Psalm 31: “mosaic of misery and mercy”
For the director of music. A psalm of David.
(1)In you, LORD, I have taken refuge; let me never be put to shame; deliver me in your righteousness.
(2)Turn your ear to me, come quickly to my rescue; be my rock of refuge, a strong fortress to save me.
(3)Since you are my rock and my fortress, for the sake of your name lead and guide me.
(4)Keep me free from the trap that is set for me, for you are my refuge.
(5)Into your hands I commit my spirit; deliver me, LORD, my faithful God.
(6)I hate those who cling to worthless idols; as for me, I trust in the LORD.
(7)I will be glad and rejoice in your love, for you saw my affliction and knew the anguish of my soul.
(8)You have not given me into the hands of the enemy but have set my feet in a spacious place.
(9)Be merciful to me, LORD, for I am in distress; my eyes grow weak with sorrow,
my soul and body with grief.
(10)My life is consumed by anguish and my years by groaning;
my strength fails because of my affliction, and my bones grow weak.
(11)Because of all my enemies, I am the utter contempt of my neighbors
and an object of dread to my closest friends–those who see me on the street flee from me.
(12)I am forgotten as though I were dead; I have become like broken pottery.
(13)For I hear many whispering, “Terror on every side!”
They conspire against me and plot to take my life.
(14)But I trust in you, LORD; I say, “You are my God.”
(15)My times are in your hands; deliver me from the hands of my enemies, from those who pursue me.
(16)Let your face shine on your servant; save me in your unfailing love.
(17)Let me not be put to shame, LORD, for I have cried out to you;
but let the wicked be put to shame and be silent in the realm of the dead.
(18)Let their lying lips be silenced,
for with pride and contempt they speak arrogantly against the righteous.
(19)How abundant are the good things that you have stored up for those who fear you,
that you bestow in the sight of all, on those who take refuge in you.
(20)In the shelter of your presence you hide them from all human intrigues;
you keep them safe in your dwelling from accusing tongues.
(21)Praise be to the LORD, for he showed me the wonders of his love when I was in a city under siege.
(22)In my alarm I said, “I am cut off from your sight!”
Yet you heard my cry for mercy when I called to you for help.
(23)Love the LORD, all his faithful people! The LORD preserves those who are true to him,
but the proud he pays back in full.
(24)Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the LORD.
The tone of this psalm flows from faith that God will provide into a mournful pleading for help and back again! Man, that is how life goes though, isn’t it? Day by day…sometimes, moment by moment.
The title tells us this was a song meant to be sung to the Lord (the chief musician or director of music would lead), and as often as portions of this psalm are quoted throughout the Bible, we can infer that it was. Jeremiah quoted from it a number of times (Jer. 6:25, 20:3, 20:10, 46:5, 49:29, and Lam. 2:22), Jonah from the belly of the whale (Jonah 2:8), and Stephen as he was the first Christian martyred (Acts 7:59).
Most importantly, Jesus quoted from this psalm on the cross,
Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my sprit.”
When he had said this, he breathed his last.
This psalm was known and memorized!
Commentators use this psalm to point out that not all songs are filled with praise. God wanted this psalm to be sung by His children when they came together, evident by the title. And if God wanted this particular psalm sung to Him, then He is not weary of our fear and mourning.
He wants us to sing it out to Him.
Do you truly believe that? That God is okay with your anger? With the times when you feel you’ve lost your faith? God can handle it all. God wants to handle it.
Psalm 71 repeats the first couple of lines. Psalm 71 isn’t titled, but whoever wrote it, was drawn to the importance of David’s words from Psalm 31…
Who do you call upon in your hour of greatest need?
In you, LORD, I have taken refuge; let me never be put to shame.
In your righteousness, rescue me and deliver me; turn your ear to me and save me.
Be my rock of refuge, to which I can always go; give the command to save me,
for you are my rock and my fortress.
Deliver me, my God, from the hand of the wicked, from the grasp of those who are evil and cruel.
