need food; singing praise to God was enough (v. 5). He didn’t need sleep; just thinking of God restored him (v. 6). He didn’t need an army; God’s presence protected him (v. 7). David didn’t even value his own life compared to having God’s love (v. 3).
Surviving the Wilderness
So, how might we gain David’s wilderness survival skills? In a nutshell: focus on where you’re going instead of where you are and use what you’ve got, knowing that your future is secure.
David could have wallowed in the misery of his situation, but instead he focused on God. He could have asked God to destroy his enemies, but instead he simply assumed God would destroy them some time in the future. Rather than worrying about his current situation, he focused on his feeling that he was separated from God and worked to remedy that. David looked back to the times when he experienced God’s power and glory firsthand and used that to praise and glorify God despite his circumstances. He remembered when God had satisfied his soul and found further satisfaction. Remembering when God had protected him in the past, David clung to God and rested in God’s presence. David already had what he needed—a life of seeking and serving God—and he simply trusted God to get him through this wilderness.
What can we do to survive like David? Focus on God, seeking and serving him before we get into the wilderness. David witnessed God’s power and glory in the sanctuary; we must also pay attention to God’s power and glory before we need it. It’s easy to take God’s presence for granted when life is good, but that’s when we need to practice praising and serving God. Then we will have a better grasp of God’s power and glory. Then we will have established our hope in what God has already done.
*All Scripture references are from the New International Version, unless otherwise indicated.
|HOME DAILY BIBLE READINGS|
|Oct. 25: Genesis 3:1-8|
|Oct. 26: Jonah 1:1-10|
|Oct. 27: Psalm 114|
|Oct. 28: Psalm 100|
|Oct. 29: Acts 3:17-26|
|Oct. 30: 2 Samuel 22:2-7|
|Oct. 31: Psalm 63|
ABOUT THE LESSON WRITER: Bruce Stoker is a graduate of Cincinnati (Ohio) Christian University. He serves as adult education minister with Memorial Church of Christ in Livonia, Michigan, along with his wife and three children.