The thirty-first psalm is a rather long song with twenty-four verses but can easily be broken up into three sections. I like to think of the Psalms with their original intended purpose, which is not to be a chapter in a book but to be a song to sing. It would have been so interesting to see how the longer psalms were originally sung, whether fast, or slow with breaks. We will be breaking this song up into thirds for our purposes in this article, but they all flow together in a storyline.
In verses one through eight, David is found to be in great trouble and needs help and deliverance from God. This first section demonstrates the characteristics we must aspire to when we fall into trouble too. Here the psalmist shows a fantastic balance of mind. He may be in grave danger with his adversaries, but his trust in God is unwavering.
When reading the first section, there will be a statement that is sure to catch your eye. “Into your hand I commit my spirit.” This is such an important statement to us because it is what Jesus chose to quote as His very last words on the cross: “Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” And having said this he breathed his last” (Luke 23:46). Of all that Jesus could have said, and of all the Old Testament scriptures that were written of Him that He could have quoted, He uses the thirty-first psalm. A psalm that does not appear to be prophetic of Jesus, but Jesus applied the words of the troubled psalmist to his own trial. The ideas align perfectly. Notice how the psalmist, although in painful trouble, has not lost sight of His full trust in God to deliver and save. So also, the Lord on the cross, even though everyone else “esteemed him sticken, smitten by God, and afflicted” (Isaiah 53:4), Jesus had David’s same mentality. In full trust of the Father in Heaven, he said “Into your hands I commit my spirit.” A powerful example of faith in God.
The second section of the psalm includes verses nine through eighteen. Here David grows weary under the pressures of the trials. His eyeline appears to be less towards God and more towards the trial. It gives a sense that the trials are starting to overtake the trust. He speaks of His eyes, body, soul, and bones as wasting away with grief (v.9-10). He feels that he has no helper, friend, or neighbor left on the earth. To him, there are only those who are against him and those who want to be far from him. He feels terror on every side, but in verse fourteen, there is a turn in the section. It appears that he gains more strength, picks himself back up, and regains his theme of trust in God when he says “But I trust in you, O Lord; I say, ‘You are my God.’” We certainly do not want to reach a point in our own trials where our trust begins to fade, and our focus becomes on the trouble instead of the deliverer, but this is often the circumstance. When our trials last longer than we think they ought to, we are depleted and believe that we cannot give anymore, thus our faith may begin to shake. We must never forget that God makes all things beautiful in its time (Ecclesiastes 3:11), and not according to our own timeframe. Nevertheless, man loses faith in the God who never promised us that He would work within our schedule. We must have faith that He does indeed work, but that His schedule is different from our own, and His intended outcome may also be different from our own goals.
In the third and last section of the psalm, verses nineteen through twenty-four, we see the end result, victory. The psalmist’s faith in God triumphed in the trial and his deliverance has come at last. He is now safe and secure. He has need of nothing but is content and joyous. This final section is filled with gladness and praise to God, he does not forget whose hand had helped and saved him from his trouble. We must also turn our night of trouble into a day of praise to God. We must not forget Him during the fight, and we dare not forget Him when it is all over. In verse twenty-two, the psalmist recalls: “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.” He recounts the commotion in the hour of trial and His foot slipping in His faith, but he now understands that he never needed to be alarmed. He should have remembered the statement he made earlier: “into your hand I commit my spirit.” He closes the psalm with a reminder to the rest of God’s children to trust in the Lord, be courageous, and be patient.
Article by Tanner Campbell