Psalm 61:2

 

EXPOSITION

Verse 2. From the end of the earth will I cry unto thee. He was banished from the spot which was the centre of his delight, and at the same time his mind was in a depressed and melancholy condition; both actually and figuratively he was an outcast, yet he does not therefore restrain prayer, but rather finds therein a reason for the louder and more importunate cries. To be absent from the place of divine worship was a sore sorrow to saints in the olden times; they looked upon the tabernacle as the centre of the world, and they counted themselves to be at the fag end of the universe when they could no longer resort to the sacred shrine; their heart was heavy as in a strange land when they were banished from its solemnities. Yet even they knew right well that no place is unsuitable for prayer. There may be an end of the earth, but there must not be an end to devotion. On creation's verge we may call upon God, for even there he is within call. No spot is too dreary, no condition too deplorable; whether it be the world's end or life's end, prayer is equally available. To pray in some circumstances needs resolve, and the psalmist here expresses it,

I will cry. It was a wise resolution, for had he ceased to pray he would have become the victim of despair; there is an end to a man when he makes an end to prayer. Observe that David never dreamed of seeking any other God; he did not imagine the dominion of Jehovah to be local: he was at the end of the promised land, but he knew himself to be still in the territory of the Great King; to him only does he address his petitions.

When my heart is overwhelmed: -- when the huge waves of trouble wash over me, and I am completely submerged, not only as to my head, but also my heart. It is hard to pray when the very heart is drowning, yet gracious men plead best at such times. Tribulation brings us to God, and brings God to us. Faith's greatest triumphs are achieved in her heaviest trials. It is all over with me, affliction is all over me; it encompasses me as a cloud, it swallows me up like a sea, it shuts me in with thick darkness, yet God is near, near enough to hear my voice, and I will call him. Is not this brave talk? Mark how our psalmist tells the Lord, as if he knew he were hearing him, that he intended to call upon him: our prayer by reason of our distress may be like to a call upon a far off friend, but our inmost faith has its quiet heart whispers to the Lord as to one who is assuredly our very present help. Lead me to the rock that is higher than

  1. I see thee to be my refuge, sure and strong; but alas! I am confused, and cannot find thee; I am weak, and cannot climb thee. Thou art so steadfast, guide me; thou art so high, uplift me. There is a mint of meaning in this brief prayer. Along the iron bound coast of our northern shores, lives are lost because the rocks are inaccessible to the shipwrecked mariner. A clergyman of one of the coast villages has with immense labour cut steps up from the beach to a large chamber, which he has excavated in the chalk cliffs; here many mariners have been saved; they have climbed the rock, which had else been too high for them, and they have escaped. We have heard of late, however, that the steps have been worn away by the storms, and that poor sailors have perished miserably within sight of the refuge which they could not reach, for it was too high for them: it is therefore proposed to drive in iron stanchions, and to hang up chain ladders that shipwrecked mariners may reach the chambers in the rock. The illustration is self interpreting. Our experience leads us to understand this verse right well, for the time was with us when we were in such amazement of soul be reason of sin, that although we knew the Lord Jesus to be a sure salvation for sinners, yet we could not come at him, by reason of our many doubts and forebodings. A Saviour would have been of no use to us if the Holy Spirit had not gently led us to him, and enabled us to rest upon him. To this day we often feel that we not only want a rock, but to be led to it. With this in view we treat very leniently the half unbelieving prayers of awakened souls; for in their bewildered state we cannot expect from them all at once a fully believing cry. A seeking soul should at once believe in Jesus, but it is legitimate for a man to ask to be led to Jesus; the Holy Spirit is able to effect such a leading, and he can do it even though the heart be on the borders of despair. How infinitely higher that we are is the salvation of God. We are low and grovelling, but it towers like some tall cliff far above us. This is its glory, and is our delight when we have once climbed into the rock, and claimed an interest in it; but while we are as yet trembling seekers, the glory and sublimity of salvation appal us, and we feel that we are too unworthy ever to be partakers of it; hence we are led to cry for grace upon grace, and to see how dependent we are for everything, not only for the Saviour, but for the power to believe on him.

 

EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS

Verse 1-2. See Psalms on "Psalms 61:1" for further information.

Verse 2. From the end of the earth. This may be taken two ways: either naturally, and then it is an allusion to men that are far distant and remote from help, relief and comfort: or, as I may say, ecclesiastically, with reference to the temple of God, which was "in medio terrae," "in the midst and heart of the land," where God manifested and gave tokens of his gracious presence and favour: as if he had said, "I am at the end of the earth; far from any tokens, pledges, or manifestations of the love and favour of God, as well as from outward help and assistance." John Owen.

