This psalm is very similar in theme to Psalm 30. Once more we find David describing a time when he felt overwhelmed by life. As we look at how David handled distress we learn how we can also make it through troubled times.
This psalm, like many others, has a very complex internal structure that is impossible to recognize once translated into English. According to Dr. C.J. Labuschagne David made significant use of the number 7 throughout the psalm. The number 7 represents abundance and completion. Here are some examples of the use of the number 7:
- 217 (31 x 7) words in total in the psalm - notice that this is Psalm 31 and there are 31 x 7 words in the psalm.
- 7 words in the arithmetic center, flanked by 105 (15 x 7) words on either side
- 14 (2 x 7) verselines flanking the central verseline (v. 12) on either side.
- 35 (5 x 7) words in total spoken about God
- 182 (26 x 7) words in total addressed to God
The psalm begins with David's prayer for deliverance. Repeatedly David reminds God that the Lord is his refuge and fortress. It is into God's hand that David has placed his life. Intriguingly, David is pleading for his life as he writes "Into your hands I commit my spirit", yet Jesus on the cross quoted this verse just before He died. In both cases it represents the heart of one who is fully trusting God to care for him whether in life or death.
Into your hands I commit my spirit;
deliver me, Lord, my faithful God.
I Trust in the Lord
The psalmist recognizes God's goodness to him up to this point. God has blessed him and placed him in a spacious place. He will not trust in idols but rather trust fully in the Lord.
You have not given me into the hands of the enemy
but have set my feet in a spacious place.
Be Merciful to Me
Now we get to the heart of David's problem. Men are conspiring to kill him. His friends have forsaken him. It is in this section that we find the central line of the poem. In Hebrew poetry the center of the psalm is often the main idea. Here we read:
I am forgotten as though I were dead;
I have become like broken pottery.
David is broken in spirit and in great distress.
I Trust in the Lord (Reprise)
But the psalmist knows how to handle distress. He remains firm in his faith and once more declares:
But I trust in you, O Lord;
I say, “You are my God.”
David trusts in God's unfailing love to bring him through this trial.
The last third of the psalm switches to one of praise and thanksgiving. God has heard his cry and rescued him and He can do the same for you.
How abundant are the good things
that you have stored up for those who fear you,
that you bestow in the sight of all,
on those who take refuge in you.
David thought he was cut off from God, but God heard his cry and came to his rescue. God is listening and He has not forgotten you. The final verse is a great summary of how to handle personal trials:
Be strong and take heart,
all you who hope in the Lord.
Be strong - don't give up; take heart - hold on to your faith in God's abundant love; and hope in the Lord - God is worthy of your trust!