PSALM 61 TALK: A REFUGE IN THE MIDST OF TURMOIL OR A ROCK THAT IS HIGHER THAN I

PSALM 61 TALK: A REFUGE IN THE MIDST OF TURMOIL
OR THE ROCK THAT IS HIGHER THAN I

(A Psalm that explores how faith in God offers all true believers comfort and protection when we are facing difficult times)

THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide”.

INTRODUCTION

I once met a young man in a Chinese restaurant years ago who sat opposite me at a function for schoolteachers and their partners, my girl friend at the time was the teacher and I was the partner. This young man asked me what I did for a living and I explained that at that time I was a Bible College student studying the Bible and Christian theology. He began to attack me saying that he believed “that belief in a God was nothing more than a crutch for weak minded people”.

In preparation for this study I did some research on were this idea of religion or faith in God was a crutch for weak minded people came from and I discovered that it was first attributed to a man named Jesse Ventura, former governor of Minnesota and his actual words were,

“Organized religion is a sham and a crutch for weak – minded people who need strength in numbers”.

My research also led me to the writings and views of the famous father of modern psychology, Sigmund Freud, who advocated in the late 1800’s views like,

“They (believers) give the name of God to some vague abstraction which they have created for themselves”.

And,

“People of faith create a god because they have strong wishes and hopes within them that act as comfort against the harshness of life”.

When talking to the young man in the Chinese restaurant I admitted that in some ways God and faith in him was a crutch or a support for me in times when I felt weak and needed help. However I also argued that what I believe did not come into being because I needed a crutch but rather the truth on which my faith was grounded upon was a concrete reality of history. I then proceeded to point this young man to the evidence of the historical reliability of the New Testament writings and the evidence for the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. We argued fiercely for some time but in the end he said to me privately that he had never spoken before to a person who actually had good reasons for believing in God even though he still was not convinced I was right.

In this study I want to present the very real and comforting message of how God is a help or refuge in times of trouble and turmoil for all true believers.
Psalm 61 is a prayer of David that features the idea of God being his refuge in a time of great turmoil in his life. Many bible scholars advocate that this was when David was on the run from his rebellious son Absalom who sought to destroy him, his entire family and close supporters. Many other Psalms were written by David and others at this time like Psalms 3, 4 and 5 by David and Psalm 42 by The Sons of Korah” who I believe was with David on his desperate flee from Absalom.

We get the idea of this Psalm being written at this time because first of all the Hebrew heading attributes this Psalm to David. Secondly verse 2 implies David is in exile from his home in Jerusalem because it says,

“From the ends of the earth I call to you”

Thirdly and finally David seeks prayer for him as the king in the second half of the Psalm verses 6 – 8, which implies that at the time of writing this Psalm David, is king already. The only one suitable time of David’s life when he faced both danger and exile as the king of Israel was when he fled from Absalom recorded in 2 Samuel chapters 15 – 18.

Most commentators use the Selah after verse 4 to split the Psalm into two parts but I like the breakdown of the Psalm proposed by H.C. Leupold who writes,

“This Psalm appears to be built upon three petitions”.

Leopold goes on to point out that each section has a petition and then its motivation for the petition. With this structure in mind I have broken the Psalm down this way:

1. THE ROCK THAT IS OUR REFUGE (1 – 3)

2. GOD’S TENT THAT PROMISES ETERNAL REFUGE (4 – 5)

3. A PRAYER FOR THE KING BASED ON GOD’S PROMISES (6- 8)

1. THE ROCK THAT IS OUR REFUGE (1 – 3)

Following Leupold’s breakdown each section will have two parts the petition or prayer and then motivation for the petition or prayer. For this first part we will look at:

1. THE PRAYER FOR GOD TO LEAD DAVID TO THE ROCK HIGHER THAN I (verses 1 – 2)

2. THE MOTIVATION OF GOD PRVIOUSLY BEING DAVID’S REFUGE (vs. 3)

1. THE PRAYER FOR GOD TO LEAD DAVID TO THE ROCK HIGHER THAN I (verses 1 – 2)

David starts this Psalm with the words of a desperation to God we believe was probably uttered while on the run from his Son and the main armies of Israel probably by the time he had fled as far as he travelled during this nasty affair.

He came to a place called Mahanaim east of the Jordon river in the land called Gilead now modern day Jordon as recorded in 2 Samuel 17: 17 – 29. This is because of the wording of the second verse that says,

“From the ends of the earth I call to you”.