Verse 2. The end of the earth. What place was this, the end of the earth, referring the expression to the writer of the Psalm? We know that the centre of the affections and devotions of the pious Israelite was the "holy city, Jerusalem; whither the tribes went up, even the tribes of the Lord, to testify unto Israel, and to give thanks unto the name of the Lord." The country of which this city was the capital, was to the Jew the world; it was the world within the world; the earth within the earth; the whole globe besides was to him a waste, a place out of the world; an extraterrestrial territory, beyond the limits set up by the Lord Almighty. Thus in Holy Writ what is called the world, or the earth, frequently signifieth only that part thereof which was the heritage of the chosen people... The end of the earth, then, as referred to the psalmist, would signify any place of bodily absence from the temple where the Deity had taken up his special abode, or any place whence his spiritual affections were unable to reach that temple. As referred to us, the expression signifies any sensible distance from God: for as God is the centre of life, hope, love, and joy, distance from him, of whatsoever degree, is the antipodes of the soul, a region of sterility and darkness; the Iceland of man's spirit. Alfred Bowen Evans, 1852.

Verse 2. I will cry unto thee. There is in this expression an endeavour to approach unto God; as you do when you cry after one whom you see at a distance, and are afraid he will go farther from you. It is the great work of faith to cry out after God, at a distance, when you are afraid lest at the next turn he should be quite out of sight. Crying to the Lord supposes him to be withdrawing or departing. John Owen.

Verse 2. Cry. No matter how abrupt the prayer be, so it be the representation of our hearts. Thus did David. Where doth he pray? In banishment. When? When his spirit is overwhelmed. How does he pray? He cried. Thus Hannah prayed herself into a composed state of mind. Remember, resignation is the work of the Spirit of God; and therefore you must plead for it before you have it. John Singleton (-1706), in "The Morning Exercises."

Verse 2. Cry. Crying is a substitute for speech; and also the expression of earnestness. William Jay.

Verse 2. When my heart is overwhelmed. Troubles are of various kinds; some are provoking, some are gnawing, some are perplexing, and some are overwhelming; but whatever form they assume, they are troubles, and are part of the wear and tear of life. ...Overwhelming troubles are such as sweep over a man, just as the mighty billows of the ocean sweep over and submerge the sands. These are troubles which struggle with us, as it were, for life and death; troubles which would leave us helpless wrecks; troubles which enter into conflict with us in our prime, which grapple with us in our health and strength, and threaten to conquer us by sheer force, no matter how bravely we may contend. Such trouble the psalmist knew. Philip Bennett Power, in "The I wills of the Psalms," 1861.

Verse 2. Heart. The heart is here represented to us as being overwhelmed, or, as it is otherwise translated, "covered over;" it is smothered in, unable to perform its functions with proper action, unable to throw out the blood to the extremities, to give them needed vitality and power for necessary effort. When the action of the heart is paralysed, even temporarily, it will tell upon all the members, a chill there send its cold vibration through every limb; Satan knows this well, and so all his dealings are heart dealings, efforts to paralyse the very spring of life itself. This is precisely what we ourselves have experienced; we have partially felt death within us, we have felt a gradual numbing of our heart; a gradual diminution in the quickness of its beat; a gradual closing in, and pressure of a weight upon it, and this was the overwhelming process. Philip Bennett Power.

Verse 2. Lead me to the rock that is higher than

  1. The tower, in Psalms 18:2 , is "an high tower," and the rock is here an high rock, the rock higher than I; and yet there is a way to get into the highest towers; by scaling ladders a man may get over the high walls of towers. This tower and rock were too high for David himself to get into, and therefore he sets to the scaling ladder. "Lead me to the rock, and into the tower that is higher than
  2. Hear my cry, attend unto my prayer." So he makes prayer the scaling ladder to get upon that rock and into that tower that otherwise had been too high for him; he gets that safety and deliverance which otherwise but by prayer unto God had been impossible to have been obtained. Jeremiah Dyke.

Verse 2. Lead me to the rock that is higher than

  1. The language is very remarkable. It gives us the idea of a man suffering shipwreck. The vessel in which he has been sailing has sunk. He has been plunged into the mighty ocean; and there he is buffeting the waves, struggling for life, panting for breath, and just about to give up all for lost. Suddenly he discovers a rock towering above him. If he can but climb up to the top of it, and get sure footing upon it, the billows will not be able to reach him, and he will be safe. Now, the prayer in our text is the cry of that poor wretch for help. He is so spent and exhausted, that he cannot reach the rock himself. He shouts aloud for the friendly hand of some one stronger than himself, or for a rope that may be flung to him by those who are already safe on the rock, if by these helps he may gain it. Lead me to the rock, cries the poor perishing wretch. "O, lead me, guide me, direct me to it; for I am so worn and spent, that I cannot reach it otherwise. I am at the point to die; and I must sink, and be no more seen for ever, if there is none to help me." Thus he calls for some one to rescue him from the deep, and to place him on the rock. But what rock? He knows that unless the rock be a high one, he will not be in safety, though he should be on it. The rock, he says, "must be higher than I, or the waves will reach me, and wash me off again." It is not a rock, the top of which just shows itself above the sea, no higher than a man's own body, that will save the life of a shipwrecked mariner. Such a rock may occasion the wreck, but it will not afford any help to the sufferers afterwards; it is a rock to split upon for destruction, not to stand upon for safety. Lead me to the rock, or as it is in the Prayer book version, "Set me upon the rock that is higher than I!" ... The text having shown us the danger of sin, does not leave us comfortless; it shows us the security of the refuge. We have before remarked, that the prayer of David, as a shipwrecked man, is, to be "led to," and set upon a rock, that is higher than himself. The expression seems to imply much. The rock that is higher than he, must be higher than any man; for David was a mighty monarch. He implies, therefore, that the refuge he seeks must be more than any "arm of flesh" can afford him; it must be therefore divine. Condensed from a Sermon by Fountain Elwin, 1842.

