July 4th 2021: James Sibley

Psalm 61

Have you ever had to cry out for help? May be as a child calling out for a parent, or calling for the emergency services? In Psalm 61 we see King David doing exactly that – crying for help. He wants more than help, he wants God to help him. What is David facing? He calling to God because his heart is faint. He is experiencing distance and disconnection with God. He is separated from God’s living presence. We are not told the context of this psalm. The previous Psalm 60 tells us exactly when this psalm took place, but not for this one. Context can be really helpful, but we can’t leave the psalms in that context; they have been taken and made into a hymn book for all nations. We should be able to pray them and sing them in our own lives. The Psalms are to be echoed and owned by ourselves.

Are we feeling like David in verses 1 and 2? Or have we felt that way before?

1Hear my cry, O God,
    listen to my prayer;
from the end of the earth I call to you
    when my heart is faint.
Lead me to the rock
    that is higher than I.

May be, you have felt this way when prayers seem to go unanswered, and God seems far away.
May be, you sin has left you distanced and disconnected? May be, you have drifted from God in lockdown – not a conscious rejection but drifted away? May be, you are worn out and fed up with life? Possibly you are approaching old age or experiencing grief or loss? You may be full of joy. But be prepared to hold on to Psalm 61 when the times get tough. We have hope for our hearts.

In the second half of verse 2 David expresses his sense of hopelessness, “Lead me to the rock that is higher than I.” What David is saying is, ‘I can’t do this on my own. I’ve reached the end of my tether.’ When we see David’s sense of helplessness, it is ultimately the right way to feel in those situations. The solution is beyond our control. We need to reach out for help. David is crying out for, ‘the rock that is higher than I.’ He is saying, ‘Take me up, out of reach.’ This metaphorical imagery is a place of safety which only God can take him. If you are feeling desperate and helpless, it is freeing to realise and know it is time to stop struggling and cry out to the One who can help and will help. We need to recognise we are in trouble and look to the one who can help and will help. That is ultimately what repentance is, when we cry out, “God, I need you. Hear my cry. I need you.”

How does David expect God to meet his needs? What is he praying for? He looks for a rock (verse 2) and for refuge, a strong tower,“3 for you have been my refuge, a strong tower against the enemy.” A rock is a solid foundation, a place of security. In sin, struggles, affliction or loss, we need something to hold onto. We need a place of protection, a refuge from sin and suffering and the attacks of Satan. We all need to be rescued from our sins. God is our rescuer. In the Old Testament a rock is also an image of refreshment, (Israelites in the wilderness). When we think of a rock, think of God’s provision. David needs God to come to Him and sustain him.

David is also looking for God’s presence, “Let me dwell in your tent forever! Let me take refuge under the shelter of your wings! Selah” In the tabernacle, in the Holy of Holies. On the Ark of the Covenant were two cherubim on the Mercy Seat. David could be thinking of God’s presence on Earth. The wings are also imagery of God’s care – to provide shelter under His wings. David is thinking of a place he wanted to go, but couldn’t – the Holy of Holies.

What gets in the way of things as we walk through life? Sin. Sin separates us from God’s presence, His protection and His provision. In Jesus we find the One who brings God’s presence to us, who takes our sin away.

Verse 4 is the key to the psalm, “Let me dwell in your tent forever! Let me take refuge under the shelter of your wings! Selah.” David cries out for the presence of God, from saving from sin. This verse goes so well with John 1:14, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” John says God has come, the Word has become flesh. He is among us – a man, in Jesus Christ, dwelling among us. David cries out from the ends of the earth and now we see Jesus has come from the ends of the earth to meet us. Jesus knows our pain, our temptations. When we experience all the emotions of Psalm 61:1-2, we can see a Saviour who has come down to meet us in our place of need.

Verses 1-5 are a personal prayer of David which we can adopt.

1Hear my cry, O God,
    listen to my prayer;
from the end of the earth I call to you
    when my heart is faint.
Lead me to the rock
    that is higher than I,
for you have been my refuge,
    a strong tower against the enemy.

Let me dwell in your tent forever!
    Let me take refuge under the shelter of your wings! Selah
For you, O God, have heard my vows;
    you have given me the heritage of those who fear your name.

There is a change from verses 6-8. Verse 6 switches to David, the king, 6 “Prolong the life of the king; may his years endure to all generations!” This may be praying for King David, but ultimately David is echoing what was said in 2 Samuel 7. When David and the people are praying, they are looking beyond David to the King who will come to walk our path that would take Him to the cross, where He would be made sin for us, but then three days later would rise again in power and glory. He appeared to all those witnesses and then ascended to heaven, where the psalm is now fulfilled, May he be enthroned forever before God; appoint steadfast love and faithfulness to watch over him!” We have someone who is there for us so we might know the protection and provision of God. We have the very presence of God in us, in the Holy Spirit.

Can we expect, because we have God’s presence, to have only good times? No. But we do have a sure foundation on which to build our lives. We see this Psalm play out in Romans 8:31-39,

31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? 33 Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us] 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written,

“For your sake we are being killed all the day long;
    we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”

37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Here is a promise, “In all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.Christ Jesus has brought us His presence, His protection and His provision.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s