David is out in the wilds of what he would have viewed as a hostile harsh and hilly desert land with the major armies of Israel led by his rebellious son Absalom hot on his heals. In this context he prays,

“Hear my cry, O God; listen to my prayer”

In Psalm 4 verse one David prays this a few days earlier,

“Answer me when I call to you, O my righteous God. Give me relief from my distress; be merciful to me and hear my prayer”.

These are dark and dangerous times for David, his large family and a number of his close friends which probably included at least one Son of Korah, a leader of music in Jerusalem worship who prays around the same time a prayer recorded in Psalm 42 these words in verses 2 and 3,

“My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God? My tears have been my food day and night, while men say to me all day long, “Where is your God”.

The Hebrew word for “cry” could be translated “Yell” according to a commentator named Briggs and he says this makes this prayer a very real desperate cry for help. As I said before in verse 2 he poetically describes the kind of area he is praying this prayer in with the words,
“From the ends of the earth I call to you”.

In a commentary written around 1883, called Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges I found this interesting explanation of what this poetic expression of the place of writing actually means,

“But Jerusalem, the dwelling-place of God, is for him the centre of the earth. He measures his distance from it not by miles but by the intensity of his yearning to be there, in the place where the visible pledges of God’s presence were to be found”.

David goes on to further describe his spiritual and emotional state at the time of this prayer with the words of the second part of verse 2, which says,
“I call as my heart grows faint”.

David is in a bad way owing to a horrific set of circumstances, which include having already spent a number of days out in wilderness with a large group of family and close followers with the prospect of Absalom and his mighty army coming upon them at anytime to destroy them all.

No wonder David prays that his heart grows faint and we can see from Psalm 42 that one of his friends, a Son of Korah, who was with him felt exactly the same way when he prays with a description of the location in mind as well in verses 6 and 7 of his Psalm, Psalm 42, written around the same time as David’s Psalm,

“My God, My soul is downcast within me; therefore I will remember you from the land of the Jordon, the heights of Hermon – from Mount Mizar. Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls; all the waves and breakers have swept over me”.

You can look up my Psalm Talk on Psalm 42 for an explanation of the place names mentioned in these verses that suggest he is in the area of Mahanain just east of the Jordon River.

THE ROCK THAT IS HIGHER THAN I

Then we come to David’s amazing substance of his petition or prayer, which comes in the last part of verse 2,

“Lead me to the rock that is higher than I”.

I have mentioned a couple of times in my Psalm Talks of how the term “the rock” is a favorite expression of David for his God and what he meant to him. In my Psalm talk on Psalm 28 I wrote this about this special name or title for God,

“David used a number of special names for God in the Psalms and the special name for God in Psalm 28 is “Rock” or in Hebrew “Cur”

‘Rock (Cur) a Name of God

“The name Rock refers to the fact that God is the foundation of everything. He alone is immovable and unbreakable. When building a house it is important to dig down to the rock to form a strong foundation so that over time the ground beneath the house won’t begin to crumble and tear the house apart. God is the foundation for our lives that will not crumble” (From Parent Company, Awareness of God / Names of God)’.

The name for God as Rock (Cur in Hebrew) appears in a number of places in the bible and of course in the first verse of Psalm 28”.

Here in Psalm 61 David in his unstable and dangerous situation when he was on the run from Absalom and his army he wants God to lead him to his place of safety and security. David is praying that he wants to be close to God who is his rock or safe place, which he beautifully describes in the first four verses of his famous Psalm 23,

“The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, and he restores my soul. He guides me in the paths of righteousness for his name sake, Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff they comfort me”.

David certainly was now literally trapped in a valley of death in Mahanaim in the land of Gilead and he knew that in this situation he was powerless even though he was still the official king of Israel.

He needed someone higher and more powerful than himself to save him. He knew of course that God his rock was that high and powerful force that could save him and he therefore prays,
“Lead me to the rock that is higher than I”.

When I read these words for the first time recently the words of a famous hymn came immediately into my mind,

“Rock of Ages, cleft for me
Let me hide myself in thee,
Let the water and the blood,
From thy wounded side which flowed
Be of sin the double cure,
Save from wrath and make me pure”.

