PSALM 31 - Into Thy Hand...
We come to a Psalm from which Jesus quoted in the depths of His distress. It is a song in a minor key, expressing the sorrows and broken heartedness of One who was in the world but not of the world. Perhaps most people would prefer a more uplifting tune or lyrics. But a happy mood may artificially mask our troubles and hinder us from fleeing to the One who alone has borne our sorrows. Only those who find refuge in Him will enter into true joy.
     The superscription of this psalm: "To the chief musician. A Psalm of David", tells us that it was meant to be sung. The psalms of David are written from the heart of a man who was after God's own heart. Here, as in many of the psalms, we hear the voice of the Great King destined for the throne of David, pouring out His burdens in prayer, in the days of His flesh. We who walk now, as He did then, have much to learn from Him.
This song is in two stanzas, which reflect upon one another.
  1. First stanza (v.1-8) -
    1. "Let me not be ashamed - v.1-2
    2. "For..." I have reason for hope - v.3,4
    3. "Thy hand" - v.5
    4. "I trust" - v.6
    5. I have assurance. - v.7,8
  2. Second Stanza (v.9-24)-
    1. "For..." I have reason for despair - v.9-13
    2. "I trust" - v.14
    3. "Thy hand" - v.15
    4. "Let me not be ashamed" - v.16-18
    5. I (and those who are with me) have assurance. - v.19-24
 
1. To the chief Musician, A Psalm of David.
In thee, O LORD, do I put my trust;
let me never be ashamed: deliver me in thy righteousness.
2 Bow down thine ear to me; deliver me speedily:
be thou my strong rock, for an house of defence to save me.
3 For thou [art] my rock and my fortress;
therefore for thy name's sake lead me, and guide me.
4 Pull me out of the net that they have laid privily for me:
for thou [art] my strength.
5 Into thine hand I commit my spirit:
thou hast redeemed me, O LORD God of truth.
6 I have hated them that regard lying vanities:
but I trust in the LORD.
7 I will be glad and rejoice in thy mercy:
for thou hast considered my trouble;
thou hast known my soul in adversities;
8 And hast not shut me up into the hand of the enemy:
thou hast set my feet in a large room.
Whatever troubles may have moved King David to write these words, we know that he wrote as a prophet, for in verse 5, we hear the Savior's unmistakable voice uttering the last words which He prayed from the cross, at the point of death... at the absolute end of hope in any human breast (Luk 23:46). He breathed His last, and it looked to be all over. But it was not. What He had come to do was finished. The God whom He trusted would prove Himself faithful. Behold... before v.5 ends, even in the same breath, He speaks, not aloud, so that the gawking crowds would hear, but in His heart to the One He trusted: "Thou hast redeemed me, O LORD God of truth." Jesus placed Himself completely in the Father's hands. And because He did, you and I can also have such assurance: Joh 10:27-30
     The Savior was "redeemed" or "delivered" by the God of Truth, who judges all matters according to His righteousness. His justice is never twisted, distorted or corrupt. Therefore, those who trust in Him will never be ashamed. His children will never be disappointed or disillusioned because their Father has abandoned them to their enemies (v.1). Isn't that what we read in Rom 10:11? And what is the basis of our confidence? It is the Person and work of Christ, and the fact that God raised Him from the dead (Rom 10:9,10).
     But in this Psalm, we hear the confidence of our Savior in His Father, at a time of crisis, when from the human perspective, everything was wrong and going against Him. His plea, in v.2, is urgent: "Hear me speedily... to save me..."
     We tend to view the Lord Jesus as super-human. Yes, He was fully God and fully man. But He laid aside His glory, when He came down here. He walked by faith, not by sight (as we who follow Him are supposed to do). He had no strength in Himself above that of any other man. Didn't He say "I can of mine own self do nothing: as I hear I judge... I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me" (Joh 5:30)? He was a man of prayer, who continually sought to know the Father's will. (eg., v.3, "...therefore, for thy name's sake lead me and guide me.")
     As a man, He was totally dependent upon the Father, not only for direction, but for protection, and for preservation, that His enemies would not prevail against Him prematurely, before His hour had come. He knew that His enemies continually sought to entangle Him in His words, seeking opportunity to accuse Him. They laid their net privily {secretly} to catch their prey (v.4). There was no cause in Him for their hatred toward Him (see Psa 35:7). He knew that they took secret counsel making plans to slay Him. But He took no action to deliver Himself. Instead, He placed His case in the hands of the One who judges all things rightly.
     He had reason for hope (v.3,4). Because He rested upon the unshakeable Rock, whose strength sustained Him in His human weakness.
