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Bible Commentaries

The Biblical Illustrator
Psalms 61

 

 

Verses 1-8

Psalms 61:1-8

Hear my cry, O God; attend unto my prayer.

A meditation on the sixty-first psalm

In the first verse it is not the Jew but the man that speaks. The same idea can be found in all languages. When David speaks thus, he speaks for the whole world! There is no doubt the most intense personality in the petition; it is “my” cry, it is “my” prayer. What then? Even when the man individualizes himself most carefully, he does but mingle most familiarly with all other men. This is the voice of an exile--a man far from the city which he loves most; yet even at the extremity of the land he says he will cry unto God. Why not? God can give the exile a home! Wherever God reveals himself in loving pity and all the riches of His grace, the soul may take its rest, knowing that no lion shall be there, neither shall any ravenous beast go up thereon. David cried from the end of the land! We have cried from the same extremity. By processes too subtle for us to comprehend, God has often caused our misfortunes to become our blessings, In the midst of the psalmist’s trouble there rises an aspiration--“lead me to the rock that is higher than I. “The” self-helplessness expressed in this prayer moves our entire sympathy. “Lead me”--what a blind man who had wandered from the accustomed path would say; “lead me”--what a lame man would say who had fallen by reason of his great weakness; “lead me”--what a terrified man would say who had to pass along the edge of a bottomless abyss. It is in such extremities that men best know themselves. David wished to be led to the rock; he wished to stand firmly, to stand above the flood-line, to have rest after so great disquietude. Then there is a rock higher than we? We have heard of Jesus Christ by this strange name; we have heard of Him as the Rock of ages; we have heard of Him as the Rock in the wilderness; we have heard of Him as the Stone rejected of the builders but elected of God to the chief place. The aspiration is succeeded by a recollection (Psalms 61:3). History is rightly used when it becomes the guide of hope. The days of a man’s life seem to be cut off from each other by the nights which intervene; but they are continuous when viewed from the altitude of Divine providence. Yesterday enriches to-day. All the historic triumphs of the Divine arm stimulate us in the present battle. We may say of God--What Thou hast been, Thou wilt be; because Thou hast inclined Thine ear unto us, therefore will we call upon Thee as long as we live. “I will abide in Thy tabernacle for ever, I will trust in the covert of Thy wings.” Here is a beautiful combination--worship and confidence! The relation is not only beautiful, but strictly sequential; for worship is confidence, and confidence is worship. Truly to kneel before God is to express trust in Him, and truly to express trust in Him is to bow down and worship at His footstool. This is the complete idea of worship: not prayer only, not hope only, not adoration only, not a blind dependence only; but all combined, all rounded into one great act of life. “Under the covert of Thy wings”--how tender the figure! The bird spreads her wings over the nest where her young ones lie, and thus gives them warmth, and affords them all the little protection in her power. What a beautiful image of unity, defence, completeness, safety, is so frail a thing as the nest of a bird! Multiply that image by infinitude; carry it far above all the mischances which may befall the little home of the bird, and then see how full of comfort is the idea. We have heard of a “shelter,” and a “tower,” and a “tabernacle,”--words which have much meaning for the heart when its distresses are not to be numbered, and which reach their full explanation only in that great Saving Man who was wounded for our transgressions. (J. Parker, D. D.)

The pious experiences of an exile

I. A deep sense of isolation. “From the end of the earth will I cry unto Thee.” Few feelings are more saddening than the feeling of lonelihood. It hangs like a cold leaden cloud over the heart. In this lonelihood, and far away from the scenes of his home and populations of men, he prays. The Great Father is accessible in all seasons of the soul, and all points of space.

II. A felt need for Divine helps. Many things would tend to overwhelm the heart of David with sorrow--the conduct of Absalom his son, the treachery of professed friends, the disorders of his country, and, above all, remorse on account of the many wrong things he had done and which had perhaps brought all these distresses upon him. Under such a load of sadness, he feels that his only hope is in God. The soul in its sorrow requires something outside of itself and greater, and there is a Rock for tempest-tossed souls.

III. A yearning for lost privileges. “I will abide in Thy tabernacle for ever.” He was far away from this tabernacle now,--a scene where he had often worshipped and experienced the raptures of religion. Profoundly does he feel the loss, and hence he resolves on his return to abide there, not only to visit it occasionally, but to continue as a resident, “dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of his life.” When there, he had felt like the young bird under the wing of its parent, warm, safe, and happy; and this privilege he yearned for again. “I will trust in the covert of Thy wings.” It is an old adage, that “the well is not missed until it is dried up.” The loss of blessings is evermore the means of deepening our impressions as to their value.

IV. As acknowledgment of Divine kindness (Psalms 61:5). The “heritage” mentioned is participation in the honours and privileges of the chosen people, and such were indeed great (Romans 9:4-5). What a heritage! And this David acknowledges as being given to him by God. Whatever privileges we have, personal, social, political, or religious, our “heritage” is the gift of God.

V. An assurance of future prosperity. “Thou wilt prolong the king’s life.” He seems to have been assured of two things.

1. The lengthening of his rule as a king. “Thou wilt prolong the king’s life”--add days to that reign which was nearly brought to an abrupt termination.

2. The continuation of his privileges as a saint. “He shall abide before God for ever.” These two things he seems to have been assured of--that he should live for years, and for years to come enjoy the presence of his God. Blessed assurance this!

VI. A cry for moral excellence. “Mercy and truth.” These are the cardinal virtues. “Grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.” A soul full of benevolence and in harmony with eternal realities. In this all good is comprised. Herein Paradise blooms and blossoms. The profoundest hunger Of all souls should be for these two things, grace and truth. Having these, all else follows.

VII. A resolution to worship for ever. Worship is the highest end of being. Religion, or worship, is not the means to an end, it is the grandest end of existence. (Homilist.)


Verses 1-8

Psalms 61:1-8

Hear my cry, O God; attend unto my prayer.