This was a hymn written by Augustus Toplady who died at the age of 38 from tuberculosos in 1778. One story of the hymns composition is that when Toplady was a young Anglican minister in the Chedder Gorge area of England he had to shelter from a voracious thunder storm in the cleft of a large rock and on a playing card he found there he wrote the first line of the hymn that he later developed it into his final version of, “Rock of Ages”.

This story of how Toplady came to write the hymn has been disputed by a number of history experts. Tim Challies in the following quote explains the more accurate inspiration of the hymn when he writes,

“Toplady was most likely inspired to write the hymn after reading the preface of John and Charles Wesleys ‘Hymns on the Lord’s Supper (1745) which contains a prayer voicing many of the themes and words that are found in the hymn. This is ironic, given the poor condition of Toplady’s relationship with John Wesley but one can perhaps see the hand of God in it”.

Personally I only spent one day in the Chedder Valley area with my wife a few years ago when on a European Holiday trip and on that day we got caught in a various thunderstorm but managed to shelter in the beautiful limestone caves that are there as well. Outside the caves that day lightening, thunder and torrential rain broke loose in a most frightening way but my wife and I were safe and dry inside the shelter of the limestone caves.

This is what David is seeking out in the Mahanain wilderness a rock or his God who can shelter him from the frightening and dangerous storm of his rebellious son Absalom.

In the New Testament that Toplay draws great inspiration from Jesus is that Rock which he calls the “Rock of Ages”. Some think that Toplay’s hymn could have also been inspired by the words of Paul in 1 Corinthians 10: 3 and 4,

“They all ate the same spiritual food and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock, that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ”.

One final word on Jesus and what he has done for us and the story behind the hymn “Rock of Ages” comes from another known fact of this hymn and I quote what this fact is by quoting a lady named Diane Severance which who wrote in a article about Toplady and his hymn these words,

“In March, 1776 Toplady published the hymn as part of an article in The Gospel Magazine, which he edited. He wrote that just as England could never pay her national debt, so man could never by his own merits satisfy the justice of God. In the middle of the article he burst into song, printing for the first time the hymn ‘Rock of Ages’, which so ably describes Christ, the Rock of Ages, as the remedy for all our sin”.

He is Toplady’s hymn as part of my closing words on this section.

Rock of ages, cleft for me.
Let me hide myself in Thee;
Let the water and the blood,
From Thy riven side which flowed,
Be of sin the double cure,
Cleanse from me its guilt and power.

Not the labours of my hands
Can fulfill Thy law’s demands;
Could my zeal no respite know,
Could my tears for ever flow,
All for sin could not atone;
Thou must save and Thou alone.

Nothing in my hand I bring,
Simply to Thy Cross I cling;
Naked, come to Thee for dress;
Helpless, look to Thee for grace;
Foul, I to the Fountain fly;
Wash me, Saviour, or I die.

While I draw this fleeting breath,
When my eye-strings break in death,
When I soar through tracts unknown,
See Thee on Thy judgment throne,
Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in Thee.

So when it comes to saving ourselves we are powerless and need the crutch or assistance of Christ and his work on the cross. By leaning on him which is another way of saying trusting in Christ and what he has done for us we are cured, cleansed, atoned, saved, washed by blood or sacrifice of Christ so we can hide within Christ who is our “Rock of Ages” or the Rock higher than I”.

2. THE MOTIVATION OF GOD PRVIOUSLY BEING DAVID’S REFUGE (vs. 3)

David has now made a desperate prayer or call to God for his help and protection as he faced what humanly speaking seemed certain death at the hands of his rebellious son Absalom but David is confident and motivated to pray and you might ask:

Why?

David declares why in the next verse, verse 3 that reads,

“For you have been my refuge, a strong tower against the foe”.

David’s motivation to pray comes from his confidence in God who has helped him in the past against a number of different enemies. In his younger days he fought bears and lions as a young Sheppard boy and of course with God’s help he fought the great Philistine champion Philistine champion Goliath. Interestingly even at this early age David revealed great confidence against his enemies because of the help and protection of his God. David says this to king Saul when he asks David if he was able to fight Goliath and after telling Saul how he had fought successfully against lions and bears says this in 1 Samuel 17: 37,
“The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine”.
David’s confidence in God in the past motivates him to pray with confidence to his God who has been both a refuge and strong tower against the many attacks of his enemies.

