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Bible Commentaries

The Pulpit Commentaries
Psalms 31

 

 

Verses 1-24

EXPOSITION

THIS psalm is, in the main, a cry for deliverance out of pressing danger and trouble; but it is interspersed with passages of a more cheerful tone, expressive of faith and confidence (Psalms 31:5-8, Psalms 31:14, Psalms 31:15); and it winds up with a eulogy of God's goodness (Psalms 31:19-22), and an exhortation to the saints of God to "be strong," and trust in him. The title declares it to be David's; and it both breathes his spirit, and has many of his turns of expression. It has been thought to belong to the period of his early persecution by Saul; but, on the whole, it seems rather suggestive of the later period of trouble connected with the rebellion of Absalom. Dr. Kay divides it into three main portions:

but part 1. might be further subdivided into three, and part 2. into two portions. The psalm thus fails into six divisions:

Part 1. (Psalms 31:1-4), prayer;

Part 2. (Psalms 31:5-8), self-encouragement;

Part 3. (Psalms 31:9-13), causes of his trouble;

Part 4. (Psalms 31:14-18), profession of faith and prayer;

Part 5. (Psalms 31:19-22), praise of God's goodness;

Part 6. (Psalms 31:23, Psalms 31:24), exhortation to the people to praise God.

Psalms 31:1

In thee, O Lord, do I put my trust. If prayer to God for aid in a special time of trouble is the main object of the psalm, the expression of full trust in God is a secondary object, and is maintained throughout (see Psalms 31:3-8, Psalms 31:14, Psalms 31:19-21, Psalms 31:24). Notwithstanding the extremity of his danger, his belief is firm in the coming overthrow of his enemies, and in his own deliverance and restoration. Let me never be ashamed (comp. Psalms 31:17, where the idea is expanded). David's enemies having come to an open rupture with him, and appealed to arms (2 Samuel 15:10-12; 2 Samuel 17:24-26), one party or the other must of necessity be put to shame. Here he prays that it may not be himself; in Psalms 31:17 he goes a step further, and asks that the shame may fall upon his enemies. Deliver me in thy righteousness. Seeing that my cause is the righteous one.

Psalms 31:2

Bow down thine ear to me; or, incline thine ear to me, as the same phrase is translated in Psalms 71:2. Deliver me speedily. Not doubting of deliverance, he makes his request for speedy deliverance (comp. Psalms 38:22; Psalms 40:17; Psalms 70:1; Psalms 71:12, etc.). Be thou my strong Rock, for an House of defence to save me; rather, as in the Revised Version, Be thou to me a strong Rock, an House of defence, etc. (comp. Psalms 18:2).

Psalms 31:3

For thou art my Rock; or, my cliff ( סלעי, not צורי). And my Fortress. David prays God to be his Rock and Fortress in the future, because he has always looked to him as his Rock and Fortress in the past. Faith establishes a claim to have its anticipations made good. Therefore for thy Name's sake lead me, and guide me. Metaphor is dropped, and God is simply asked for guidance and direction. In the struggle between Absalom and David more depended upon wise counsel than upon mere force (2 Samuel 15:31-37; 2 Samuel 16:15-23 : 2 Samuel 17:5-23).

Psalms 31:4

Pull me out of the net that they have laid privily for me. Absalom set a imp for David when he asked permission to go to Hebron for the purpose of paying a vow, whereas his object was to get possession of a strongly fortified city (2 Samuel 15:7-9). It was, perhaps, by a device of AhithopheI's that David was induced to quit Jerusalem and go into exile. For thou art my Strength (comp. Psalms 18:1; 19:15; Psalms 28:1, Psalms 28:7, Psalms 28:8, etc.).

Psalms 31:5

Into thine hand I commit my spirit. Our Lord's adoption of these words, and application of them to himself and his own departure from earth, have given them a special sacredness beyond that which attaches to Scripture generally. At the same time, they have impressed on them a new meaning, since David was not thinking of a final committal of his soul, as distinct from his body, into the hands of the Creator, but only intended solemnly to commit himself, both soul and body, into the Divine keeping, to be preserved from the attacks of his enemies. Thou hast redeemed me, O Lord God of truth; or, thou hast delivered me, O Lord God of truth. It is redemption in the general sense of "deliverance from peril," not redemption from sin, of which the psalmist speaks. David, having frequently experienced such deliverance in the past, is emboldened to expect now another deliverance.

Psalms 31:6

I have hated them that regard lying vanities. By "lying vanities" are meant idolatrous practices, or possibly such superstitious usages as recourse to witch-craft and divination. (For David's hatred of such persons as are here glanced at, see Psalms 26:5.) But I trust in the Lord. Who is the direct opposite of all "lying vanities," being at once Almighty, and the "God of truth" (Psalms 31:5).

Psalms 31:7

I will be glad and rejoice in thy mercy. Anticipating the "mercy" which he has craved (Psalms 31:2-4), the psalmist determines to "be glad and rejoice in it." For thou hast considered my trouble. When God looks upon trouble and considers it, he is sure to compassionate the sufferer, and to grant him some relief. Thou hast known my soul in adversities (comp. Psalms 1:6, "The Lord knoweth the way of the righteous" ). God is said to "know" those on whom he looks with approval.

