Psalm 63: My Soul Will Be Satisfied

O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you;
my soul thirsts for you;
my flesh faints for you,
as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.

–Psalm 63:1 (ESV)

"My spirit thirsts Thy grace to taste..."

“My spirit thirsts Thy grace to taste…”

Psalm 63 is probably among the most well-known and well-loved songs in the entire Psalter.  Its central premise is that God, and God alone, can satisfy the needs of the human soul.  The psalmist David rejoices in the comfort the Lord affords him (“In the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy”), and in response declares, “Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you.”

Today we turn to consider two versions of Psalm 63 from the Psalter Hymnal.

111, “O Lord, My God, Most Earnestly”

(Sung by the Protestant Reformed Psalm Choir)

I don’t object to the inclusion of this song in the Psalter Hymnal; what bothers me is that it is treated as a primary versification of Psalm 63.  For it must be acknowledged that the text of number 111 has some grave flaws.  Namely, the first stanza rearranges Psalm 63 verses 1 and 2, and interprets them in a very arbitrary manner.  The rest of this versification contains a smattering of strange phrases that apparently have nothing to do with the inspired text (“My darkness turns to light” in stz. 2, and “Still closer to Thy side I press,/For near Thee all is well” in stz. 3).  But to me, the worst offense is the total absence of vv. 9-11 in this setting!  In place of these three powerful verses—

But those who seek to destroy my life
shall go down into the depths of the earth;
they shall be given over to the power of the sword;
they shall be a portion for jackals.
But the king shall rejoice in God;
all who swear by him shall exult,
for the mouths of liars will be stopped.

—the Psalter Hymnal includes just four vague lines:

My soul shall conquer every foe,
Upholden by Thy hand;
Thy people shall rejoice in God,
Thy saints in glory stand.

The newer gray Psalter Hymnal improves on this setting slightly by including the lines “All those who seek my life will fall” and “God’s king and people will rejoice”—but it’s a small Band-Aid on a much bigger wound.  In my opinion, “O Lord, My God, Most Earnestly” needs a lot of reworking if it is to be worthy of the new Psalter Hymnal.

112, “Thou Art My God, O God of Grace”

(Sung by Cornerstone URC in Hudsonville, MI)

Thankfully, Psalter Hymnal number 112 has none of the inaccuracies of the preceding psalm setting.  Not only does this version follow the progression of the Scriptural text, it even includes many of the same phrases and idioms (“Thy power and glory to behold,” “Thus I will bless Thee while I live,” “Beneath the shadow of Thy wings”).

However, there is still one serious problem which numbers 111 and 112 have in common: Neither one treats Psalm 63:9-11.  In fact, while the former setting vaguely outlines this section, “Thou Art My God” omits it entirely.  I don’t mean to get too vehement, but seriously: what’s the problem with these three verses?!

Psalter Hymnal #112 is so accurate overall that I couldn’t resist adding my own fifth stanza to try to wrap it up more appropriately.  Here it is, for whatever it’s worth:

5.  But those who seek my life to slay
Shall fall to death as jackals’ prey,
And perish by the sword;
Whereas the king shall joy in God,
His saints exultant sing abroad;
All liars He’ll reward.

With this improvement, or a similar one, “Thou Art My God, O God of Grace” would be a perfectly suitable versification of Psalm 63.

Before finishing this rather rambling post, I ought to note that the tunes of numbers 111 and 112 are both excellent and well-suited to the theme of Psalm 63.  For all its flaws, this little slice of the Psalter Hymnal is certainly redeemable.

My lips shall in Thy praise delight
When on my bed I rest at night
And meditate on Thee;
Because Thy hand assistance brings,
Beneath the shadow of Thy wings
My heart shall joyful be.


1 Response to “Psalm 63: My Soul Will Be Satisfied”

  1. 1 URC/OPC Psalter Hymnal Update | URC Psalmody Trackback on April 23, 2013 at 11:05 am

Share Your Thoughts

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Welcome to URC Psalmody

We hope you'll join us as we discuss music, worship, the psalms, the church, and much more here on URC Psalmody. You can learn about the purpose of this blog here. We look forward to to seeing you in the discussions!

With this feature, just enter your email address and you'll receive notifications of new posts on URC Psalmody by email!

Join 221 other followers


%d bloggers like this: