Psalms 31

PSALM XXXI

The psalmist, with strong confidence in God, in a time of

distress prays earnestly for deliverance, 1-5.

He expresses his abhorrence of evil, 6;

gratefully mentions former interpositions of God, 7, 8;

continues to detail the miseries of his case, 9-18;

points out the privileges of them that fear God, 19, 20;

shows that God had heard his prayers, notwithstanding he had

given himself over for lost, 21, 22;

calls on the saints to love God, and to have confidence in him,

because he preserves the faithful, and plentifully rewards the

proud doer, 23, 24.

NOTES ON PSALM XXXI

This Psalm contains no notes of time or place, to help us to

ascertain when, where, or on what account it was written. Nor have

we any certain evidence relative to the author: it might have been

written by David during his persecution by Saul. Some think

Jeremiah to have been the author: the thirteenth verse begins

exactly with the same words as Jer 20:10. There are several other

apparent references to passages in the book of Jeremiah, which

shall be produced in the notes.

Verse 1. In thee, O Lord, do I put my trust] I confide in thee

for every good I need: let me not be confounded by not receiving

the end of my faith, the supply of my wants, and the salvation of

my soul.

Verse 2. Bow down thine ear] Listen to my complaint. Put thy ear

to my lips, that thou mayest hear all that my feebleness is

capable of uttering. We generally put our ear near to the lips of

the sick and dying, that we may hear what they say. To this the

text appears to allude.

Strong rock] Rocks, rocky places, or caves in the rocks, were

often strong places in the land of Judea. To such natural

fortifications allusions are repeatedly made by the Hebrew poetic

writers.

Verse 4. Pull me out of the net] They have hemmed me in on every

side, and I cannot escape but by miracle.

Verse 5. Into thine hand I commit my spirit] These words, as

they stand in the Vulgate, were in the highest credit among our

ancestors; by whom they were used in all dangers, difficulties,

and in the article of death. In manus tuas, Domine, commendo

spiritum meum, was used by the sick when about to expire, if they

were sensible; and if not, the priest said it in their behalf. In

forms of prayer for sick and dying persons, these words were

frequently inserted in Latin, though all the rest of the prayer

was English; for it was supposed there was something sovereign in

the language itself. But let not the abuse of such words hinder

their usefulness. For an ejaculation nothing can be better; and

when the pious or the tempted with confidence use them, nothing

can exceed their effect. "Into thy hands I commend my spirit; for

thou hast redeemed me, O Lord God of truth." I give my soul to

thee, for it is thine: thou hast redeemed it by thy blood; it is

safe nowhere but in thy hand. Thou hast promised to save them that

trust in thee; thou art the God of truth, and canst not deny

thyself. But these words are particularly sanctified, or set apart

for this purpose, by the use made of them by our blessed Lord just

before he expired on the cross. "And when Jesus had cried with a

loud voice, he said, πατερειςχειραςσουπαρατιθεμαιτοπνευμα

μου 'Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit,'" Lu 23:46. The

rest of the verse was not suitable to the Saviour of the world,

and therefore he omits it; but it is suitable to us who have been

redeemed by that sacrificial death. St. Stephen uses nearly the

same words, and they were the last that he uttered. Ac 7:59.

Verse 6. I have hated them] That is, I have abominated their

ways. Idolaters are the persons of whom David speaks.

I trust in the Lord.] While they trust in vanities vain things;

(for an idol is nothing in the world;) and in lying vanities; (for

much is promised and nothing given;) I trust in Jehovah, who is

God all-sufficient, and is my Shepherd, and therefore I shall lack

no good thing.

Verse 7. Thou hast known my soul in adversities] When all

forsook me; when none could help me; when I could not save my own

life; when my enemies were sure that I could not escape; then I

found thee to be my Friend and Supporter. When friend, so called,

finds it convenient not to know his friend in affliction and

poverty, then thou didst acknowledge me as thine own, all

worthless as I was. Human friendships may fail; but the Friend of

sinners never fails. Cicero defines a real friend, Amicus certus

in re incerta cernitor: "A friend in need is a friend indeed."

Reader, such a Friend is the Lord.

Verse 8. Thou hast set my foot in a large room.] Many

hair-breadth escapes David had for his life; at that time

especially when, playing before Saul, the furious king took a

spear and endeavoured to pierce him through the body, but he

escaped and got to the deserts. Here God, who had saved his life,

set his feet in a large room. The seventh and eighth verses speak

of what God had done previously for him.

Verse 9. Mine eye is consumed] He now returns, and speaks of his

present situation. Grief had brought many tears from his eyes,

many agonies into his soul, and many distressful feelings into his

whole frame.

My soul and my belly.] The belly is often taken for the whole

body. But the term belly or bowels, in such as case as this, may

be the most proper; for in distress and misery, the bowels being

the most tender part, and in fact the very seat of compassion,

they are often most affected. In Greek the word σπλαγχνον

signifies a bowel, and σπλαγχνιζομαι signifies to be moved with

compassion; to feel misery in the bowels at the sight of a person

in pain and distress.

Verse 10. My life is spent with grief] My life is a life of

suffering and distress, and by grief my days are shortened. Grief

disturbs the functions of life, prevents the due concoction of

food, injures the digestive organs, destroys appetite, impairs the

nervous system, relaxes the muscles, induces morbid action in the

animal economy, and hastens death. These effects are well

expressed in the verse itself.

My years with sighing] anachah. This is a mere natural

expression of grief; the very sounds which proceed from a

distressed mind; an-ach-ah! common, with little variation, to all

nations, and nearly the same in all languages. The och-och-on of

the Irish is precisely the same sound, and the same sense.

Thousands of beauties or this kind are to be found in the sacred

language.

Verse 11. I was a reproach] When proscribed at the court of

Saul, my enemies triumphed, and loaded me with execrations; my

neighbours considered me as a dangerous man, now deservedly

driven from society; my acquaintance, who knew me best, were

afraid to hold any communication with me; and they who saw me in

my exile avoided me as if affected with a contagious disorder,

Verse 12. I am forgotten as a dead man] I am considered as a

person adjudged to death. I am like a broken vessel-like a thing

totally useless.

Verse 13. I have heard the slander of many] To this and the two

foregoing verses the reader may find several parallels;

Jer 18:18-19:15, and ten first verses of Jer 20:1-10. This has

caused several to suppose that Jeremiah was the author of this

Psalm.

Verse 14. But I trusted in thee] Hitherto thou hast been my

Helper, and thou art my God; I have taken thee for my eternal

portion.

Verse 15. My times are in thy hand] The events of my life are

under thy control. No danger can happen to me without thy

foresight; thou seest what is prepared for or meditated against

me; thou canst therefore deliver me from mine enemies.

Verse 16. Make thy face to shine upon thy servant] Only let me

know that thou art reconciled to and pleased with me, and then,

come what will, all must be well.

Save me for thy mercies' sake.] Literally, Save me in thy mercy.

Verse 17. Let the wicked be ashamed] Those who traduce my

character and lay snares for my life; let them be confounded.

Verse 18. Let the lying lips be put to silence] As to my

enemies, persecutors, and slanderers, abate their pride, assuage

their malice, and confound their devices. See Jer 18:18.

Verse 19. O how great is thy goodness] God's goodness is

infinite; there is enough for all. enough for each, enough for

evermore. It is laid up where neither devils nor men can reach

it, and it is laid up for them that fear the Lord; therefore every

one who trembles at his word, may expect all he needs from this

Fountain that can never be dried up.

Which thou hast wrought] Thou hast already prepared it; it is

the work of thy own hands; thou hast provided it and proportioned

it to the necessities of men, and all who trust in thee shall have

it. And for them especially it is prepared who trust in thee

before men-who boldly confess thee amidst a crooked and perverse

generation.

Verse 20. Thou shalt hide them in the secret of thy presence]

besether paneycha, "With the covering of thy

countenance." Their life shall be so hidden with Christ in God,

that their enemies shall not be able to find them out. To such a

hiding-place Satan himself dare not approach. There the pride of

man cannot come.

