Psalm 31: Be Strong and Take Courage!
February 8, 2022
TODAY'S BIBLE READING:
Another psalm where David is calling out to God for help. David is looking for “refuge” (31:1-2, 19). Why is this such a common theme in David’s psalms? Why might we suppose that a person of prominence, a public leader, a warrior, a king no less, was likely to feel the need for protection against enemies on a regular basis?
It is also true that while we are saved when we first trust in Christ, we keep on needing to be saved on a daily basis too. There are three tenses to salvation in the Bible for the Christian: we were saved when we became a Christian (justification); we are being saved as we follow Christ (sanctification); and one day we will be saved when we enter glory with Christ (glorification). All along we need to take “refuge” in God.
This psalm has some particular insights that are worth underlining. It is for “his name’s sake” that he leads and guides us. How different this is from much popular teaching today! God does not save us for our sake; he saves us (ultimately) for his sake! God loves us, has mercy upon us, wants us, heals us, and saves us. But his action of saving gives him glory (not us!). It is in that sense for his name’s sake that we are saved. A saved person, by definition, is a vehicle for the glory of God. It shows his redemptive mercy and grace.
Note also that David says, “My strength fails because of my iniquity.” We tend to think that sin “only” has “spiritual” consequences, damaging our relationship with God. But we do not usually think of sin as impacting our physical strength. But so it is: while not always immediate, sinful habits damage the nature of who we are as created beings and will have their consequences in our mode of living and its strength, too. The one who flees from God offends God, but he damages himself.
Notice how penetrating the fear is that David reveals and how real it feels when we read about it. “I hear the whispering of many-terror on every side!” That is what it feels like when we have many opponents. We hear their whispering (sometimes in our imaginations in addition to the times we actually hear it). And the whispering we hear (combined with the whispering we fear) combines to create a feeling that there is “terror on every side.”
Perhaps you feel something like that this morning. Be strong and take courage. Find your refuge in God! Like David did.
Verse 19 is worth learning by heart: “Oh how abundant is your goodness, which you have stored up for those who fear you, and worked for those who take refuge in you, in the sight of the children of mankind!” God’s goodness is not moderate or a modicum of niceness; it is abundant! Reflect on that when you feel as if terror is on every side.
Also verse 22: “I had said in my alarm ‘I am cut off from your sight.’ But you heard the voice of my pleas for mercy when I cried to you for help.” Sometimes we do say the same as David. We say that we are cut off from God. We do not think he is hearing us. And we say in alarm that he has abandoned us.
But listen to David’s experience. God, the God of the covenant and of steadfast love to his people, hears our pleas for mercy when we cry to him for help. The logical conclusion? “Be strong and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the Lord!”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Josh Moody (Ph.D., University of Cambridge) is the senior pastor of College Church in Wheaton, IL., president and founder of God Centered Life Ministries, and author of several books including How the Bible Can Change Your Life and John 1-12 For You.
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