A meditation on the sixty-first psalm

In the first verse it is not the Jew but the man that speaks. The same idea can be found in all languages. When David speaks thus, he speaks for the whole world! There is no doubt the most intense personality in the petition; it is “my” cry, it is “my” prayer. What then? Even when the man individualizes himself most carefully, he does but mingle most familiarly with all other men. This is the voice of an exile--a man far from the city which he loves most; yet even at the extremity of the land he says he will cry unto God. Why not? God can give the exile a home! Wherever God reveals himself in loving pity and all the riches of His grace, the soul may take its rest, knowing that no lion shall be there, neither shall any ravenous beast go up thereon. David cried from the end of the land! We have cried from the same extremity. By processes too subtle for us to comprehend, God has often caused our misfortunes to become our blessings, In the midst of the psalmist’s trouble there rises an aspiration--“lead me to the rock that is higher than I. “The” self-helplessness expressed in this prayer moves our entire sympathy. “Lead me”--what a blind man who had wandered from the accustomed path would say; “lead me”--what a lame man would say who had fallen by reason of his great weakness; “lead me”--what a terrified man would say who had to pass along the edge of a bottomless abyss. It is in such extremities that men best know themselves. David wished to be led to the rock; he wished to stand firmly, to stand above the flood-line, to have rest after so great disquietude. Then there is a rock higher than we? We have heard of Jesus Christ by this strange name; we have heard of Him as the Rock of ages; we have heard of Him as the Rock in the wilderness; we have heard of Him as the Stone rejected of the builders but elected of God to the chief place. The aspiration is succeeded by a recollection (Psalms 61:3). History is rightly used when it becomes the guide of hope. The days of a man’s life seem to be cut off from each other by the nights which intervene; but they are continuous when viewed from the altitude of Divine providence. Yesterday enriches to-day. All the historic triumphs of the Divine arm stimulate us in the present battle. We may say of God--What Thou hast been, Thou wilt be; because Thou hast inclined Thine ear unto us, therefore will we call upon Thee as long as we live. “I will abide in Thy tabernacle for ever, I will trust in the covert of Thy wings.” Here is a beautiful combination--worship and confidence! The relation is not only beautiful, but strictly sequential; for worship is confidence, and confidence is worship. Truly to kneel before God is to express trust in Him, and truly to express trust in Him is to bow down and worship at His footstool. This is the complete idea of worship: not prayer only, not hope only, not adoration only, not a blind dependence only; but all combined, all rounded into one great act of life. “Under the covert of Thy wings”--how tender the figure! The bird spreads her wings over the nest where her young ones lie, and thus gives them warmth, and affords them all the little protection in her power. What a beautiful image of unity, defence, completeness, safety, is so frail a thing as the nest of a bird! Multiply that image by infinitude; carry it far above all the mischances which may befall the little home of the bird, and then see how full of comfort is the idea. We have heard of a “shelter,” and a “tower,” and a “tabernacle,”--words which have much meaning for the heart when its distresses are not to be numbered, and which reach their full explanation only in that great Saving Man who was wounded for our transgressions. (J. Parker, D. D.)

The pious experiences of an exile

I. A deep sense of isolation. “From the end of the earth will I cry unto Thee.” Few feelings are more saddening than the feeling of lonelihood. It hangs like a cold leaden cloud over the heart. In this lonelihood, and far away from the scenes of his home and populations of men, he prays. The Great Father is accessible in all seasons of the soul, and all points of space.

II. A felt need for Divine helps. Many things would tend to overwhelm the heart of David with sorrow--the conduct of Absalom his son, the treachery of professed friends, the disorders of his country, and, above all, remorse on account of the many wrong things he had done and which had perhaps brought all these distresses upon him. Under such a load of sadness, he feels that his only hope is in God. The soul in its sorrow requires something outside of itself and greater, and there is a Rock for tempest-tossed souls.

III. A yearning for lost privileges. “I will abide in Thy tabernacle for ever.” He was far away from this tabernacle now,--a scene where he had often worshipped and experienced the raptures of religion. Profoundly does he feel the loss, and hence he resolves on his return to abide there, not only to visit it occasionally, but to continue as a resident, “dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of his life.” When there, he had felt like the young bird under the wing of its parent, warm, safe, and happy; and this privilege he yearned for again. “I will trust in the covert of Thy wings.” It is an old adage, that “the well is not missed until it is dried up.” The loss of blessings is evermore the means of deepening our impressions as to their value.

IV. As acknowledgment of Divine kindness (Psalms 61:5). The “heritage” mentioned is participation in the honours and privileges of the chosen people, and such were indeed great (Romans 9:4-5). What a heritage! And this David acknowledges as being given to him by God. Whatever privileges we have, personal, social, political, or religious, our “heritage” is the gift of God.

V. An assurance of future prosperity. “Thou wilt prolong the king’s life.” He seems to have been assured of two things.

1. The lengthening of his rule as a king. “Thou wilt prolong the king’s life”--add days to that reign which was nearly brought to an abrupt termination.

2. The continuation of his privileges as a saint. “He shall abide before God for ever.” These two things he seems to have been assured of--that he should live for years, and for years to come enjoy the presence of his God. Blessed assurance this!

VI. A cry for moral excellence. “Mercy and truth.” These are the cardinal virtues. “Grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.” A soul full of benevolence and in harmony with eternal realities. In this all good is comprised. Herein Paradise blooms and blossoms. The profoundest hunger Of all souls should be for these two things, grace and truth. Having these, all else follows.

VII. A resolution to worship for ever. Worship is the highest end of being. Religion, or worship, is not the means to an end, it is the grandest end of existence. (Homilist.)


Verse 2

Psalms 61:2

From the end of the earth will I cry unto Thee, when my heart is overwhelmed: lead me to the Reek that is higher than I.

David’s refuge

This psalm, like very many others, begins with tears and ends with praise. It is very often so, in coming to a throne of grace day by day. Many a believer has gone down upon his knees with a broken heart, and has risen with it healed and fully cured.

I. David’s resolution. “I will cry unto Thee.” Now, the term “cry” is of very frequent use in Scripture, and it is very expressive. It signifies earnestness--it signifies desire for relief; it is the expression of want. A child cries, a child cries long before it can speak: and how prevailing is that cry! How a mother’s heart yearns at the cry of her infant!

II. The circumstances. “When my heart is overwhelmed.” You see the circumstances here are most serious. He might have taken up the language of Hezekiah and said, “Lord, I am oppressed; undertake for me.” But still, although he was overwhelmed, he pursued the right course. For what is the remedy in affliction? “Is any afflicted? Let him pray”--“pray.” It is, perhaps, reasonable, and to a certain extent natural, that men under the pressure of affliction should go down upon their knees, Many a tear has been dried so; and the deeper the sorrow, the more reason there is to cry to God.

III. But, you see, not only the circumstances, “When my heart is overwhelmed,” but “From the end of the earth”--is whatever place you may be. The psalmist mentions the end of the earth, however distant he might be from that which was the appointed place of prayer, the temple of the Lord in Jerusalem, where the saints were in the habit of assembling together. We know now under the Gospel dispensation, that wherever there is a place of prayer, the most obscure position cannot cut off the communication between a spiritual heart and Heaven. How blessed is this! For our encouragement, how very numerous are the instances recorded in the Word of God of definite prayers on the part of God’s saints, and definite answers on the part of God! No fewer than eighty-eight distinct prayers of men of God, and eighty-eight distinct answers from the Lord, are recorded in the Old Testament; and no fewer than forty-eight instances of the same kind occur in the New Testament. And, doubtless, these are only just sprinkled in that we may be encouraged, whenever we find them, to see that there is a reality about it--that God’s saints of old have endeavoured to cultivate this state and condition, and that God has marked it by His especial favour.

IV. What the psalmist prayed for--“Lead me to the Rock that is higher than I.” This gives us an idea of safety in the midst of trial, and support when one is almost ready to be swallowed up. Now, the rock that you and I must look to is the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, and to Him the Holy Spirit must lead us. We need to be led, or we shall never come to Him. And observe in the next verse to the text the way in which the psalmist draws his encouragement. “For Thou hast been a shelter to me, and a strong tower from the enemy.” You see, the experience of the past may confirm our hope for the future, for He is the “same yesterday, and to-day, and for ever,” and “they that know Thy name will put their trust in Thee.” (J. W. Reeve, M. A.)