Spurgeon says this about how our experience of God in the past helps us in the battles of life in the present with these words,

“Experience is the nurse of faith. From the past we gather arguments for present confidence”.

In my conversation with the young man in the Chinese restaurant years ago who challenge me with the concept that faith in God or religion is just a crutch for weak minded people I not only pointed him to the historical reliability of the New Testament documents and the resurrection. I also testified to how I had seen and been helped by God in the past. He attacked my testimony by saying I was merely someone who could not cope with things in my life and psychologically I needed a God concept to turn to. I replied that I had prayed and seen real answers to prayers I prayed and that the truth of the Gospel message I believed in had transformed my life.

It is difficult for non- believers to counter real and honest testimony because they either have to argue we either have been deceived or are lying. Paul speaks of how God uses even the difficulties in our lives to help others in 2 Corinthians 1: 3 – 6,

“Let us give thanks to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the merciful Father, the God from whom all help comes!

He helps us in all our troubles, so that we are able to help others who have all kinds of troubles, using the same help that we ourselves have received from God. Just as we have a share in Christ’s many sufferings, so also through Christ we share in God’s great help. If we suffer, it is for your help and salvation; if we are helped, then you too are helped and given the strength to endure with patience the same sufferings that we also endure”.

Lastly David speaks of God in verse three as,

“A strong tower against the foe”.

As I said before David was both rescued and protected in his past many times by God and even this running away from a vicious and dangerous enemy was not a new experience for him for he fled from Saul for over eight years before he became king. He had slept many nights out in the wilderness before and God had protected him like soldiers up in a high tower wall fighting an enemy below.

Proverbs 18: 10, says that another name for God is a strong Tower,

“The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are safe”.

Derek Kidner David is saying then that God is like his,

“Purpose built tower”

I referred to Augustus Toplady’s hym “Rock of Ages” in the previous section which opens with those well know words,

“Rock of ages, cleft for me.
Let me hide myself in Thee”

The difference between that young man in the Chinese restaurant and me was that when the problems and difficulties come upon me in this life I always have a great and powerful God to turn to for help and guidance. He is all on his own and dismisses my powerful God as a crutch that only weak-minded people turn to. I put it to him that God certainly does prop me up and helps me in my life because I am not only weak in my mind but I am weak and powerless in my heart and soul and therefore it is only with God’s grace through his Son Jesus Christ that I am saved and helped.

2. GOD’S TENT THAT PROMISES ETERNAL REFUGE (4 – 5)

Following Leupold’s structure of this Psalm I have two parts to this second section which are:

1. THE PRAYER FOR THE DESIRE TO DWELL IN GOD’S TENT FOREVER (vs. 4)

2. MOTIVATION OF GOD HEARING OUR PRAYERS AND GIVING US HIS PROMISES (vs.5)

1. THE PRAYER FOR THE DESIRE TO DWELL IN GOD’S TENT FOREVER (vs.4)

So David is out in the wilderness somewhere east of the Jordon river with a large number of family and friends who have been helped with provisions by sympathetic people on the way but still they face dire consequences at the hands of Absalom and his mighty army and in this situation David goes on to pray:

“I long to dwell in your tent forever and take refuge in the shelter of your wings”.

What is David actually praying for here?

For David God’s tent would have been God’s sanctuary now set up in God’s Holy city of Jerusalem. David’s son, Solomon, would change the Sanctuary to a more permanent structure called the Temple.

This means that David is separated from the special worship centre in Jerusalem and we know this actually happened in his flight from his son Absalom. In the other Psalm we believe was written around the same time a Son of Korah writes in Psalm 42: 4,

“These things I remember as I pour out my soul; how I used to go with the multitude, leading the procession to the house of God”.

David is feeling the same sense of separation from God in his confessed desire to dwell again in God’s tent.

Yet David desires in his prayer to be in God’s tent, forever, so what does that mean?

Leopold answers that question with these words,

“Yet David’s prayer may be for the spiritual reality of continuous communion with God more than for participation in public worship”.

He has prayed for this many times before and the first well known instance of this is in Psalm 23: 6,

“Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever”.

When the New Testament promises us the gift of eternal life (John 3:16 and Romans 6: 23) this is not just life after death forever but it is life with God now as the gift of eternal life starts immediately after we turn to Christ in faith and repentance. Jesus says in John 10: 10,

“I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full”.

