Psalm 31 - overcomer - Into Thy hand I commit my spirit
This is the 15th psalm for the overcomer. Previously, almost all the psalms from 4-22 were for the overcomer. Then psalm 31 stands by itself as for the overcomer.

This psalm has many of my favorite verses: v5, 7, 10, 15-16, 19-24.

This psalm takes some time to enjoy. It is hard to enjoy the 1st half of the palm, vv 1-13. I suggest that you memorize vv 1-13 first. Then memorize the 2nd 1/2, vv 14-24, and then put them all together. After enjoying the 1st 1/2, the 2nd half of the psalm becomes escstacy (which is the Greek word for "extreme fear" in the psalm title).

Which tune is used can make a big difference in the psalm. I first tried "Thy way, not mine" #393, and it made the psalm seem passive. It was a chore to finish singing the psalm with that tune. I think that tune could only be used with a short psalm. When I changed to this tune, the psalm became more active, which actually it is.

Verses 1-22 are David's prayer: Verses 1-13 seem to me to be struggling prayer. Verse 14 is the turning point.  Verses 15-18 are victorious prayer. Verses 19-22 are praise.
 Verses 23-24 are his exhortation and encouragement to us.

I feel this is a victorious psalm. The first 1/2 is about trust and extreme fear and ends with encouraging all God's saints in vv23-24..
v 1 "of extreme fear" in the psalm heading comes from LXX. The same Greek word is used in v22, translated "haste". This is the only psalm of "extreme fear".
To ask the Lord to never let me be ashamed means for the Lord guard me from doing something shameful. To be put to shame is something I can only do to myself, but others cannot do to me.
Verses 1-3 of this psalm are nearly identical to Ps 71:1-3.
v2 - I don't ask the Lord to bow down His ear to me because I don't have much to say to Him. but I can pray the words of this psalm and apply it to myself.
"quickly" indicates that this suffering has been going on a long time.

The Lord is a strong Rock for us to stand and trust upon, on which we can be sure. "A house of defense" is the church. The Lord as our strong Rock is for the church to be built upon (Matt 16:18). We need the Lord as the strong Rock of our faith, which is for the church as a house of defense so we can overcome the attacks of the evil one.

To build upon the Rock, we must  not only hear the Lord's words, but also do them (Matt 7:24-27).

Faith on the Rock causes us not to be ashamed. (Rom 9:33).
v3 - The word for Rock in v2 is tsur. In v3 it is sela. Both are large rocks, but tsur can be bigger than sela.

The Hebrew word for "defense" in v3 is the same as "defense" in v2.

Based upon the Lord being the Rock of our faith and foundation of the church, a fortress, the Lord leads and guides us. This is very precious. He leads and guides us for the sake of His holy name, not because of our merit.

"God's guidance of men without their knowledge, or even against their will, is very different from his guidance of those who ask it for His Name's sake." - The Pulpit Commentary

God's leading is by His providence (Ps 37:23; 139:3,9,10), by His Word (Ps 119:105), and by His Spirit (Rom 8:14).

"This main fact remains solid, unanswerable, that a life guided by this light [the Word] rises to a level, gains a purity, strength, beauty, hopeful courage, and calm settled peace not otherwise attainable. The light, observe, not of mere precept. Pagan teachers - Buddha, Confucius, Seneca, and I know not how many, have given noble and lofty precepts, enabling man to say, with the old Roman poet, 'I see and approve what is good, though I practice what is bad.' But only from the Bible shines, along with precept, the light of pardon and the light of promise (1Jo 2:12, 25). Against the skeptics' learning and logic the plain Christian sets his experience. If you could find a gray-haired Christian saying, 'I have framed my life according to the Bible, and I wish I had not; I have lived a life of prayer to God, and trust in Jesus as my Savior, and obedience to his Word, and if I could begin again, I would be wiser,' - then you would at least have something to set against the lives ruined by despising the Bible, and flinging faith and prayer away. But the testimony is the other way (Ps 119:65; 19:11; 2Tim 4:6-8).
... The Bible itself affords no countenance to the idea that life can be rightly guided by the written Word alone, severed from the living presence and personal teaching of the Holy Spirit." -  The Pulpit Commentary

"After the psalmist uttered his pleas for help, he indicates that he may rightly expect help, and that God has good reasons for giving it because he has taken refuge in Him. In other words, God cannot fail the man who casts himself upon His mercy." - Leupold
v4- By the Lord's leading and guiding, He pulls us out of the devil's nets. This also requires the Lord's strength to be our inner strength. This is not just the Lord working externally, but also our following and exercising the Lord's strength.