Faith and its aspirations

I remark, first, that this is the expression of faith, as distinguished from science, and it justifies that faith. The present age is not, I think, to be characterized above all others as an age of intellect. It is an age of wonderful control over the forces and facts of nature. By this knowledge, certainly, man has great power, as he has by all intellectual acquisition. Intellectual strength is a wondrous faculty. In yonder closet there sits a pale thinker, in body puny almost as an infant, shrinking from the cold, and withering under the heat like a sensitive plant. And yet upon some occasion that man will stand up, and his words will run like an electric shock through the hearts of thousands, and they will be swayed by the sheer force of his mind like the leaves of the summer forest. He sets his pen to the vindication of some truth, and his documents flying abroad, alarm councils, change faiths, and alter polities. It is possible you may find a few rare instances of men who can make out what is called a scientific religion, and live by it; having a cause for every effect, and a law for every crisis; finding the source of their own suffering at -the end of the scalpel, and counting up their beating pulses by the tick of the watch. But there are few people who can stand on the level of the mere facts of nature and say it is enough to know that the earth turns on its axis, and that all things move in order. We want something higher than all this. These forces of nature have no particular sympathy with us. They are relentless, silent, stern. We crave something akin to ourselves--something near to our own souls, as nature is not--something that is higher than ourselves, to lift us up. It must be above the facts that prevail around us. Therefore, we say, what comes through science does not make up the complement and perfection of human nature. We need an element of faith--that kind of faith with which this grand old psalm was written. The soul wants something more than what the mere intellect gives; something that can reach the depths of its affections, and strengthen it in its moral weakness. So I come to observe, finally, that there are occasions in life when religion demonstrates itself to be a special need and prompting of the soul; when not only is this text found to be the language of religion, above all science and all mere morality, but above all mere logical arguments, above all debates, above all controversy; when there breaks out a demonstration of the truths of religion in just such language and experience as that which is contained in the words of the text--“When my heart is overwhelmed, lead me to the rock that is higher than I.”(E. H. Chapin.)

The believer’s refuge in distress

I. There is no speck in this earth, no place in the vast extent of God’s boundless creation, where His power, wisdom and goodness do not extend. For whither will you flee, where the hand of God cannot reach you; or where the eye of God cannot see you, and witness your every thought, word and deed? “Who by searching can find out God? Who can find out the Almighty unto perfection?” For what proportion can any series of finite numbers bear to Infinity?

II. Contemplate the period when this urgent request is made, and when this earnest supplication is poured forth; namely, when the heart is overwhelmed, when the spirit is sorrowful, and when the soul is bowed down; when deep calleth unto deep, and when the waves and billows roll over the sinking and sorrowing soul. It would be easy to explain why the heart of the sincere Christian is often overwhelmed. Not only has he his troubles and trials in common with the rest of the world, but he has those which are peculiar to him as a member of the household of faith--as a traveller who is journeying to a foreign country--peculiar to him as a citizen of that city which hath foundations whose builder and maker is God--peculiar to him as a soldier who is marching through an enemy’s country to take possession of the promised land.

III. The gracious and merciful encouragement every tried, tempted and trembling sinner has to repair to this rock of defence. For every believer freely acknowledges, and from his inmost spirit feels, that he is a weak, defenceless creature, unable to contend in his own strength against the powers of sin and death leagued against him; he finds that he has not only to wrestle against “flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places”; consequently he had need to take upon him the whole armour of God--he had need to fly for refuge to a stronger arm than his own for protection. (N. Meeres, B. D.)

Man’s need of the superhuman

Unless the rock be beyond our height it cannot shield us from the sun-glare, nor from the arrows of the enemy. We need--

I. A faith that is beyond the range of earthly knowledge. Daniel Webster said he would not believe in a religion whose doctrines he could comprehend.

II. A power to help us that is beyond our own power, in order to conquer ourselves. (Homiletic Monthly.)

The higher life

We all feel within us that there is something higher, purer, and more firm and endurable than the ignoble and unstable level on which we are living just now. We feel that a higher state is what we should aim at; and it is this instinct which always seems to draw us on. When a man reverently reads the life of Jesus and the writings of the apostles, he feels there is a higher, nobler and purer life to which he is drawn; and I think a prayer in harmony with our feelings is this, “Lead me to the rock, or to the life, that is higher than I.” One feature of this higher life, and one step towards it is this--that in the midst of our crosses and worries and troubles we shall endeavour to be patient and cheerful. Cheerfulness is a great promoter of happiness in ourselves and others. If we have not naturally a cheerful disposition, we should try to cultivate it. “Assume a virtue if you have it not.” We may learn many a lesson of the higher life from the book of Nature. Some one has advised us to go to the ant for a lesson in industry, to the dove to learn innocence, and to the serpent to see wisdom; but let us go to the robin redbreast for a picture of cheerfulness. What can be a finer lesson in patient cheerfulness than the warbling of the robin on your window-sill in a winter morning, when the whole earth is like one hard piece of ice? Tucking one leg under his wing to keep it warm, the robin chirps and warbles to us a lesson of unalloyed patience. There is a step which leads us still higher; it is to be gentle. Gentleness is very high up on the rock of the heavenly life, and therefore it is a step which is rather difficult to mount. Gentleness is the disposition of God. Twice in the Bible we have these remarkable words, “Thy gentleness hath made me great.” Another characteristic of the higher life is willingness to voluntarily suffer for the good of another. I trust we all believe in this kind of religion. We may have it by prayer. “Lead me,” says the psalmist; “I cannot be self-denying for others unless Thou lead me to be so. Lead me therefore, O God, and it can be done.” (W. Birch.)

The sheltering rock

I. The season referred to--“When my heart is overwhelmed.” There are such seasons in Christian experience.

1. From a sense of the Divine claims we owe obedience (Deuteronomy 6:5; Matthew 22:37).

2. From the pressure of heavy trials (Psalms 55:12-14).

3. From the keenness of temptation to which the very best of men are subject. Moses, David, Daniel, Job, and even our Lord Himself, were all tempted.

4. From the anticipations of future evils.

II. Whither the psalmist desires to be led--“To the Rock that is higher than I.” “The rock” gives the idea--

1. Of strength (Psalms 62:2; Psalms 62:6; Psalms 62:8).

2. Durability: “I am the Lord, I change not.” “Jesus Christ, the same yesterday,” etc.

III. The grounds of the psalmist’s plea--“from the ends of the earth.”

1. This prayer is prompted by a consciousness of need.

2. It is addressed to the true source of ability.

3. It is encouraged by past experience (Psalms 61:3). (G. Stockdale.)

God the saint’s rock

There are two things here--

1. The state wherein the psalmist was--“the end of the earth,” in loneliness and distant from the house of God. And his heart was overwhelmed, and he fainted under his distress.

2. The course he takes in this state. He cried unto the Lord. His faith made him do so, for faith makes the heart sensible of affliction, and complain of it unto God, and earnestly endeavour to come near to God. What it craves is, that God would lead him to the rock, that is, that God would give him access unto Himself by Christ, in whom God is our rock and refuge.

