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Psa 31:1 For the Chief Musician. A Psalm by David.
In You, Yahweh, I take refuge-
The idea is that God was David's city of refuge. These cities were for those who needed to flee when being chased by the avenger of blood (Num. 35:26). The imagery is very appropriate to David when fleeing from Saul and Absalom. David's constant meditation upon God's law would have included the sections about the cities of refuge; he realized that actually no such city was available for him, but the spirit of the law led him to reflect that Yahweh was his refuge, wherever he was. David tends to open wilderness Psalms with this reflection, just as we may tend to begin prayers with the same opening phrase and thoughts (Ps. 7:1; 11:1; 16:1; 31:1; 57:1; 71:1).


Let me never be disappointed. Deliver me in Your righteousness- Typical of men of his time, David seems to fear shame [s.w. "disappointed"] more than death itself. Defeat meant shame, and he desperately begged not to be shamed. Perhaps it was the function of his failure with Bathsheba to help him redefine the motives for his trust in God.

Psa 31:2 Bow down Your ear to me, deliver me quickly-
The way men like Abraham and Moses reasoned with God and changed His stated purpose indicates the condescension of God to us. The way He hears and responds to human prayer is humility itself. David realized this: " Bow down thine ear to me" he prayed, recognizing that it was through His humility that God hears human prayer (Ps. 31:2).

Be to me a strong rock, a house of defence to save me- Exiled from the stronghold of Zion, David looked instead to God, whose 'Zion' he now perceived to be wherever he was.


Psa 31:3 For You are my rock and my fortress-
or the allusion to Zion, see on :2.

Therefore for Your name’s sake lead me and guide me- The Hebrew for "lead" is only used elsewhere in Ps. 23:2 in the context of God leading David as he fled Jerusalem during Absalom's rebellion. Perhaps he had in view how God lead (s.w.) Israel through the desert (Ex. 15:13). The restoration application is to God's promise to "lead" (s.w.) the exiles on the desert journey back to Zion (Is. 40:11; 49:10).

Psa 31:4 Pluck me out of the net that they have laid secretly for me, for You are my stronghold-
Although David fled the stronghold of Zion during Absalom's rebellion (see on :3), he felt God was still his stronghold, and he needed no human strength. The net secretly laid clearly alludes to Absalom's deceitful plans. The net secretly laid would refer to Absalom's lengthy planning of his rebellion.

Psa 31:5 Into Your hand I commend my spirit. You have redeemed me, Yahweh, God of truth-
These words were quoted by the Lord on the cross as His very last words (Lk. 23:46); and we wonder whether "You have redeemed me" were His first words upon resurrection. The context is Absalom's rebellion (:3,4), and again we see how the Psalms most appropriate to the crucifixion are those written about David's experience of the consequence of his sins. The Lord on the cross suffered the consequence of sin whilst personally innocent.

If we place the seven last sayings of Christ chronologically, we find that the number of words Christ uttered runs 12-9-4-3-1-1-8. This indicates that He found speaking increasingly difficult on the cross. Now He breathes His last using these words, literally giving His Spirit to God. The Greek translated "commend" means literally to place beside, to lay down beside. The Lord Jesus had a sense that His character would not be forgotten by the Father, it would take it's place beside the Father as it were, as He later would physically. This is not, of course, to give any support to the notion of disembodied spirits. Existence can only be in an animate, bodily sense. Yet the word "commend" in the Greek does suggest that Christ felt that the place He would soon take beside the Father was due to the fact that His spirit / mind had found acceptance with Him first. The Father's hands no doubt is an idiom for His care, His preservation (cp. Mt. 4:6). Christ was taking comfort in the fact that His character, those endless minutes of spiritual effort, of struggle to develop and preserve a spiritual mind, would surely not be forgotten, it would be preserved in the Father's hands.