Thou shalt keep them secretly in a pavilion] Thou shalt put them

in the innermost part of thy tent. This implies that they shall

have much communion and union with God; that they shall be

transformed into his likeness, and have his highest approbation.

Verse 21. In a strong city.] If this Psalm was written by David,

this must refer to his taking refuge with Achish, king of Gath,

who gave him Ziklag, a fortified city, to secure himself and

followers in. See 1Sa 27:6. This is more likely than that it was

Keilah, where he only had intimation of the traitorous design of

the inhabitants to deliver him up to Saul; so that the place was

no refuge to him, howsoever fortified. Perhaps the passage may

mean that, under the protection of God, he was as safe as if he

had been in a fortified city.

Verse 22. I said in my haste] Not duly adverting to the promise

of God, I was led to conclude that my enemies were so strong, so

numerous, and had so many advantages against me, that I must

necessarily fall into and by their hands; however, I continued to

pray, and thou didst hear the voice of my supplication.

Verse 23. O love the Lord, all ye his saints] It is only the

saints that can love God, as they only are made partakers of the

Divine nature. Holy spirits can love God, who is the fountain of

their holiness; and the saints should love him.

Preserveth the faithful] Those who, being filled with the love

of God, bring forth the fruits of that love-universal obedience to

the will of God; for to such persons his commands are not

grievous, their duty is their delight; while a man is faithful

to the grace he has received, that is, uses and improves the

talents with which God has intrusted him, God's service is perfect

freedom.

The proud doer.] The man of the proud heart, haughty and

supercilious carriage, and insulting and outrageous conduct. A

proud man is peculiarly odious in the sight of God; and in the

sight of reason how absurd! A sinner, a fallen spirit, an heir of

wretchedness and corruption-proud! Proud of what? Of an indwelling

devil! Well; such persons shall be plentifully rewarded. They

shall get their due, their whole due, and nothing but their due.

Verse 24. Be of good courage, and he shall strengthen your

heart] In 1Co 16:13, St. Paul says, "Watch ye, stand fast in

the faith; quit you like men; be strong:" γρηγορειτεστηκετεεν

τηπιστειανδριζεσθεκραταιουσθε. The latter words he seems to

have borrowed from the Septuagint, who translate, "Be of good

courage, and he shall strengthen your heart," by ανδριζεσθεκαι

κραταιουσθωηκαρδιαυμων "Act like men, and your hearts shall be

strengthened."

They that hope in God, and are endeavouring to walk carefully

before him, may take courage at all times, and expect the fulness

of the blessing of the Gospel of peace.

ANALYSIS OF THE THIRTY-FIRST PSALM

This Psalm is composed and mixed of divers affections; for David

sometimes prays, sometimes gives thanks; now he complains, now he

hopes; at one time fears, at another exults. This vicissitude of

affection is six-fold, and it may very well divide the Psalm.

I. With great confidence he prays to God; Ps 31:1-6.

II. He exults for mercy and help received; Ps 31:7, 8.

III. He grievously complains of the misery he was in;

Ps 31:9-14.

IV. He prays again, upon the strength of God's goodness;

Ps 31:15-18.

V. He admires, exults in, and proclaims God's goodness,

Ps 31:19-22.

VI. He exhorts others to love God, and be courageous;

Ps 31:23, 24.

I. In the six first verses he prays to God, and shows his

reasons:-

1. That he be never ashamed in his hope: "Let me never be

ashamed."

2. That he be delivered, "speedily delivered."

3. That God would be "his rock, and a house of defence, to save

him."

4. That God would lead and guide him: "Lead me, and guide me."

5. That God would "pull his feet out of the net which they had

laid for him."

The reasons on which he founds his prayer and expectations:-

1. His faith and confidence: "In thee, O Lord I put my trust."

2. The reason of his faith: "Thou art my ROCK and FORTRESS."

3. His deliverance would be to the honour of God: "For thy

name's sake."

4. Thou art my strength; exert it in my behalf.

5. I rely upon thee: "Into thy hands I commit my spirit."

6. I expect thee to do for me as thou hast ever done: "Thou hast

redeemed me."

7. I rely on thee alone, I seek no vain helps: "I have hated

them that regard lying vanities; but I trust in the Lord."