I. Note some instances of this cry of faith (Jonah 2:2-3). David in many instances.

II. The grounds of it.

1. Faith does this, because it is able to distinguish between the covenant itself, which is firm, stable, invariable; and the administration of the covenant, which is various and changeable; I mean the outward administration of it. And this God teaches us (Psalms 89:30-34).

2. Faith will naturally thus act, as it is the principle of the new nature in us that came from God, and will tend unto Him, whatever difficulties lie in the way.

III. What it is, that in such an overwhelming condition as I have described, faith regards in God, to give it a support and relief, that it be not utterly overwhelmed.

1. The first thing faith considers in such a condition is the nature of God Himself, and His excellencies. There are three or four circumstances that may befall us in our distress, that faith itself can get no relief against them, but from the essential properties of the nature of God.

2. Believers may be brought into distress in all places of the world: in a lion’s den with Daniel; in a dungeon with Jeremiah; they may be banished to the ends of the earth, as John to Patmos; or they may be driven into the wilderness, as the woman by the fury of the dragon, Now, what can give relief against this circumstance of distress which may befall the people of God? (Jeremiah 23:28).

3. God is ever the same.

4. There is relief to be found in God, and only in Himself, in the loss of all, when nothing remains. This was Habakkuk’s comfort if all should fail him; yet, saith he, “I will rejoice in the Lord, and joy in the God of my salvation.”

5. The last circumstance of distress is death, with the way and manner whereby it may approach us: and how soon this will be we know not. The soul’s relief lies in God’s immutability, that we shall find Him the same to us in death as He was in life, and much more. (J. Owen, D. D.)

The strong sanctuary

An ineradicable sense of dependence inheres in every finite being as he is brought into conscious life. A created nature must go out of itself and make its sanctuary in a greater and a holier nature before it can be rightly centred and rationally satisfied. This predisposition to lean, to nestle, to seek sanctuary, is the common birthmark of everything in which there is the breath of life. Rather than have no refuge at all, the troubled man will fly to one who is weaker and less discerning than himself. He will consult an authority he cannot trust rather than be shut up within the ring-fence of his own infirm and imperfect personality. The castaway on an unknown shore will make the savage he has tempted into his service a confidant, and will teach his own speech to the parrot, so that he may hear some other voice, rather than be abandoned to his own resources. The general who has lost a battle, and whose habit it has been to maintain a severe aloofness from every member of his staff, will take counsel in the days of his defeat and humiliation with a dependant, and discuss schemes of campaign with a cook or a campfollower, rather than be left to himself. The lost traveller in the desert will yield himself at last to the instincts of his horse or camel, for he has a maddening horror of the repeated misjudgments which are taking him farther and yet farther from wells of water and palm-trees and the tents and habitations of men. We must have some kind of refuge outside ourselves, if it be but the beggar’s cave. It would be a poor look-out for us if there were nothing within our horizon measuring up to a loftier altitude than our own few paltry cubits of stature. What a wilderness of peril, torture, trepidation, this earthly life would be if there were no high tower, no strong fortress, no enduring refuge, open for us to run into! We need to lean on one towering aloft above this poor, decrepit nature of ours, to fly to the overshadowing power of the Most High, to penetrate the inmost secrets of His love. We demand that which transcends ourselves, and yet is at the same time gentle, gracious, sympathizing. “Lead me to the rock that is higher than I.” Nothing which is on our own level can quiet our fear and appease our distress. Fleeing from ourselves and from all the terrors that pursue us, bidding farewell to the very sins that seem as inseparable from us as our shadows, we may make our dwelling-place and our abiding home in the brightness of His ever faithful presence. This strong and enduring sanctuary can only afford its peace and shelter to our troubled spirits when we are willing to accept terms of reconciliation with God. “God is a refuge for us,” and we cannot hide in the refuge and at one and the same time be estranged from God. The melancholy perplexity of many around us consists in this, that they crave a hiding-place from the evils and terrors which infest human life, and yet they cannot or will not turn their faces Godward. The centrifugal tendency seen in Cain when he fled from the face of the Lord, and yet shuddered at the thought of the pain, execration, antagonism, which were everywhere confronting him in his flight, reappears in us. We want to leave both God and the terrors which beleaguer our steps behind; and the two things are absolutely incompatible. We must humble our pride, consent to be contrite, accept God’s truce, if we are to come into the impregnable sanctuary of His gentleness and power. (T. G. Selby.)

The rock higher than I

Palestine was not only a land that flowed with milk and honey, but a land of rock and river, and of towering mountains, presenting to his eye a diversified scenery of valley and height, of hill and dale. To apply the term Rock to God, as the refuge and defence of His people in times of difficulty and danger, as the natural rocks were to the distressed Israelites, became as it were a proverbial form of speech, which almost ceased to partake of the nature of metaphor. The Lord is my rock and my fortress. Who is a rock, save our God? Then he forsook the God that made him, and lightly esteemed the Rock of his salvation. So in the New Testament Christ is called the Rock that supplied the Israelites with means to quench their spiritual, as the rock of Horeb quenched their natural thirst. He was the Rock that followed them. The prayer, then, of David in the text, “Lead me to the Rock that is higher than I,” is a prayer for all people and in all times. Adversity is a painful school, but it seems to be the order of God’s providence that the majority of men, if saved at all, should be saved so as by fire. The weakness of humanity requires to be demonstrated, not only in the truth of Scripture, but in their own persons, in order to bring conviction to their minds and to impress their hearts. When merry, we find it easy to sing psalms; it is only when afflicted that we heed the injunction to seek relief in prayer. It is only when sick that we apply to the Great Physician, when lost that we seek to be saved. Not the mighty, the noble, the wise, but sinners are called to repentance; it is only in weakness that we are made strong. When we are victorious upon the plain we turn our backs to the fortress and the rock; it is the routed army that flees to it for shelter and support. But God is no less the needed Rock that is higher than we in prosperity; indeed, if possible, the more needed than in adversity. Of the two we think the history of the human heart will show that the former is the more dangerous and the more fraught with perils to the souls of men. There is no one of us but at some time has felt the need of the Rock that is higher than I. If we have had full garners, we have feared lest in gaining the world we might perchance lose our own souls; if we have been called to suffer and endure, we have wanted beneath us the everlasting arms to be our comfort and support. It is a necessity of our natures, it grows out of our relations to God. We are His creatures; He is the source of our spiritual and natural life, and it is only His sustaining power that can preserve that life in being. If left to ourselves, Scripture, reason, experience, all teach us that we grope as the blind, we totter and fall, and are made painfully conscious of our own weakness and infirmities. To give us confidence, to enable us to to forward without faltering or fear, we must have some other reliance than our own strength and efforts, some other trust than our own unaided resources in the fierce warfare with the world, the flesh, and the devil. Are we weak? there is the source of strength. Are we sorrowing? there is comfort. Are we penitent? there is pardon. Were it merely a Rock, the symbol of strength alone, of that power which can destroy as well as save, our faith might falter and our hopes might fail; but it is the Rock of Love as well, Jesus is a High Priest who can be touched with a feeling for man’s infirmities, for He was tempted and tried in all points as are we, only without sin. (G. F. Cushman, D. D.)

