PSALM 31 OVERVIEW
Title. To the Chief Musician -- a Psalm of David. The dedication to the chief musician proves that this song of mingled measures and alternate strains of grief and woe was intended for public singing, and thus a deathblow is given to the notion that nothing but praise should be sung. Perhaps the Psalms, thus marked, might have been set aside as too mournful for temple worship, if special care had not been taken by the Holy Spirit to indicate them as being designed for the public edification of the Lord's people. May there not also be in Psalms thus designated a peculiar distinct reference to the Lord Jesus? He certainly manifests himself very clearly in the twenty-second, which bears this title; and in the one before us we plainly hear his dying voice in the fifth verse. Jesus is chief everywhere, and in all the holy songs of his saints he is the chief musician. The surmises that Jeremiah penned this Psalm need no other answer than the fact that it is "a Psalm of David."
Subject. The psalmist in dire affliction appeals to his God for help with much confidence and holy importunity, and ere long finds his mind so strengthened that he magnifies the Lord for his great goodness. Some have thought that the occasion in his troubled life which led to this Psalm, was the treachery of the men of Keilah, and we have felt much inclined to this conjecture; but after reflection it seems to us that its very mournful tone, and its allusion to his iniquity demand a later date, and it may be more satisfactory to illustrate it by the period when Absalom had rebelled, and his courtiers were fled from him, while lying lips spread a thousand malicious rumours against him. It is perhaps quite as well that we have no settled season mentioned, or we might have been so busy in applying it to David's case as to forget its suitability to our own.
Division. There are no great lines of demarcation; throughout the strain undulates, falling into valleys of mourning, and rising with hills of confidence. However, we may for convenience arrange it thus: David testifying his confidence in God pleads for help, Ps 31:1-6; expresses gratitude for mercies received, Psalms 31:7-8 ; particularly describes his case, Psalms 31:9-13 ; vehemently pleads for deliverance, Psalms 31:14-18 ; confidently and thankfully expects a blessing, Psalms 31:19-22 ; and closes by showing the bearing of his case upon all the people of God.
Verse 1. In thee, O Lord, do I put my trust. Nowhere else do I fly for shelter, let the tempest howl as it may. The psalmist has one refuge, and that the best one. He casts out the great sheet anchor of his faith in the time of storm. Let other things be doubtful, yet the fact that he relies on Jehovah, David lays down most positively; and he begins with it, lest by stress of trial he should afterwards forget it. This avowal of faith is the fulcrum by means of which he labours to uplift and remove his trouble; he dwells upon it as a comfort to himself and a plea with God. No mention is made of merit, but faith relies upon divine favour and faithfulness, and upon that alone. Let me never be ashamed. How can the Lord permit the man to be ultimately put to shame who depends alone upon him? This would not be dealing like a God of truth and grace. It would bring dishonour upon God himself if faith were not in the end rewarded. It will be an ill day indeed for religion when trust in God brings no consolation and no assistance. Deliver me in thy righteousness. Thou are not unjust to desert a trustful soul, or to break thy promises; thou wilt vindicate the righteousness of thy mysterious providence, and give me joyful deliverance. Faith dares to look even to the sword of justice for protection: while God is righteous, faith will not be left to be proved futile and fanatical. How sweetly the declaration of faith in this first verse sounds, if we read it at the foot of the cross, beholding the promise of the Father as yea and amen through the Son; viewing God with faith's eye as he stands revealed in Jesus crucified.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Verse 1. In thee, O Lord, do I put my trust. Let us therefore shun mistrust; doubt is death, trust alone is life. Let us make sure that we trust the Lord, and never take our trust on trust. Let me never be ashamed. If David prays against being ashamed, let us strive against it. Lovers of Jesus should be ashamed of being ashamed. C. H. S.
Verse 1. Deliver me in thy righteousness. For supporting thy faith, mark well whereon it may safely rest; even upon God's righteousness, as well as upon his mercy. On this ground did the apostle in faith expect the crown of righteousness 2 Timothy 4:7 - 8, because the Lord from whom he expected it is a righteous judge; and the psalmist is bold to appeal to the righteousness of God. Psalms 35:24 . For we may be well assured that what God's goodness, grace, and mercy moved him to promise, his truth, his faithfulness, and righteousness will move him to perform. William Gouge.
Verse 1-3.: --
Shadows are faithless, and the rocks are false;
No trust in brass, no trust in marble walls;
Poor cots are even as safe as princes' halls.
Great God! there is no safety here below;
Thou art my fortress, thou that seemest my foe,
It is thou that strik'st the stroke, must guard the blow.
Thou art my God, by thee I fall or stand;
Thy grace hath given me courage to withstand
All tortures, but my conscience and thy hand.
I know thy justice is thyself; I know,
Just God, thy very self is mercy too;
If not to thee, where, whither shall I go?
HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS
Verse 1. Faith expressed, confusion deprecated, deliverance sought.
Verse 1. (first clause). Open avowal of faith.
- Duties which precede it, self examination, etc.
- Modes of making the confession.
- Conduct incumbent on those who have made the profession.
Verse 1. (last clause). How far the righteousness of God is involved in the salvation of a believer.