A Fourth Decade of Psalms (31)
Periodically we spend ten weeks on a series of psalms, and we now come to Psalms 31-40. This psalm is notable in that Jesus quoted from it for His last words on the cross. He has been followed in this by many of His disciples, including Polycarp, Bernard, Huss, Luther, and Melancthon.
In thee, O LORD, do I put my trust; let me never be ashamed: deliver me in thy righteousness . . . (Psalm 31:1-24).
The psalm begins with a prayer (vv. 1-5). Once the prayer is offered up, David records an expression of great trust (vv. 6-8). Showing that the life of faith is not a walk on the beach, immediately after this expression of trust, we find a lament from David over the trouble he is in (vv. 9-13). But having poured out his difficulties before God, David returns to an expression of trust (vv. 14-18). Because God is faithful, this expression of trust is followed by an outpouring of praise (vv. 19-20). The psalm then concludes with a coda, a word of exhortation or application for us—what are we to do with this (vv. 21-24)?
Prayer to the Lord:
David tells God that he trusts in Him. He asks, on that basis, that he would never be ashamed. He asks God to deliver him in His (God’s) righteousness (v. 1). Just as we would stoop to hear an invalid whisper from a sick bed, so David asks God to stoop in order to listen (v. 2). He asks for quick deliverance (v. 2). He says that God is his rock and fortress (v. 3), but he also pleads with Him to be His rock and house of defence (v. 2). This is the language of faith, and not a contradiction. We know that God is omnipotent. The Scriptures tell us this. But faith pleads with God to be omnipotent to us, for us, with us—not in the conclusion of the syllogism, but in the vindication of our faith. David asks God to intervene on his behalf for His name’s sake (v. 3). When God vindicates or justifies His people, He is also justified and vindicated—as the covenant-keeping God who keeps all His promises. He asks God to pull him out of the net that was laid for him secretly (v. 4). And then we have the words that Jesus prayed from the cross, addressed to the Lord God of truth (v. 5). Jesus, in praying this, was mindful of the context. He was asking God to pull Him from the net that Judas and the Sanhedrin had laid secretly—and God did.
The First Wave of Trust:
The one who prays needs to look to God for answers, which is useless unless you are expecting answers. In order to expect answers, you have to be a certain kind of person. In order to trust in the Lord, you have to hate those who regard lying vanities (v. 6). In short, biblical trust is impossible without biblical hate—the fear of the Lord is to hate evil (Prov. 8:13). David will be glad and will rejoice because God has considered his trouble (v. 7). God has know his soul in the midst of its adversities. God has not let him fall to his adversary—God has set his feet in a spacious place (v. 8). So then, David is home free, right?
Back in Trouble:
We are not axioms in a proof; we are characters in a story. This means we can be exultant in chapter three and despairing in chapter four. Sometimes this shift can happen in just a moment. However it happened, David is in the middle of a swamp again. Have mercy, Lord, look on this trouble (v. 9). David knows that he is a sinner ("mine iniquity"), and those who have read their Bibles know that he was a big sinner. He is wasting away (v. 10). When he was down, his neighbors and acquaintances (who knew better) avoided him (v. 11). As the blues song puts it, "Nobody knows you when you’re down and out." For his fair-weather friends, he is as good as dead (v. 12). Slander was rampant concerning him, and his enemies were plotting against his life (v. 13).
But David trusts in God. "You are my God" (v. 14). This plea is built on the foundation of free and sovereign grace. "My times are in thy hand . . ." (v. 15). On this basis he seeks deliverance from his enemies and those who persecute him. He pleads for deliverance again, this time on the basis of God’s mercies (v. 16). Either the godly will be ashamed or the wicked will be, and David prays that it will be the wicked. Shut them up (both ways) in the grave (v. 17). Silence the liars, those who speak grievous things against the righteous in a proud and contemptuous way (v. 18).
The Edifice of Praise:
Trust is one thing, and praise another. Praise is built on the foundation of trust. God works His goodness for those who trust Him in front of the sons of men (v. 19). What a relief it is to be shown the way into God’s hideout. We can trust God in the presence of the sons of men, and it is incredible to them. For they can see us, but they cannot see God’s fortress with their carnal eyes. God hides His servants in the secret of His presence, and the pride of man cannot get at them (v. 20). He keeps them secretly in His pavilion, and they are protected from the strife of tongues (v. 20).
We bless the name of the Lord for He has shown us unbelievable kindness in a strong city (v. 21). We tend to despair too quickly. "I said in my haste, I am cut off . . ." (v. 22). Even though we sometimes panic, and our faith wavers, and we say things too hastily, God is still kind to us in our weakness. He still hears (v. 22).
This is why all His saints should love Him (v. 23). He preserves His faithful ones (not His perfect ones), and He deals "plentifully" with the proud doer. Be of good courage, and God will strengthen your heart (v. 24). Be of good courage and God will give you courage. This applies to all those who hope in the Lord—so hope in the Lord. Granite does not worry about a change in the weather, and faith in the Lord who delivers His people is the granite of grace, the gift of a faithful God to His people.