Christ our Rock

I. The state described.

1. Man is an emotional being; so delicate and subtle is the organization of the human heart, that a single sound will influence it. So highly wrought that it may be operated upon by the most refined instrument which creature skill ever constructed. So tenderly susceptible, that a word is often times enough to lift it into ecstasy, or depress it to despair--so sensitive, that the glance of an eye can fill it with joy, or transfix it with grief.

2. We may understand, therefore, how it is, that in some circumstances, under strong influences--a sudden influx of joy, or prosperity, or under a storm and inundation of woes--the heart becomes overwhelmed. The Christian is not exempt from the troubles and trials of life; and, in addition to them, how frequently is he overwhelmed with a sense of his own unworthiness--his imperfections; the smallness of his faith--and the coldness of his love. How often does he make the language of the psalmist his own, and say unto God, “When my heart is overwhelmed within me, lead me,” etc.

II. The import of the prayer. Here is the expression of conscious weakness, “Lead me.” He feels the need of assisting grace, and Divine support--and with the self-diffidence and conscious weakness of a little child, he tries to grasp his Father’s hand--“Lead me.” “Higher than I.” This implies confidence--faith in God--in the sufficiency of Christ. He acknowledges in Christ some one to look up to, superior to any human source; here is humility, (J. D. Carey.)

The appeal of the human to the Divine

No irreligious man, no liver of the lower life, no man sunk in the material, could pray this prayer. It is the cry of the spiritually awakened man, for only he knows there is anything higher than himself, and only he would ever cry out for its possession.

1. This man’s conception of Deity has two sides to it--a physical and supernatural. He conceives God in the form of a natural and poetical image; sees Him as a Rock. To others God might be Father, lover, friend, but to him He was the rock, that against which birds and armies and tempests dash themselves to pieces, but also that on which flowers bud out of the winds, and birds build their nests, and men hide from the march of tempests. But it is possible that in this other phrase “higher than I”--we have another conception of the Divine. Change “higher than I” into “too high for me,” and you have the conception which held his mind. Too high! i.e. on a higher level, of another order, of a greatness I can never attain, nor match, nor rival! Too high, i.e. God is everything man is not. Man, frail, tainted, limited, weak, foolish. God, enduring, holy, omnipotent, unchangeable, all-wise. Too high! i.e. beyond human apprehension I “Too high for me,” makes Him the unknowable, the unsearchable splendour, homed in unapproachable light, and worshipped from afar.

2. This discovery and conception of the Divine is not without its effect on the man. First it creates a thirst, a desire in the man. The vision breaks up his self-content, and fills him with a heavenward longing. “O Rock, Thou the timeless, the restful, the immutable, let me hide myself in Thee.” Man is but the lichen that would root itself on the unshaken and unshakable. The other effect is of a different character. It is said that the revelation of God is the revelation of a man’s self. When Job saw God, he cried, “I abhor myself.” When Isaiah beheld Him, he exclaimed, “I am a man of unclean lips.” Everywhere else man is the all--the king--only in the temple is he the little helpless child with no language but a cry. Man can see the good, dream it, idealize it; he can long for the good, love it, worship it, but it is his disappointment and his hell that he knows it is not in him to be it, to win it, nor possess it.

3. With this point the experience seems to terminate. When man reaches the point of inability, he reaches the end. There is nothing more for him to do than to sit down, fold his hands and wait for the inevitable. If he cannot, he cannot, and he can only acquiesce in his helplessness. But such a termination is impossible. The point where man breaks down is the point where the Divine enters and begins its miracles. The revelation is meant to set the human in action, to lift him to something higher. Instead, therefore, of the conception ending with inability, it ends with a sobbing prayer. It is an appeal for means--“Cut steps in the cliff that I may climb it, let down the rope and draw me up.” It is an appeal for help--“I stagger with fatigue and weakness, put an arm round me and help me up the stone-strewn steeps.” It is a cry for guidance--“Take my hand and guide me, and put my foot on the first stair of the stairway that leads to Thee.” It is a cry for light--“I am confused with fear and doubt, give me light that I may see the way that leads to Thee.” It is a cry for shelter--“Suns smite me, and sanddrifts sweep over me, and the whole landscape reels and swims; lift me into the shadow of Thy wings.” It is a cry for salvation--“I cling to Thee, but the storm beats and the waves drag and my hold is slipping, put out Thy hand and draw me from the hungry waters.” It is the prayer of the helpless, the appeal of the human to the Divine--man in his weakness casting himself on the benevolence and omnipotence of Deity, man in his despair abandoning himself to God. Lead me, let me reach Thee, dwell with Thee, and be one with Thee for ever. (C. E. Stone.)

The high rock

I. Prayer is always available.

in every place, and in every condition of our spirit. I think David meant, by the expression, “the end of the earth,” a place where he should be far away from his friends, far away from human help, and far away from God’s sanctuary.

1. God’s people are sometimes brought into such a condition that they are far away from friends. Perhaps you know what it is to have a trouble which you are compelled to bear yourself, which you could not describe even to those in your own house, though your friends would have been ready to help you if they had known; yet it was such that, with all their readiness, they would not have had ability to assist you in it, the biggest words could not have told it, and the bitterest tears could not have spelled it out. You were far away from friends in reality, though they were all round you. Now, this is what David meant by “the end of the earth,”--far away from friends,--yet even then, when friend and helper and lover failed, did he cry unto his God.

2. Again, he meant, by “the end of the earth,” far away from human help. There are times when we are sighing after spiritual mercies, when we are groaning under the withdrawal of God’s countenance, when our sins are hunting us like packs of wolves, when afflictions are rolling over us like huge billows--when faith is little, and fear is great, when hope is dim, and doubt becomes terrible and dark--then we are far away from human help; but, blessed be God, even then we may cry unto Him.

3. By “the end of the earth,” I think, too, David means at a distance from the means of grace. Sometimes, by sickness, either personal or the sickness of our relatives, we are detained from the house of God; at other times, in journeying by land or upon the sea, we are unable to be in God’s sanctuary, and to use the means of grace.

II. There are times when even a believer cannot get to Christ as he desires. Sometimes God, in His sovereignty, is pleased to show a man his sin, and not to show him his Saviour, for a season; he strips the sinner, perhaps he leaves him to shiver in the cold before he clothes him, just to let him know what a boon that robe of Christ’s righteousness is. He sometimes gives repentance and faith at the same time, just as the thunder sometimes follows the lightning at once; at other times, He gives repentance, and then He makes us tarry for many a day before He gives us full assurance of our interest in Christ; but they are sure to follow one another, sooner or later. “Lead me to the rock that is higher than I. Oh, help me to believe! Lord, enable me to see the need of Thy Son, give me the power to look unto Him who was pierced, and, as Thou hast given me eyes to weep, so give me eyes to look on Him, and grace to rejoice in Him as mine.”

