Theme: An Expression of Trust
In this week’s lessons, we learn from this psalm how to deal with difficulties that come into our lives, knowing that God is our mighty refuge in whom alone we can trust.
Scripture: Psalm 31:1-24
David says two things about God as his rock that have been described as illogical by some who know little of the life of faith. He says that God is his rock in verse 3 (“since you are my rock and my fortress”) and yet asks God to be his rock in verse 2 (“be my rock of refuge”). How, such critics ask, can God be and yet be asked to be a refuge all at the same time? How little such critics know!
Charles Haddon Spurgeon understood that David’s is a logic, not of words but of the heart, writing that it teaches us to ask God that we may “enjoy in experience what we grasp by faith.”1 We know that God is many things by faith, because the Bible tells us he is. But this is a very different thing from proving God to be those things in our experience. Do you believe that God is all powerful? Of course, you do. Then pray that he will prove himself strong in your weakness. Do you believe that God is wise? Of course! Then ask him to display his wisdom in the ordering of your life. In the same way, you can ask him to be to you loving and gracious and merciful and everything else the Bible says he is. “You are … then be …,” should be the prayer of every Christian.
Particularly in death. When David spoke the words we find in the first half of verse 5, he was asking God to save his life from enemies. But since Jesus’ use of it on the cross, saints everywhere have echoed him in asking God to receive their souls in death and so bear them safely to his presence. In other words, they have asked God to be to them in death what they have known him to be in life. One of the great commentators on this psalm, J. J. Stewart Perowne, points out that these were the last words of Saint Bernard, John Huss, Jerome of Prague, Martin Luther, Philip Melanchthon and many others. He quotes Luther as saying, “Blessed are they who die not only for the Lord, as martyrs; not only in the Lord, as all believers; but likewise with the Lord, as breathing forth their lives in these words: ‘Into thy hands I commend my spirit.’”2
When John Huss was condemned to be burned at the stake, the bishop who conducted the ceremony ended with the chilling words: “And now we commit thy soul to the devil.” In great calmness Huss replied, “I commit my spirit into thy hands, Lord Jesus Christ; unto thee I commend my spirit, which thou has redeemed.”
The second section of the psalm expresses trust in God (vv. 6-8). This trust has been anticipated in part one, but it comes to a fuller expression here, David saying explicitly, “I trust in the LORD” (v. 6).
This trust is not something “off the wall,” as we say. It is not without reasons, since David gives his reasons in the various phrases of this section. He was in trouble, and the Lord did four things. First, God “knew the anguish of his soul.” That is, God took note of his trouble and identified with him in it. Second, God “saw his affliction.” This means more than that God merely took note of it. It means that God did something about it, that he came to David’s rescue. Third, God did not hand him “over to his enemy.” He protected him and kept him from the destruction the enemy wanted to bring upon him. Finally, God “set his feet in a spacious place.” In other words, God was faithful to deliver David from affliction. Since God did that in the past, David is determined to trust him now. The memory of past deliverance bears fruit in present confidence.
Why have verses 2 and 3 been criticized by some people? How is the criticism shown to be wrong by misunderstanding what the verses actually mean?
What does David know about God that enabled him to trust?
Application: Perhaps you are experiencing great difficulty now, and can easily identify with David. What do you know about God, and your past experiencing of his grace and mercy, that is meant to help you to trust him more today?
1C. H. Spurgeon, The Treasury of David, vol. 1b, Psalms 27-57 (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1968), p. 58.2J. J. Stewart Perowne, Commentary on the Psalms, 2 vols. in 1 (Grand Rapids: Kregel, 1989), vol. 1, pp. 284, 285. Original edition 1878-1879.