He could have avoided His final death; but He chose not to, and in this sense He willingly gave His life rather than had it taken from Him. The death of human beings can be seen as a result of physical processes over which they have no control. They are killed, often against their will, or disease takes hold of them and eventually forces them to a point where they breathe their last. There is never a conscious giving up of the last breath as an act of the will. Death either occurs in a state of semi-consciousness or unexpectedly, in a moment. We usually, in the final analysis, cling to life at all costs, throwing our feeble best into the fight we have no chance to win. Truly did Dylan Thomas observe that men do not "go gentle into that good night" but "‘rage, rage against the dying of the light". The death of the Lord Jesus Christ was altogether different- and the death of the thieves next to Him would have highlighted this. It is so often emphasized that He gave His life for us: "Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures" in itself suggests that the death of Christ was an act of the will. He gave His flesh for us (Jn. 6:51).

The Lord was at great pains to emphasize this aspect of His death, saying the same thing time and again: " I lay down my life for the sheep...therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself...this commandment have I received of my Father" (Jn. 10:15-18). The death of Christ was therefore a conscious act of giving, it was not simply a result of being murdered by the Jews or Roman soldiers. No man took Christ's life from Him, He laid it down of Himself, i.e. of His own will. It is therefore apparent that Christ's death was not solely a physical result of being impaled on the stake. The fact He died abnormally quickly is proof enough of this. And it explains why the centurion when he saw how the Lord so cried out was by this fact persuaded that He was the Son of God (Mk. 15:39). That last outbreathing, that death as an act of the will, was something phenomenal. We are therefore driven to the conclusion that Christ was in a position to give His life at a certain point in time chosen by Himself. "He poured out his soul unto death" (Is. 53:12) suggests that the actual point of His death was a result of mental activity within the mind of the Lord Jesus. He was the servant who "makes himself an offering for sin" (Is. 53:10).

The Greek para-tithemi means literally to place or lay down beside. Tithemi is the same word translated "lay down" when we read of Christ laying down His life for us. It is the word used to describe the palsied man being laid down at the feet of Jesus (Lk. 5:18), or the laying of a foundation stone (1 Cor. 3:11). It is also translated to bow down. The point at which Christ laid down His life, bowing down before the Father, was therefore when He commended His spirit to the Father. When Christ "yielded up the spirit" (Mt. 27:50), He was commending His spirit to God, laying down His life for us. The Greek for "yielded up" is para-didomi, to yield or give beside, and is evidently related in meaning to para-tithemi, to commend, to lay down beside.

So the idea of Christ giving Himself for us therefore refers to that final moment of giving up, yielding, laying down His breath for us. Paul was evidently moved by this; he marvelled at how Christ "gave himself for me" (Gal. 2:20), using the same word as in Jn. 19:30 concerning him giving up His spirit. And we can enter into that sense or marvel and wonder. Paul again alludes to this in Eph. 5:2: "Walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling savour". And therefore, Paul goes on, fornication, covetousness, foolish talking etc. should not even be named amongst us, "but rather giving of thanks" (Eph. 5:3,4).

That wondrous moment when Christ reached such self-control as to give His life for us, to breathe out His last breath for us as an act of the will, that moment was evidently deep within the mind of Paul. Because of it we should find ample inspiration to "walk in love" towards each other, to be so full of praise for this that we have no time to even speak about the sins to which are earthly nature is so prone. These are high ideals indeed, yet in Paul (another sin-stricken human) they began to be realized. They really can be realized in our lives, we truly can begin to appreciate the intensity of that yielding up, that laying down of the life spirit of our Lord Jesus- and therefore and thereby we will find the inspiration to respond in a life of true love for each other.
It seems likely that Peter was at the cross, and therefore his letters are packed with allusions to it. What he saw there had a lifelong impact upon him. He makes at least two allusions to the words of Christ on the cross, and bids us enter into the spirit of it. "Hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps... who... when he suffered, threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously" (1 Pet. 2:21-23). This is the same word as used about Christ commending His spirit to God in that final agony. We really are bidden enter into His example and follow Him. Christ overcame the temptation to react wrongly to His sufferings by instead committing Himself to God. This idea of laying Himself down for us was what enabled Him not to get bitter. The antidote to our own bitterness is likewise to enter into this spirit of laying down our lives.
The hands of God are also connected with the Angels, the means by which God performs His actions. Moses' hands being upheld by the hands of others can be seen as a type of the Lord Jesus being sustained by Angelic hands on the cross, connecting with the Messianic prophecy of Gen. 49:24 concerning the hands of Messiah being strengthened for His mediation by the hands of God. Throughout Scripture, God's hands are associated with His creative work in the natural creation (e.g. Ps. 8:6; 95:5; Heb. 1:10)- work which was and is performed through the Angels.