III. We are now coming to that part of the text which most of all delights my soul, the thought of Jesus Christ, who is the Rock that is higher than we are. Here is a man who is a great sinner. “Ah!” he says, “I am indeed a great sinner; my iniquities reach so high that they have ascended above the very stars; they have gone before me to the judgment-seat of God, and they are clamouring for my destruction.” Well, sinner, come thou here, and measure this Rock. Thou art very high, it is true; but this Rock is higher than thou art. Here comes another forward; he is not a man full of doubts and fears, but he is a man of hopeful spirit. “Oh!” says he, “I have many sins, but I hope that the Lord Jesus Christ will take them all away. I have many wants, but I hope that He will supply them. I shall have many temptations, but I hope that He will ward them off. I shall have many difficulties, but I hope He will carry me through them.” Ah I man, I like to see thee have a good long measuring-rod, when it is made of hope. Hope is a tall companion; he wades right through the sea, and is not drowned; you cannot kill him, do what you may. Hope is one of the last blessings God gives us, and one that abides last with us. If a man is foodless, and without covering, still he hopes to see better days by and by. Now, sinner, thy hopes, I would have thee to see, are very tall, and very high; but remember, this Rock is higher than any of thy hopes. “Well,” cries another, “from what I have heard, and what I have read in God’s Word, I am expecting very great things of Christ when I shall see Him as He is. Oh, sir, if He be better than the communion of His saints can make Him, if He be sweeter than all His most eloquent preachers can speak of Him, if He be so delightful that those who know Him best cannot tell His beauties, what a precious--what a glorious--what an inconceivable Christ He must be!” Ah, I am glad thou art measuring Christ by thine expectation I But let me tell thee, high as thy expectations are, He is higher than thou art. Expect what thou mayest; but when thou seest Him, thou wilt say with the Queen of Sheba, “The half was not told me.” Now, as some of you will be exercised with troubles, remember that the Rock is higher than you are; and when your troubles reach you, if you are not high enough to escape them, climb up to the Rock Christ, for there is no trouble that can reach you when you get there. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

The saint’s asylum in distress

I. The distress supposed. “When my heart is overwhelmed.”

1. By distressing temptations.

2. By providential visitations.

3. By inward fears and depressions.

II. The asylum referred to. “The rock higher than I.”

III. The prayer presented. “Lead me to the rock,” etc.

1. Conscious insufficiency.

2. Confidence in Christ’s all-sufficiency.

3. Earnest desire to feel our connection with Christ. (J. Burns, D. D.)

Overwhelmed

Imagine a vessel at sea, and you can get an idea of the meaning of our text. It has been labouring in a storm; sometimes lifted up to heaven, as though its masts would sweep the stars; then again descending until its keel seemed dragging on the ocean bed; first staggering this way, and then that way, reeling to and fro, now rushing forward and now starting back--like a drunken man, or like a madman who has lost his way. At last, a huge sea comes rolling on; its white crest of foam can be seen in the distance, and the sailors give up all for lost; on comes the wave, gathering up all its strength till it dashes against the ship, and--down the vessel goes, it is overwhelmed. The decks are swept, the masts are gone, the timbers are creaking, the ship descends, and is sucked down as in a whirlpool; all is lost. “Now,” says David, “that is the case with my heart; it is overwhelmed, drawn into a vortex of trouble, borne down by a tremendous sea of difficulty, crushed and broken; the ribs of my soul seem to have given way; every timber of my vessel is cracked and gone out of its place. My heart is overwhelmed within me.” Can you now get an idea of the extreme sorrow of the psalmist’s spirit? “Yet,” says he, “even then will I cry unto Thee.” Oh, noble faith, that can cry amidst the shrieking of the tempest and the howling of the storm! Oh, glorious faith, that from the bottom of the sea can shoot its arrows to the heights of heaven! Oh, masterpiece of faith, that from a broken spirit can present prevailing prayer! Oh, glorious triumph, that from the end of the earth can send a prayer which can reach all the way to heaven! (C. H. Spurgeon.)

The highest rock

This Rock is higher than thou art. All thou hast enjoyed of Christ is but as the beginning of a topless mountain. When I have been in Scotland, I have gone up some of the hills there; and I have thought, “This is a very high place indeed; what a fine view there is, what a height I have reached!” “Ah!” some one has said, “but if you were to see the Alps, this hill would only seem like the beginning, you would only have got to the foot when you had climbed as high as this;” and so it is with you. By your experience, your sweet enjoyment, you think you have reached the top of the mountain; but Christ comes and whispers to you, “Look yonder, far above those clouds; you have only begun to go up; this hill of communion is only one step; as yet you have only taken a child’s leap; you have farther to go, far higher than you could imagine or conceive.” Ah! this is indeed a Rock higher than thou art, the highest in communion, and the next to the throne of God. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Continuance in prayer--a test of sincerity

“Will the hypocrite pray always?” No, as the wheel wears with turning, till it breaks at last, so doth the hypocrite. He prays himself weary of praying; something or other will in time make him quarrel with that duty, which he never inwardly liked; whereas tim sincere believer hath that in him which makes it impossible he Should quite give over praying, except he should also cease believing. Prayer is the very breath of faith; stop a man’s breath, and where is he then? ‘Tis true the believer through his own negligence may find some more difficulty of fetching his praying breath at one time than at another, as a man in a cold doth in his natural breath. Alas, who is so careful of his soul’s health that needs not bewail this. But faith to live and this breath of prayer to be quite cut off is impossible. The Christian’s wants, sins and temptations continually return upon him, he cannot but continue also to pray against them. “From the ends of the earth will I call unto Thee,” said David; “wherever I am, I’ll find Thee out; prison me, banish me, or do with me what Thou wilt, Thou shalt never be rid of me.” (W. Gurnall.)


Verse 3

Psalms 61:3

For Thou hast been a shelter to me, and a strong tower from the enemy.

