The Book of Psalms

Tuesday: The Rock That Is Higher Than I


Theme: Coming to the Rock
In this week’s lessons we are reminded that God is a rock to which we can turn, a rock higher and wiser and stronger than we are ourselves.
Scripture: Psalm 61:1-8
It’s important to notice the image David uses for God in verse 2, calling him “the rock that is higher than I.” The idea of God being a rock is common in the psalms, appearing twenty times.1 In fact, it occurs three times in the next psalm, Psalm 62. We have already looked at it at some length in our study of Psalm 18, where alone it is used four times in an interesting progressive sequence: “The LORD is my rock (v. 2); “My God is my rock” (v. 2); Who is the Rock except our God?” (v. 31); and “Praise be to my Rock” (v. 46)!
The thought of God being a rock is prominent in the Davidic psalms, because David had used the rocks of the Judean wilderness as places of refuge and protection during the years he was forced to hide from King Saul and Absalom. David knew every cranny, crack and hiding place in the vast rocky wilderness. So when he fled to the rocks he knew that he was safe in their protection.
Each of the psalms has its own way of writing about God as a rock, however, and this is no less true of Psalm 61. There are two unique features to David’s use of the rock image here.
This rock is “higher” than David. It is natural to think of God being higher or greater than ourselves when we are suffering some severe reversal of fortune, when we are somehow down and out. We know we need God then. But when we are on top, as David seems to have been at this time—he was the king of all Israel, after all—we forget about God and consider ourselves able to deal with any need that can arise. David never made this mistake. He never forgot that God was infinitely above him and that it was always God he needed. The people of Israel may have looked to David as their rock, but David looked to a rock that was higher than himself.
We must be led to this rock. The other unique feature of David’s speaking of God as his rock in Psalm 61 is that he asks to be “led” to it, that is, led to God. It is hard to know exactly what David was thinking of when he wrote this, but Charles Haddon Spurgeon, the great Baptist preacher, was good on this point when he pointed out that, for our part, not only do we need a rock, we also need the Holy Spirit to lead us to him. Our rock is Christ, but none of us comes to Christ by ourselves. We need the Holy Spirit to quicken our dead souls, awaken us to our spiritual need, renew our wills and bring us to the point of personal commitment to the Savior.
In Spurgeon’s day sailors were often drowned when their ships ran upon the rocks of the rocky coast of England and they were cast into the water. At times they would find themselves struggling at the base of high cliffs and knew they would be safe if they could only get up the steep slippery face of the rocks. But they could not. At one place, according to Spurgeon, a man who lived at the top of one of these cliffs carved stone steps into the rock face so wrecked mariners could climb up. And when the steps became badly worn and impassible over time, someone else added stanchions and a chain railing to help the struggling survivors.
Observed Spurgeon, “How infinitely higher than we are is the salvation of God. We are low and grovelling, but it towers like some tall cliff far above us. This is its glory, and it is our delight when we have once climbed onto the rock and claimed an interest in it; but while we are as yet trembling seekers, the glory and sublimity of salvation appall us, and we feel that we are too unworthy even to be partakers of it; hence we are led to cry for grace upon grace, and to see how dependent we are for everything, not only for the Savior, but for the power to believe on him.”2 It is a point well taken, since our salvation from beginning to end is of God and is due entirely to grace.
Is God your rock? Have you been led to him? If you have not trusted in Jesus Christ yet, there is nothing wrong with asking God to lead you to him. It is a case of saying, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief” (Mark 9:24). That is a prayer God clearly loves to hear and answer.
1See Psalms 18:2, 21, 46; 19:14; 28:1; 31:2, 3; 40:2; 61:2; 62:2, 6, 7; 71:3; 78:35; 89:26; 92:15; 94:22; 95:1; 144:1.
2C.H. Spurgeon, The Treasury of David, vol. 2a, Psalms 58-87 (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1968), p. 40.
Study Questions:

Why is the image of a rock used so often in the psalms?
How is the rock higher than David?
Who leads us to the rock? Why do we need his help?

Reflection: Read Ephesians 2:1-10. What did God do because of his great love for us? What was our state before he made us alive in Christ? How does this passage relate to Psalm 60:2?
For Further Study: For another look at how God is a rock, download and listen for free to James Boice’s message from Daniel 2, “Rock of Ages.” (Discount will be applied at checkout.)

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