Psalm Bible Study (Worshiping God)

Psalm 31, The Rock of Refuge


  1. Psalm 31 is another psalm of David that returns to the theme of God as a refuge. We have seen God described this way in previous psalms (Psalm 5, 7, 9, 11, 14, 18). David begins this psalm with the same call of finding refuge in the Lord.
  2. Consider how many times David has written about God being a refuge and a protection for God’s people, we certainly should begin to develop a confidence in the Lord that is similar to David’s confidence. As we go through this psalm, we will notice three great lessons that David expresses in his confidence with God.

I. Trust In The Lord (31:1-8)

A. Describing the security of God

  1. In the first eight verses we see how God is identified as a refuge. In verse 2 David describes the Lord as “a rock of refuge” and “a mountain fortress.” In verse 3 David describes God as “my rock” and “my fortress.” These images are likely lost on us in the 21 st century.
  2. In earlier times, the best place to build a city or fortress was on a mountain. If you will recall, the Edomites considered themselves unconquerable because they lived in the rocks and the mountains (Obadiah 3). It was extremely difficult for an army to traverse the rugged mountains up to a city and conquer it. While the army would be marching up the mountain, the city would begin to attack the coming army below. Placing a city on a mountain was a premium defense against enemies. The mountains were the ultimate place for security and defense.
  3. Is it any wonder that God speaks of Himself as a mountain for the people? Over twenty-six times the prophets spoke of the holy mountain of the Lord.

    Now it shall come to pass in the latter days

    That the mountain of the LORD’S house

    Shall be established on the top of the mountains,

    And shall be exalted above the hills;

    And peoples shall flow to it.

    Many nations shall come and say,

    “Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD,

    To the house of the God of Jacob;

    He will teach us His ways,

    And we shall walk in His paths.”

    For out of Zion the law shall go forth,

    And the word of the LORD from Jerusalem” (Micah 4:1-2).

  4. If you recall the prophecy of Daniel, the kingdom of God was depicted as a rock or stone that shattered the other nations. That rock then became a mountain that would endure forever (Daniel 2). This was an important mental image to the people that described protection and security.
  5. At this point, this is very important to David because of his enemies who are trying to destroy him. Verse 4 says that there are some who have secretly set a net for David and God was the only way for his deliverance.

B. Into Your hand I commit my spirit

  1. Verse 5 is a pivotal statement by David. David says, “Into Your hand I commit my spirit.” This is a tremendous amount of trust. We are given insight into the severity of David’s situation. In the midst of the enemies and in the midst of his affliction, only God can change the outcome. David relinquishes control of the situation and allows God’s will to rule. We are witnessing the essence of surrender. Surrender is the ability to say that our lives are in God’s hands.
  2. In Luke 23:46 we read Jesus uttering these very words while on the cross. Jesus gave His life wholly over to God’s control. We see in the Jesus the ultimate example of surrender and Jesus completely surrendered His life to God’s will. After saying these words, Luke records that Jesus breathes His last. How silly would it have sounded to the Jews who were near Jesus when He said that He has committed His life to God and then dies? This surely would have been a point of mockery to some standing there that day. Jesus declares that He entrusts God with His life moments before He dies.
  3. But I think these words would come back to haunt those who heard Jesus say these words on the cross. I do not believe Jesus ever uttered an idle word, but was always teaching, even while on the cross. Notice the next sentence that David makes after “Into Your hand I commit my spirit” is “You have redeemed me, O Lord, faithful God.” The next statement is that God has redeemed Him. The word “redeemed” in the Hebrew can also be translated “ransomed” or “rescued” as some version translate. David, after saying that he has entrusted his life to God, says that God has rescued Him. When Jesus rose from the dead three days later, conquering death, we know the Jewish leaders and the whole city of Jerusalem was buzzing with the news. Those who knew the scriptures would be able to recall these words of Jesus. Jesus entrusted His life to God and God rescued Jesus by raising Him from the dead.

C. When others do evil, trust God for His strength

  1. The first lesson we learn from this psalm is that when others commit evil acts against us, we must trust God for His strength to get us through. This is a great challenge for us to commit our lives to God in the midst of wrongdoing against us. We want to right the wrong against us, taking justice and vengeance into our own hands. Peter said, “Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.” (1 Peter 4:19).
  2. The examples of the people of God give us clarity as to how God can redeem us. Sometimes God will rescue our lives from death. Sometimes, as in the case of Jesus, the redeeming comes when we are exalted with God on His throne. According to verse 7, God knows our troubles and sees our afflictions. Therefore we must rejoice and be glad for the faithful love of the Lord that we enjoy. God is always with us and will not turn us over to the enemy and leave us. Even in the hands of a heathen king, God remained with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the fiery furnace and remained with Daniel in the lion’s den. When others do evil, we must trust God to rescue and trust God to give us strength.

