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Sunday, July 14th, 2024
the Week of Proper 10 / Ordinary 15
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Bible Commentaries
Psalms 61

Smith's Bible CommentarySmith's Commentary

Verses 1-8

Shall we turn now to the sixty-first psalm for our beginning of our Bible study this evening. Psalms 61:1-8 .

Hear my cry, O Lord ( Psalms 61:1 );

Now in the Hebrew, this word for cry is very intense. It is actually, "Hear my loud wailing, O Lord." Now David was the kind of a guy when he was in trouble, he really let go. Some people are very reserved in their nature. I'm sort of a reserved kind of a person, but David wasn't. I mean, when he was in trouble he wanted everybody to know. And especially God. And so, he would wail out. "Hear my wailing, my loud cries, O God."

attend unto my prayer ( Psalms 61:1 ).

It is thought that David probably wrote this psalm at the time that he had been in exile as the result of the rebellion of Absalom. David had fled across the Jordan River when Absalom came from Hebron with an army to take Jerusalem. David did not want to encounter his son in battle. He didn't want to be fighting against his own son. And so rather than making a stand there in Jerusalem, which would have been the natural thing to do, because Jerusalem was a walled city, it was a difficult city to take. And he could have, no doubt, withstood Absalom. But yet, because of his son and all and his own broken heart, he just fled from Jerusalem with his armies and with those that followed after him and just sort of capitulated to Absalom and fled across Jordan. And now he is crying unto God, "Hear my cry, O God, attend unto my prayer."

From the end of the eaRuth ( Psalms 61:2 )

Driven out of the Land of Promise, he now feels that he is out to the end of the earth. If we would put that in our common vernacular, we might say, "The end of the world." And sometimes we do have those experiences which we feel are the end of the world kind of an experience. In other words, "Man, this is it. This is the end of the world. This is as far as I can go. This is as deep as I can get. This is it. You know, from the end of the world." Or,

From the end of the earth will I cry unto thee, when my heart is overwhelmed ( Psalms 61:2 ):

Many things can cause our hearts to be overwhelmed: the loss of loved ones, financial problems, the loss of a job, the loss of health. So many things can cause our hearts to be overwhelmed. What do I do? When I get to the end of the proverbial rope, when I have no place else to turn, where do I turn? What do I do? Every one of us are driven by circumstances, sooner or later, to this end of the road type of an experience, where I have no place else to go, no place else to turn. And where I turn at this point is so important. Some people turn to pills, some people turn to the bottle, some people turn to a gun and just try to end it all. "When my heart is overwhelmed," David said,

lead me to the rock that is higher than I ( Psalms 61:2 ).

There is a place of refuge, there is a place of strength, there is a place of security that we can have in Christ, the Rock that is higher than I. The place where I can be sheltered from the storm. Sheltered from the enemy. Protected. A rock is a symbol of strength in the Bible. The Bible says concerning Jehovah, "He is our Rock," Deuteronomy 32:1-52 . In I Corinthians, chapter 10, Paul said concerning the rock from which the water flowed in the wilderness, and that rock was Christ. That life-giving source. The rock. Smitten from whence life flows to all men.

So, "When my heart is overwhelmed, lead me to the Rock that is higher than I." It is so comforting to know that at my extremity I can turn to God. There is a verse of the song, "He Giveth More Grace," that beautifully describes it. "When we have exhausted our store of endurance, when our strength is gone, ere the day is half through, when we have reached the end of our hoarded resources, our Father's full giving has only begun. His grace has no limits, His love has no measure, His power has no boundary known unto man. For out of His infinite riches in Jesus, He giveth and giveth and giveth again." And when I've come to the end, when I am overwhelmed, and I cry unto Him, that Rock that is higher than I. At that point of my extremity, God has just begun His glorious work within my life.