Psalms 31:8

And hast not shut me up into the hand of the enemy; i.e. "hast not delivered me up, without chance of escape, into the hands of my enemies". Thou hast set my feet in a large room. Given me, i.e; plenty of space and freedom for action; not confined me, nor cramped me, nor hindered me in any way (comp. Psalms 4:1; Psalms 18:36). Having cheered himself with the enumeration of these grounds of encouragement (Psalms 31:5-8), the psalmist again returns to prayer.

Psalms 31:9

Have mercy upon me, O Lord, for I am in trouble. The psalmist follows up his prayer for mercy by an exposition of his need of mercy. He is in trouble, in sore trouble—"hard pressed," as Hengstenberg translates—distressed both in mind and body. Mine eye is consumed with grief (comp. Psalms 6:7, where the expression is almost identical). The grief intended is "that produced by provocation or spiteful treatment" (Kay). It causes him to weep so much that his eye is well-nigh "consumed" or "eaten away." Yea, my soul and my belly. Some explain this as meaning simply "my soul and my body" (Hengstenberg, Alexander, Revised Version); but others regard the "belly" as denoting "the very centre of physical life and of the emotions" (comp. Job 32:19).

Psalms 31:10

For my life is spent with grief, and my years with sighing. The psalmist's grief is of old standing. It dates from the time of his great sin (2 Samuel 11:4-17), which is thought to have preceded the revolt of Absalom by the space of twelve years. This sin necessitated a lifelong repentance (Psalms 38:17; Psalms 51:3, etc.). My strength faileth because of mine iniquity. Other causes had, no doubt, contributed to produce the profound depression of the psalmist at this period, but none was of equal force with this (comp. Psalms 38:3-10; Psalms 51:1-14, etc.). It caused his strength to fail utterly, and led to complete prostration both st mind and body. And my bones are consumed; i.e. racked with pain, as though they were being gnawed away.

Psalms 31:11

I was a reproach among all mine enemies; rather, I am become a reproach (Kay, Revised Version). The psalmist complains of the loss of his reputation. Absalom's rebellion was preceded by a long course of calumnious accusation of David (2 Samuel 15:1-4), whereby men's hearts were stolen away from him, and his character blackened. His enemies made the most of these ill reports, and turned them to his reproach (camp. Psalms 69:18-20). But especially among my neighbours. Not that they reproached him more than others, hut that he felt their reproaches more keenly. And a fear to mine acquaintance. His acquaintances were afraid of being recognized as such, and involved in his ill repute. They that did sea me without; i.e. "out of doors," or "in the street." Fled from me. Avoided my contact, not wishing to be seen with me (comp. Psalms 88:8).

Psalms 31:12

I am forgotten as a dead man out of mind (comp. Psalms 88:5). I am like a broken vessel. Of no value to any one; only fit to be thrown away.

Psalms 31:13

For I have heard the slander of many (see the comment on Psalms 31:11). The calumnies circulated against him had reached David's ears, and these had so affected him that he felt as described in the preceding verse. Fear was on every side, while they took counsel together against me. Fear was "on every side"—in his own heart, and in the hearts of all his friends—when it came to the point of his enemies holding a formal council, in which the matter discussed was the best mode of proceeding against him to take away his life. The particulars of such a council are given in 2 Samuel 17:1-14. They devised to take away my life. That David's life was sought is apparent from the last clause of 2 Samuel 17:2, "I will smite the king only."

Psalms 31:14

But I trusted in thee, O Lord. Having fully represented the miserable condition to which he is reduced (Psalms 31:9-13), David now returns to expressions of trust in God, and to earnest prayer to him (comp. Psalms 31:6). I said, Thou art my God; rather, I have said. In all my sufferings, dangers, and difficulties, I have always clung to thee, and said, "Thou, and thou alone, art, and ever shalt be, my God."

Psalms 31:15

My times are in thy hand. "My times," i.e. "all the varied events, happy or sad, which make up the parti-coloured web of life" (Kay). Not one of them but is shaped by thee and ordered by thee. Deliver me from the hand of mine enemies, and from them that persecute me (camp. Psalms 31:1, Psalms 31:2, Psalms 31:4). The great need under existing circumstances was deliverance. Absalom was looked for daily to "pass over Jordan, and all the men of Israel with him" (2 Samuel 17:24). A battle was imminent. If the day went against David, and his army was defeated, he would necessarily fall into the hands of his "enemies" and "persecutors," in which case he could not hope that they would spare his life (2 Samuel 17:2, 2 Samuel 17:12).

Psalms 31:16

Make thy face to shine upon thy servant. This expression is first used in the blessing of Moses (Numbers 6:25). Its intrinsic beauty and poetry recommended it to the psalmists, with whom it recurs frequently (camp. Psalms 4:6; Psalms 67:1; Psalms 80:5, Psalms 80:7, Psalms 80:19; Psalms 119:135). It may be regarded as equivalent to "Be thou favourable and gracious unto thy servant." Save me for thy mercies' sake; literally, save me in thy mercy.