"God's pulls are sometimes rather sharp." - F. B. Meyer
v5 - The 1st part of this verse is quoted by the Lord when He died on the cross (Lu 23:46). This is to be willing to die in faithfulness to God. This indicates David had expected to die (v22). If my body is killed, my spirit will still be alive in the Lord's keeping hand.

I can commit my spirit to the Lord because He has redeemed me even though I myself am sinful (v10). The Lord paid the price for me. I belong to Him.

In contrast to the world, including the religious world, God is the God of truth. David realized this when he committed his spirit to the Lord. I must remember that the One I commit my spirit to is the One who redeemed me and who is the God of truth.

"The last words of Stephen, Polycarp, Bernard, Huss, Luther, Melancthon, and of many more, and, above all, of our Lord. The Psalter was our Savior's prayer-book. This is a suitable petition for every morning, ere we go forth to the day's war and work. What a claim we have on God! He must keep what we commit, because we are his by redemption, and because his truth cannot fail." - F. B. Meyer
v6 -  The God of truth who redeemed me is opposite to the keeping of worthless vanities. The Lord Jesus fought against these when He lived on earth.

"worthless vanities" must be religious things because of the word "keepers", which I translated "enforcers" as "watchmen" in Jud 1:24; 7:19 . The same phrase "worthless vanities" is in Jonah 2:8.

LXX says "You have hated", but DSS and MT say "I have hated". Aramaic, which usually follows LXX, this time agrees with MT. The difference is a missing small letter yod at the end of the word in LXX. I went with LXX because we are not to hate others. I don't think this would be a mistranslation by LXX, but LXX saw a different Hebrew text without the ending yod.

The New Testament never tells us to hate any living human beings, but to hate sin (Rev 2:6,15). Our battle is not against human beings but spiritual evil (Eph 6:12). This was not revealed in the Old Testament dispensation.
I was hoping that this verse could be translated "I have hated the keeping ...", but it cannot. In Hebrew that would require an infinitive, but this is a participle.
"I have hated" was maybe ok for an Old Testament saint (Matt 5:43-4), but a New Testament saint should hate the keeping of worthless vanities but not the people who keep those things nor the enforcers.
We should have a strong hatred for keeping worthless vanities posing as religious piety. These are things the Lord never asked us to do and that don't help us or anyone else, but just bribe our conscience (Heb 9:14). These things may appear to be based on the Bible, but are stressed in a way not according to the Bible. The Pharisees kept the Sabbath in a way that God never intended.

To really trust in the Lord is the opposite of doing dead works.
v7 - We rejoice in the Lord's mercy and in His nearness to us when we are suffering.

v8  - While we are constricted by suffering, we may at the same time have much freedom. The suffering can free us from vain things. This is growth in life.

"Blessed be God for liberty. Civil liberty is valuable, religious liberty is precious, but spiritual liberty is priceless." - Charles Spurgeon
v9 - Lit. Be gracious to me, LORD, for I am in distress. My eye wastes away with grief, my soul and my belly.
If we are in anxiety, our digestion gets impaired.

In v7 David says he will be happy and rejoice in the Lord's mercy. This is followed by praise in v8. The psalm could have ended with v8.  But then v9-13 are the heaviest complaint.
v10 - We sigh because our psychological strength is exhausted (Jer 45:3). We do not have words, but sighing, also translated groaning, expresses our feeling to the Lord (Ps 38:9).

MT has "iniquity", while LXX has "miseries". The difference is one Hebrew letter. The DSS is missing that part of the verse.
v11 - David earnestly prays that he will not be ashamed (vv1,17), but here he says that he has become a shame. These are 2 different Hebrew words. The meaning of the prayer not to be ashamed is for me not to do something I should be ashamed of. Here, where David has become a shame, means that others reproach him.
v12 - "a broken vessel" means that he is useless. Because nobody will associate with him, it seems he is useless to God and man. Why should he go on living?
v13 - Not only reproaches and slander, but also credible death threats. This may be why David committed his spirit to the Lord's hand (v5).

"Jeremiah often takes upon his lips the language of the psalms known in his day, even as Christ did with deeper understanding. This is why so many critics ascribe the composition of certain psalms to Jeremiah's pen, in spite of the superscriptions. Saints of this age continue to use the language of the psalms in a similar way, as applying to their own circumstances; see Jer 20:10." - Arthur G. Clarke
v14 - In the face of seeming uselessness, slanders and death threats, David cried, You are my God!. The story of this psalm tells us that this is a great thing. It is the turning point. He refers to this in v17 and v22. After this, he is clear on what to pray for.
v15 - David had asked the Lord to deliver him quickly (v2), but here acknowledges that the timing is in the Lord's hand for His purpose.
In saying "You are my God" in v14, David realizes that his times are in the Lord's hand.