God brought many people of the Bible to the end of the road. I think of the angel wrestling with Jacob all night. It was a bad day for Jacob. He had just left his father-in-law, and that was a bad scene. They had had words, and their leaving wasn't on the best on terms. Even though when they departed from each other they said, "Mizpah," which means, "The Lord watch between me and thee while we're absent one from the other." Yet, that isn't as pleasant as it sounds when we put it into English. In the Hebrew it literally means, "You've ripped me off, and now you are leaving with all of my goods that you have ripped off from me. And I can't keep my eye on you anymore, because you are going to be gone. You have gone with my daughters, you've gone with my flock, my herds, and I can't watch you any more, so may God watch over you while we are absent one from the other, you crook." And it had been a bad scene; Jacob didn't know how he was going to fare out of it. In fact, he wouldn't have fared so well unless God had been with him. And the night before his father-in-law had caught up with him and the Lord said to his father-in-law, "Don't you touch Jacob. You keep your hands off of him." And so because Laban was afraid of God, he didn't touch Jacob. He said, "Listen, I have the power to really do you hurt, but last night the Lord told me not to touch you." So it was a strained experience.

Now Jacob has left his father-in-law. They have gone back toward Babylon, and Jacob receives word, "Your brother is coming with a host of men to meet you." But that isn't really a welcome home party kind of a thing that you are anticipating or looking for, because the last time you saw Esau seventeen years ago, he was saying, "As soon as I get a chance I am going to kill that rat." And his brother had been threatening to murder him. Now, if his brother was coming to welcome him home, he wouldn't need two or three hundred men with him in a welcome party, so Jacob knew that trouble was brewing, and he was trouble.

That was the night that there came an angel of the Lord and wrestled with Jacob all night. The Lord was trying to bring Jacob to the end of the road. You see, he was going to need all kinds of strength tomorrow. He is going to be meeting Esau. He doesn't know what the situation is going to be; it could be perilous. And so all night, a night when you especially need sleep, you need strength for tomorrow; he is wrestling with this angel. Now, Jacob at this point is a ninety-six-year-old man. I mean, he is no spring chicken anymore. And in the morning, as the day began to break, still wrestling. Man, this guy is tenacious. He's not going to give up. So the angel touched him in his thigh and caused his muscle to shrivel, and crippled him. And the angel said to Jacob, "Let me go before the day breaks." And Jacob at this point was hanging on with all that he had, but he broke down and he began to weep. Now, Genesis doesn't tell us that he wept, but Hosea tells us that Jacob now was in tears; he was a broken man. And he said, "I will not let you go until you bless me." But that was not a demand, that was a plea. It was a plea with tears. "Please don't go without blessing me." He is defeated now. God has him where He wants him.

Jacob, the name means heel catcher, Jacov. For when he was born, he had hold of his brother's heel, so they said, "Oh, look at that heel catcher." And the name stuck. "What is your name?" "My name is heel catcher." "You won't be called heel catcher anymore. You are going to be called Governed by God, Israel." His life was changed. No longer the supplanter. No longer the deceiver. Now a man, Israel, governed by God. What a difference. But God had to bring him to the end of the road to bring about those necessary changes. And so the last cry of desperation that came forth with weeping and tears from Jacob was really the first cry of victory.

So often that is true in our lives. When my heart is overwhelmed, when I turn to God out of desperation, that becomes the beginning of God's glorious victory in my life as He leads me to the Rock that is higher than I.

For you have been a shelter for me, and a strong tower from the enemy [the shelter of the rock, strong tower]. I will abide in thy tabernacle for ever: I will trust in the covert [or the covering] of thy wings. For thou, O God, hast heard my vows: you have given me the heritage of those that fear thy name. And you will prolong the king's life: and the years as many generations. He shall abide before God for ever: O prepare mercy and truth, which may preserve him. And so will I sing praise unto thy name for ever, that I may daily perform my vows ( Psalms 61:3-8 ).

And so David ends the psalm with more or less words of confidence. "God, You are going to take care of it. The Rock that is higher than I will see me through. He will bring me back. I will dwell in Your tabernacle. I will dwell before Thee." "

Bibliographical Information
Smith, Charles Ward. "Commentary on Psalms 61". "Smith's Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/csc/psalms-61.html. 2014.
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