Psalm 31 has been characterized as a “lament” psalm. Indeed, as you read it, the psalmist (David) appears beset by all sorts of trouble: his enemies have laid a net for him (v. 4); his physical condition is miserable: his eyes fail, his body is sick, his years cut short, his strength fails, and his bones waste away (vv.9-10); he is scorned and avoided by friends and neighbors (v.11); he is forgotten, out of mind, like a dead man (v.12); and there are plots against him (vv.13-20). Depressing stuff, huh?!
But David is not complaining. No! This is a psalm of “magnificent confidence!” “Blessed be the LORD,” he shouts, in verse 21.
As for me, I said in my alarm, ‘I am cut off from before Thine eyes’; Nevertheless, Thou didst hear the voice of my supplications when I cried to Thee.
Ah, the blessings and assurance of a God who hears our prayers! That’s the message of this psalm. As bad as it gets, when one would even despair of life, David reminds us that God is a stronghold to save.
Though he claims to be like a broken vessel, he is determined to declare:
How great is Thy goodness, which Thou hast stored up for those who fear Thee, which Thou hast wrought for those who take refuge, before the sons of men!
A familiar quotation is found in verse 5 of this psalm: “Into Thy hand I commit my spirit”: the last words of Jesus on the cross before He died. He had assumed the guilt of every sin that would ever be committed and was dying in shame, offering His sinless life to atone for those sins. He felt forsaken, crying to His Father, “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” Yet in the moment of His death He remembered the Divine assurance of this psalm:
In Thee, O LORD, I have taken refuge; let me never be ashamed; in Thy righteousness deliver me. Incline Thine ear to me, rescue me quickly; be Thou to me a rock of strength, a stronghold to save.
The psalms are hymns of prayer and praise. They remind us of the wondrous majesty of God, our Creator. And they remind us, too, of the marvelous grace of God, our Benefactor, who, even amid the hardest of times and deepest despair, is always a stronghold to save.