John T. Willis

Sunday, July 26, 2015

One can trust in God, because he is our Refuge--Psalm 31

One can quickly resonate with the feelings of the author of Psalm 31. He is burdened with many challenging problems. (1) He is very sick--verses 9-10. (2) He feels that God is punishing him because he has committed some terrible sins--verses 10, 22. (3) He has strong enemies who are plotting schemes against him and are trying to figure out how to put him to death--verses 4, 11, 13, 15, 17-18, 20, 21, 23. (4) His neighbors and close relatives avoid him because they are convinced his hardships are the result of God's punishment for his sins--verse 11. Psalm 31 falls into three parts.

I. The psalmist trusts in God to deliver him from his afflictions as God had done in the past--Psalm 31:1-8.
    a. 31:1-3 is almost verbatim with Psalm 71:1-3. It also contains thoughts similar to Psalm 18:1-2. The psalmist implores Yahweh to rescue him from his distresses. He seeks refuge in God. He asks God to deliver him. He beseeches Yahweh to incline his ear to him, rescue him quickly, be a rock of refuge and a strong fortress for him, lead him, and guide him. 31:1-3.
   b. The psalmist praises Yahweh for his righteousness, and because Yahweh is the psalmist's rock and fortress. 31:1, 3. Many biblical texts call Yahweh "ROCK"--cf. Deuteronomy 32:4, 15, 18, 30-31, 37; 1 Samuel 2:2; Psalm 18:2, 31, 46; and often.
   c. The speaker asks God to take him out of the net. He praises God for being his refuge, and because he had redeemed him in the past. Thus he proclaims: "Into your hand I commit my spirit." Jesus quoted this line on the crucifixion (Luke 23:46). 31:4-5.
   d. The psalmist gives God THREE REASONS why he should answer his pleas.
       1. The psalmist's enemies are worshippers of idols--v. 6.
       2. God had delivered him in the past--vv. 5, 7-8,
       3. The psalmist commits God's care into his hands and totally trusts in him--vv. 1-7. 31:6-8.

II. The psalmist portrays a detailed description of his troubles--Psalm 31:9-18.
     a. First, the psalmist explains that he has been very ill for a long time. His whole body wastes away with grief. His life is spent with sorrow and sighing. His strength fails and his bones waste away. His whole life--physically, emotionally, socially, and spiritually--is tormented with sickness. 31:9-10.
     b. Second, his close relatives and neighbors avoid him and scoff at him because of his terrible condition. Almost completely separated from all his acquaintances, he feels like he is dead, he is like a broken vessel. 31:11-12.
     c. Third, wicked enemies are devising conniving plans to destroy the psalmist.
         1. The poet is surrounded by his enemies, they terrify him, they whisper evil things about him, but do not speak to him face to face; they get together and scheme against him, they plot to take his life. 31:13.
         2. The psalmist's enemies are liars, they speak insolently against the righteous, they are filled with pride, arrogance, and contempt. 31:18.
         3. In the face of these enemies and their wicked plans, the psalmist still trusts in God. He knows that Yahweh  holds his times in his hand. Thus, he beseeches Yahweh to deliver him from his enemies and persecutors. He rests his life on Yahweh's steadfast love to save him from his enemies. He implores Yahweh to put the wicked to shame and bring them down into Sheol, the grave. 31:14-17.

III.  The poet exhorts his fellow worshippers to trust in Yahweh. Psalm 31:19-24.
       a. Yahweh has answered the psalmist's prayers. Now the poet praise Yahweh for all he has done for him. First, he praises Yahweh for "laying up" or "storing" his goodness to bring forth in behalf of the faithful. The psalmist has taken refuge in Yahweh, and now Yahweh showers him with his goodness. 31:19.
       b. Second, the psalmist declares that Yahweh has "sheltered" him from his enemies who had devised evil plots and spoken against him with contentious tongues. 31:20.
       c. Third, the poet felt that he had been like a city under siege against enemies, and that his enemies had driven him far from God's sight. And yet, Yahweh manifested his steadfast love when he cried out to him for help. 31:21-22.
       d. Finally, the psalmist turns directly to "all his faithful saints" in his community, encouraging them to be strong and take courage in the power of Yahweh, especially when their enemies act haughtily and seek to demean and destroy them. 31:23-24.

Share YOUR experiences and surprises and reversals and intentions and fears with others. Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis


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