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God’s Word for You

Psalm 31:1-4

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Monday, April 2, 2018

Psalm 31

1 For the choirmaster. A Psalm of David.

The word lamnatseach means “for the preeminent one,” or “for the director.” Translations usually adopt “director of music” (NIV) or “choir director” (NASB). A psalm (mizmor) is a “trimmed” thing, probably meaning that it’s been edited or arranged for public worship or to be accompanied by instruments of some kind.

“A Psalm of David” is simply leDavid in Hebrew, which could mean “for David” as if dedicated to the king, or “by David,” which is our understanding of the word. Some translate “in the style of David,” but this doesn’t seem likely since the Hebrew expressing that would be keDavid and not leDavid.

Psalm 31 is a cry for help in the middle of a huge conspiracy. David describes his enemies as being so powerful and numerous that his acquaintances, neighbors, and friends have distanced themselves from him, and even “those who see me on the street flee from me” (vs. 11). The central thought and center of the psalm is verse 13: “There is terror on every side; they conspire against me and plot to take my life.” The phrase “terror on every side” was adopted by the prophet Jeremiah five hundred years later as a warning about the imminent downfall of Jerusalem (Jeremiah 6:25, 20:10, 46:5, 49:29).

  In you, O LORD, I take refuge.
  Let me never be put to shame.
  Deliver me in your righteousness!
2 Turn your ear to me, rescue me quickly!
  Be a rock of refuge for me,
  a strong fortress to save me.
3 Surely you are my rock and my fortress,
  for your name’s sake lead me and guide me,
4 free me from the net that is set for me,
  for you are my refuge.

David begins by confessing that the Lord is his faithful refuge. Rather than running to a castle or a secret cave, he puts his trust directly in God. He asks God for guidance in what he does. He doesn’t just say “this is what I’m going to do” and then rashly appeal to God to put his stamp of approval on his actions.

The writers of the Bible frequently use the image of a net, trap or snare (verse 4) as a plot or a situation from which there is no escape. But unlike the condemned Edomites to whom Obadiah proclaimed judgment (Obadiah 7), David has faith that God can rescue him from this net. Why does he have this confidence? How can David find this kind of trust when he is betrayed by everyone? The Lord has shown David again and again that he is powerful and faithful. As Nahum said, “The Lord is good, a refuge in times of trouble; he cares for those who trust in him” (Nahum 1:7). The enemies of the Lord can seem so numerous that we fear we have no friends left in the world, and yet God promises to scatter his enemies, even those who were once called to be his people but who have now turned against him. Moses warned the Hebrews at Mount Sinai that this would happen: “I will make their hearts so fearful in the lands of their enemies that the sound of a windblown leaf will put them to flight” (Leviticus 26:36).

Even if you might fear you are the only Christian left in the world, you still have all the help you need in the God in whom you trust. You can still pray “Our Father in heaven” and know that “our” is correct, because you share your faith with all of the souls who have gone before you. You are not alone, and you will join us all in the eternal victory feast in heaven. Eternal life is yours through Jesus your Savior; your rock and your refuge.

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.