Psalm 31: In the Shelter of His Presence

David prayed for help in a time of trouble as he has upon other occasions.  He also expressed his trust in the Lord as he spoke of Him as his rock of refuge and my fortress (v. 2, 3).  David illustrates that our greatest prayers often spring from our greatest times of need.  When we are faced with moments of great need, whatever that need may be, we should follow David’s example and look up to the One who is able to help and guide us through the difficulty. The end of the story is that “The Lord preserves the faithful” (v. 23).

This palm has been meaningful to others: “Jonah alluded to verse 6 in Jonah 2:8 and Jeremiah to verse 13 in Jeremiah 6:25; 20:3, 10; 46:5; 49:5 – how similar was his experience to David's at this time! The same psalm was probably in Paul's mind when he spoke of the treatment he received in places like Ephesus (2 Cor. 7:5). Our Lord quoted verse 5 with his dying breath (Luke 23:46), and Stephen followed his example in Acts 7:59” (Focus on the Bible Commentary).

One of the grave mistakes Christians make is to assume that if one has a strong faith, he/she will not suffer in this world.  The Bible has presented to us many examples of God’s people suffering different kinds of afflictions.  Christians can experience -- mental, physical, emotional or spiritual suffering (Psalm 34:19). All Christians have or will suffer (John 16:33; Acts 14:22). The Apostle Paul experienced various kinds of suffering (2 Cor. 4:8-10).  While suffering can be a result of sin, all creation, even the righteous, will groan under the weight of sin and suffering (Rom. 8:20-22).

This Psalm has a theme: It is that God is the psalmist’s “rock of refuge.” David beautifully speaks of this in verses 2-5.  David asks God to be what He already is. He asks God to be his rock because he is his rock. He asks God to be his fortress because he is his fortress. He asks God to be his refuge because he already is his refuge.  When we call upon God to act, we are asking Him to manifest to us that which He already is.

In verses 6-8 David confessed his confidence in God.  This is especially important in our lives today.  Confidence in God makes things possible; it relieves us of worry and mental torment, it brings physical healing into our lives, to hear the voice of God and to fulfil our calling. Confidence in God opens the door for all the promises of God to come to pass in our lives. Someone said, “Confidence is the engine that drives achievement.”

Steps to take when trouble enters our lives: 1) Run to God and His precious word; 2) Pray fervently about our situation; 3) Recall the times that God has helped us in the past.  If God is for us, who can be against us (Ro. 8:31-39)?

In verses 9-13 David pleaded for the Lord to be merciful because of his sinfulness. This was probably caused by his sins regarding Bathsheba: “Why then have you despised the command of the Lord by doing what I consider evil? You struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and took his wife as your own wife—you murdered him with the Ammonite’s sword. 10 Now therefore, the sword will never leave your house because you despised Me and took the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your own wife.’ 11 “This is what the Lord says, ‘I am going to bring disaster on you from your own family: I will take your wives and give them to another before your very eyes, and he will sleep with them publicly” (2 Sam. 12:9-11).

The grief of Absalom’s rebellion was indescribably painful for David, but it was multiplied by the knowledge that his sin was responsible for it.  As a result of David’s sin with Bathsheba, he would now reap many great pains; among them: a son’s betrayal, the verbal abuse by Shimei, and then the physical abuse and death threats of Absalom. However, David faced those horrible consequences with the promise of forgiveness.  “Now if the wicked person turns from all the sins he has committed, keeps all My statutes, and does what is just and right, he will certainly live; he will not die.  None of the transgressions he has committed will be held against him. He will live because of the righteousness he has practiced” (Ezek. 18:21-22).  Are you struggling with sorrow of some past sin or sins?  Know that the Lord is merciful and that when we turn from our sins and do that which the Lord commands we will be forgiven (I John 1:8-9). 

In verses 14-18 David again declared he was taking refuge in the Lord, trusting totally in Him. Like all God's attributes, His mercy is infinite, unlimited, and eternal. The Hebrew and Greek words translated "mercy" mean compassion, lovingkindness, and pity. God's mercy is shed upon those who need it.  Having committed himself fully into the Lord’s hands (v. 5), he chose to rest in the Lord. He knew that the outcome of this crisis was under God’s control. Therefore, David felt calm during this fierce conflict, and he could confidently say, “My times are in thy hand” (v. 15a).  The Life Application Study Bible offers a helpful note: “In saying, “My times are in Your hand,” David was expressing his belief that all of life’s circumstances are under God’s control. Knowing that God loves and cares for us enables us to keep steady in our faith regardless of our circumstances. It keeps us from sinning foolishly by taking matters into our own hands or resenting God’s timetable.”

In the remaining verses David praised God for delivering him from those troubles.  David dared not sin by failing to praise God for answering his prayers. David praised God because of His goodness to believers (vv. 19-20); and because of His unfailing love (kindness) (vv. 21-22).

We should never doubt God’s love when we are faced with trouble of any kind. God is always with those who love and trust Him. Read Paul’s statement about this matter in Rom. 8:35-39:

‘Who can separate us from the love of Christ? Can affliction or anguish or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?  36 As it is written: Because of You we are being put to death all day long; we are counted as sheep to be slaughtered.37 No, in all these things we are more than victorious through Him who loved us. 38 For I am persuaded that not even death or life, angels or rulers, things present or things to come, hostile powers, 39 height or depth, or any other created thing will have the power to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord!.”