Psalms 31:17

Let me not be ashamed, O Lord (see the comment on verse l). For I have called upon thee. "I have," i.e; "been ever thy true worshipper." Even when I have sinned (Psalms 31:10), my sins have not been "sins of unfaithfulness," but lapses, sins of infirmity, unpremeditated yieldings to temptation. Let the wicked be ashamed. Bring shame, i.e; upon those who are at once my enemies and thine—the wicked and impenitent generally—and, among them on my present adversaries, those who are collected together to carry on war against me. And let them be silent in the grave; or, in Sheol. Let a stop be put to their slanders (Psalms 31:13) and lying speeches (Psalms 31:18); let them he silenced by removal from this world to the land of the departed.

Psalms 31:18

Let the lying lips be put to silence, which speak grievous things proudly and contemptuously against the righteous; rather, which speak arrogancy. The pride and insolence of David's enemies is strongly noted in the Second Book of Samuel (see Psalms 16:7, Psalms 16:8; Psalms 17:1-3).

Psalms 31:19

Oh how great is thy goodness, which thou hast laid up for them that fear thee! Another transition. David turns from prayer to praise, and in the four next verses (Psalms 31:19-22) eulogizes the goodness and mercy and marvellous loving-kindness of God, who has wrought gloriously for his people in the past, and has further an ample store of mercies laid up for them in the future. Which thou hast wrought for them that trust in thee before the sons of men! God had wrought his mercies for his own people, but in the sight of men generally, whether good or bad.

Psalms 31:20

Thou shalt hide (or, thou hidest) them in the secret of thy presence from the pride (rather, conspiracies) of man. Intense light forms as good a hiding-place as intense darkness. No vision can penetrate it. It is "too dazzling bright for mortal eye." Thus those whom God brings close to himself, and on whom he pours the light of his countenance, need no other protection. Their life is hid in God. Thou shalt keep them (or, thou keepest them) secretly in a pavilion from the strife of tongues. God keeps his own in a "pavilion," or leafy arbour, a place of coolness and refreshment, far away from the "lying lips" (Psalms 31:18) and slanderous tongues (Psalms 31:13) of the ungodly.

Psalms 31:21

Blessed be the Lord: for he hath showed me his marvellous kindness in a strong city. The "strong city" has been explained as Ziklag (Delitzsch), or Mahanaim (2 Samuel 17:24), but is probably as much a figure of speech as the "pavilion" of Psalms 31:20. God has showed David his marvellous loving-kindness by giving him an assurance of absolute security.

Psalms 31:22

For I said in my haste; rather, and I indeed had said in my haste (comp. Psalms 116:11). David's faith was not so firmly fixed but that he was liable, from time to time, to a sudden access of fear (see 1 Samuel 27:1; 2 Samuel 15:14; Psalms 31:13). He had said to God in his heart, on one such occasion, I am cut off from before thine eyes; i.e. he had despaired and given himself up for lost. It is somewhat forced to understand the words as meaning, "I am banished from the city where the ark is placed" ('Speaker's Commentary'). Nevertheless, thou heardest the voice of my supplications when I cried unto thee. God did not forsake his servant on account of this temporary failure of faith. No sooner did the psalmist rid himself of his extreme alarm, and turn once more to God in prayer, than he was heard, and his prayer answered.

Psalms 31:23

O love ye the Lord, all ye his saints. The psalmist winds up with a short burst of song, in which his heart goes out to others. He calls upon all God's saints to "love" him, on the ground of his own experience, which is that the Lord preserveth the faithful (literally, those who stand firm, Kay), and plentifully rewardeth the proud doer; i.e. visits with ample vengeance such as in their pride set themselves against him and against his people.

Psalms 31:24

Be of good courage (see the comment on Psalms 27:14). And he (i.e. God) shall strengthen your heart. "To those who have it shall be given." If they did their best to "be of good courage" when danger and difficulty assailed them, then God would give them supernatural aid, strengthening their hearts with his gracious favour. All ye that hope in the Lord; literally, all ye that hope for the Lord; i.e. that hope for his help—that wait on him (see Job 14:14; and comp. Psalms 33:18, Psalms 33:22), and look to him as your Deliverer.

HOMILETICS

Psalms 31:3

A prayer for guidance.

"For thy Name's sake … guide me." God leads men, whether they ask him or not. He guides their lives, though they may not know him—even may deny his very existence. Belshazzar (Daniel 5:23, "in whose hand," etc). Cyrus (Isaiah 45:1-5). Heathen nations (Acts 17:26, Acts 17:27). Does this make such a prayer as the text superfluous? On the contrary, it is the very reason for it. God's guidance of men without their knowledge, or even against their will, is very different from his guidance of those who ask it for his Name's sake. (As you speak of "driving a horse," or "driving a friend" who asks a seat by your side.) Consider the meaning and the plea of the psalmist's prayer.

I. WHAT DOES THIS PRAYER ASK FOR? In other words, how can God grant it?

1. By the lending of his providence. Q.d.: his unfailing, unerring, unlimited control of all events and creatures, great or small. The old-fashioned phrase, "particular providence," is often strongly objected to; rightly, if it be taken to mean some special interference with the course of things—here, not there; now, not then; a touch to the helm sectionally, not the firm hand never taken off it. But remember, what cleverest people (busy with wide generalizations and laws) are most apt to forget—that all reality is particular. A pound of iron weighs a pound because each atom of iron is precisely like every other, and obeys exactly the same force. The harvest ripens because the same life is working in every several grain. A lifetime is not made up of weeks and years, but breaths and heart-beats. We must not liken God's knowledge to ours. We are compelled to store ours in abstract ideas, names, laws, etc; just as we arrange books on shelves, with titles on their back—useless else. Divine knowledge, lust because infinite, must take in every movement of every atom. Inconceivable! But not more inconceivable than that God has set going movements at the rate of hundreds of millions of millions in a second, which keep time throughout the universe. And what his power has called into being and sustains, and his knowledge surveys, his wisdom and goodness guide. This, at once deepest truth and plain common sense, is the Bible doctrine of providence. "He maketh grass to grow on the mountains"—each blade from its own root. Not a bird falls to the earth without our heavenly Father. "The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord "(Psalms 139:3, Psalms 139:9, Psalms 139:10).

2. By his Word. (2 Timothy 3:15; Psalms 119:105.) What is a lamp for? To give light. How do I know that light is light? Simply by its shining. Light is its own evidence. If a lamp cannot be kindled, or, being kindled, refuses to burn, no argument will persuade you that it is a good lamp. If it burns bright and steady, shedding a clear light on the page you read, the work you handle, the path you walk in, no argument will persuade you that it is not a good lamp. So with God's Word. Men may dispute as they please about inspiration, pile up mountains of criticism, publish every few years a new work that is to finally dispose of the Bible; they cannot stop the light from shining. This main fact remains solid, unanswerable, that a life guided by this light rises to a level, gains a purity, strength, beauty, hopeful courage, and calm settled peace not otherwise attainable. The light, observe, not of mere precept. Pagan teachers—Buddha, Confucius, Seneca, and I know not how many, have given noble and lofty precepts, enabling men to say, with the old Roman poet, "I see and approve what is good, though I practise what is bad." But only from the Bible shines, along with precept, the light of pardon and the light of promise (1 John 2:12, 1 John 2:25). Against the sceptics' learning and logic the plain Christian sets his experience. If you could find a grey-haired Christian saying, "I have framed my life according to the Bible, and I wish I had not; I have lived a life of prayer to God, and trust in Jesus as my Saviour, and obedience to his Word, and if I could begin again, I would be wiser,"—then you would at least have something to set against the lives ruined by despising the Bible, and flinging faith and prayer away. But the testimony is the other way (Psalms 119:165; Psalms 19:11; 2 Timothy 4:6-8).

3. By his Spirit. (John 14:13; Romans 8:14.) The Bible itself affords no countenance to the idea that life can be rightly guided by the written Word alone, severed from the living presence and personal teaching of the Holy Spirit. For three plain reasons. A rightly guided life means:

II. WHAT IS THE FORCE OF THE PLEA HERE URGED—"For thy Name's sake" ? If one may venture to put it so plainly, it is putting God on his honour to fulfil his promises. The "Name" of God stands for all that he has made known to us of himself. Especially it includes his words of promise, because here his faithfulness stands pledged. Not that God promises to grant every request, wise or foolish, right or wrong. (Who would dare to pray?) But he does promise to attend to our prayer—to give good things to those who ask. He has filled the Bible with encouragements and commands to pray, and with examples of prayer answered. As our Lord Jesus is himself the full Revelation of the Father, so he authorizes us to pray in his Name (John 14:13, John 14:14).

Conclusion. Of all prayers there is none we need to offer more earnestly, more constantly.

1. Without God's guidance we shall miss our way. A life at the mercy of passion, expediency, fashion, fancy, is like a rudderless ship. Especially in trouble and temptation. The traveller in fair, calm weather may think the mountain-track is plain enough without a guide; but the snowstorm comes on, and he is lost.

2. If God be not your Guide, you will have some other. Conformity to the world is practical submission to the enemy of souls (Ephesians 2:2,

3. "He who bows not to him has bowed to me," Byron's 'Cain'). Like a ship that has taken on board a false pilot, who steers her on the quicksand.

3. Life is a journey to be taken but once. The wrong path cannot be retraced.

Psalms 31:15

God's sovereign will.

"My times are in thy hand." "The stream cannot rise higher than its source." If this be true in the spiritual as in the material world, then the feelings, desires, trust, which rise so mightily to God in this psalm, and throughout the Book of Psalms, must have their fountain in God. The Psalter is the mouthpiece of the Bible, uttering the testimony of experience, not fictitious, but real, living, personal experience—if such ever was; the genuine outcome of human hearts; yet withal superhuman, Divine; the breath of God's own Spirit (Romans 8:26).

I. HERE IS THE RECOGNITION OF A DIVINE GUIDANCE AND PURPOSE IN EACH ONE'S LIFE. "My times;" q.d. the daily circumstances, and whole plan and arrangement of my life; the number of its days and years, birth and death, seasons of joy and sorrow, strength and weakness, prosperity and adversity (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8). Scripture is full of examples of this special training. Abraham, Joseph, John the Baptist (a life seemingly broken off prematurely), St. Paul. In each child of God there is a character to be formed, fruit ripened, an end attained.

II. PERFECT TRUST IN GOD'S WISDOM, POWER, LOVE. These words, "my" and "thy," express conscious personal relation to God. Personal trust forms the most sacred relation between man and man—the basis and cement of human society. It is the glory of the Bible, distinguishing its teaching from all human systems, that it rests religion on this personal trust. We are saved by faith. We walk by faith. We love God because we trust him and believe his Word (1 John 4:16, 1 John 4:19). Because the psalmist can say, "I trusted," etc. (verse 14), he fears not to say, "My times are in thy hand;" and to add verses 19, 20, 24. Note that from this psalm (verse 5) our Saviour drew his dying prayer.

III. DUTIFUL SUBMISSION TO GOD'S SOVEREIGN WILL. If God did not rule all things, he could rule nothing. Each life—yours, mine—with all its vicissitudes, has its place in his great plan. "No man liveth to himself." The cairn happiness and triumph of faith is not merely submission to God's will when manifest, but willingness that he shall choose (Philippians 1:20-25; Philippians 4:5-7, Philippians 4:11-13). Sometimes we are tempted to shrink from this full surrender, from half-unconscious fear that trial may be good for us, which God is too faithful and wise to spare us; as we might dread to call in the most skilful surgeon, lest he should say the diseased limb must come off.

CONCLUSION. The text has a special application to

HOMILIES BY C. CLEMANCE

Psalms 31:1-24

The saint rehearsing his experience of the great Protector's care

There is no good reason to doubt that this is one of David's psalms. Its forms of expression bear the marks of his pen, £ and the "undesigned coincidences "£ between it and the history of his life are both interesting and striking. The old interpreters supposed the psalm to belong to the time when David fled from Saul into the wilderness of Maon; others attribute it to the time of his deliverance from being shut up in Keilah, with which, indeed, it seems well to agree. While, in some respects, the psalm resembles others, yet, in others, it has features exclusively its own. Its title, according to the LXX; is, "For the end, a Psalm of David, of extreme fear" ( ἐκστάσεως). The Vulgate has pro extasi. Under such emotion, it is not to be wondered at if the verses bid defiance to all logical order. There is, however, beneath the surface an order which is full of helpful teaching, by which, when perceived, the beauty of the psalm will stand revealed, as otherwise it could not have been. This order we will seek carefully to follow and to expound.

I. GOD'S SAINTS MAY BE AT TIMES IN EXTREME DISTRESS. The list of troubles here specified is an unusually long one.

1. A net is spread for David (Psalms 31:4).

2. There is a design on his life (Psalms 31:13).

3. Bands of men are conspiring together (Psalms 31:20, Hebrew).

4. His friends forget him (Psalms 31:12).

5. His enemies are guilty of falsehood (Psalms 31:18), reproach (Psalms 31:11), slander (Psalms 31:13).

6. Others unfeelingly flee from him (Psalms 31:11).

7. He is in perplexity (Psalms 31:9).

8. His strength faileth, his bones are consumed, because the consciousness of his own sin adds its bitterness to his woe (Psalms 31:10).

9. His alarm (Hebrew) is so great, that he regards his case as one deserted by God (Psalms 31:22).

Here, surely, is a list of woes longer than most men could reckon up. There are few against whom enemies would take so much trouble to plot! But David was in a high position, and therefore he was a mark to be shot at! Note: The higher our position, and the greater our usefulness, the more likely is it that Satan will aim at us with his fiery darts. The more we disturb him, the more he will disturb us. And, for wise and holy reasons, the Lord may allow a messenger of Satan to buffet £ us.

II. EVEN WHEN IN THE LOWEST DEPTHS, THERE IS NO MISTAKING THE SAINT FOR A SINNER, the believer for an alien, the godly one for a godless man. Scarce any one could have a longer list of woes to enumerate than David had, but yet the saint shines through all.

1. He knows where to flee for protection. (Psalms 31:1, Hebrew.) The way in which he still speaks to God as his God, his strong Rock, etc; is inexpressibly touching. "Be thou my Rock, … because thou art my Rock," is a wonderfully tender appeal to the loving heart of God. Even in the densest darkness the loving child must clasp the Father's hand, and cry, "Father!" Yea, because of the darkness, and the denser it is, the louder and more piercing will be his cry.

2. He knows to whom he flees—even to One who has redeemed him (Psalms 31:5). (For the Scripture usage of this word "redeemed," see Deuteronomy 9:26; Deuteronomy 21:8; 1 Chronicles 17:21; Isaiah 29:22; Jeremiah 31:11; Micah 6:4; Psalms 130:8; Psalms 25:22; Hosea 13:14.) David was one who knew God, not only as a Deliverer from earthly calamity, but as a Redeemer from sin. And he could well put in this as a plea on which to base his petitions. The richest evangelical form of this argument is given in Romans 5:10; Romans 8:32. If God has taught us and drawn us by his Spirit to plead with him, that is the witness of the Spirit to the fact that we are redeemed out of the world.

3. He knows he may tell all his woes to God, just as they are. It has been no small comfort to us in writing these homilies to note, again and again, how the psalmist told God everything, just as he felt it. This we, too, may do, knowing that God will accept the prayer of faith and will bury all its faults.

4. He can absolutely leave all with God, not as one who finds it useless to contend with the inevitable, but as one who can implicitly trust his redeeming God.

III. GOD'S SAINTS CAN SCARCELY END THEIR MOAN ERE THEIR WORDS TURN TO SONG. When the Spirit of God presides at the soul's keyboard, the sounds may at first be in the minor key, hut they will not long continue so. The plaint will be a diminuendo, and will be substituted by a crescendo of joyful song. Hence so many of the psalms which begin woefully end joyfully. There are three several mercies here recorded.

1. Deliverance. (Romans 8:7, Romans 8:8.) The narrow straits in which David was hedged up gave way, and he had amplitude of room. And sooner or later, in his own time and way, God will deliver the righteous out of the hands of the wicked. £

2. Treasures of goodness laid up. (Romans 8:9.) The thought of this evokes a very shout of praise, as well it may. Let the student compare the three expressions in Romans 8:4, "the net which they have laid privily;" Romans 8:19, "goodness … laid up secretly;" Romans 8:20, "Thou shalt keep them secretly." Is not the antithesis beautiful? The wicked have their nets laid in secret. But God's secrecy of love outwits theirs. He hides the saints in the secret place of his "pavilion," and prepares for them in secret "treasures of goodness," to be brought forth in all their richness as occasion requires. Note: God will be bringing forth from his secret treasury of love to all eternity.

3. Marvellous kindness manifested; and this in a beseiged (Hebrews 5:1-14 :21) city(cf Psalms 23:5). At the very moment foes were encamping round him, God ministered such rich loving-kindness as to bear him up and bring him through. So it will ever be. The moment of man's fiercest plots will be that of God's most vigilant care (Psalms 121:4). And within the walls of the thickest dungeon God can minister richest supplies of heavenly food!

IV. SUCH EXPERIENCES WILL LEAD THE SAINTS TO CALL ON THEIR FELLOW-BELIEVERS TO HOPE IN THE LORD, AND TO WAIT FOR HIM. (Romans 8:23, Romans 8:24.) The new experience of God's loving-kindness and care, which is born of such deliverances in answer to prayer, gives believers wondrous vantage-ground in exhorting others to put their whole trust in the Lord. Note:

1. It is an infinite mercy that God's providential care has preserved to us these records of the struggles, the prayers, and the triumphs of his saints.

2. Those who have known the most trouble are those who can afterwards minister most comfort to those who are troubled (2 Corinthians 1:3-5).

3. Let those who have known the depths of sorrow, and who have learnt how God can deliver, make their experience known to others (Psalms 66:16-20).

4. How abundant even now is God's recompense for his people's sorrows, when he thereby gives them such tastes of his love as they could not else have had, and then makes them "sons of consolation"!—C.

HOMILIES BY W. FORSYTH

Psalms 31:5, Psalms 31:15

Duty and destiny.

Let us place these two texts together, and we shall find that they become the more intelligible and the richer in instruction and comfort.

I. OUR TIMES ARE FIXED BY GOD. We have no choice in the matter, no more than as to when we should be born. God is Sovereign. It is his prerogative to settle all things that concern us. Whatever comes of prosperity or adversity, or joy or sorrow is of his ordering. It is for him to rule, it is for us to trust and to obey.

II. OUR SPIRIT CAN ONLY BE COMMITTED TO GOD BY OUR OWN DEED. We are free. When we act, we express the feelings of our hearts. To commit our spirit to God is to surrender ourselves wholly and for ever to his will. It is only when we know and believe in God's love towards us, that we can joyously do this transcendent thing that will settle our destiny for time and for eternity.

III. IT IS ONLY WHEN WE HAVE IN TRUTH COMMITTED OUR SPIRITS TO GOD, THAT WE CAN TAKE COMFORT FROM THE KNOWLEDGE THAT OUR TIMES ARE IN HIS HAND. We should be careful to put that first which should be first (Matthew 6:33). When the most precious thing is safe, we need not be much concerned as to the lesser things. God has given us the greatest proof of his love, for he has redeemed us; we can therefore with quiet hearts leave to him the ordering of all things that concern us (Romans 5:9, Romans 5:10). "My times are in thy hand;" and it is there I would have placed them if I had the choice (2 Samuel 24:14). "My times are in thy hand;" then come what will of vicissitude and trial, nothing can befall me but what is of the ordering of God. "My times are in thy hand;" therefore I will be content and not fret; I will trust, and not be afraid; I will work, and not be weary in well-doing. I will be patient and hope to the end. knowing that all things work together for good to them that love God." "Into thy hands I commend my spirit." This I did at the first, when the Lord Jesus called me; this I would do evermore during my earthly course, after the example of thy saints; this I would do in the end, as our Lord himself has taught us.—W.F.

Psalms 31:8

Opportunity.

The young are eager for opportunities. Conscious of power, they fondly think that, if only a fair chance were to come, they would be sure to make a name for themselves. But they are often disappointed. Perhaps they say it is not their fault; but unprejudiced onlookers see that, through lack of insight, decision, or perseverance, they have failed. They have let the tide. which, taken at the flood, would have led on to fortune, pass by. Life is full of possibilities. It is our wisdom to watch, to be on the alert, to make the most of opportunities. We must be willing to begin where we are free to begin, and to do the duty, however humble, that lies nearest to us, as well as we are able. Honest work is the best training and preparation for advancement. Above all, we must have regard to the will and doings of God. If we ask of him, he will give us light. If we wait upon him, he will let us know his will. If we do with our might what he gives us to do, he win enlarge our opportunities. We may take the text to illustrate what God does for his servants in the way of opportunity. The "large room" may apply to—

I. CULTIVATION OF CHARACTER. There may be circumstances which are unfavourable. It is much more difficult for some, from their birth and surroundings, to be good and to do good, than for others. Let us acknowledge God's love in placing us where we have free play for our minds, and every help and inducement to follow the things which are good. We are not in the dark, but in the light; we are not confined and straitened, but in the enjoyment of freedom; we are not denied the use of air and food and exercise, but have the use of all that is good and fitted to nourish our strength and virtue, that we may grow up unto the stature of the perfect man in Christ Jesus.

II. EMPLOYMENT OF TALENT. There may be some, as the poet suggests, to whom opportunity has not come.

"Knowledge to their eyes her ample page,

Rich with the spoils of time, did ne'er unroll."

But it is not so with us. God has not only given us talents, but also provided a sphere for their rightful and beneficent use. There are differences as regard natural ability; unto some it is one talent, unto others two or more. But there is no difference as to opportunity. The command is laid upon all to work; and God's commands imply opportunity to all who choose to obey. If we are willing, "the large room" will be given us.

III. INCREASING USEFULNESS. We are placed in such relationship to others that we cannot but influence them one way or another. Whether this influence be for good or for evil will mainly depend upon our character. God prepares his servants for the place and work he has for them to do. When the time comes, they find that difficulties give way—that "a large and effectual door" has been opened to them. But to every one, however humble, there is opportunity given of doing good and of being helpful to others. Never a day dawns but it brings its own duties. Woe to us if, like Dives, we fail to recognize the claims of the poor and needy! They who are at our gate to-day, so that we can do them good if we will, may be to-morrow in "Abraham's bosom," and oar opportunity gone for ever.

IV. HIGHER HONOURS. It has been said of the government of Napoleon that it was remarkable for opening a career to talent. In old France, society was so constituted that it was only the highborn and the rich, the classes and not the masses, that had any chance. Under Napoleon all this was changed. Not only could a man hope to rise by his merits, but he also knew that he served a master who would rigidly exact what was required in the way of duty, and reward only according to work done. Besides, he knew that what his master demanded of others he made a law to himself. Consequently, never did a sovereign inspire a greater enthusiasm of devotion. At the side of every soldier, from the highest to the lowest, seemed to stand the form of the emperor, ready to mark, ready to exact; but, above all, setting the example of his own immense activity, and stimulating all to do their part worthily in the great work in which they were engaged. If this was in a measure true of Napoleon and his soldiers, it is true in a far higher and nobler way of Christ and his soldiers. Take an example in Matthew. See what he was before Christ found him. See what he became when Christ called him away from his "seat at the receipt of custom," and all his selfish, narrow, degrading ways, and placed him in the "large room," where he had not only the noblest society and the means of living the purest life, but where there was opened up to him ever more increasing opportunities of usefulness and honour. It is said that in his first love and joy he "made a great feast" to his friends; and this was but an unconscious prophecy of the "great feast" which he has spread for all people in his glorious Gospel. But Levi was but a sample. "Such honour have all the saints"—W.F.

HOMILIES BY C. SHORT

Psalms 31:1-8

A prayer for grace in trouble.

Authorship uncertain. Some give it to David, in Ziklag; others to Jeremiah. Three divisions.

I. THE PSALMIST'S PRAYER. The trouble that oppressed him had been of long duration, as appears from the tenth verse.

1. He prays for deliverance from his trouble. (Verse 1.) Does not qualify the prayer, but seeks absolute deliverance. It was to him an unqualified evil, and, as evil, he had no thought it could be working any good for him. So the Lord's Prayer, "Deliver us from evil," would be put to shame if not delivered.

2. He prays for protection and defence. (Verse 2.) He apart from God was weak against the united power of his enemies. "If God be for us, who can be against us" with any success?

3. He prays for leading and guidance. (Verse 3.) That he may see and feel the way of safety amid the bewildering dangers of his path. Christ is our great Leader, "the Beginner and Finisher of our faith." Striking description of Christ.

4. He prays that he may escape out of the secret snares that were set for him. (Verse 4.) We cannot fight against hidden dangers.

II. THE EXULTING FAITH IN WHICH HE PLEADS WITH GOD. He trusts:

1. In God's righteousness. (Verse 1.) God's righteousness demands that he should not give him over to the unrighteous. He could not doubt that.

2. He knew that God was his Strength and Refuge. (Verses 3, 4.) Prove thyself to be to me what I know thou art—my Rock and House of defence. "Thou art my Strength."

3. He knew that God had redeemed him. (Verse 5.) And therefore he surrenders his spirit into his keeping, knowing him to be a God of truth, i.e. faithful to his word and to his work. "He who hath begun a good work," etc.; "Perfect that which concerneth me."

4. He knew that God saw his trouble and adversities. (Verse 7.) And that therefore out of merciful compassion he would interpose to rescue him. "Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear him," etc.

5. He enjoys deliverance already by anticipation. (Verse 8.) "Thou hast set my feet in wide, open spaces," where I can roam at liberty. Faith like this removes mountains of difficulties—

"Laughs at impossibilities,

And says, 'It shall be done.'"

—S.

Psalms 31:9-18

A story of suffering and sorrow.

The psalmist now, in the spirit of heartfelt trust in the helping grace of God, proceeds first to describe at length his trouble (Psalms 31:9, Psalms 31:13); and second, to pray for deliverance (Psalms 31:14-18).

I. CAUSES OF TROUBLE. (Psalms 31:9, Psalms 31:13.)

1. Consciousness of sin. (Psalms 31:9, Psalms 31:10.) This was the constant lifelong grief. None but good men feel their sinfulness so acutely.

2. Loss of reputation. (Psalms 31:11, Psalms 31:12.) "A fear to mine acquaintance;" so that they avoided him. "Like a broken vessel;" equivalent to "an object of contempt."

3. Stood in constant danger of his life. (Psalms 31:13.) Through slander and misrepresentation, he was in constant fear and dread. Like some kings who live in constant dread of assassination.

II. THE CRY FOR DELIVERANCE. (Psalms 31:14 18.)

1. Seeks to reassure himself of his personal relation to God. (Psalms 31:14.) Nothing more difficult, when we see our faith despised by the whole world, than to rest on the testimony of our own conscience that "God is our God."

2. Because his times were in God's hand, he was not left to the mercy of his enemies. (Psalms 31:15.) God could transform evil into good, and danger into safety.

3. He was God's servant, and on that ground he cried for protection. (Psalms 31:16.) "Make thy face to shine." The good Master would be merciful "for his own sake" towards his servant.

4. God would not allow his faith in him to be put to shame. (Psalms 31:17.) He puts God in remembrance of his promise that he will hear and help those who call upon him with heartfelt confidence. He prays that his enemies may be struck dumb with the silence of the grave, so that they may be no longer able to slander him (Psalms 31:18). His faith in God reached thus to all the difficulties of his life, and might be called a working faith.—S.

Psalms 31:19-24

Praise and thanksgiving.

From Psalms 31:1 to Psalms 31:8 the Lord may, must, and will help him in his trouble, because he is his God. From Psalms 31:9 to Psalms 31:18 he describes at length his trouble, and brings it to God. From Psalms 31:19 to Psalms 31:24

I. THE PSALMIST OBTAINS FROM GOD THE HEARTFELT ASSURANCE OF HELP, AND PRAISES GOD FOR IT.

1. God's goodness is a treasure laid up for future as well as present use and blessing. (Isaiah lair. 4; 1 Corinthians 2:9.) Same thought in substance in all these passages. Compare with the parable of "the treasure."

2. God hides and protects those who trust in himas in a royal pavilion (Psalms 31:20).

3. God was to the psalmist what a strong city is to those who seek safety. (Psalms 31:21.)

4. God's great goodness was shows to him openly and secretly. (Psalms 31:19, Psalms 31:20.) The former to discomfit his enemies, and the latter for his own comfort and faith.

II. MAN'S UNBELIEF AND THE DIVINE FAITHFULNESS. (Psalms 31:22.)

1. He was is haste, Flying from his enemies, when he said this. We say and do things in panic which we disown in calmer hours. "He that believeth shall not make haste."

2. But God pardoned his unbelief, and answered the inarticulate cry of the heart.

Ill. LESSONS ADDRESSED TO THE CHURCH, DRAWN FROM HIS OWN EXPERIENCE. (Psalms 31:23, Psalms 31:24.)

1. What love and reverence we owe to God because of his retributive work! (Psalms 31:23.) He preserveth the faithful, and rewardeth the proud. This is good and just.

2. With what courage we should hope in God! (Psalms 31:24.) He strengthens us by his Spirit to hope and trust in him. From him must be derived the power for every duty and every difficulty. This must be the ground of our courage.—S.

 


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Bibliography Information
Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Psalms 31:4". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tpc/psalms-31.html. 1897.

Lectionary Calendar
Tuesday, December 10th, 2019
the Second Week of Advent
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