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In this blog, there will be a variety of material: thoughts on Bible books, book reviews, historical characters, aspects of Scottish church history and other things.

Monday, 20 October 2014

Psalm 61 - A King Anticipates a Kingdom

This short psalm, which is generally regarded as connected to the experience of David during the rebellion of his son Absalom, is in two parts. Verses 1-4 are a prayer for deliverance and verses 5-8 are an anticipation of restoration.

Verse 1 reveals the urgency in David’s prayer. Situations for prayer are often varied and sometimes prayers are more earnest than at other times. God seemed to be at a distance at this time, therefore David cries louder. It is appropriate when in a time of trouble to make noisy prayers.

Geographically David is far away from Jerusalem (v. 2), the place where God was worshipped; yet the psalmist still must pray, even although his circumstances have made him faint. Providence may have shut the door of his earthly palace temporarily for David, but it does not shut the door of the heavenly palace and David therefore prayed. He wanted to be led by God to a safe place, a high rock where his opponents could not attack him, which is probably an illustration of God himself.

In verse 3, David uses his memory as an aid in prayer. As Spurgeon said, ‘Experience is the nurse of faith. From the past we gather arguments for present confidence.’ The psalmist recalls how God helped him in the past, and we should do the same when under spiritual attack.

Recollecting what God had done for him in the past enabled David to have confidence about the future (v. 4). Although he was facing current problems, he knew his future was secure. He anticipated eventually being in the very presence of God, illustrated here by the psalmist’s allusion to the wings of the cherubim above the mercy seat in the Holy of Holies.

In verse 5, David recalls vows he had made to God, personal promises that accompanied his prayers. It was customary for believers, when in trouble, to promise to give something to God if he delivered them. Vows in this sense are suitable, although it would be absurd to promise something that we could not pay. Vowing to give a gift to God is an expression of a grateful heart. For example, a Christian may promise to engage in a form of Christian work as an expression of thankfulness to God for answering a prayer.

What is the heritage mentioned by David? Clearly it is one that is common to all believers, those who fear God’s name. Probably David has in mind all the promises and blessings that are connected to salvation. Yet although he was a king, what mattered more to him was the inheritance he shared with all God’s people.

In verses 6 and 7, David uses the third person to speak about himself. Yet he goes beyond his own situation and describes a king whose reign will be eternal. It is likely that David saw, in his own rejection and subsequent exaltation, a picture of what would happen to the Messiah, that although he would be rejected, he would reign forever.

Therefore, in verse 8, David promises to praise God continually. He does not specify what his vows entailed, but evidently they involved daily fulfilment. Of course, whether we have vowed or not, it is a Christian duty to praise God daily for his rich kingdom and his royal King.

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