Psa 31:6 I hate those who regard lying vanities, but I trust in Yahweh-
This would be another hint in the Psalms that David's enemies, be they Saul or Absalom, were involved in idolatry; whereas David trusted Yahweh alone. See on :14.

Throughout David’s Psalms in Ps. 1-72, he repeatedly asks for torture upon the sinners and blessing upon himself as the righteous. He speaks of how sinners should be “contemned” in the eyes of the righteous (Ps. 15:4), how he hates them, how the gatherings of sinners should be “hated” and sinners should not be fellowshipped (Ps. 26:4-6; Ps. 31:6) and how God’s uprightness is shown to the upright and His judgment to the judgmental (Ps. 18:25,26; Ps. 33:22). He invites God’s judgment upon himself and others according to their and his works (Ps. 28:4).  Frequently he alludes to Saul as “the violent man”- even though David committed his share of violence- and asks judgment upon him (Ps. 18:48). Only those with clean hands and pure heart like himself could have fellowship with God (Ps. 24:3,4). Psalm 37 doesn’t indicate any desire to convert the sinners but rather an expectation of their judgment and destruction. God and David laugh at the wicked because their day is coming (Ps. 37:13). There’s no spirit of grace here at all- perhaps that’s why Zech. 12:10 specifically says that the spirit of grace will have to be poured out upon the house of David in the last days. This attitude changed after the sin with Bathsheba, but still something of the old self righteousness and judgmental attitudes are to be found in David in Psalms written after that.

Psa 31:7 I will be glad and rejoice in Your grace, for You have seen my affliction. You have known my soul in adversities-
"Adversities" is the word used of Jacob and Joseph when in exile situations apparently lacking any human hope of restoration (Gen. 35:3; 42:21). The comfort that God sees and knows leads David to joy in an otherwise joyless situation.

Psa 31:8 You have not shut me up into the hand of the enemy, You have set my feet in a large place-
This language of constriction, being shut up, was perhaps based upon David's living in caves at the time of his exile from Saul; and he reuses those Psalms when under persecution from Absalom and others. It continues the allusion to Joseph in the pit noted on :7. He saw those constricted places as "a large place", and here we have a timeless encouragement for all who find themselves constricted in whatever way.

Psa 31:9 Have mercy on me, Yahweh, for I am in distress. My eye, my soul, and my body waste away with grief-
"Grief" is the word used for the wrath of God (Ps. 85:4), but could also refer to the anger of others- perhaps the family of Bathsheba, or the followers of Saul, was originally in view. A sense of fading vision would be appropriate to both his physical and emotional state. In the Bathsheba context it would seem that during his illness, there arose "adversaries" against him. But the Psalm may have originated whilst under persecution by Saul.

