Theme: Praise to God for His Help
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
In verses 19 and 20 we reach the crest of the wave again. But I want you to notice something interesting. Up to this point the psalm has followed a regular and therefore nearly a predictable pattern. It began with a prayer; that was the first section. It expressed personal trust in God, section two. Section three was the lament. Section four once again expressed trust in God, a section almost identical in tone and meaning to section two. With that pattern established, what should we expect in this last section? The answer is: the same thing we had in section one, a prayer.
But here is the interesting thing. Although section five is a prayer, it actually is an expression of praise to God. In other words, as a result of working through the content of the first four sections of the psalm, the last section is changed from a prayer in which God is asked to do something to a prayer in which he is praised for what he has done and will continue to do.
Have you ever experienced that in your times of prayer? You should. It is normal to begin with some great need and to express great requests but then come away from prayer with the assurance that God has heard and will help you, and so be praising him for it.
The theme of the last section of this main body of the psalm is God’s goodness. It has appealed to many preachers because of the distinction David makes between the goodness God has “stored up for those who fear him” and the goodness he has bestowed “in the sight of men.” The one is hidden. The other is manifest. The distinction suggests the following contrasts.
1.The goodness of God to us that other people see and the even greater goodness to us that they cannot see. When God blesses his people with happy and prosperous lives, stable families and the joy that comes from knowing that what we do has usefulness and meaning, other people can see this whether or not they acknowledge God to be the source.
Some years ago George Gallup of the Gallup Poll organization pointed out quite objectively that people who are “highly religiously motivated” are happier than other people, have fewer divorces, are less prejudiced and are more active in helping others in areas of social need. That is the goodness of God bestowed “in the sight of men.” But it is nothing compared to the goodness of God to us that others cannot see at all. They cannot see the comfort that God alone gives. They cannot see those moments of quiet rapture when the soul of the believer is conscious of the very presence of God and rejoices in it. They cannot see the goodness of God revealed in response to believing prayer.
2. The goodness of God that other people see because it has already been given and the goodness that is yet to be given which they will see later. In an objective way, others may consider us blessed now because of God’s goodness to us. But present experience of God’s goodness is only a sample of greater and more varied goodness yet to come. Therefore, in the future even we will look back on more abundant evidences of God’s goodness than we see now. That was David’s experience, for in the well-known Twenty-third Psalm he looked both backward and forward, saying, “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever (vv. 5, 6).
How does the prayer in section five differ from what we might expect?
What is the theme of this section of the psalm?
Explain the difference between God’s hidden and manifest goodness.
Application: What opportunities has the Lord given you to make his goodness known to those around you?