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Bible Commentaries

Expositor's Dictionary of Texts

Psalms 31

Verses 1-24

The Large Room

Psalms 31:8

To many people these seem strange words to come from the lips of age and experience. It is youth and inexperience that find the world a large room.

The writer of those words had left his childhood far behind him. He had entered into manhood's inheritance of duty and responsibility. He had been many a time over-caught in the coil of adverse circumstance; he had sorrowed and suffered and sinned; he had faced temptation and found bitter proof of his own weakness; he had faced the many-sided and intricate problem of existence; he knew something of the inevitable and the unalterable, and yet, calmly mindful of all this, his verdict upon existence was this: 'Thou hast set my feet in a large room'.

I. After having seen the sordidness and meanness and littleness of things, David still held that life is a grand, free, glorious gilt that it is liberty and opportunity and hope. What was the secret of his wide and worthy view of life? How had he escaped these narrower and meaner thoughts that crowd into men's minds and belittle their lives? He had laid hold upon God. He looked at life through the Divine purpose. He found the high and noble meaning of the dusty parable that men call the day's work. When he talks of life as a large room, it is really his way of saying, 'Thy service is perfect freedom'. If life is lived to God, then it is wider than any man can measure.

II. 'Thou hast set my feet in a large room.' Sin, more than anything else, seems to take the meaning out of these words. There is the inherited weakness and the encircling contagion. Within us, the evil tendency; without us, the unhallowed opportunity. Sometimes a man accepts the pressing solicitation of evil, or yields to the hot-handed grip of the world's desire; and then with a demeaned dignity and lowered self-respect, he measures life and finds he has but a few square feet in which to stand and call himself a fool.

III. 'Thou hast set my feet in a large room.' Those are the words of a man who has felt the force of his own immortality. He has found that on one side of this room of life there is no wall to limit and fold us. Life goes out into God's eternity. That is where God has fashioned it to go.

P. Ainsworth, The Pilgrim Church, p. 201.

References. XXXI. 15. Bishop M. Simpson, Sermons, p. 39. H. J. Wilmot-Buxton, Bible Object Lessons, p. 71. XXXI. 19. M. R. Vincent, Gates Into the Psalm Country, p. 91. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xiii. No. 773.

The Consummation of Love and Peace

Psalms 31:20

The 'they' of the golden oracle are all those who fear Him, all those who trust in Him.

I. The Christian life is on the one hand meant to know no rest nor holiday from obedience to the law of duty, from hourly serving our generation in the will of God; yet, on the other hand, at the very heart of this life there is always to be this mysterious stillness, this secret place of peace. There is a peace of God, able indeed to keep, to safeguard, the weakest and the most treacherous heart. There is a Presence that makes at life's centre a stillness, pregnant with positive and active blessing. The Christian is needed to be ever seeking, ever aspiring upward, 'not as though he had already attained'. He is to avoid as his most deadly poison that subtle spiritual Pharisaism which plumes itself upon a supposed advanced experience, and presumes to compare itself with others, and hesitates, if but for a moment, to prostrate itself in confession and penitence before the awful, the blessed, holiness of God. But none the less the Christian is called to a great rest as well as to a great aspiration.

II. Conditions there are indeed to that great peace; so we have remembered. But they are conditions, each of them in its nature a heavenly blessing. There is the condition of godly fear. There is the condition of humble trust. There is the condition of trusting thus 'before the sons of men'; let not that be forgotten. There is the condition of coming direct to Jesus Christ, to take the yoke of His word and will. There is the condition of looking unto Him. There is the condition of watching and of prayer. But are these things a complicated and grievous burthen, a bundle of arbitrary exactions? They are only so many forms of that one great condition to our finding what is laid up in our Lord: the condition of coming into directest contact with Himself, and there abiding.

H. C. G. Moule, Cambridge Sermons, p. 132.

Illustration. It is a wonderful thing to be permitted to watch a life which you have reason to know is hid in the Secret of the Presence of the Lord. Some few years ago I met a good man, humble and gentle, a missionary to Eastern Africa. He abode in the Presence; I could not but see it. I heard him tell, with the eloquence of entire simplicity, how in the tropical wilderness, in the deep night, he had waited for and shot the raging lion which had long been the unresisted terror of a village clan. It could not be the will of God, he reasoned, that this beast should lord it over men; and so, as it were in the way of Christian business, he went forth and put it to death. And then I watched that man, a guest in my own house, under the very different test of the inconvenience of disappointed plans; and the Secret of the Presence was as surely with him then as when he had lain quietly down to sleep in his tent on the lonely field, to be roused only by the sound of the lion's paw, as it rent the earth at the open door.

H. C. G. Moule.

Psalms 31:0

On 6 July, 1415, the anniversary of his birth, John Huss was burned to death in a field near the ancient city of Constance. He had come there from Bohemia, under a warrant of safety from the hand of the Emperor Sigismund, for the violation of which the Pope granted absolution, pressing it on the reluctant monarch.... A brass tablet let into the floor of the cathedral marks the spot where Huss stood, while seven bishops removed his priestly dress piece by piece, and placed on his head a paper crown painted with demons. They addressed him, 'We deliver thy soul to Satan'. 'But I,' he said, 'commend it into Thy hands, Lord Jesus Christ, Who hast redeemed me.' When taken to the place of execution he fell on his knees, and repeated in prayer some of the Psalms, especially the 51st and 53rd. He was heard to repeat frequently the words, 'Into Thy hands I commit my spirit: Thou hast redeemed me, Lord God of truth'. When he arose, he said, 'Lord Jesus Christ, stand by me, that, by Thy and Thy Father's help, I may endure this painful and shameful death which I suffer for Thy word'. When the fire was kindled he cried three times, 'Jesus, Thou Son of God, have mercy on me'. At the third time his voice was stifled by the smoke, but they saw his lips still moving.

John Ker.

References. XXXI. International Critical Commentary, vol. i. p. 263. XXXI. 20. J. T. Stannard, The Divine Humanity, p. 141. P. Brooks, Sermons, p. 78. XXXI. 22. J. M. Neale, Passages of the Psalms, p. 67. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xix. No. 1146. XXXI. 23. J. Bowstead, Practical Sermons, vol. ii. p. 1. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. vi. No. 325. J. E. Vaux, Sermon Notes (3rd Series) p. 38. XXXII. International Critical Commentary, vol. i. p. 276. XXXII. 1. J. Keble, Sermons from Lent to Passiontide, p. 260. XXXII. 1, 2. R. S. Candlish, The Gospel of Forgiveness, p. 182. XXXII. 1-7. C. Kingsley, Town and Country Sermons, No. 29.

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Bibliographical Information
Nicoll, William Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on Psalms 31". Expositor's Dictionary of Text. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/edt/psalms-31.html. 1910.