By James Boice
Theme: The Application
In this week’s lessons, we learn from this psalm how to deal with difficulties that come into our lives, knowing that God is our mighty refuge in whom alone we can trust.
Scripture: Psalm 31:1-24
Yesterday we concluded by looking at the first two contrasts between God’s secret and manifest goodness. Today we begin by considering the last one.
3. The goodness which is experienced and at least partially seen in this life and the superlative goodness yet to be experienced in heaven. God’s goodness will certainly follow us all the days of our lives. But it will not stop there. It will follow us even into heaven, where it will be disclosed in a measure not even imaginable now.
Alexander Maclaren has a section on this contrast that is so eloquent it deserves to be quoted:
Here we see, sometimes, the messengers coming with the one cluster of grapes on the pole. There we shall live in the vineyard. Here we drink from the river as it flows; there we shall be at the fountain head. Here we are in the vestibule of the King’s house; there we shall be in the throne room, and each chamber as we pass through it will be richer and fairer than the one preceding…. When God begins to compare his adjectives he does not stop till he gets to the superlative degree. … Good begets better, and the better of earth ensures the best of heaven.
So out of our poor little experience here, we may gather grounds of confidence that will carry our thoughts peacefully even into the great darkness, and we may say, ‘What thou didst work is much, what thou hast laid up is more.’ And the contrast will continue for ever and ever; for all through that strange Eternity, that which is wrought will be less than that which is laid up, and we shall never get to the end of God, nor to the end of his goodness.3
Those who know God know that is true and so say a hearty “Amen.”
We have already applied what we have seen in the body of Psalm 31 in a variety of ways. But David has his own application which comes in the last two stanzas, each of two verses. They are a sort of coda to the psalm in which David turns to others (his earlier words have been directed to God) and advises them to praise and love God also.
The first two verses call for praise. They are much like verse 4 of the preceding psalm, in which David calls on others to praise God for his goodness since they, as well as he, have learned that “his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor… a lifetime.” These verses are not so explicit as those in Psalm 30 in basing the call for praise on an aspect of God’s character which these others should also have experienced. But that is probably because their experience here was one with David’s. What I mean is that David is praising God because he delivered him when he was in “a besieged city,” which is probably to be taken as a literal historical moment, and if that is the case, then his deliverance was the deliverance of his friends and followers also.4 They could praise God for exactly the same thing as King David.
The second short stanza and the last two verses call upon these same people to love God as well as praise him. It is significant that the psalm should end this way. For although love has not been mentioned before this, it is nevertheless true that love and trust go together. It is true in regard to human relations. It is true in our relationship to God too.
The very last lines encourage the saints of God to “be strong and take heart,” which is a way of saying “keep trusting.” The point is that we will do this only as long as we keep close to God and thus continue to grow in our love for him. H. C. Leupold puts it like this: “The practical application… amounts to this: Don’t ever lose faith in him,” adding wisely, “Faith will not be lost if love keeps burning.”5 You can never love God too much, and you can never trust God too much. But you will do both well whenever you reflect deeply on the degree to which he has loved you.
- What is David’s practical application of this psalm?
- How do love and trust belong together?
Application: Is there a specific area in which you need to love and trust God more?
For Further Study: We know that God is our rock and refuge because of what he has revealed to us about himself in his Word. Download and listen for free to James Boice’s “A Place to Stand.” (Discount will be applied at checkout.)
3Alexander Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture, vol. 3, The Psalms, Isaiah 1-48 (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1959), pp. 184-185.
4If the background for this psalm is the time of David’s flight from Saul described in 1 Samuel 23, as some think, then the besieged city was Keilah, from which God delivered David by an oracle.
5H. C. Leupold, Exposition of the Psalms (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1969), p. 263.
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