Past mercies earnests of future ones

The psalmist had good ground for the determination which he cordially expresses. It is manifest that, with David, to call to mind past mercies was to expect future. He was at the very ends of ‘the earth; his heart was overwhelmed; but as soon as he remembered how God had delivered and shielded him before, he was at once confident that the wings of his protection were stretched over him still. Perhaps he recollected how he had been saved from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear--how wonderfully he had been enabled to smite down the uncircumcised Philistine; and then, remembering that God was still the same God, he took courage, and felt it impossible that he could now be deserted. Let us, then, show the soundness of David’s argument. If it be not sound, and God, though He once loved us and sought to do us good, doth now no longer love us, then He, the unchangeable must have changed. But is the Lord’s arm shortened that He cannot save? The mercies, therefore, that memory adduces cannot have exhausted Him; otherwise He were not Almighty; nay, they actually pledge Him to assist me, otherwise He were not unchangeable. And consider St. Paul’s argument: “He that spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?” The apostle here makes the great fact of human redemption--a redemption of which all men, without exception, are the subjects--a reason why God should bestow upon us whatsoever is good; or rather, an evidence that He cannot be willing to withhold from us any real benefit. And, perhaps, there is hardly the use made which there might be of the grand fact of redemption, when men are to be urged to dependence on God, or to confidence in His mercy. It is generally to God as a God of providence, rather than of salvation, that reference is made. We speak of Him as the Being who has watched over us from infancy Upwards; and we argue that He who has bestowed so many blessings Will surely not forsake us if we will trust in His protection. The argument is quite correct so far as it goes. There is no fault to be found with it, except that it does not take the highest ground. For it is not every man, who, like David, has been wondrously delivered from the vicious, uncicumcised Philistine, and who can therefore say of his Maker, “Thou hast been a shelter for me.” Still every man may say this, though he may be quite unable to trace any single interposition, or speak of special instances in which he has been secured by the shelter of the Almighty--every man may say it, because he has had a share in the general providence of God, having been fed by His bounty, and guarded by His power. Every man may say it, because on his behalf--as actually on his behalf as though he had been a solitary offender--did God’s own Son take on Him human nature, undergo ignominy, and die as a propitiation. The mother who has lost a child, and yet has been enabled, when that child was carried forth to the burial, to exclaim, “The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord”--what right has she to be confounded or dismayed when another child seems sickening, as though it were about to die? Why should she recoil from the new trial as certainly more than she can bear, when she has the memory of support given her in her former affliction? God comforted her then; why not now? And so with other mourners and other trials. It is in this way that we would have you live over again times and seasons of extraordinary mercies, in order that you may be nerved for extraordinary trials. Christians should study the history of eminent saints, in order that, through observing what deliverances have been wrought for others, they may be encouraged to expect deliverance for themselves. There is not a converted man who has not such a book--the book of his own experience, on whose pages are inscribed the unnumbered things that God has done for himself. Its title may be said to have been written on the day of conversion, and each following page on every succeeding day. It is the history of himself, and there is a reality about it to convince, which the history of another can scarcely ever have. And note, too, the striking expression of St. Paul, “I know whom I have believed.” It was no mere report or hearsay with him, that God was a merciful Father, or Christ a powerful Saviour. He had had proof, and he knew and was “persuaded that he was able to keep that,” etc. He had stored in his memory evidences both of the love and might of the Redeemer to which in the hour of trial he could appeal. And if we did the like, then we should not be, as we too often are, dismayed by the prospect of any new trial, or as much disheartened by the pressure of some new burden, as though we never had experienced the supports and consolations which the Almighty can bestow. Let mercies be remembered as well as enjoyed, and they must be as lights in our dark days, and as shields in our perilous. Strive to acquire the habit of noting and recording the blessings you receive; so that you may have, as it were, books to which to refer. We care not whether or not you do what many have done--accustom yourselves to the keeping a diary in which to register the incidents of life. We are not anxious about the method, but only as to the thing. In one way or another, keep the past before you, if you would look the future calmly in the face. Every fresh discovery of God’s gracious care of us will increase our admiring love, and with our love our happiness. Thus will life be to eternity what the past is now to the future, the supplying motive to a yet heartier rejoicing in the Lord our God. (H. Melvill, B. D.)

A strong tower

Let us think of the Lord as a strong tower.

I. Remember that the children wanted such a refuge just as much as the grown-up people did. It would never have done for the mother to have left her little child, or the father his boys and maidens. The enemy would have carried them away as slaves, or perhaps have killed them. Whenever temptation comes to you remember that none of us can fight this enemy by ourselves. We must run away at once and hide ourselves in Jesus. Nor is this the only enemy that makes us need the strong tower. We have often to run away from ourselves. Our tempers perhaps are passionate, and set us all on fire, like robbers used to do to the cottages and homes of the people. The feelings sometimes are full of anger and hatred, like those cruel men. Now for them too the Lord is a strong tower. He comes forth with His strong right hand to destroy this nest of robbers.

II. Think what a safe refuge we have when the Lord is our strong tower. He is the Almighty.

III. David not only speaks of the safety, but of the blessedness also. “I will trust in the covert of Thy wings” (Psalms 61:4). When I was going over that great castle, I thought that it was a very good place to hide in, but not a very comfortable place to live in. But when I got up to the very safest place of all, there I found a most pleasant little cottage; the ivy grew on the thatch, the jessamine and rose hung about the porch, a bird was singing merrily over the door, and from within came the happy laugh of children. There was strength, and there was comfort too. There was safety, and loving care. And so is it in the Lord’s strong tower. The Almighty power goes around us to defend us, and the arms that encircle us are the arms of Love, (Mark Guy Pearse.)


Verse 4-5

Psalms 61:4-5

I will abide in Thy tabernacle for ever; I will trust in the covert of Thy wings.

Comfort in exile

1. The Lord can give such satisfaction to a sad heart in the time of its trouble, that the trouble may turn to be no trouble, even while it lieth on still, as here is to be seen in David’s comfort, who speaketh as if he were restored, while he is yet in exile.

2. Spiritual consolations in temporal troubles do both give satisfaction to a soul for the present and for the time to come, for everlasting happiness; “I will abide in Thy tabernacle for ever”: his hope is, that not only he shall be restored to the fellowship of the saints, at the tabernacle in Jerusalem, but also that he shall be in God’s company in heaven, represented by the tabernacle, and that for ever.

3. True consolation standeth not in earthly things, but in things heavenly, and things having nearest relation thereto; for David’s comfort was not so much that he should be brought to the kingdom, as that he should be brought to the tabernacle, and to heaven by that means.

4. Sincerity setteth no term-day to God’s service, or to the seeking of communion with Him.

5. The ground of all spiritual consolations is in the mercy and grace of God offered to us in Christ, represented by the wings of the Cherubims stretched out over the mercy-seat; there faith findeth a rest and solid ground, able to furnish comfort abundantly: “I will trust in the covert of Thy wings.”

6. Access to God in prayer, and approbation of the conscience, and the sincere pouring forth of the heart melting with present felt sense of God’s love, do strengthen greatly the assurance of everlasting communion with God; “For Thou, O God, hast heard my voice.”

7. As spiritual comfort in time of trouble granted to a believer is indeed the earnest of everlasting life, so should they to whomsoever the earnest is given make reckoning that by this earnest the inheritance is confirmed unto them by way of possession begun: “Thou hast given me the heritage of those that fear Thy name.”

8. The inheritance of the chief of God’s servants, and of the meanest and weakest of them, is one; the right of every believer is alike good, albeit the hold laid upon the right by all is not alike strong; and what the strongest of the godly do believe for their own consolation and salvation, the weakest may believe the same to belong to every believer that feareth God. (D. Dickson.)

Selah.--

Selah

The majority of Bible-readers Think the word of my text of no importance. They suppose it to be a superfluity, a mere filling-in, a meaningless interjection, a useless refrain, an indefinable echo. Selah! It is never a Scriptural accident. Seventy-four times does it appear in the Psalms, and three times in Habakkuk. You must not convict this book of seventy-seven trivialities. Selah! It is an enthroned word. If, according to an old author, there are words that are battles, this word is a Marathon, a Thermopylae, a Waterloo, a Sedan. It is a word decisive sometimes for solemnity, and sometimes for beauty, and sometimes for grandeur. Through it roll the thundering chariots of the omnipotent God.

I. The Selah of poetic significance. When you find this word you are to rouse yourself to great stanzas. You are to open the door of your soul for analogies. You are to spread the wings of your imagination for flight. “I answered thee in the secret place of thunder; I proved thee at the waters of Meribah. Selah! The earth and all the inhabitants thereof are dissolved. I bear up the pillars thereof. Selah!. . . Who is this King of Glory? The Lord of Hosts, He is the King of Glory. Selah! Thou shalt compass me about with songs of deliverance. Selah! Though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof. Selah!” The Lord of Hosts is with us. The God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah! Thou hast given a banner to them that fear Thee, that it may be displayed because of the truth. Selah! I will trust in the covert of Thy wings. Selah! O God, when Thou wentest forth before Thy people, when Thou didst march through the wilderness. Selah!” You see the text is a signal hung out to warn you off the track while the rushing train goes by with its imperial messengers. Poetic word, charged with resurrections and millenniums!

