Psalm 31

Psalm 31  •  6 min. read  •  grade level: 7
The complaint and confidence of the remnant
Psalm 31 is a proof how Jesus could use devout and holy expressions of a psalm, and indeed pass through all in spirit, without its having a literal application to Him. Here is found the expression He used, “Into thy hand I commend my spirit,” which was in the fullest sense true. But the psalm continues, “For thou hast redeemed me, O Jehovah God of truth”-He added Father. Yet I doubt not that His spirit had got into the comfort of divine delight again. Still the words, “Thou hast redeemed me,” cannot apply.1 So the whole complaint of the psalm is, besides David, the complaint and confidence of the remnant-connecting the two principles, trust and righteousness, and looking for guidance for Jehovah’s name’s sake, and deliverance when surrounded by enemies. The godly man had called on Jehovah. His name was in question. On His goodness, laid up for them that trusted in Him, he counted; and this in the midst of a life spent in sighing. Distress pressed upon him, and drank up his strength. Yet, tried for faithfulness, friends and acquaintances fled from him. Such will be the condition of the remnant. How truly Christ entered into it, I need not say. But the time of deliverance, and of all that in any time the saint should be under and pass through, were in God’s hand-not the enemy’s, though he might rage. And in the adversities Jehovah knew his soul, for he walks in the knowledge of covenant-relationship. The presence of Jehovah was a tabernacle and a hiding place. In the pressure of his spirit, the godly thought himself cast off; but when he cried, Jehovah heard. In all the rage around (vss. 13-14) he cried to Jehovah as his God. The result he now celebrates, and encourages the saints in the last two verses, and all that hope in Jehovah. Whatever sorrows they are in, Jehovah helps the faithful and judges the proud.
(1. The only possible sense it could have as to Him was the deliverance of His soul at that moment as a fact, from the curse He bore for us, in which He had perfectly glorified God as to our sins, and as made sin for us. But the Lord does not use it. But though He had as a fact yet to die, its bitterness and sting were past.)
Psalm 31 The expression of the Spirit of Christ, though His own relationship as Son was different
This, in a certain sense, closes and sums up the experimental expression by the Spirit of the state of the remnant, and fully unfolds it. In the psalm that follows, forgiveness in grace is spoken of. Then there is a clearer apprehension and more objective confidence and judgment of all around, till we come to Psalms 38-39, which have a peculiar character of their own. Of course, deliverance is not yet come; but the sentiment expressed is become more that of favor in light than confidence out of the depths. How fully this Psalm 31 is the expression of the Spirit of Christ must be obvious to every divinely-taught reader. Yet His own relationship was different. He was Son, and commends His spirit to His Father in death, not to Jehovah to save Him from it; and, as we have seen in the preface, prays for His enemies who crucified Him, instead of demanding vengeance upon them. This demand of His Spirit in the remnant is according to His mind in that day. In Him personally it must have been otherwise; for He came in grace, and was giving His life a ransom for Israel and for many. Hence He passed through all in perfection with His Father in Gethsemane, and gives Himself up then, as being His will, to death. Yet, as to the sorrow and trial, He went through all. And the prophetic Spirit in the Psalms expresses in the denunciatory words what will certainly be accomplished as the consequence of the wicked enmity of the Jews and heathens too at the close; and will become living demands in the mouth of the remnant, whose only and necessary deliverance these judgments will be.
Christ did ask life, and it was given in resurrection and glory, as Psalm 21 shows; but not, as we know, in His being spared here. The path of life led for Him through death in the accomplishment of redemption, though He could not be holden of it. Thus in spirit He entered into all their affliction. The literal application in the writer’s mind was to his own feelings; the prophetical is to the godly remnant in the latter day. The word translated “iniquity,” in verse 10, should, I doubt not, be “distress.” But the fullness of the various motives and feelings brought together in this psalm require a further brief notice. I have already remarked how the two grounds, so frequently found, of the appeal of the saint’s trust in God, and righteousness as the motive and ground of it, are both brought together here. The name’s sake of Jehovah is also added here. In verses 3-6 we have His utter rejection of the followers of idolatrous vanities. In verse 7 Jehovah’s goodness is recognized as mercy. He has known the soul of the believer in adversities-a sweet thought, how dark soever all may have been. And deliverance was granted (vss. 9-10). He pleads his extreme present distress. The first eight verses are a kind of preface of general principles; now it is the pressure of his present state. He was a reproach to enemies, specially to neighbors-a fear to his acquaintance; so mean, despised, and yet hated and rejected, was he. It is the portion of a divine character, of God Himself, to be both. Man neglects a despised person; but he never does God, or what is of Him.1 They will bring Him low if He puts Himself low, or those that are His; but will fear and hate Him too. He is forgotten, yet slandered, and the active enemy plotting against his life. Thus verses 9-13 give the condition the Spirit of Christ, or Christ Himself, holds in the world.
(1. What thief would, if hung, revile another thief hung by his side? But the condemned thief did so to Christ.)
It is a most striking picture in verse 14. He trusts in Jehovah. All that is to befall him is, after all, in His hand. Another motive now is pleaded. He has called on Jehovah. It is the lying lips which should be put to silence (vs. 18). Confidence in goodness laid up for them is there, and the hiding in God’s presence for the time of evil (vs. 20). Verse 21 celebrates the faithfulness of Jehovah. Verses 23-24, encourage the saints by it. Thus, with the extremest distress, all the pleas of the faithful are beautifully brought together here. All these past psalms have been the feelings of Israel under the pressure of distress, and sought deliverance from it. And this Israel will do.