The young man in the Chinese restaurant kind of implied to me that because I had this faith in God and was in his terms, “Religious” I was living a miserable life and was missing out on the joy and pleasures of life. I tried to show and tell him that this was far from the truth that as a Christian God had given me so much and I had and continued to have a great and joyful life. Sure I no longer got drunk or was involved in immoral activities but I had things like an enormous family of believers to fellowship with and I had within me God’s peace that passes all understanding.

I do not see the Christian life as simply a life of giving up things but rather I see it as a life of taking up or receiving from God far more than I have ever given up.

David makes it even clearer what he desires from God with the parallel phrase in verse 4b,

“And take refuge in the shelter of your wings”

This is another expression David has used before in his Psalms like, Psalm 17 verse 8,

“Keep me as the apple of your eye, hide me in the shadow of your wings”

Both in Psalm 61: 4b and 17: 8, David seems to have borrowed from Moses song in Deuteronomy 32 verse’s 10 and 11,

“In a desert land he found him, in a barren and howling waste. He shielded him and cared for him; he guarded him as the apple of his eye, like an eagle that stirs up its nest and hovers over its young, 
that spreads its wings to catch them and carries them aloft”.
Both David and Moses desire to be close to God and in fact what he really wants is that he wants to have a greater sense of God’s presence in his life because God promises in many parts of the bible to always be close to us. Like Joshua 1:9,

“ Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”

Or Deuteronomy 31: 6,

“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”
So David desires to be close to God like being always in God’s tent or special dwelling place or being like a young chick that is pulled in close to its mothers warm body under the shelter of her wings.
The New Testament gives us even more comforting words concerning how God and through His Holy Spirit Jesus is always with us, Like the final words of Matthews Gospel, Matthew 28: 19 and 20,

“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

2. MOTIVATION OF GOD HEARING OUR PRAYERS AND GIVING US HIS PROMISES (vs.5)

David and his family and friends who were out in the wilds of the desert area east of the Jordon river might have felt that God had deserted them and was far away from them just as they were far away from the sanctuary in Jerusalem but God had not deserted them and even as David prays this desire to be close to God is motivated by two concrete realities:

1. God had heard David’s prayers before

2. God had promised his blessings for his people

1. God had heard David’s prayers before

As I said in the previous section the experience David was having when on the run from his son Absalom was not a new and strange experience to David. He had to flee to desert area’s many times during his eight years or so of being on the run from King Saul who also sought to kill him and those who took refuge with him as well.

David would have prayed for God’s help and protection many times before and at the start of verse 5 he tells us this,

“For you have heard my vows, O God”.

Often people who have no time for God make a vow to serve God as they pray to God when facing some kind of treacherous or life threatening situation. However I have read of people who have claimed to make such vows and who have said they did not for fill the vow even when God had somehow got them through the dangerous situation. Sometimes these people have said they did not think it was God in the end who helped them but rather some other form of assistance like a miracle cure or the unexpected lucky assistance of a person who turned up to help them just in time.

In David’s case he is saying that when he had made vows to God in prayer it was God who heard him and answered him. This experience then was the first motivation David has for praying for God’s help and special presence in his current difficult situation.

Paul not only believed in the power of prayer he regularly both acknowledge it and asked for it like 2 Thessalonians 3: 1 – 5,

“As for other matters, brothers and sisters, pray for us that the message of the Lord may spread rapidly and be honored, just as it was with you. And pray that we may be delivered from wicked and evil people, for not everyone has faith.
But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen you and protect you from the evil one.
We have confidence in the Lord that you are doing and will continue to do the things we command. May the Lord direct your hearts into God’s love and Christ’s perseverance.”
2. God had promised his blessings for his people
David is not just motivated to pray for God’s special presence and blessing in his life because of his past experience of God but he is also motivated by God’s sure and great promises revealed to him and his people through the word of God. He writes in verse 5b,
“You have given me the heritage of those who fear your name”.
David speaks of this in another way when he was last exiled from his home land by a vicious enemy, namely King Saul in Psalm 16: 5 -6,
“Lord, you alone are my portion and my cup; you make my lot secure.
The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance”.

The inspiration for these words, we believe came from David’s words to King Saul when David spared Saul’s life a second time and said this to him in 1 Samuel 26: 19,

“Now let my Lord the king listen to his servant’s words. If the Lord has incited you against me, then may he accept an offering If, however, men have done it, may they be cursed before the Lord! They have now driven me from my share in the Lord’s inheritance and have said, ‘Go, serve other gods”.

