Psalms 1 - 50by Mike Raiter
1 Samuel 23 describes a time when David, on the run from King Saul, rescued the town of Keilah in Judah, which was being besieged by the Philistines. On hearing that David was there, Saul went to find him. Through the words of a prophet, David was warned that the people of Keilah, whom he'd come to save, would betray him. So he fled into the Desert of Ziph, where Saul's son, Jonathan, ″helped him to find strength in God″ (1 Samuel 23:16) and assured him he would be king. However, the Ziphites also planned to hand David over to Saul. At the moment he was closing in on David, Saul heard of another raid by the Philistines, and had to break off his pursuit.
According to 1 Samuel 23, David suffered betrayals, traps, and near escapes from death. But above all else, he experienced the protection of God. It is probable that Psalm 31 is recalling these events. David remembers how God showed him the wonders of His love, ″when I was in a city under siege″ (v. 21). In utter despair, he recalls the plots to take his life (vv. 4, 9-13). In the midst of his laments, however, there are repeated expressions of trust in God, and a confidence that God will deliver him (vv. 19-24).
While most of us will never have to suffer the kind of trials David endured, we can learn from his experiences. David's example encourages us to ″love the Lord″ even in the dark days, for ″the Lord preserves those who are true to him″ (v. 23). When we are in distress and our eyes grow weak with sorrow (v. 9), we can find refuge in God our rock.
According to the Gospel of Luke, the last words Jesus spoke before He died were: ″Father, into your hands I commit my spirit″ (Luke 23:46). With His final breath, Jesus remembered Psalm 31:5. On the cross, Jesus would have considered how those He came to save had betrayed Him. And while God rescued David from his enemies, He allowed Jesus to be handed over to His enemies. God did this so that the promises of Psalm 31, made to David and to us, might be fulfilled: that we would enjoy the abundance of good things God has stored up for us (v. 19).
Reflect on the times in your life when you were greatly distressed. What comfort and help does Psalm 31 bring to people who are in despair?
Why do you think the Lord Jesus chose to quote Psalm 31 as He breathed His last breath?