II. The Selah of intermission. Gesenius, Tholuck and Hengstenberg agreed that this word often means a rest in the music. According to the Greeks it is a diapsalma, a pause, a halt in the solemn march of cantillation. God thrusts the Selah into His Bible and into our lives to make us stop and think, stop and consider, stop and admire, stop and repent, stop and pray, stop and be sick, stop and die. It is not the number of times that we read the Bible through that makes us intelligent in the Scriptures. We must pause. It may take us an hour to one word. It may take a day to one verse. It may take a year to one chapter. We must pause to measure the height, the depth, the length, the breadth, the universe, the eternity of one passage. Matthew Henry made a long pause after the verse, “Open Thou my lips, and my mouth shall show forth Thy braise,” and it converted him. Cowper made a long pause after the verse, “Being justified freely by His grace,” and it converted him. God tells us seventy-seven times meditatively to pause in reading two books in the Bible, leaving to our common sense to decide how often we ought to pause in reading the other sixtyfour Rooks of the Bible. Pause and pray for more light. Pause and weep for our sins. Pause and absorb the strength of one promise. It is not the number of times you go through the Bible, but the number of times the Bible goes through you. Pause! Reflect! Selah! So, in the scroll of your life and mine, we go rushing on in our song of prosperity from note of joy to note of joy, and it is smooth and long-drawn-out legato, and we become indifferent and unappreciative, when lo! we find a blank in the music; no notes between these two bars. A pause! The spaces will be filled up with a sick-bed, or a commercial disaster, or a grave. You and I have been halted by more than one Selah! But, thank God, it is not a ruinous break-down; it makes the past mercies the more valuable, and will make the future the more tender. Whether we understand now or not, it is best for us to pause. It is good to be afflicted. The Selah is not misplaced or wasted. Indeed, we shall all soon have to stop. Men of science are improving human longevity, but no one has proposed to make terrene life perpetual. Yet the GOspel makes death a Selah between two beatitudes, dying triumph standing on one side the grave, celestial escort standing on the other.

III. The Selah of emphasis. Ewald, the German theologian, thinks this word is from the Hebrew word “to ascend,” and that it means “you are to lift up your voice and make distinct utterance.” Oh! how much we all need to correct our emphasis. We put too much emphasis on the things of this world and too little emphasis on the things of the next world. Behold wretchedness on a throne! Napoleon, while yet emperor, sat dejected, with his face buried in his hands, and a little page presented him a tray of food, saying, “Eat, sir, it will do you good.” The emperor looked up and said to him, “You are from the country?” “Yes.” “Where your parents have a cottage and some acres of land? Yes.” “There is happiness,” cried Napoleon. Then behold happiness under worst worldly disadvantage. “I never saw until I was blind,” cried a Christian blind man one day. “I never knew contentment when I had my eyesight as I do now that I have lost it. I can truly affirm, though few know how to credit me, that I would on no account change my present situation and circumstances with any that I ever enjoyed before I was blind.” Oh, my hearers, change your emphasis. Put less weight on this world and more weight on God as a joy and an unfading portion.

IV. The Selah of perpetuity. The Targum renders this word “for ever.” Many writers agree in its meaning “for ever.” In the very verse from which my text is taken, Selah means not only poetic significance and intermission and emphasis, but eternal reverberation. For ever! God’s goodness for ever, God’s government for ever, gladness of the righteous for ever. This Selah of perpetuity makes all earthly inequalities insignificant; the difference between sceptre and needle, between Alhambra and hut, between chariot and cart; between throne and kerbstone, between Axminster and bare floor, between satin and sackcloth, trivial. This is the Selah that makes getting ready so important. For such a prolongation of travel, are we provided with guide books and passes and escort? Are we putting out into wilderness sirocco-swept and ghoul-haunted, or into regions of sun-lighted and spray-sprinkled garden? Is it to be Elysium or Gehenna? As we start we must keep on. That current is so swift that once in it no oar can resist it, no helm steer out of it, no herculean or titanic arm baffle it. Hear the long-resounding echo--For ever! But there are two for evers. The one is as swift as the other, as long as the other, as mighty as the other, but the one empties into an ocean of gladness, opaline above and coraline beneath. The other goes down over a plunge of awful abysm of despair. On the one sail argosies of light, on the other the charred hulks of a fiery cyclone. Wake up to the value of your deathless spirit! Strike out for heaven! Arouse ye, the men and women for whom Christ died! Selah! (T. De Witt Talmage.)


Verse 5

Psalms 61:5

Thou hast given me the heritage of those that fear Thy name.

Our heritage

So, then, they that fear God have an heritage. Not, perhaps, in this world, but even as to temporal good, they are often above others. And as to spiritual good--they have indeed “a goodly heritage. The Lord is their portion and His promises, and the inheritance in heaven.” Now, this heritage is given. And we may know that we possess it. “Thou hast given me,” etc. Can we read our title clear? “Blessed are they that do hunger and thirst after righteousness.” (W. Jay.)


Verses 6-8

Psalms 61:6-8

Thou wilt prolong the king’s life: and his years as many generations.

The perpetuity of Christ’s kingdom

He prophesieth not simply of the stability of the kingdom in his own person and posterity, but under the type; namely, he speaketh of the perpetuity of the kingdom of Christ, the true King of Israel, for which end he prayeth that mercy and truth may be forthcoming to subjects of Christ, that His kingdom may be prolonged; and so David in his time, and all the saints in their time, may joyfully praise God continually. Whence learn--

1. It is not unusual with God, together with present consolation, and the light of future salvation in Christ, to reveal also and give assurance of great things concerning Christ’s kingdom.

2. The glory of Christ and perpetuity of His kingdom is every subject’s good and comfort, for this is comfort for David, that Christ shall live for ever, that He shall abide before God for ever.

3. The kingdom of Christ, and government of His subjects in His Church, shall be allowed of God, and be protected of God, and blessed of God for ever, however it be opposed by men in the world.

4. The perpetuity of Christ’s kingdom and preservation of His subjects in this life, till they be possessed of heaven, is by the merciful remedying the misery, and removing of the sin which they are subject unto, and by performing of what He hath promised and prepared through Christ to bestow upon them.

5. The best retreat that can be made after wrestling and victory over troubles is prayer and praises; as here David after his exercise prayeth, “O prepare mercy and truth”; and then saith, “unto thee will I sing.”

6. As the main matter of our vows is the moral duty of rejoicing in God, and hearty praising of Him, so renewed experience of God’s mercy and truth towards His people in Christ is the main matter of our joy in Him and praise unto Him: “O prepare mercy and truth,” etc. (D. Dickson.)
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Psalms 62:1-12

 


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Bibliography Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Psalms 61:4". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tbi/psalms-61.html. 1905-1909. New York.

Lectionary Calendar
Tuesday, October 22nd, 2019
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29
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