Psalm 61: the Rock that is higher than I
Lead Me to the Rock
To the choirmaster: with stringed instruments. O David.
(1)Hear my cry, O God, listen to my prayer;
(2)from the end of the earth I call to you when my heart is faint. Lead me to the rock that is higher than I,
(3)for you have been my refuge, a strong tower against the enemy.
(4)Let me dwell in your tent forever! Let me take refuge under the shelter of your wings!
(5)For you, O God, have heard my vows; you have given me the heritage of those who fear your name.
(6)Prolong the life of the king; may his years endure to all generations!
(7)May he be enthroned forever before God; appoint steadfast love and faithfulness to watch over him!
(8)So will I ever sing praises to your name, as I perform my vows day after day.
To the chief musician upon Neginah. This Hebrew word is singular and means some sort of stringed instrument, like a harp. But because it’s just one instrument, maybe this is a song meant for private worship. Just time between David and God.
The time in history is unknown for sure, but most scholars believe that David is king (verse 6) and that he is outside Jerusalem and longing for home (verse 2). Maybe David wrote this from the hill he was in exile upon during the betrayal of his son Absalom. The sad story of David’s son Absalom can be read in 2 Samuel 15-18.
“This Psalm is a pearl. It is little, but precious. To many a mourner it has furnished utterance when the mind could not have devised a speech for itself.”
–Charles Spurgeon, English minister, 1834-1892
O God, listen to my cry! Hear my prayer! From the ends of the earth, I cry to you for help when my heart is overwhelmed. Lead me to the towering rock of safety, for you are my safe refuge, a fortress where my enemies cannot reach me. Let me live forever in your sanctuary, safe beneath the shelter of your wings!
Psalm 61:1-4 NLT
David opens his prayer in a great cry to God to hear him! Listen to me; hear me.
Do you ever wonder if God is listening or if He even hears us? There are so many terrible things going on in the world, how or why would He listen to me? That is absolutely not how God works. He hears all; He sees all. He knows all. And the thought that He can’t is just me putting limits on God.
The truth is that He wants to hear what’s on my heart and your heart, what worries us, what makes us afraid. That is the relationship that He wants with all of His children.
David knew this.
“Pharisees may rest in their prayers; true believers are eager for an answer to them: ritualist may be satisfied when they have “said or sung” their litanies and collects, but living children of God will never rest till their supplications have entered the ears of the Lord God of Sabaoth.”
David felt like he needed to beg God to hear him, maybe because he was far away from home. During Absalom’s rebellion David was in exile across the Jordan river some twenty miles from the city of Jerusalem.
Wherever he was, David felt like he was calling to God “from the ends of the earth.” Too far away from the tabernacle, too far away from home, his place of comfort and peace. His routine.
Pastor David Guzik points out a very interesting thing about King David here. When David is overwhelmed, he needs three things from God according to verse 2.
“…when my heart is overwhelmed: lead me to the rock that is higher than I.”
David needed a rock; a source of stability, that couldn’t be shaken or broken. He needed something that was “higher than I.” David needed something bigger or greater than himself. He needed God to lead him there, to that place.
“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.
Jesus is our rock. The one who is “higher than I.”
David remembers that God has been faithful. Maybe he remembers running from King Saul in his younger years, maybe he remembers other times of great need, but here he is again. He needs rescuing, and is certain that because God did it before, He will do it again.
Know therefore that the LORD your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commandments.
“Sweet is it beyond expression to remember the lovingkindnesses of the Lord in our former days, for he is unchangeable, and therefore will continue to guard us from all evil.”
I will rest in the shelter of Your wings.
For you have heard my vows, O God. You have given me an inheritance reserved for those who fear your name. Add many years to the life of the king! May his years span the generations! May he reign under God’s protection forever. May your unfailing love and faithfulness watch over him. Then I will sing praises to your name forever as I fulfill my vows each day.
Psalm 61:5-8 NLT
David goes from “hear me, God!” to “You have heard my vows.” But isn’t that how it goes when we spend time talking to God? We may start with worry and fear and heartache, then we pass that burden over to God, and He fills us with something else…
A reminder of His faithfulness. Rest in His assurances. Peace in His presence.
“Note, God is a witness to all of our vows, all our good purposes, and all our solemn promises of new obedience. He keeps an account of them, which should be a good reason with us, as it was with David here, why we should perform our vows.”
–Matthew Henry, English minister, 1662-1714
Here David goes on to ask for something that seems outlandish to us, but it is what God promised to David. He speaks of God’s promise to lead His chosen people through David’s descendants.
The Old Testament has many references and prophecies of Jesus being born through the line of David. He is often referred to as the Greater Son or just the Son of David. Many of these prophecies were after David’s life was over. But here are a couple that he would’ve known:
Judah, your brothers will praise you; your hand will be on the neck of your enemies; your father’s sons will bow down to you. You are a lion’s cub, Judah; you return from the prey, my son. Like a lion he crouches and lies down, like a lioness– who dares to rouse him? The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until he to whom it belongs shall come and the obedience of the nations will be his. He will tether his donkey to a vine, his colt to the choicest branch; he will wash his garments in wine, his robes in the blood of grapes. His eyes will be darker than wine, his teeth whiter than milk.
The LORD declares to you that the LORD himself will establish a house for you: when your days are over and you rest with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, your own flesh and blood, and I will establish his kingdom. He is the one who will build a house for my Name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be his father, and he will be my son. When he does wrong, I will punish him with a rod wielded by men, with floggings inflicted by human hands. But my love will never be taken away from him, as I took it away from Saul, whom I removed from before you. Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever.
2 Samuel 7:11-16
David, despite his many sufferings, had a long reign as king over Israel. God watched over him and blessed him. He was blessed with many sons and daughters. He was blessed with loyal friends. And he was blessed eventually with some semblance of peace.
Maybe David was actually praying for himself in these verses, his lineage. That the people were finally in Jerusalem, they were settled. The ark was settled in the tabernacle. There was peace. Maybe he prayed for that to continue through him and his descendants.
Or maybe David did know that what God meant by these verses was something else. He and God were close. There are so many references to Jesus, the Greater Son of David, in David’s songs. Maybe he did know. Maybe God revealed it to him.
He shall abide before God for ever: O prepare mercy and truth, which may preserve him. KJV
He will sit enthroned before God forever; appoint faithfulness and truth that they may watch over him. NASB2020
May he be enthroned in God’s presence forever; appoint your love and faithfulness to protect him. NIV
This a blessing over Jesus. David was speaking about a Son down his line. Pretty cool.
“It was a comfort to David to think, whatever became of him, that the years of the Lord’s Anointed would be as many generations, and that of the increase of his government and peace there should be no end. The Mediator shall abide before God forever, for he always appears in the presence of God for us, and ever lives, making intercession; and, because he lives, we shall live also.”
David opened his song with a cry for help. He closes his song with a promise.
So will I sing praise unto thy name forever, that I may daily perform my vows. KJV
Then I will ever sing in praise of your name and fulfill my vows day after day. NIV
David’s vow was to sing praise to God’s name every single day.
Let’s renew our vows to God every morning. Every day let us wake up and remember God’s faithfulness and let us sing of His love.
“God daily performs his promises, let us daily perform our vows: he keeps his covenant, let us not forget ours.”
Father in heaven, you are good and faithful. Your promises and your presence sustain us. Lead us to the Rock that is higher than us. Give us strength and faith today to live as you have called us to live. Thank you that you hear us and that you stand beside us. May we sing praises to you today and always. Amen.