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God’s Word for You

Psalm 31:9-13 Terror on every side

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Wednesday, April 4, 2018

We’re reading King David’s prayer for help in a time of need.

9 Be merciful to me, O LORD, for I am in distress;
  my eyes are weak from sorrow,
  my soul and my body as well.
10 For my life is spent with sorrow,
  and my years with sighing;
  my strength fails because of my misery,
  and my bones waste away.

When we release our emotions, especially grief, we become physically drained and worn out. David says that not only were his eyes “weak from sorrow” (sobbing), his body and spirit were worn out, too. He needed a rest, but for David, no rest was possible, as often happens for those in a position of leadership.

How often does a parent, a boss, a pastor or a principal loose sleep and time off because of trouble or stress in their life? But one of the reasons God selects certain people for leadership roles is that they understand the need to accomplish what needs to be done. David was praying for help by simply letting the Lord know what the Lord undoubtedly already knew. So why pray at all? Because God wants us to. He wants us to recognize our needs and his blessings, and formulating prayers helps us to do just that.

11 I am the scorn of all my adversaries,
  a horror to my neighbors.
  I am an object of dread to my friends,
  those who see me in the street flee from me.
12 I am forgotten by them like one who is dead;
  I have become like a piece of broken pottery.

David describes himself as a pariah, an outcast, avoided by everyone, whether friends, neighbors, or enemies. Even people with no connection to the king at all, “those who see me in the street,” avoided this poor man. He felt as unloved and unwanted as a piece of garbage, a scrap of broken pottery.

13 I hear many whispering.
  There is terror on every side
  as they scheme together against me,
  as they plot to take my life.

When David said “There is terror on every side,” he knew that his enemies surrounded him throughout his kingdom and were even among his counselors. There were few men he could depend upon, but he could trust in the Lord.

This verse became a favorite refrain for the prophet Jeremiah. In his time, Jeremiah saw a fulfillment or re-enactment of David’s words as the whole nation of Judah came crashing down in the Babylonian invasion. Jeremiah used “terror on every side” as an early warning (Jeremiah 6:25), as a nickname for a false prophet (Jeremiah 20:3, where many translations give the Hebrew, Magor-Missabib), and he quoted the Lord saying “there is terror on every side” in judgment of Egypt (Jeremiah 46:5) and the Arabian kingdoms of Kedar and Hazor (Jeremiah 49:38). The prophet used this phrase in Lamentation 2:22, and he quoted David more fully when he said, “I hear many whispering, ‘There is terror on every side;” (Jeremiah 20:10). The scenes were similar. God’s messenger was in danger as the rest of the nation plotted against him and he had few if any friends left.

As David overheard the whispers of his enemies, he fell back on his trust in God. It’s easy to forget in the middle of a psalm like this one that it’s not just a grocery list of troubles; it’s a prayer for God’s deliverance. What we know is that God did indeed deliver David. He would establish his son Solomon on his earthly throne, but more importantly, he would establish his more distant Son Jesus Christ to a far more important throne: Not the throne of a mere human kingdom, but the kingdom of heaven, the throne of Almighty God eternity. Don’t forget who your Helper is when you pray. He is powerful to save, compassionate to rescue, and certain to be reliable and true. He loves you, and he will not let you go.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim SmithAbout Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. His wife, Kathryn, attended the Chapel from 1987-1990 while studying Secondary Education (Theater and Math) at UW-Madison. Kathryn’s father, John Meyer, was also the first man to serve as a Vicar at Chapel.

To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please contact Pastor Smith.