Do you call upon the One who can save?
Bible scholars are unsure what David was going through when he wrote this psalm because he had trouble much of his life. It could be any number of crises for him, his family, or his people.
The 19th century English preacher Charles Spurgeon makes a good point on this idea,
“It is perhaps quite as well that we have no settled season mentioned, or we might have been so busy in applying it to David’s case as to forget its suitability to our own.”
Verses 9-13 could lead us to believe that David was sick. And, in fact, there are some who believe David caught leprosy at some point in his life. Whether or not he actually had the disease, he felt like a leper.
Have mercy upon me, O Lord, for I am in trouble: mine eye is consumed with grief, yea, my soul and my belly. For my life is spent with grief, and my years with sighing: my strength faileth because of mine iniquity, and my bones are consumed. I was a reproach among all mine enemies, but especially among my neighbours, and a fear to mine acquaintance: they that did see me without fled from me. I am forgotten as a dead man out of mind: I am like a broken vessel. For I have heard the slander of many: fear was on every side: while they took counsel together against me, they devised to take away my life. (v9-13 KJV)
“I am like a broken vessel.”
There is anguish in those words. A broken bowl is thrown out, it’s useless. Back then, a broken piece of pottery could mean a wasted trip to the well. Nowadays a broken mug could mean a cut lip. Either way, David felt useless, a throw away.
Wow. Would you ever think a man like David who had accomplished so much would have feelings like that?
Do you ever feel like a throw away, like broken pottery?
But, my friends, our God is good. As David spoke or wrote these words to the Lord, God answered him. God strengthened him; God refocused him.
“I am a broken vessel” became:
But I trust in you, O Lord; I say, “You are my God.” (v14 ESV)
I feel like we, like David, can cry out in our pain and worry and mourning. God wants to hear it; He already knows how we feel, but there is something about speaking it. Then, when we’ve said it, we claim God’s strength, His faithfulness, His promises.
“I am broken, but I trust in You, my times are in Your hands.”
It’s just beautiful, this prayer, how it moves from pain to trust to joy.
“The same David who knew such trouble in Psalm 31:9-13 praised God so completely at the end of the song. This is because David had a deep trust in God, and that trust was rewarded with joy.”
–Pastor David Guzik
How great is the goodness you have stored up for those who fear you.
You lavish it on those who come to you for protection, blessing them before the watching world.
You hide them in the shelter of your presence, safe from those who conspire against them.
You shelter them in your presence, far from accusing tongues. (v19-20 NLT)
How abundant are the good things (NIV), how great is the goodness (NLT) of God!!!
How can David claim good things and blessings after sharing so much pain and fear and worry?
Because once he had laid those things at God’s feet, he had entered into the Most Holy of Holies, the presence of God. When we truly bear our hearts and souls to the Lord, then we have walked into His arms. And in the arms of the Lord is protection and goodness and blessings and shelter.
Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”
Matthew 11:28-30 NLT
“Lord, pardon our complaints and fears; increase our faith, patience, love, and gratitude; teach us to rejoice in tribulation and in hope. The deliverance of Christ, with the destruction of his enemies, ought to strengthen and comfort the hearts of believers under all their afflictions here below, that having suffered courageously with their Master, they may triumphantly enter into his joy and glory.”
–Matthew Henry, 18th century English minister
So, my friends, the take away from this psalm is to cry out to God in your pain and fear,
…then take a breath and say, “Okay, in You I put my trust, Lord,”
…then bask in the understanding that your future is in your loving Father’s hands,
…step into the Most Holy of Holies, the presence of God,
…and know that you have stepped into His arms.
Be strong, and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the Lord!
Heavenly Father, you hear the worries of our hearts, teach us to share our worries with you. Thank you for your faithfulness. Thank you that nothing we are going through is unknown to you. Thank you for the promise of your presence, that you never turn your back, that your face is always toward your children. Please heal the world of this virus, protect our loved ones, and strengthen your church during these difficult days. In you we put our trust for you are our God.