II. You Are My God (31:9-18)

A. David’s distress

  1. In verse 9 David describes the distress he is in at this time. David says his eyes are worn out from all of his sorrow. His soul and his body are also wasting away in grief. Further, his whole life is consumed with grief and years of groaning. His strength fails, his bones are weak, and he is contemptible to his neighbors. He is a dread to all of his friends and those who see him in the streets run from him. He is completely forgotten as if he was dead and is like broken pottery, cast away and useless. Further, those who are around him are slandering him and conspire against David to take his life. This is a horrible situation that David finds himself in. It is very reminiscent to me of what Job experienced in the midst of his affliction.
  2. I am not sure that we can fully appreciate the circumstance that David is experiencing as he pens this psalm. I do not know that we can overestimate the horror of what David faces and the evil that is present against him. But we must try to understand the depths of David’s despair and the utter hopelessness he finds in life.

B. I trust in you

  1. Despite these horrible circumstances, David declares that he trusts in the Lord and claims God as his God. In the midst of such suffering, David still returns to God for aid. In verse 15 David says, “My times are in Your hands.” This is very similar to what we read earlier when David said, “Into Your hand I commit my spirit.” David is declaring that he is trusting God with his life. But to say that his times are in God’s hands, I believe, is to say that not only is his life in God’s hands, but the circumstances that surround him are also in God’s hands.
  2. But there is more in this section and David is calling out to God for mercy. David calls for deliverance in verse 15. His call for mercy and grace is strong in verse 16 as he wants God’s face to shine on him. David says that the wicked ought to be put to shame and not himself who is trying to serve the Lord. They are the ones with lying lips, who speak arrogantly against the righteous, and are full of pride and contempt.

C. When others cause pain, ask God for His mercy

  1. I have not always felt safe with such words because of the lessons we learn from Job. Job also cried out for the pain to stop and was condemned for being critical of God. I think the situation with David and Job remind us that we can ask God for mercy and that the pain be taken away, but always be mindful that God is in control. David continues to express his dependency on God. Job said that God had been unjust toward him and need to correct His error.
  2. Our approach to God in our appeals and prayers is very important. We must always come before God humbly and with a dependency and trust in God and His purposes. We do not always understand what is happening to us. Most of the time we do not understand what is happening to us. We can either trust God and call for Him to help us or we can attack God and believe He is working against us. This is one of the fundamental differences in how David and Job viewed their suffering. Our call for mercy must not be based upon our thinking that God has acted wrongly and needs to correct the error. Rather, we call out for mercy, trusting that God has the power to do all things and will work out things in our best interest.

III. Great Goodness To Those Who Fear God (31:19-24)

A. Praising God

  1. David expresses his praise to the Lord for the great amount of goodness that God bestows on those who fear Him. Those who will trust God and seek refuge in the Lord will find a treasure of goodness stored up for them. Verse 20 says that God keeps safe those who take their refuge in Him. It is interesting to see that David describes a greater fear of being far from the Lord than for the enemies that are conspiring against him. David cannot bear the thought of being cut off from God. Where we stand with God is what really matters most.
  2. David also praises God for His wonderful love and His preservation of the faithful. God was there for David when he was under attack, describing himself as a besieged city. Finally, David is praising God because when he cried out for mercy, God heard his cry. We can know that God is there with us and will hear our cries despite any circumstance that we find our selves in.

B. Call to the saints

  1. In the finally two verses of this psalm, David calls out to the saints to take action. The first call is to love the Lord. 1 John 5:2-4 tells us that we show our love for God by keeping His commands. David was not calling for us to have warm fuzzy feelings for God. David was calling for all people to obey the Lord. This is the love that God is looking for, love that translates into action.
  2. Second, David calls for the saints to be strong and take heart. In the midst of suffering and tribulation it can be very difficult to remain strong in the Lord. It is a great challenge for us to take heart and keep our hope in the Lord. Many quickly lose heart when things go badly in life. We must always remain steadfast and strong in the Lord regardless of the situation we may face.

C. When others see the victory, give God the glory

  1. Our final application this evening is this: when others see the victory God has given to us, let us give God the glory. We need to let everyone know about the victory God has given to us in our times of suffering. We need to tell people about how we may have been saved from the brink of death. We need to tell people about how we have confidence in God even though we may be going through a time of suffering.
  2. It is always important to give God the glory, not ourselves, not our doctors, and not any other person. If our trust is in God, then we believe God is watching over us and taking care of us. We are told that every good thing comes from God. We need to give more glory to God when good things happen to us.
  3. This is David’s psalm. It is a reminder to us to trust in God when times are challenging and difficult. It is a reminder to us to go to God for mercy and grace in our times of trouble. It is a reminder to us to give God the glory when God brings through our circumstances.(NIV)
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