     And so, they nailed Him to the cross... still committing Himself into the Father's hands (v.5). Still trusting in the LORD, the everliving One (v.6). He could have put His trust in "lying vanities" as His enemies had done, trusting in false gods, like political power and money, or in the emptiness of fleshly methods of manipulating things to one's advantage. But though worldly means often seem to be winning, they are but "empty vapors" (another rendering of "lying vanities").
  • "Who trusts in God's unfailing love, leans on a Rock that cannot move."
    [quoted from the hymn: 'If Thou But Suffer God to Guide Thee']
The closing lines of this stanza of the psalm (v.7,8) express His complete assurance:
  1. that His present sorrow will be turned to joy,
  2. that the LORD sees His present difficulties,
  3. that the LORD knows the agonies of His soul in adversities (ie., in the straits, the narrow inescapable place),
  4. that the LORD will not abandon Him to the hand of the enemy.
    Jesus knew the enemies' hands could do terrible damage. But He entrusted Himself to more powerful hands. "And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear Him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell" (Mat 10:28).
  5. that the LORD had already prepared a place for Him in a "large room" (a wide place of freedom), a place far removed from the present constraints of His distress. Psa 4:1
But the realization of that assurance is future: "I will be glad and rejoice..."
At the moment, the troubles loom large.
9. Have mercy upon me, O LORD, for I am in trouble:
mine eye is consumed with grief, [yea], my soul and my belly.
The second stanza begins with our faith-filled Savior being pressed hard by His present distress. For He had reason for despair (v.9). Who can begin to comprehend the severity of His distress at Gethsemane ("the olive press"), where "being in an agony he prayed more earnestly: and His sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground" (Luk 22:44)?
But He was "a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief" (Isa 53:3), long before that night.
10 For my life is spent with grief, and my years with sighing:
my strength faileth because of mine iniquity, and my bones are consumed.
11 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.
12 I am forgotten as a dead man out of mind: I am like a broken vessel.
13 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.
His was a lifetime of grief.
     Two different words are used to describe His grief. In v.9, the word means "frustration, vexation." In v.10, it refers to “sorrow” and "anguish." Such were the emotions of His inner man... things known to the LORD (v.7b). The people around Him could not see His inner heartbreak, but they heard His "sighings" or "groanings."(v.10a). Other men could not see the effect His sorrows had, even upon His physical well being. When those great drops appeared upon His brow, in the garden, they were symptomatic of the weight of His "iniquity" (This word is translated as "trouble" in Psa 38:6, read v.6-9). His strength was sapped, His bones consumed by the severity of His distress.
     You may think your experience is hard. His was harder. He was "in all points tested like as we are." But His testings were more severe. Yet, while we lash out in anger at our distresses, He was without sin (Heb 4:15).
     What burdens did He bear?
  • "I was a reproach {ie., a derision, the object of scorn}..." v.11
  • His mother's children despised Him, because He was born of another father, not theirs... and because His zeal for the things of God was foreign to them (Psa 69:7-12).
  • His brethren did not believe in Him (Joh 7:5).
  • For a time, those around Him, including His family thought He was beside Himself (Mark 3:21, where "friends" is GK=para, 'those around').
     He did not belong to this world. All levels of society were against Him, from the rulers who sat in the gate, to the drunkards who mocked Him in their revelry.
     He was derided by His enemies, and also by His neighbors (v.11). It was the people of Nazareth, where He spent His childhood, who knew Him as the carpenter's son, who heard Him read from Isaiah and explain its meaning with gracious words, who "rose up, and thrust Him out of the city, and led Him unto the brow of the hill whereon their city was built, that they might cast Him down headlong" (Luk 4:29).
     His acquaintances were afraid to be associated with Him, for fear of being excommunicated from the synagogue (Joh 9:22).
     There came a time when even His disciples "forsook Him and fled" (v.11b,12; Mat 26:56). It was too dangerous to be around Him. Beside that, their hopes and expectations were dashed. He was like a broken vessel... a clay jar damaged beyond repair. Their dream of participation in the glorious Messianic Kingdom had crumbled. The One in whom their hopes had been contained was condemned and soon lay broken in a tomb. All was lost. The pieces could not be salvaged. (No wonder Jesus prayed, in Psa 69:6, "Let not them that wait on thee, O LORD God of Hosts, be ashamed for my sake: let not those that seek thee be confounded for my sake, O God of Israel.")
     During most of Jesus' ministry, His enemies derided Him, slandered Him, whispered untruths about Him, and sought opportunity to get rid of Him (v.13). Their hatred was not limited to the "passion week." He was continually moving to avoid unnecessary confrontation.