Verse 2. It is more the image of one overtaken by the tide, as he is hastening onwards to get beyond its reach, and yet with every step he sees it rolling nearer and nearer to him; he hears its angry roar, the loosening sand sinks beneath his tread -- a few minutes more, and the waves will be around him; despair hath "overwhelmed his heart;" when in the very depths of his agony he sees a point of rock high above the waves. "O that I could reach it and be safe!" And then comes the cry, the agonizing cry, to him that is mighty to save, Lead me to the rock that is higher than

  1. It is the sinner's cry to the sinner's Saviour! Barton Bouchier, A.M., in "Manna in the Heart; or, Daily Comments on the Book of Psalms," 1855.

Verse 2. Lead me to the rock. If we would find ourselves upon the rock, and enjoy the realisation of being so, we must be dependent upon another's hand. And that hand can do everything for us, even in our worst of times. When we are so blinded by the salt waves that dash in our eyes, so reeling in brain that we perhaps cannot think, much less make continuous efforts, there is a hand which can lead us, which can draw us out of the waters, which can set our feet upon the rock. Surely we have already experienced the power and tenderness of that hand? and it may be that in the reader's case, the waves, as they made sure of their prey, found it supernaturally drawn forth from them, that it might be set upon a rock, immoveable amid all the waters, and sufficient amid all storms! Philip Bennett Power.

Verse 2. The rock that is higher than

  1. The rock of our salvation, then, is "higher than we." Here we have the Deity of Christ, the Rock, set forth; in this he is "higher than we." And except as he is thus higher, as he is God, he could not be a Saviour; for "He is a just God, as well as a Saviour." A being no higher than we, or but a little higher, as the angels (for we are but "a little lower than they"), though he might teach us, or warn us, or console us, could never save us. The prey is in the hands of the mighty, and the Almighty alone is mightier. But a rock is not only high, but deep; it not only erects its front above the waves, but its base is fixed in the ocean's bed. "Canst thou by searching find out God? canst thou find our the Almighty unto perfection? It is as high as heaven; what canst thou do? deeper than hell; what canst thou know? The measure thereof is longer than the earth, and broader than the sea." Job 11:7 . Here we have the humanity of him who is the rock; that humanity by which he was able to go down to the deeps, as well as ride triumphantly on the bosom of the waters -- those deeps, whereof David speaking experimentally of himself, spake prophetically of him; the depths of our fall and degradation -- that humanity in which he went down into the grave, into the recesses of the intermediate state, and "preached to the spirits in prison." This is our rock, both deep and high; the rock of our salvation; to which those whose sons have set them at "the end of the earth," desire to be brought, that they may find a place of safe standing. Let not those fear who feel the bitterness of distance from God, for they shall be brought nigh; desolate may be the coast to which they are driven, but over against it is the Paradise of God; clouds and darkness may gather at the base of this rock of safety, but "eternal sunshine settles in its head." Alfred Bowen Evans.

Verse 2. Higher. A hiding place must be locus exelsissimus. Your low houses are soon scaled. Jesus Christ is a high place; he is as high as heaven. He is the Jacob's ladder that reacheth from earth to heaven. Genesis 28:12 . He is too high for men, too high for devils; no creature can scale these high walls. Ralph Robinson (1614-1655), in "Christ All and in All."

 

HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS

Verse 2. Lead me.

  1. Show me the way: reveal Jesus.
  2. Enable me to tread it: work faith in me.
  3. Uplift me when I cannot tread: do for me what is
    beyond me.

Verse 2. Higher than

  1. Jesus greater than our highest efforts, attainments, desires, expectations, conceptions.

Verse 2. God, the saint's rock. John Owen's Two Sermons. Works. Vol. 9, pp. 237-256.

Verse 2. The heart's cry and desire.

  1. A recognition of a place of safety; then,
  2. We have this place brought before us, as abundantly
    sufficient, when personal weakness has been realised.
  3. This place cannot be attained without the help of
    another's hand.
  4. The character of this refuge, and the position of a
    believer when availing himself of it: the place of
    refuge is "a rock," and the position of the believer
    is "upon a rock." P. B. Power.

Verse 2-3.

  1. How would he pray? I will cry unto thee.
  2. Where would he pray? From the ends of the earth.
  3. When would he pray? When my heart is overwhelmed.
  4. For what would he pray? Lead me to the rock that is higher than
  5. Whence does he derive his encouragement to pray? For thou hast been, etc. ( Psalms 61:3 ). William Jay.