Psa 31:10 For my life is spent with sorrow, my years with sighing. My strength fails because of my sin, my bones are wasted away-
What is in places a wilderness Psalm was clearly reused by David during his illness after the sin with Bathsheba. In our lives too, circumstances repeat under God's good hand, as He repeats the lessons and we learn them through that repetition. Despite his undoubted physique stamina, David was a broken man, even quite early in his life, prone to fits of introspection; dramatic mood-swings (cp. 1 Sam.2 4:14 with 25:6,22,34;), sometimes appearing a real 'softie' but hard as nails at others (consider Ps. 75:10 and the whole of Ps. 101); easily getting carried away: be it with excessive emotional enthusiasm for bringing the ark back, in his harsh response to Hanun humbling his servants, his over-hasty and emotional decision to let Amnon go to Absalom's feast when it was obvious what might well transpire, his anger "flaring up" because of incompetency (2 Sam.11:20 NIV),  or in his ridiculous softness for Absalom. He had a heart cruelly torn so many ways. All these traits are amply reflected in the Psalms: Ps. 6:7; 31:10; 42:3,6; 38:8; 55:4; 56:8; 69:3,29; 88:3,9; 94:19 (what introspection!); 102:4; 116:3; 143:4.

Psa 31:11 Because of all my adversaries I have become utterly contemptible to my neighbours, a fear to my acquaintances. Those who saw me on the street fled from me-
David's family appear to have later disowned him during Saul’s persecution (Ps. 31:11), fleeing from him, as the Lord’s friends also did (Ps. 31:11 = Mt. 26:56). Here we have another allusion to Job. It is twice stressed that David's brothers "followed Saul" (1 Sam.17:13,14); is it possible to argue back from this that Christ's brothers were strong Judaists?  The "neighbours" could also here refer to the neighbouring nations around Judah. The recoiling from David "on the street" could refer to some visible skin disease, perhaps leprosy.

Psa 31:12 I am forgotten from their hearts like a dead man; I am like broken pottery-
According to how Jeremiah later uses the metaphor of pottery, this would imply that David felt as if he were the vessel which God had broken. There is continually the sense that his physical condition was a judgment for his immorality.

Psa 31:13 For I have heard the slander of many, terror on every side, while they conspire together against me, they plot to take away my life-
So many of the Psalms contain references to Saul's smear campaign against David (Ps. 27:12; 31:13; 109:23 cp. 1 Sam. 26:19). This frequency of reference in itself indicates the weight with which this tragedy rested upon David's mind. And yet the pain of slander continued at the time of his sin with Bathsheba, and later during Absalom's rebellion. The plot to take away David's life could specifically refer to Ahithophel's advice to Absalom.


Psa 31:14 But I trust in You, Yahweh. I said, You are my God-
The stress may be upon "You", given the note on :6 that David's enemies, be they Saul or Absalom, were involved in idolatry; whereas David trusted Yahweh alone. 

Psa 31:15 My times are in Your hand-
This could be an admission that the time of his death was in God's hand, but he committed his life into God's hands (:5). LXX "My lots are in thy hands" could mean that he rejected the idea of drawing lots in order to know where to run or how to act; or that if he did, he recognized that God's hands would control the outcome.

Redeem me from the hand of my enemies, and from those who persecute me- "Redeem / deliver me from the hand..." is again a quotation from Jacob's words when he found his relative Esau barring his path back home (Gen. 32:11,30). And the word is used of David's desire for deliverance from Saul (1 Sam. 26:24); and yet this was a redemption unappreciated by him as it ought to have been (2 Sam. 12:7). Finally David recognized that this prayer was answered (2 Sam. 22:18,49). As David had earlier prayed for redemption / deliverance from Saul and his enemies (Ps. 31:15; 59:1; 144:7), he would later pray for redemption / deliverance from his sins (Ps. 39:8; 79:9).

Psa 31:16 Make Your face to shine on Your servant; save me in Your grace-
At this time David rejoiced in God's grace (:7), and yet also felt God's face was not shining upon him. We can still rejoice in Divine grace even if we don't have a buzz of emotional awareness that God is shining upon us.

