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Psalm 31:710, 1416, 2124comment (0)

April 7, 2011

By M. Sydney Park

Related Scripture: Psalm 31:710, 1416, 2124

Bible Studies for Life
Assistant Professor of Divinity, Beeson Divinity School, Samford University

Recognize God’s Presence
Psalm 31:7–10, 14–16, 21–24

When life’s adversity becomes unbearable, what solace does the Christian have? Grief is a natural response to loss. And loss and hardship are experienced by all humans. The virtue of Christian faith lies in knowing God even in the midst of suffering. And this knowledge of God is not simply clinical or abstract knowledge. Psalm 31 describes not only David’s familiarity with life’s adversity but also his certainty in God’s lovingkindness.

Rejoice in God’s Faithfulness (7–10)
David began with declaring his trust in God’s faithfulness; God was David’s sanctuary from life’s perils (Ps. 31:1, 2–4). Yet God is not an impersonal place of refuge but a God who hears the pleas of the helpless (2) and actively saves (1, 2, 5) through deliberate guidance (3). David cried out to this God and relied solely on Him for deliverance in the midst of suffering. David felt no inhibition in communicating to God his troubles and requests for reprieve. David was honest with the God who knows all. But we also see David seeking help from the One who truly can aid him, namely, God Almighty. While all humans suffer, unlike the rest of humanity, Christians have a God who not only hears their pleas but also is truly their refuge in times of trouble.

And turning from this initial expression of trust in God alone, David began to praise Him. David affirmed that even in the midst of difficulty, he took joy in God’s steadfast love. Indeed it is precisely because God saw David’s affliction that he could take comfort and rejoice in His steadfast love. In a world without God, there is no one who can aid humans in their adversity since there is no God to see their pain. There is no one who loves humanity in a godless world. But for the one who knows God, there is this true solace: He sees your difficulties and loves faithfully. In fact, David declared that God not only saw but He saw deep into his soul. God perceives us even to the very depths of our hearts; there is no pain or sorrow He does not comprehend. And in spite of David’s trials, he asserted that God had not delivered him to his enemies. The severity of David’s suffering comes through in his description of his plight: affliction, distress, grief, sorrow and sighing. And even more than this, David stated that his suffering was so acute that his body felt the affects. Clearly David suffered most severely. Yet he trusted in God and recognized His deliverance. “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed” (2 Cor. 4:8–9).

Trust in God’s Power (14–16)
This unswerving trust in God’s ability to save comes to the fore in verses 14–16. If we truly understand God’s character of steadfast love, then we also know that the same God is Almighty. Who else can save us? Whom else can we trust with our frail lives? David’s proclamation “You are my God” goes hand in hand with his unhesitating trust in the same God with his entire life. Similarly the declaration that Jesus Christ is Lord must be accompanied by our willingness to trust God with our entire lives. For Paul, the experience of intense suffering led to reliance not on self “but on God who raises the dead” (2 Cor. 1:9; cf 1:3–11). Then, as it was with David and Paul, times of distress are occasions for us to rely on God even more completely.

Express Your Love for God (21–24)
David began with praise of God’s steadfast love and ended the psalm with the same proclamation; the certainty of His love bookends the psalm. But how could David be so sure of God’s love when he suffered so terribly? Is it not more natural to lose faith in God’s love when faced with adversity? Indeed David did have moments of doubt and believed that he was alienated from God. However, his fears were allayed as he saw God’s deliverance and confidently declared to all saints to love God because He saves. How do we know that God saves? In Jesus Christ who hung on the cross for the salvation of humanity, we see the fullest expression of God’s love for us. Therefore let us praise God for all His goodness even in our most grievous suffering.

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