Psalm 63 and the Temptation of Christ
The Psalms are a curious genre of Scripture. They are the Psalms of David and other authors, but as Jesus himself states in Luke 24:44, they are His Psalms—they speak of Him. And as Paul says, they are the “words of Christ” (Col. 3:16). But some of the Psalms are less obviously about the Lord’s life and experiences than others. No one would object, of course, to the connection of Psalm 22 and the crucifixion of our Savior. Hardly any could fail to see the messianic kingship of Christ expressed in Psalm 2 and 110. And nearly all would readily admit a picture of Jesus’ resurrection in Psalm 16, since Peter’s first sermon (Acts 2) draws such a parallel.
Even still, very few see how Psalm 63 speaks of the life of Christ. John Gill’s commentary helps us at this point. Gill refers to the inspired title of the Psalm, mentioning it was written when David was “in the Judean wilderness” and draws the parallel to the one time our Lord was recorded as being “in the Judean wilderness”—when he was wrestling day and night amidst his temptation (Mark 1:12-13; Luke 4:1-13; Matthew 4:1-11).
It was such a time when Jesus was being posed with whether God was sufficiently satisfying, when jackals would have surrounded him in the nights, when he would be taken to the Sanctuary, asked to behold the glory of all kingdoms in the blink of an eye, and would be clinging to the fact that every word which proceeds from the mouth of God is what truly sustains. When one considers such aspects of Christ’s temptation, these themes throughout Psalm 63 become obvious. Even the conclusion, that the Enemy, and those who follow him, would be silenced, but that the true King would not be silenced in death, would be an utter comfort to Jesus in such a time as his 40 day fast.
Recall our Lord, when the Spirit led Him into the wilderness, and how Psalm 63:8 indicates that his spirit clings close to the Lord’s Spirit, and that the right hand of God is leading Christ out to do battle. Or how Jesus was famished, that even the thought of mere bread would have been the source of torturous temptation—verse 5 of the Psalm would have been a direct comfort:
My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food,
and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips.
Jesus is satisfied, as though fat with the comfort of the Lord. Here he would be reminding himself that when his Father promises his Son sufficient bread, God sincerely provides and doesn’t give to him a stone—even though that moment he is being tempted with stones!
In a time where he would be asked to throw himself down from the pinnacle of the Temple, and when he would be asked to consider the glories of all the kingdoms of the earth, what does he remember? As verse 2 informs us, he remembers his Father and his glory, and as verse 11 states, he knows that everyone who swears by God will rejoice in the glory of the true King and his true kingdom.
If these parallels be correct, it is amazing how our Lord was counseling his own soul in this time. We have before us an anatomy of our Savior’s inner turmoil and yet faithful victory, as he entrusted himself to the one who judges justly—knowing that he would not die in that Judean wilderness. In fact, he knew the one who plagued him night and day, trying to cause him to question the Lord’s provision, the Lord’s protection, and the Lord’s plan for his life, that he—the Liar—would be stopped far before Christ ever would.
So often people view the temptation of Jesus as an appeal to memorize and quote Scripture as a surefire means of overcoming temptation. While we certainly need to know our Bibles, and ought never forsake that precious word of life, how Jesus overcame temptation is far more vigorous than we often give him credit for. The inner defense mounted by the Lord against the temptations of the Liar were robust, to say the least. He knew his God. He knew God was more desirable than all Satan could ever offer. He knew the end of the tempter, his kingdom, and all who follow him. Christ knew the glory of his own dawning kingdom. He meditated continuously upon these truths day and night.
And amazingly, we have the same Spirit of Christ dwelling in us—the one who enables perseverance in the throes of the most arduous temptation. Therefore, if we have everything we need to sufficiently battle temptation in like manner, may we too resist the devil, that he might flee from us. And may we read Psalm 63 in light of our Elder Brother’s faithful stand!