What Is Better than Life?
FOR many persons life—of itself—is their most precious possession. But this is not the case with God’s true servants. They value having an intimacy with their heavenly Father above everything else, even life itself apart from their Creator. This was the way that David felt, as is evident from Psalm 63. Since he speaks of himself as “king,” the setting for this psalm may be the time when, on account of Absalom’s revolt, he fled from Jerusalem and passed through the wilderness of Judah.—2 Sam. 15:13, 14, 23; Ps. 63, superscription.
In that wilderness consisting of smooth and rounded barren hills, no surface water flows, and no stream has its source. Think of how thirsty a person might get in such an area! Drawing on the effect of his being in this dry and barren region, David tells of his longing for his God. He compares his desire for fellowship with his God to a longing for water in a dry wilderness. We read: “O God, you are my God, I keep looking for you. My soul does thirst for you. For you my flesh has grown faint with longing in a land dry and exhausted, where there is no water.” (Ps. 63:1) Why did David look for his God? He wanted Jehovah’s favor, guidance and protection. So intense was David’s desire for help and refreshment from Jehovah that he spoke of this longing as wearing him out, causing him to grow faint.
Because of having to leave the location of Jehovah’s representative dwelling place, David recalled the past, when he had free access to the sanctuary. He said: “Thus I have beheld you in the holy place, at seeing your strength and your glory.” (Ps. 63:2) At the sanctuary David had a special awareness of God’s presence, seeing or beholding the Most High, as it were. It was there that Jehovah’s glory and strength were in evidence. The expressions of praise, thanksgiving and rejoicing that would be made by the worshipers glorified the Most High. Also, what was said and done extolled or magnified Jehovah as a God of saving acts. Through the heartfelt expressions made by the devoted worshipers, the strength of the Almighty was manifest.
Next David tells of his appreciation for having Jehovah as his God. He further states: “Because your loving-kindness is better than life, my own lips will commend you. Thus I shall bless you during my lifetime; in your name I shall raise my palms. As with the best part, even fatness, my soul is satisfied, and with lips of joyful cries my mouth offers praise.” (Ps. 63:3-5) As far as David was concerned, his whole purpose in life was to praise Jehovah God for the expressions of divine loving-kindness or active compassionate concern. To the psalmist, Jehovah’s loving-kindness was better than life itself, for it was God’s loyal love expressed toward him that gave real meaning to his life. That is why David felt compelled to continue praising Jehovah. He was determined to bless or speak well of the Most High for the rest of his life. Lifting his hands in an attitude of prayer, David would thank Jehovah. Because of having experienced God’s love and care, he felt totally satisfied. He had received the best, the choicest part. Therefore, joyful praise to the Almighty would continue to flow from his lips.
Even during wakeful periods of the night David would think about his God and the things that He had done in his behalf. We read: “When I have remembered you upon my lounge, during the night watches I meditate on you. For you have proved to be of assistance to me, and in the shadow of your wings I cry out joyfully.” (Ps. 63:6, 7) In David’s time, the Israelites had three night watches. The first ran from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m., the second, from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m., and the third, from 2 a.m. to 6 a.m. The psalmist’s using periods of wakefulness during these night watches to think about Jehovah certainly reflected deep appreciation for the help that he had received when the Most High protected him as with wings. Thus safeguarded, David could give way to rejoicing.
Because he loved Jehovah, he sought to imitate him. The psalmist continues: “My soul has closely followed you.” What was the result? “On me,” says David, “your right hand keeps fast hold.” (Ps. 63:8) Yes, Jehovah extended his right hand of favor and upheld his servant.
How different it is with those who ignore their Maker! We are told: “As for those who keep seeking my soul for its ruin, they will come into the lowest parts of the earth. They will be delivered over to the power of the sword; they will become a mere portion for foxes.” (Ps. 63:9, 10) In these words, David expressed the confidence that his enemies would suffer defeat and be plunged into the pit of death. They would be killed with the sword, their carcasses becoming food for scavenger foxes. It is noteworthy that Absalom and his many followers did suffer humiliating defeat in battle. Thousands were slain.—2 Sam. 18:7, 8, 15-17.
David’s confidence in Jehovah had not been misplaced. That trust is well expressed in the concluding verse of Psalm 63. It says: “And the king himself will rejoice in God. Every one swearing by him will boast, for the mouth of those speaking falsehood will be stopped up.” (Ps 63 Vs. 11) Because of what Jehovah would do for him, David would be able to rejoice. Others who, like David, could swear in Jehovah’s name with sincerity could boast or take pride in this. Why? Because they were able to do so on account of having an approved standing with the Most High. But those who speak falsehood in God’s name, who have no approved relationship with him, will have their mouths silenced in death.
Indeed, as David expressed it, Jehovah’s “loving-kindness is better than life.” Our being able to enjoy an intimacy with our heavenly Father as his approved servants makes life meaningful and assures us of his help and guidance. Moreover, in harmony with the divine promise, we can look forward to an eternity of happy living.—Rev. 21:4.