Psa 31:17 Let me not be disappointed, Yahweh, for I have called on You-
"Disappointed" is 'shamed'. It is likely that the Lord was crucified naked, thereby sharing the shame of Adam's nakedness. The shame of the cross is stressed (Heb. 11:26; 12:2; Ps. 31:17; Ps. 69:6,7,12,19,20). And we are to share those sufferings. There must, therefore, be an open standing up for what we believe in the eyes of a hostile world. Preaching, in this sense, is for all of us. And if we dodge this, we put the Son of God to a naked shame; we re-crucify Him naked, we shame Him again (Heb. 6:6). He was crucified naked, and the sun went in for three hours. He must have been cold, very cold (Jn. 18:18). Artemidorus Daldianus (Oneirokritika 2.53) confirms that the Romans usually crucified victims naked. Melito of Sardis, writing in the 2nd century, writes of “his body naked and not even deemed worthy of a clothing that it might not be seen. Therefore the heavenly lights turned away and the day darkened in order that he might be hidden who was denuded upon the cross" (On the Pasch 97). The earliest portrayals of the crucified Jesus, on carved gems, feature Him naked.

Let the wicked be disappointed, may they be silent in Sheol- Clearly David understands the punishment of the wicked to be silence in the grave, and not eternal torment.

Psa 31:18 Let the lying lips be mute, which speak against the righteous insolently, with pride and contempt-
This implies David was a victim of slander far more than the historical records suggest. The silencing of the lying lips may connect with the wish that the wicked "be silent" in the grave. This wishing of death upon slanderers seems rather extreme and out of step with the later spirit of the Lord Jesus.

Psa 31:19 Oh how great is Your goodness, which You have laid up for those who fear You, which You have worked for those who take refuge in You, before the sons of men!-
David's thoughts in :18,19 have been upon the final future condemnation of the wicked. Therefore the goodness "laid up" for the righteous would refer to the future reward of the Kingdom of God. The nature of our eternal existence will be unique to each of us, and God is developing or 'working' it right now through our experience of life. We note that David's trust in Yahweh was unashamed and public, "before the sons of men".

Psa 31:20 In the shelter of Your presence You will hide them from the plotting of man. You will keep them secretly in a dwelling away from the strife of tongues-
The reference may be to the plotting of Absalom and his party to overthrow David, which went on many years before Absalom's putsch. The pain of words is difficult to deal with; here David imagines himself as living in a Divinely provided pavilion which was somehow soundproofed against "the strife of tongues". And again David sees himself as dwelling in the shadow of the cherubic wings over the mercy seat, where the shekinah presence of Yahweh was to be seen. And he felt that wherever he was.

Psa 31:21 Praise be to Yahweh, for He has shown me His marvellous grace in a fortified city-
This could refer to David’s escape from Keilah, or how he got out of Gath when he fled there and the Philistines turned against him (1 Sam. 21:10-14). Or maybe this refers to how safe felt in his fortified city of Ziklag.

Psa 31:22 As for me, I said in my haste, I am cut off from before Your eyes. Nevertheless You heard the voice of my petitions when I cried to You-
If "eyes" refer to Angels, this could be a prophecy of the Lord Jesus’ fear of losing the Angelic presence whilst He was on the cross- hence Mt. 27:46.

Psa 31:23 Oh love Yahweh, all you His saints! Yahweh preserves the faithful, and fully recompenses him who behaves arrogantly-
David persistently sees the problem of his enemies, be they Saul or Absalom, as pride. And yet when the 'full recompense' of death came upon those men, David genuinely mourned and was heart broken. Sometimes we get the impression that the Psalms, although inspired, are very much a flow of consciousness statement.

Psa 31:24 Be strong, and let your heart take courage, all you who hope in Yahweh
- This is another teaching to the effect that God will strengthen human hearts. The Greek and Hebrew words translated  'spirit' don't only mean 'power'. They frequently refer to the mind / heart. We read of God giving men a new heart, a new spirit; of Him working on men's hearts to make them do His will. He gives them a new spirit. This doesn't mean that they of their own volition have the power of the Holy Spirit gifts, as, e.g., some in the early church did. God will strengthen the heart / spirit of those who try to be strong (Ps. 27:14; 31:24). He can even, somehow, withhold men from sinning (Gen. 20:6), and keep us from falling (Jude 24). We should therefore have no essential objection to the idea of the Lord granting us His Spirit, in the sense of His thinking, His heart / mind.