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Bible Commentaries

Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible
Psalms 61

 

 

Verses 1-4

Heading.

‘For the Chief Musician, on a stringed instrument. A Psalm of David.’

This Psalm is also dedicated to the Chief Musician and is to be accompanied by a stringed instrument. It is a Psalm of David. If David, rather than a member of the Davidic house, was its author it was quite possibly written during his period of exile east of Jordan after fleeing from Absalom (2 Samuel 15:13 ff.). In later days, after the end of the monarchy and the Exile, it began to be given a Messianic interpretation as witnessed by the Targums.

Separated From The Visible Means of Worshipping God David Seeks His Refuge In The God Of The Tabernacle In His Invisible Tabernacle (Psalms 61:1-4).

Crying out to God from wherever he is, (many see it as in the wilderness of Mahanaim, east of Jordan, where he was hiding from Absalom), David declares his trust in God as his Rock, his Refuge, his Fortress and his Tabernacle. When the earthly Tabernacle is no longer available to him, he knows that he can approach God in His heavenly Tabernacle, where he can take refuge under the shadow of His wings.

Psalms 61:1-2

‘Hear my cry, O God,

Attend to my prayer.’

‘From the end of the earth will I call to you,

When my heart is overwhelmed,

Lead me to the rock that is higher than I.’

David cries to God to hear his prayer as he sees himself as at ‘the end of the earth (or ‘the land’)’, that is as being as far from the Tabernacle where he would usually pray as he could be, for he knows that wherever he is, God is there. And his cry is that when his heart is overwhelmed God will lead him to the Rock that is higher than he is, in other words to God Himself as his Rock. For on that Rock he knows that he will be totally secure. No one knew better than David, from his life of refuge in the wilderness as he hid from Saul, the security provided by rocks on high mountains.

Psalms 61:3

‘For you have been a refuge for me,

A strong tower from the enemy.’

He bases his appeal on what God has proved to be to him in the past. God has been his Refuge and his Fortress from the enemy. Notice the continuing figurative descriptions. This suggests that the descriptions which follow are also figurative. His point is that he has continually looked to God to be his Protector, and that God has never failed. He has been to him like a Refuge and a Fortress, somewhere where he can be secure. That was why he had survived all his trials. In the words of Proverbs 18:10. ‘The name of YHWH is a strong tower. The righteous run into it and are safe.’

Psalms 61:4

‘I will dwell (sojourn) in your tabernacle for ever,

I will take refuge in the covert of your wings. [Selah.

In view of the fact that the Rock, the Refuge and the Fortress have all figuratively described his security in God’s hands there seems little reason for not seeing this Tabernacle as being figurative as well. Man may have cut him off from the earthly Tabernacle, but, (utilising in our interpretation the words of the later writer of the letter to the Hebrews), he considers that he has ‘a Tabernacle not made with hands eternal in the heavens’. In that Tabernacle he knows that he can dwell with God for ever, and take refuge under the shelter of His wings. The latter picture is of young birds finding shelter under the wings of their mother. We too, as Christians, can enter into that heavenly Tabernacle through the blood of Jesus (Hebrews 10:19).

Some, however, see it as indicating his desire to once again be able to enter the earthly Tabernacle, and his confidence that one day he will do so (compare Psalms 65:4 which may be seen as supporting this). Either way it is in God Himself that he will find security, not the Tabernacle. ‘Selah.’ Once again the music draws attention to these words.

‘I will sojourn in your Tabernacle.’ He is not there as its owner with full rights, but ever as a sojourner, as God’s guest, sojourning there and confident that God will extend to him all the hospitality expected from a host by his guest.


Verses 5-8

He Expresses His Confidence That God Who Has Called Him To Be A Believer Will Prolong His Life And Extend It Into The Future, Promising In Return That He Will Continually Praise And Worship God And Fulfil All That He Has Vowed (Psalms 61:5-8).

Psalms 61:5

‘For you, O God, have heard my vows,

You have given me the heritage of those who fear your name.’

He is confident that God will hear him because he has made his vows to God. The vows that are in mind are indicated here. They are the vows of one who has become a believer, and has entered into what God promises for the future, long life and blessing. They are vows of constancy, and obedience to His word. In other words, they are the vows of someone fully committed to God. As a consequence he is confident that God has given him the inheritance which is the lot of all who truly fear God, that he himself has entered into their heritage in order to enjoy the benefits that God gives to His own. To ‘fear His Name’ is to walk in humble reverence of God, worshipping and obeying Him and ever seeking to do His will because they recognise Who they are dealing with.

Psalms 61:6-7

‘You will prolong the king’s life,

His years will be as many generations.’

He will sit enthroned (or ‘dwell’) before God for ever.’

David now refers to himself in the third person as ‘the king’ in view of the fact that he is God’s chosen and anointed king to whom God has promised long life and posterity. It is as his chosen King that he is sure that God will preserve and prolong his life, so that he will see his sons, and his sons’ sons, and their sons also, as he spans the generations. Furthermore God had promised that his throne would be sure for ever, with his sons and his sons’ sons following him (2 Samuel 7:13; 2 Samuel 7:16), and he is taking Him at His word.

It may even be that his confidence in God is such that he is sure that even after he dies he will still abide before God. Compare Psalms 16:11; Psalms 17:15. There he is in such a close relationship with God that he cannot believe that that relationship will ever be broken. He is confident that he will abide before God for ever. In the literature that we have he never expands on the idea, but it is perfectly clear from what he says in those Psalms. He never speaks of ‘eternal life’ but that is what he is confident that he will enjoy.

(For this sudden switch from speaking personally to referring himself as the king in the third person compare Psalms 63:11, where the reference can only be to the Psalmist for the ascription to make sense).

Psalms 61:7

‘Oh, prepare (appoint, allot) covenant love and truth,

That they may preserve him.’

He calls on God to ‘allot covenant love and truth’ to him, in other words, to act in covenant love and loyalty towards him. He knows that his preservation is in the hands of God, on the basis of the covenant by which God has committed Himself to His own. His confidence in God rests on the fact that he knows that God will never fail to fulfil His covenant promises to those who are loyal to Him.

In the same way, if we are fully responsive to God we can also be sure that He will fulfil His promises towards us, watching over us, keeping us, chastening us when necessary, and working in us to will and to do of His good pleasure (Philippians 2:13).

Psalms 61:8

‘So will I sing praise to your name for ever,

That I may daily perform my vows.’

In response to God’s faithfulness, David also promises that he too will be faithful. He assures God that he will continually praise Him, and will perform his vows, (the vows spoken of in Psalms 61:5), to Him daily, his vows of loyalty and obedience to His covenant requirements, in other words to His word. If we would enjoy God’s protection it is required of us that we be found faithful and true to His word.

 


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Bibliography Information
Pett, Peter. "Commentary on Psalms 61:4". "Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pet/psalms-61.html. 2013.

Lectionary Calendar
Monday, October 14th, 2019
the Week of Proper 23 / Ordinary 28
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