I want you to read the whole of Psalm 31 a new way. I know this isn’t the way the poetry was meant to look, but when I was reading it just now a pattern popped out at me. This Psalm is such a wonderful dialog between man and God, and I can’t think of any other way to communicate the depth of it. What I’ve done is highlighted all the places where the write changes his attention. Read it ourtloud if you will, and just emphasize the first word of each line:
you, O Lord, do
I take refuge; let
me never be put to shame; in
your righteousness deliver
your ear to
(You) Be a rock of refuge for
(You be) a strong fortress to save
my rock and my fortress; and for
your name's sake you lead
me and guide me;
me out of the net they have hidden for me, for
my refuge. Into
I commit my spirit;
you have redeemed
me, O Lord, faithful God. I hate those who pay regard to worthless idols, but I trust in
the Lord. I will rejoice and be glad in
your steadfast love, because you have seen
you have known the distress of
my soul, and
you have not delivered
me into the hand of the enemy;
you have set
my feet in a broad place.
Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am in distress; my eye is
wasted from grief; my soul and my body also. For my life is spent with
sorrow, and my years with sighing; my strength fails because of my iniquity, and
my bones waste away. Because of all my adversaries I have become a
reproach, especially to my neighbors, and an object of dread to my acquaintances; those who see me in the street flee from me. I have been forgotten like one who is dead; I have become like a broken vessel. For I hear the whispering of many— terror on every side!— as they scheme together against me, as they plot to take my life.But I trust in
you, O Lord; I say, “You are my God.” My times are in your hand;
rescue me from the hand of my enemies and from my
persecutors! Make your face shine on your servant; save me in your steadfast love! O Lord, let me not be put to shame, for I call upon you; let the wicked be put to shame; let them go silently to Sheol. Let the lying lips be mute, which speak insolently against the righteous in pride and contempt.
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! In the cover of your presence you hide them from the plots of men; you store them in your shelter from the strife of tongues.
Blessed be the Lord, for he has wondrously shown his steadfast love to
me when I was in a besieged city. 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.
Love the Lord, all you his saints! The Lord preserves the faithful but abundantly repays the one who acts in pride.
Be strong, and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the Lord!
Do you see how he keeps shifting his attention from himself to the Lord and back? About two-thirds of the way through the poet goes off on a self-indulgent jag (beginning with “Be gracious to me…”) The only thing that snaps him back to reality is the realization that the Lord is God! Then he balances his rant a bit by focusing again on the Lord, but really only to say how much he wants God to finish off his adversaries.
This is a man who is really struggling with the whole question of whether God is going to come through for him. And yet he sandwiches his angst between two great statements: The fist is that he is staking his life on God being what he calls a “Rock of Refuge”. And the second? God is more than a rock. He is the wall around a besieged city.
I so often feel like this. I believe God is my Rock. But I sure do have complaints to offer; I sure do focus on my own petty needs; I sure do bluster about how I want God to do violence on those who hate me. And yet, in the end, I realize I don’t just need a Rock. I need (and have) a walled city around me throughout the siege.