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God’s Word for You

Psalm 31:5-8 I commit my spirit

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Tuesday, April 3, 2018

5 Into your hands I commit my spirit.
  You have redeemed me, O LORD, the God of truth.

Every year during Holy Week we remember that Jesus used these words on the cross as he closed his eyes in death (Luke 23:46). Stephen quoted Jesus as he was being murdered: “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit” (Acts 7:59). I have been at the bedside of at least one dying Christian who quoted these words, as well. Saint Augustine added a thought which is brief but profound in its faith: “To your power (hands) I commit my spirit, soon to receive it back.” He reminds the Christian that death for the one dying is a brief, even a sudden transition from earthly life to heavenly bliss. Augustine’s words remind me of someone passing through a metal detector. We part with our possessions (whether car keys or human flesh) while we pass through the gate, and then receive our flesh back again on the Last Day. We don’t actually part with our soul; it is the vessel that contains us while we await the resurrection, no matter what happens to the matter, the physical part of our existence. David puts its best right here in our verse: “You have redeemed me, O LORD.” We are purchased away from the debt of our sins by the Passion of Jesus.

David adds the comfort: The Lord is “the God of truth.” Some translations wrestle with making this title “God of faith” or “faithful God.” God surely is faithful (Deuteronomy 32:4), but the difference here is between ‘emet and ’emunah. The two words look similar and sound similar, and are from the same root word, ‘amen. But throughout the Bible ‘emet means “truth” as we see in the simple phrase, “It is true” (Isaiah 43:9). But in other places we have ‘emunah, meaning “faith,” as in 2 Chronicles 20:20, “Have faith in the LORD your God,” and in Habakkuk 2:4, “The righteous will live by faith.” What God has told us in his word and promised us through his prophets is true, and we can rely on him.

6 I hate those who tend worthless idols,
  but I trust in the LORD.
7 I will rejoice and be glad for your mercy,
  for you saw my affliction
  and you knew the distress of my spirit.
8 You have not handed me over to the enemy,
  you have set my feet in a wide place.

“Those who tend” are those who watch idols and look after them. Anyone who worships a false god has to constantly brush away the cobwebs and bird droppings from their statue, as well as the uneaten offerings of fruit and the dead flowers. If they don’t they will be reminded that time and decay are more powerful than their little statues, and more shameful than that, so are the little birds and the tiny spiders. Such a god can be blown over by the wind, as Jeremiah noticed, so “they fasten it with hammer and nails so it will not totter” (Jeremiah 10:4).

Our God, the God of truth, is the LORD himself. He is the creator of the wind, and also of little spiders, flitting birds, fruit, flowers, and even time which seems to be master of all other things. God can stop time (Joshua 10:13; Habakkuk 3:11) and use it as he pleases. And of course, God is Lord even over death. So whatever our distress, whatever our affliction, we turn to God for his mercy. His mercy might mean release from troubles, or it might mean a speedier path toward death, but whatever he has in store, it is always for our personal good and for the good of his kingdom. The “wide place” has room enough for everyone who puts their faith in Jesus Christ.

In verse 7 (8 in Hebrew), the verbs “you saw” and “you knew” are in the Hebrew perfect tense, which means that the act being described is already completed either in time or at least in the mind of the speaker. David uses this to comfort the reader, too—and David is comforting himself as he writes and sings the Psalm. The preacher is wise who preaches to himself so that he remembers that he is at the same time sinner and forgiven saint—as are all of God’s children.

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.

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