  • They said, "He hath a devil" (Joh 8:48). But He was God's righteous One (v.18b).
  • They said, "He hath Beelzebub, and by the prince of the devils casteth he out devils" (Mark 3:22). But He was the LORD's servant (v.16).
  • They called Him a liar and a sinner: "He deceiveth the people" (Joh 7:12; 9:16).
    But He spoke only the Truth. He made His appeal to "the God of Truth" (Psa 31:5).
Jesus did not waste time in defending Himself, or in countering their false allegations. He simply presented the Truth: "The truth shall make you free." He came into the world to "bear witness unto the Truth." Joh 8:32; 18:37
     There was no convincing them.
"They devised to take away my life." (v.13b)
14 But I trusted in thee, O LORD: I said, Thou [art] my God.
15 My times [are] in thy hand:
deliver me from the hand of mine enemies,
and from them that persecute me.
"I trust... Thou art my God." There is only One in whom I will put my confidence. "My times {HB='eth, appointments, fortunes} are in Thy hand." More than once, His enemies "sought to take Him: but no man laid hands on Him, because His hour was not yet come." (eg., Joh 7:30; 8:20)
     But the hour would come, when His enemies would be allowed to prevail. "Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain: Whom God hath raised up, having loosed the pains of death: because it was not possible that he should be holden of it." (Acts 2:23,24).
16 Make thy face to shine upon thy servant:
save me for thy mercies' sake.
17 Let me not be ashamed, O LORD; for I have called upon thee:
let the wicked be ashamed, [and] let them be silent in the grave.
18 Let the lying lips be put to silence;
which speak grievous things proudly and contemptuously against the righteous.
Our Savior trusted Himself into the Father's hands, and He was not disappointed (v.16-18).
     Only after His enemies had done their worst, would God's servant be vindicated, and the Righteous One be seen for who He is. ("Then said Jesus unto them, When ye have lifted up the Son of man, then shall ye know that I am he, and that I do nothing of myself; but as my Father hath taught me, I speak these things." Joh 8:28)
     Those who slandered Him would be rewarded (v.17; also see Psa 69:21-28).
     Those who are identified with Him ("written with the Righteous," Psa 69:28) possess His assurance of God's faithfulness. Up to this point in the psalm, the pronouns are in the first person singular, for they are spoken by God's Servant, the Messiah, whose faith was steadfast in the midst of His sufferings (eg., v.1-5,13-17a). But now, in v.19-24, the Savior's faithfulness overflows to bless a multitude of believers. (Note the repeated pronoun "them" and the invitation to "all ye His saints" to trust in the LORD.)
19. [Oh] how great [is] thy goodness,
which thou hast laid up for them that fear thee;
[which] thou hast wrought for them that trust in thee before the sons of men!
20 Thou shalt hide them in the secret of thy presence from the pride of man:
thou shalt keep them secretly in a pavilion from the strife of tongues.
21 Blessed [be] the LORD:
for he hath shewed me his marvellous kindness in a strong city.
22 For I said in my haste, I am cut off from before thine eyes:
nevertheless thou heardest the voice of my supplications when I cried unto thee.
23 O love the LORD, all ye his saints:
[for] the LORD preserveth the faithful, and plentifully rewardeth the proud doer.
24 Be of good courage, and he shall strengthen your heart,
all ye that hope in the LORD.
The LORD, in His goodness, has wrought {ie., done, worked, prepared} wonderful things for those who, like their Master, have trusted the LORD, in the face of opposition from the sons of men (v.19).
     Verses 20-21 give us another view of the "large place" into which the LORD brings His own.
  • There, they are ‘hidden in the secret of His Presence' (or, covered with the covering of His Presence), out of reach of the "pride" {ie., conspiracy, plotting} of men.
  • There, they are ‘kept secretly' {ie., guarded as treasure} in a pavilion {ie., a covered, protected place}, no more subject to the "strife of tongues" {ie., the slander, whisperings, scorn and false accusations}.
  • There they rejoice in the LORD's ‘marvellous kindness' {His amazing Grace}, in a strong city {lit., a siege enclosed guarded place}, where no enemy can ever threaten.
During the time of crisis (the time of "haste," the time of alarm and for fleeing), this safe place in God's Presence, seemed to our Savior, to be unreachable. "I am cut off from before thine eyes." But the LORD heard His prayer, and did for Him what was beyond His doing. (v.22; Psa 22:23,24)
     Because the Father heard His faithful Son, we who trust in Him can rest assured, as we ‘hope in' (or, wait for) the LORD to bring His purposes to completion. No one can pluck us out of His hands. (v.23,24; Joh 10:27-30)

This Concludes the study in Psalm 31.
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