David is reminding himself in his prayer of God’s many promises of a land or heritage for anyone in Israel who feared or respected and believed in the name of the Lord. This promise of God’s blessings on his special people, the Israelites goes back to Abraham and becomes crystal clear in the writings and teachings of Moses as we see in Exodus 6: 6 – 8,

“Therefore, say to the Israelites: ‘I am the Lord, and I will bring you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. I will free you from being slaves to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgment. I will take you as my own people, and I will be your God. Then you will know that I am the Lord your God, who brought you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. And I will bring you to the land I swore with uplifted hand to give to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob. I will give it to you as a possession. I am the Lord.’”

Once the land of Canaan was occupied each Israelite was then given a portion of the land, which was their heritage a physical evidence of the promises of God to bless his people. So David remembers when it seems he is ripped from his inheritance of the land that God has promised him and all Israelites who feared and believed in the Lord that an inheritance was promised to them by the revealed word of God.

What then is our inheritance promised by God for us who trust and believe in The Lord Jesus Christ?

The two main places we find a clear answer to this question is in the writings of Paul and in the book of Hebrews.

First lets read Paul’s answer to this important question. Ephesians 1: 13 – 14,

“And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession – to the praise of his glory”.

Paul, the apostle to the Gentiles realised more than anyone the universal application of the teachings of God’s word once God sent Jesus Christ, the promised Messiah who opened up a clear path to God and the inheritance of glory to anyone who believed on the Lord Jesus Christ to be saved.

Secondly the book of Hebrews has much to say about our inheritance in God through the person and work of Jesus Christ. This is because it is a letter written to Jewish Christian believers who needed to learn the wonderful changes to their understanding of the Old Testament promises brought about by the death and resurrection of Christ.
Concerning our Christian inheritance it says this in Hebrews 9: 14 – 15,

“How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God! For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance – now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant”.

So our inheritance is not a physical land but is an eternal inheritance in heaven, which is something even David looked forward to as well but did not have the clear understanding of that we have through the New Testament. In Psalm 16: 5 – 11, we see how David saw that his inheritance in God went beyond this life, the grave, as he puts it in verse 10 and that a earthly inheritance only lasted while we are alive but a eternal inheritance is far better and lasts with God eternally. Let me now quote David’s words in this Psalm,

“Lord, you have assigned me my portion and my cup; you have made my lot secure. The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance. I will praise the Lord, who counsels me; even at night my heart instructs me. I have set the Lord always before me. Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure, because you will not abandon me to the grave, nor will you let your Holy One see decay. You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand”.
For a more detail explanation of Psalm 16, see my Psalm talk on this Psalm on http://www.jimwenman.wordpress.com

3. A PRAYER FOR THE KING BASED ON GOD’S PROMISES (6- 8)

We come now to the third and last section of this Psalm which some commentators believe was added by David or someone else after the initial writing of this Psalm probably at the time of David’s stay in the wilderness area east of the Jordon called Mahanaim in 2 Samuel 17: 27 – 29.

The problem some commentators have with this last section is that the wording of this third and final prayer is in the third person while the first two prayers is David praying in the first person. Also some commentators have trouble accepting the idea that David prays a prayer for his Kingship himself as though it is a prayer his people should pray for him.
I did discuss the idea of David setting down a prayer for his kingship for his people to pray for him in my Psalm talk on Psalm 20 and you can look at my explanation of this in my Psalm talk 20 found on my web blog page, http://www.jimwenman.wordpress.com.

For now I will simply say that when a missionary on the mission fields sends me prayer points to pray for their life and ministry I am not surprised but welcome them. Even if that missionary was to compose a prayer for themselves about their life and ministry for me to pray for them it still would not be a surprise to me and in fact I would welcome it.
Leupold suggests that this final prayer comes out of, what he calls,

“A definition of what the “heritage” meant in this instance: the fulfillment of the distinctive promise given to David by Nathan in 2 Samuel 7, the eternal continuance of the throne of David and of one of his seed who is to sit upon it”.

Leopold suggests that this is a prayer for the coming of the Messiah which we believe, as Christians is for filled in Jesus Christ as we saw in the last section through the writings of Paul and the teaching in the book of Hebrews.

