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Thursday, 18 September 2014

Psalm 31 - Specific prayer

In this psalm, David begins by praying for deliverance. He does not specify the particular danger, yet because it contains the possibility of shame, it probably involved an attempt to remove him from his throne. Verses 13 and 20 indicate that there was a plot taking place against him. Despite his difficult situation, the psalmist is confident that God will remain his place of safety (rock and fortress are images of security), therefore he can commit himself into God’s hands. In verses 7 and 8, he looks back to previous deliverances from God and uses them as sources of ongoing confidence in God regarding the current trouble.

Verses 9-13 spell out the distress that the psalmist feels. His anxiety affects him physically. He knows that all his troubles are not the faults of others alone because in verse 10 he mentions his own iniquity as a contributing factor. Yet the activities of his opponents are adding to the strain he feels. The strength of the opposition has caused his neighbours to abandon him, and they think that there is no hope for him.

Therefore in verses 14-18, he turns to the only one who can help him – the Lord. The psalmist affirms his relationship with his God and notes that he is in control ('My times are in your hands'), and since that is the case he can deliver his servant from the hands of his enemies. David wants more from God – he also wants to sense that God is for him (make his face shine on his servant) and to see that God will deliver him. He wants all his enemies to be removed completely (after all, they were fighting not just against David, but also against God’s kingdom).

In verses 19-20, David describes the kind of abundant deliverance he wants from God. He desires public awareness of it (his enemies were removed), and until that happens, he wants complete protection in God’s presence. Such requests could only be made of a God who is both great (capable of doing them) and gracious (willing to do them). It is good to remind ourselves of God’s greatness and grace when asking him for help. And verses 21 and 22 reveal that the Lord delivered him despite the difficult situation he found himself in (a besieged city may be a literal description or a figurative one) and the alarm he had experience.

Therefore, in verses 23 and 24, he turns to other believers and, out of his own experience, encourages them to love the Lord because he is always faithful to his people.

Verse 5 may have been quoted by Jesus on the cross when he placed his spirit into the hands of his Father. Perhaps he was thinking about this psalm when he was on the cross and we can see why he would have abhorred the shame connected to his crucifixion and also the intrigues of his enemies. His response was to trust in his heavenly Father, and so in this psalm we have both Jesus and David as examples to follow when in trouble.

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