Psalm 61:1-8

To the Chief Musician. On a stringed instrument. A Psalm of David.

1 Hear my cry, O God;
Attend to my prayer.

2 From the end of the earth I will cry to You,
When my heart is overwhelmed;
Lead me to the rock that is higher than I.

3 For You have been a shelter for me,
A strong tower from the enemy.

4 I will abide in Your tabernacle forever;
I will trust in the shelter of Your wings. Selah

5 For You, O God, have heard my vows;
You have given me the heritage of those who fear Your name.

6 You will prolong the king’s life,
His years as many generations.

7 He shall abide before God forever.
Oh, prepare mercy and truth, which may preserve him!

8 So I will sing praise to Your name forever,
That I may daily perform my vows.

David expresses himself in language intended to underscore his vulnerability—removed from all that make shim feel familiar and secure, calling out to God as if from a strange land, from the end of the earth … when his heart is faint (v.2). It is in God that he therefore looks for the most intimate familiarity (his internal/emotional needs) and the most impenetrable security (his external/physical needs): for security he implores that God lead him to the rock—i.e., to God Himself, for whom the term “rock” here is a common biblical designation, signifying a massive rock formation that is humanly impossible to move; for familiarity he implores that God let him dwell in His tent forever and—employing one of his favorite images—that He let him take refuge in the shelter of His wings, the phrasing of both of which statements is elsewhere connected with the expectation of joyful, all-fulfilling intimacy in the unrestricted presence of God. — Wechsler, page 164.

the rock that is higher than I (v.2) — which he himself cannot attain

tabernacle (v.4) — The psalm was evidently composed while the tabernacle was standing; and after David had received the promise of the everlasting kingdom (vs. 6-7). — Meyer, page 76

Notwithstanding his opening appeal that God “hear,” David affirms that He has already “heard” (v.5)—i.e., that He has already provided that which is best for David. This “best” as David goes on to affirm (not petition), entails: (1) the inheritance of those who fear God’s name (v.5), referring to the family of believers, of which he is part; (2) qualitatively eternal life, as indicated by verse 6 (“Thou wilt prolong, etc.”), in which “many generations” is a poetic idiom for “forever”; and (3) the sublimest of all privileges, to abide before God forever—i.e., in His presence—as a remade man, preserved (i.e., permanently ensconced) in lovingkindness and truth. — Wechsler, pages 164-165.

I will sing praise to Your name forever (v.8) — David’s ultimate motivation and goal.

William’s take:

The doctrine of this, and similar Psalms, is the perfection of the faith of Messiah, as man, under every form of hatred, affliction and adversity. The sharper these became the more He trusted. His moral glory as the Servant of Jehovah shines through all. This position of dependence and suffering He voluntarily took in union with, and on behalf of, His people. Hence they are cheered and comforted in trial, and their faith sustained by these communications, for they prove that their King and Shepherd trod these dark paths before them; that He trusted God and was delivered; and that a like deliverance is consequently assured to them. — Williams, page 347

It seems to me that Williams’ has a point here. Verses 6 and 7 certainly seem Messianic. Again I am drawn by the writer’s simultaneous experience of despair and hope. This is why it makes me sad that many (most) churches and ministries no longer preach about future things because somebody might disagree and be offended. How can we hope, especially in the midst of trials and despair, when we have no idea what it is our hope is in?

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