"Yet, amid all, the believer realizes that each moment of suffering is allotted by the dear hand of God. Not one unkind thing can be said or done, unless by his permission. The Refiner sits beside the crucible, his watch in hand, his other hand on the patient's pulse." - F. B. Meyer
v16 - It may not be time for the Lord to deliver us out of trouble, but if there is no offense between us and the Lord, it is usually the right time for the Lord to make His face shine on us. This is what we really need in our distress and all the time (Ps 13:3).

In v1, David prayed for the Lord to deliver him in His righteousness yet he is aware of his sinfulness (v10). Now he prays for God to save him in His mercy. God saves us in both of His attributes.
v17 - "I have called on Thee" refers back to v14.
v18 - This is a proper prayer. Whoever has lying lips, be it me or my allies or my enemies, let them be made dumb. The truth is constantly evil spoken of. We need to pray this for our government and society also.
v19 - Lit. How great is Thy goodness which you laid up for them that fear Thee, which you wrought for them that take refuge in You, before the sons of men.

This is my favorite verse in this psalm.

Logically, "before the sons of men" modifies "Thy goodness which you laid up for them ... which you wrought for them". The Lord will reward them openly.
Grammatically, it modifies "take refuge (or trust) in Thee". We need to trust in and take refuge in the Lord openly before men (as well as secretly), and He will reward us before men (Mat 5:13-16) .

David is at peace now in the Lord's presence (v20). The Lord answered his prayer in v16 to make His face shine on David.
The Lord's goodness laid up for those who fear Him and take refuge in Him is far beyond what we imagined (Isa 64:4). The greatest goodness is that we are sons of God and will be like Him (1Jo 3:1-2).

Here the prayer has turned to praise.
v20- The Hebrew word for "men" here is "ish" which means male person, not necessarily a human being. The word is used to refer to angels and God as well as man and could also refer to Satan and his host.

The bindings of men and of Satan are gone in the Lord's presence. I am free from the bindings of myself and others. This is the large place (v8).
Arguing tongues are also gone in the Lord's presence. Arguments can be good things (Ps 35:23; etc). Abraham and Moses argued with God in His presence. Arguing tongues are superficial arguments, where people are trying to win the argument rather than expose the truth.

The Hebrew word for pavilion is succoth, meaning tabernacle or temporary dwelling. This is the church built upon the Rock (v2).

"What a compensation for slandered saints! Perhaps we never know that hiding until we have tasted the proud hatred and contempt of man. Do you know the royal withdrawing room? God's pavilion is sound-tight; the strife of tongues cannot invade." - F. B. Meyer

"On our Forum radio period a short time ago it was our pleasure, a pleasure I shall never forget, to interview and have a conversation with Bishop J. Taylor Smith of London. His very countenance reflected the glory of heaven. Dr. Barnhouse said of the Bishop that "we knew he had an old nature like every other Christian, but none of us saw manifestations of it." That is a remarkable testimony, and a true one I believe. One could not be in the Bishop's presence without sensing that he was in the presence of a saintly man of God. I was interested to learn that for years he had made it a practice to get up at 4:00 in the morning in order to have his quiet time with the Lord in prayer and in the reading of His Word. God hid him in the secret of His presence from the pride of man.
... Despite the dignity of his position he was most approachable."  - Erling C. Olsen
v21 - The city secure is the consummation of the church built upon the Rock, the New Jerusalem. This is the growth of the pavilion in the previous verse. The Lord's mercy in the church is more marvelous than His mercy to individual Christians.
v22- I think David says this with tears in his eyes for thinking that the Lord did not care about him. This is the opposite thought of v19.
The "I" in this verse is emphatic, "As for me, I said ..."
I think, "when unto Thee I cried" refers to v14.

"It is a mistake to speak in haste." - F. B. Meyer
v23- These 2 concluding verses give a summary of the lessons learned from this psalm in the form of an exhortation to us.
v24- On our part, we need to be of good courage, and He will strengthen our heart. The Lord helps those who help themselves. This thought is in many Psalms (Ps 27:14).

"The last expression ('all you who wait for the Lord') also indicates that God's help is seldom immediately forthcoming. Strength consists in being able to wait till the time comes when it pleases God to send His help. - Leupold

copyright 2012
- Steve Miller 11/11/2012