His petition and his reasons are in effect the same; his

confidence in God to be his Deliverer, Fortress, Rock, Redeemer,

&c.

II. He exults for mercy and help already received, and by the

experience of that, doubts the less in this: "I will be glad and

rejoice in thy mercy." And his reason follows from his experience:

1. "For thou hast considered my trouble." 2. "Thou hast known my

soul in adversity." 3. "Thou hast not shut me up into the hand of

the enemy." 4. But "hast set my feet in a large room."

III. He prays, and grievously complains of what he suffered

within and without.

1. He prays: "Have mercy upon me, O Lord."

2. Then he complains, and his complaint shows the reason of his

prayer.

1. Within-at home, he was in a distressed state: "I am in

trouble; my eye is consumed with grief; my years with sighing; my

strength faileth; my bones are consumed."

2. Without-I have no comfort either from friends or enemies.

1. "I was a reproach among all my enemies."

2. My friends stand afar off: "I was a reproach, especially

among my neighbours." "A fear to my acquaintance." "They that did

see me without fled from me."

3. He shows the greatness of his grief, and the scorn he

endured: "I am forgotten as a dead man;" "I am as a broken

vessel," vile and useless.

4. I am mocked by the people: "I have heard the slander of

many."

5. And the consequence was mischievous. 1. "Fear is on every

side." 2. While they conspired, or "took counsel against my life."

3. And their counsel was, "to take away my life." What more could

my enemies do, or my friends permit?

IV. After his complaint he comforts himself with his chief

reason, the goodness of God. I have trusted in thee, O Lord, and

said, Thou art my God. Let them conspire, take counsel, and devise

what they can; yet I know, except thou permit them, they are not

able to do it. "My times are in thy hand," not in theirs.

He then begins to pray again, and his prayer consists of three

parts: 1. Deprecation. 2. Supplication. 3. Imprecation.

1. A deprecation: "Deliver me from the hands of my enemies," &c.

2. A supplication: "Make thy face to shine upon thy servant;

save me." "Let me not be ashamed, for I have called upon thee."

3. An imprecation: 1. "Let the wicked be ashamed, and be silent

in the grave." 2. "Let the lying lips be put to silence, which

speak grievous things," &c.

In this imprecation four arguments are used to enforce it:-

1. The quality of their persons: "They are wicked, impious men."

2. There is no truth in them: "They have lying lips." 1. Their

words are false. 2. Their actions are worse: They speak grievous

things, and that against the righteous. 3. But their intention is

worst of all, for they do it proudly, contemptuously,

disdainfully, despitefully; all proceeding from a bad heart.

V. In the fifth part he sets out the abundant goodness of the

Lord to his people, and exclaims, in holy rapture, "O how great is

thy goodness which thou hast laid up for them that fear thee-which

thou hast wrought for them that trust in thee before the sons of

men!"

This goodness of God is always treasured up and to be had at all

times. But observe: 1. It is laid up for none, nor wrought for any

one, but them that fear the Lord. 2. And for those who put their

trust in him, and acknowledge him, his cause, his people, and his

cross, before the sons of men. And the acts of his goodness are

here specified:-

1. "Thou shalt hide them in the secret of thy presence from the

pride of man."

2. "Thou shalt keep them secretly in a pavilion from the strife

of tongues." Upon which consideration he breaks out into praise:

1. "Blessed be the Lord, for he hath showed me his marvellous

kindness." 2. He corrects his error, and former mistake: "I said

in my haste, (rashly, imprudently,) I am cut off from before thine

eyes; nevertheless thou heardest the voice of my supplication."

VI. The last part is an exhortation to the saints: 1. That they

love God. 2. That they be of good courage; for he was the same

God still, and would be as good to others as he was to him.

1. That they love God, and that for two reasons:-1. Because the

"Lord preserveth the faithful." This is his mercy. 2. That he

"plentifully rewardeth the proud doer." This is his justice.

2. That they be of good courage; for then "he shall strengthen

your heart, all ye that hope in the Lord." They were not to

despair, but keep their hearts firmly fixed in the profession of

the truth, which would be a seal of their hope.

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