On the point of when it was written we cannot be sure but it was either written by David after he escaped the Absalom trap or at the time of his desperate situation in Mahanaim.

I could imagine David either singing this Psalm on his string instrument (as the heading recommends) to his family and friends who were trapped with him at Mahaniam or at least reciting it to them for them to join him in prayer as they faced the danger and humanly speaking hopeless situation caused by Absalom and his approaching army.

Using again Leupold’s suggested layout I have broken this prayer into two parts:

1. THE PRAYER FOR THE KING NOW AND IN THE FUTURE (verses 6 – 7a)

2. THE MOTIVATION OF GOD’S PROMISES OF HIS LOVE AND FAITHFULNESS (7B – 8)

1. THE PRAYER FOR THE KING NOW AND IN THE FUTURE (verses 6 – 7a)

I feel that this prayer and prayer request is very real in the situation David was in at Mahaniam. David knew and believed in strongly God’s revealed promises made to him by the prophet Nathan in 2 Samuel 7 and particularly in verses 15 and 16,

“But my love will never be taken away from him, as I took it away from Saul, whom I removed from before you, Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever:.

This promise was ultimately for filled in Jesus Christ who was of the line of David but also came from heaven as the Son of God and his kingdom is established forever as we read in Revelation 11: 15,

“The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he will reign forever and ever”.

However at Mahaniam David and his household faced destruction at the hands of his Son Absalom because Absalom had turned away from the Lord and had done much evil in the sight of Israel and the Lord and therefore could not be the fulfillment of Nathans prophecy.
Interestingly David would have known that what Absalom was doing and was attempting to do to him for this was also prophesied by Nathan as well in 2 Samuel 12: 11 and 12, which was a consequence of David’s sins of adultery and murder,

“This is what the Lord says: ‘Out of your own household I am going to bring calamity upon you. Before your very eyes I will take your wives and give them to one who is close to you, and he will lie with your wives in broad daylight. You did it in secret, but I will do this thing in broad daylight before Israel”.

So David was now trapped by his wicked and rebellious son Absalom who a few days before openly slept with some of David’s concubines (junior wives) left behind in Jerusalem. In this context David now prays and asks for prayer for his kingship and its future continuation in these words, (verses 6 and 7);

“Increase the days of the king’s life, his years for many generations. May he be enthroned in God’s presence forever; appoint your love and faithfulness to protect him”.

David was facing certain death in Mahaniam so he prays and asks for prayer for an increase of days but he combines this practical prayer with the prophecy of Nathan in 2 Sam. 7 concerning longevity of his line or kingdom with the words,

“His years for many generations”

And the following words,

“May he be enthroned in God’s presence forever”.

Spurgeon writes,

“Death threatened, but God preserved his beloved. David, considering his many perils, enjoyed a long and prosperous reign. And his years as many generations.

He lived to see generation after generation personally; in his descendants he lived as king through a very long period; his dynasty continued for many generations; and in Christ Jesus, his seed and son, spiritually David reigns on evermore”.

How much David understood how this prayer could possibly be answered we really don’t know but it reminds me yet again of many of the words found in Psalm 2 which haunt much of the Psalms in both books one and two. The words of Psalm 2 that David’s prayer brings to my mind is Psalm 2: 6 – 9,

“I have installed my King on Zion, my holy hill. I will proclaim the decree of the Lord: He said to me, ‘You are my Son; today I have become your father. Ask me and I will make the nations your inheritance, the ends of the earth your possession. You will rule them with an iron scepter; you will dash them to pieces like pottery”.

The prayer of Psalm 61: 6 and 7 and the prophecy of Psalm 2: 6 – 9 could not be answered or for filled in David or his Son Solomon and they are only realized and for filled in Jesus Christ our Lord and savior.

Hebrews 1: 5 – 8 makes this clear,

“For to which of the angels did God ever say, ‘You are my Son; today I have become your father?’ Or again, ‘I will be his Father, and he will be my Son’ And again, when God brings his firstborn into the world, he says, ‘Let all God’s angels worship him’. In speaking of angels he says, ‘He makes his angels winds his servants flames of fire.’ But about the Son he says, “Your throne, O God, will last forever and ever, and righteousness will be the scepter of your Kingdom’”.

David always, in the words of the Psalms longed to be one day in God’s presence forever. Even as far back as probably one of his first compositions in Psalm 23: 8 he writes,
“Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever”.

