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Psalm 61: A Prayer from the End of the Earth Print E-mail
Sunday, 28 August 2016

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We are exiles on the earth, longing to finally and forever dwell with our God. We donít always feel like exiles. We can get pretty comfortable in our life here on this planet. But then suffering hits, maybe through a battle with sin or death of a loved one, and we are painfully reminded that this is not our home. We are not meant to dwell in enemy-occupied territory. We are meant for God. We are meant to dwell with Him forever, sheltered by His glorious presence (Revelation 7:15). But until the Lord returns and takes us home to dwell with Him, we continue in our exile here on the earth.

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As we saw in the books of Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther, Godís people were familiar with being in exile. After the kingdom was divided and conquered, many were forced out of their homes to dwell in foreign lands. King David knew the feeling of exile as well. He lived before the time of Godís people being driven from the land. He was not among those who were carried into exile when Judah was defeated. But he knew what it was like to be exiled from Jerusalem. During his many years of running and hiding from Saul, he experienced separation from the place and the people he loved. It seems he wrote Psalm 61 while reflecting on those experiences. Look at verses 1-2a. We donít know the exact situation behind this psalm, but it is clear that David is writing from a place of exile, a place where his heart has grown faint. Surely we have known such times. As exiles on the earth awaiting our future glory, we know what it is like to grow faint while longing for Heaven. So what does David pray in this situation? He makes three requests and gives three reasons for those requests. Letís consider these this morning.

Lead me to the rock for you are my refuge (v. 2b-3)

Davidís first request is for safety and protection. Look at verses 2b-3. If you have ever been to Israel then you know that the land is rugged and barren in places. It can be a dangerous place if your enemies are hunting you down. David knew that one of the safest places to hide in such terrain would be a cave that is high off the ground. Such a place would be safe (at least safer) from predators and give you the tactical advantage over your enemies. So David asks the Lord to lead him to the rock that is higher than I. What he means is lead me to the rock that only you can reach, the rock that is beyond the reach of my enemies. It is a striking image to think of David hiding out on the side of a mountain with arms upraised calling out to the Lord to take him even higher. He is asking the Lord to protect him from his enemies.

And why does he ask the Lord for such help? David prays for the Lord to lead him to the rock because the Lord has been his refuge in the past. God has regularly and repeatedly protected David from his enemies. He has been his strong tower. In those days many cities had a tall tower which was the safest place in the city. Even if the walls on the perimeter came down, the people could still hide in the tower and defeat the invading army from there. For David, the Lord is his strong tower. He has protected him time and time again. And so David calls out to him for further protection in the present crisis.

For the Christian, the Rock of our Salvation is Jesus our Lord. In Him, we are shielded and protected from all of our enemies. When He came to earth and died upon the cross, He became our strong tower, our great Deliverer, the Rock that is the higher than I. He lifts me to places that I could never have gotten to on my own. He is our Rock and our refuge. You can trust in Him to see you through.

Let me dwell in your tent for I am yours (v. 4-5)

The next request is found in verse 4. Look at that with me. Exile was difficult for David because it kept him away from the tabernacle and the temple. Of course, we can worship God anywhere, and David knew that. But the presence of God was manifest among His people at the tabernacle. And this is where David wanted to be. He wanted to dwell in the presence of God. He wanted to take refuge under the shelter of Godís wings. Again, he longed for safety and protection from the Lord.

Beyond just safety and protection, what else is Davidís reason for this request? Look at verse 5. David had made vows to the Lord to love and serve and worship Him. The Lord was His God. And these vows were not made in private, they were public. David had made it plain to all that He belonged to the Lord, just like a spouse does at a wedding ceremony. And like a son, God had given David the inheritance of those who fear Him. What is that inheritance? For David, it probably refers to either the land or to God Himself. In fact, it probably refers to both. David belonged to the Lord and the Lord had lavished His love on David. David longed to leave his exile and return to the tent of God, among Godís people. He wanted to enjoy the manifest presence of God in the tabernacle and keep his vows to the Lord.

As members of the new covenant, we no longer worship at the tabernacle or the temple. The truth is that God dwelled among us in Jesus. John says that the Lord dwelt among us, or Ďtabernacled among usí (John 1:14). He did this so that those who turn from their sins and believe in His sacrifice on the cross can now be the dwelling place of God. Paul says that the church is now the temple of God, where God dwells (1 Corinthians 3:16-17, Ephesians 2:22). The manifest presence of God is not connected to a building but to a people, those who have repented and believed in Christ. And through faith in Jesus, we will dwell in Godís tent with Godís people forever. Davidís longing to dwell in Godís presence forever is made possible for us through the work of Christ.

Prolong my life so I can praise you (v. 6-8)

The final request might seem odd for David to make. Look at verses 6-7. David prays that the life of the king would be prolonged, that his years would endure to all generations and that he would be enthroned forever. Is this just a selfish prayer for long life? No, I donít think so. For the people of Israel, the king was the symbol of life and protection and well-being. David is joining with Israel in longing for a king to always sit on the throne. He is praying more for the endurance of the office of the king than he is for an individual king, who would eventually die. David longs for Israel, Godís people, to be protected and to thrive, so he prays for the endurance of the king.

And what is the reason, or really the result, of an enduring king? Constant praise! Look at verse 8. As long as David lives he will sing praise to Godís name. His hope is that Godís continual provision of a king will result in continuous praise. David commits to that being the case in his own life for he will perform his vows day after day. Godís people should respond to His steadfast love and faithfulness with ongoing praise of His name.

But David died. And the kings of Israel who came after him died, until finally the kingdom was destroyed and Israel was sent into exile, to the ends of the earth. So did Davidís final prayer go unanswered? No. Davidís prayer for prolonged life for the king was answered through the person and work of Jesus. For the grave could not hold our Savior! When Jesus rose from the dead and was seated at the Fatherís right hand, Davidís prayer for an eternal king was ultimately fulfilled. Jesus will be enthroned forever. His years will endure to all generations. He is the King who will live eternally before the throne of God. And the glorious good news is that He invites anyone and everyone to to believe in Him so that they too can reign with Him forever. David committed to ever singing Godís praise and we can do that too through faith in Jesus.

So David has three requests in Psalm 61: lead me to the rock, let me dwell in your tent, and prolong the life of the king. During our exile on the earth, we pray all of these prayers in light of Christ. We should pray regularly that God would lead us back to our Rock, Jesus Christ. He is our refuge and our strength. He is our hiding place. And in Him we will have ultimately victory over all of our enemies. We should pray that God would let us dwell in His tent forever. Like David, we should long to dwell in the presence of our God. We get a taste of that every time we gather together as the Church. God is with us even now this morning. We get the privilege of enjoying His manifest presence together. And one Day, Christ will return for us and take us home to dwell in Godís presence forever. On that Day, God will shelter his people with his presence (Revelation 7:15). What a glorious promise! And we should pray for and rejoice in the fact that King Jesus will reign forever. His praises will never end. He will gather the nations around His throne, all who have believed in Him, to ever sing praise. Davidís prayer is ultimately answered in the work of Christ. He is our Rock and our Tent and our hope for eternal praise. You can trust in Him all the days of your exile here on the earth, for He will see us through. Amen.

~ William Marshall ~

Last Updated ( Friday, 09 September 2016 )

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