My conversation with the young man in the Chinese restaurant many years ago which I mentioned in my introduction had eternal consequences because if that young man had turned from his unbelief that night to faith in Christ he too could hope to dwell in God’s presence forever.
Amazingly being enthroned and reigning with Christ in heaven is the promise the New Testament gives us in verses like, 2 Timothy 2: 12,

“If we endure, we will reign with him”.

Romans 8: 17,

“Now if we are children, then we are heirs – heirs of God and co – heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory”.

2. THE MOTIVATION OF GOD’S PROMISES OF HIS LOVE AND FAITHFULNESS (7B – 8)

So David prays and asks his people to pray for him and his kingship as it faced possible annihilation at the hands of his rebellious son Absalom.

What was his motivation for this prayer?

I think I can pin point to a number of motivation factors for David’s prayer and prayer request.

First the preceding verse that mentions Israel and particularly David’s heritage, which for David included a prophetic promise of God through the prophet Nathan that promised his kingdom, would be established forever (2 Samuel 7: 16).

Secondly the words of Psalm 61: 7b,

“Appoint your love and faithfulness to protect me”,

David has spoken about and declared the wonderful truth of God’s Love and faithfulness in a number of recent Psalms, not to mention Psalm 58 which features the theme of “God’s love and faithfulness”. Verse 3 reads,

“He sends from heaven and saves me, rebuking those who hotly pursue me; God sends his love and his faithfulness”.

So David trusted in both good and bad times in his God who he describes as a God of love and faithfulness.

Thirdly the earlier part of the Psalm which speaks of God as a God of refuge and even a rock higher than himself also would have been a great motivator for David’s prayer in verses 6 and 7.

Fourthly David would have been motivated by his own words in verse 8 the final verse of this Psalm, which reads;

“Then will I ever sing praise to your name and fulfill my vows day after day”.

David was motivated to pray confidently at all time’s because of his faith in the God he prayed to. This final verse is an expression of that faith in action.

If these words were written before his faithful general Joab, took a large force off to meet and defeat Absalom and his army then David is declaring great faith as his eye of faith sees God’s answer to his prayers and also sees and predicts his reaction to that, namely,

“I will ever sing praise to your name”

David was a great singer of praise to his God and these words of praise were not hollow words of blind religious jargon but heartfelt words of gratitude and acknowledgement of the Living God he sought to serve.

David uses the term “my vows” at the end of this Psalm and in Old Testament times these vows where serious and involved ceremonial worship as we see in Psalm 50 verse 14,

“Sacrifice thank offerings to God, fulfill, your vows to the most high, and call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you will honor me”.

Which are words in Psalm 50 spoken by God himself.

I close this Psalm talk first of all with an inspiring quote from Spurgeon, then by the words of a new song inspired by this Psalm and finally a prayer.

The Spurgeon quote:

“That I may daily perform my vows. To God who adds days to our days we will devote all our days. We vowed perpetual praise, and we desire to render it without intermission. We would worship God de die in diem (from day to day), going right on as the days roll on. We ask no vacation from this heavenly vocation, we would make no pause in this sacred service. God daily performs his promises, let us daily perform our vows: he keeps his covenant, let us not forget ours”.

LEAD ME TO THE ROCK
(Based on Psalm 61)

Chorus:

Lead me, lead me,
Lead me to the rock that is higher than I
Help me, Help me,
Help me stand the storms of life I cry.

Hear my prayer I cry Oh Lord
For I feel so far from you
Help me find a refuge Lord
In your Son who helps me through.

Chorus:

For you have been my refuge Lord
You always carry me through
You are a tower of strength Oh Lord
For I know your word is true.

Chorus:

I long to dwell in your tent Oh Lord
And be with you ever more
Hide beneath your wings Oh Lord
In life’s trials help me soar.

Chorus:

I look to my Savior king
Who died to set me free.
He reigns on high over everything
For he rose in victory.

Chorus:

Lead me, lead me,
Lead me to the rock that is higher than I
Help me, Help me,
Help me stand the storms of life I cry.

By: Jim Wenman

PRAYER:

Oh Lord I look to you as my refuge in the storms of life. When I feel down and out lift me up to you, Oh Lord, the rock that is higher than I. Lord I thank you for your Son Jesus Christ who died for my sins on the cross making the way back to you and wining for me eternal life in heaven with you. In Jesus Name I pray. Amen

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