Introduction: This psalm is so important that Jesus quoted from it in His final Words on the cross. This psalm contains one of David’s many prayers during his trials. From David’s psalm, God reveals seven signs of a person of faith during a trial. These include: (1) dependence, (2) trust, (3) submission, (4) humility, (5) perseverance, (6) gratitude, and (7) encouragement.
First, in the face of an enemy who sought to kill him, David professed that he took refuge in God for his deliverance. He did not rely upon his own skills. During a trial, a person of faith also depends upon God alone for deliverance. Second, David cried out for God to lead and guide him. He again did not depend upon his own skills. During a trial, a person of faith also trusts in God’s guidance. Third, even if he faced death, David promised that he would entrust his spirit to God. Jesus quoted from these words on the cross just before He died. Both David and Jesus showed their faith through their submission and obedience. During a trial, a person of faith also submits to and obeys God’s will. Fourth, David cried out to God for mercy after others around him had rejected and slandered him. He professed that he was a broken man. During a trial, a person of faith approaches God in humility. He can then restore and uplift you. Fifth, even though David continued to face enemies who sought to kill him, he continued to trust in God. During a trial, a person of faith perseveres. Sixth, David expressed gratitude for God’s ongoing faithfulness, even when his own faith faltered. During a trial, a person of faith also expressed gratitude for God’s faithfulness. Finally, as a man of faith, David was concerned for those around him. He encouraged others to also put their faith in God for their deliverance. When others face trials, a person of faith cares for them and also encourages them to turn to God.
1. Dependence: A Person of Faith Depends Upon God for Deliverance. Ps. 31:1-2.
David took refuge in God for his deliverance. In the face of death, David proclaimed his faith that God was his refuge. He then cried out for God to deliver him: “For the music director. A Psalm of David. 1 In You, Lord, I have taken refuge; let me never be put to shame; in Your righteousness rescue me. 2 Incline Your ear to me, rescue me quickly; be a rock of strength for me, a stronghold to save me.” (Ps. 31:1-2). Although we do not know the circumstances behind David’s prayer, what is important is that he responded by turning to God. He did not depend upon himself, his soldiers, or on alliances. “If prayer to God for aid in a special time of trouble is the main object of the psalm, the expression of full trust in God is a secondary object, and is maintained throughout (see vers. 3-8, 14, 19-21, 24). Notwithstanding the extremity of his danger, his belief is firm in the coming overthrow of his enemies, and in his own deliverance and restoration.” (Pulpit Commentary on Ps. 31). His dependence on God brought him both protection and joy.
Those who take refuge in Jesus will be delivered. In reference to the Messiah, God’s son, David promised that those who take refuge in Him will be blessed: “12 Kiss the Son, . . . How blessed are all who take refuge in Him!” (Ps. 2:12). Jesus is your rock. He deserves your praise for His protection from your enemies: “The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge; my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.” (Ps. 18:2, 31, 46; 19:14). “O LORD my God, in You I have taken refuge; save me from all those who pursue me, and rescue me,” (Ps. 7:1). The LORD is their strength, and He is a refuge of salvation to His anointed.” (Ps. 28:8). “In You, LORD, I have taken refuge; let me never be put to shame.” (Ps. 71:1). “My God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold and my refuge; my savior, You save me from violence.” (2 Sam. 22:3). “The Rock! His work is perfect, for all His ways are just; a God of faithfulness and without injustice, righteous and upright is He.” (Dt. 32:4). When you are under attack, Jesus also wants you to take refuge in Him and cry out for His protection.
Those who take refuge in Jesus will be blessed. David wrote many psalms to sing of his joy that came when he took refuge in God: “But rejoice, all who take refuge in You, sing for joy forever! And may You shelter them, that those who love Your name may rejoice in You.” (Ps. 5:11). “For the music director. A Psalm of David. In the LORD I take refuge; how can you say to my soul, ‘Flee as a bird to your mountain?”’ (Ps. 11:1). “Taste and see that the LORD is good; how blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him!” (Ps. 34:8). Solomon also promised blessings for those who put their trust in God: “One who pays attention to the word will find good, and blessed is one who trusts in the LORD.” (Prov. 16:20). Jeremiah also promised for those who put their trust in God: “Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, and whose trust is the LORD.” (Jer. 17:7).
Dependence upon God’s righteousness can bring the blessing of hope. David proclaimed that God’s “righteousness rescue me.” (Ps. 31:1). One commentator explains how this verse became transformational to the father of the Protestant Reformation in finding hope in instead of fearing God’s righteousness: “Early in the 16th Century, a German monk and seminary professor named Martin Luther taught through Psalms, verse-by-verse, at the University of Wittenberg. In his teaching he came upon this statement in Psalm 31:1 (31:2 in German). The passage confused him; how could God’s righteousness deliver him? The righteousness of God — His great justice — could only condemn him to hell as a righteous punishment for his sins. One night up in a tower in the monastery, Luther thought about this passage in Psalms and also read Romans 1:17: For in it [the gospel] the righteousness of God is revealed. Luther said he thought about this day and night, until he finally understood what the righteousness of God revealed by the gospel is. It is not speaking of the holy righteousness of God that condemns the guilty sinner, but of the God-kind of righteousness that is given to the sinner who puts his trust in Jesus Christ. Luther said of this experience: “I grasped the truth that the righteousness of God is that righteousness whereby, through grace and sheer mercy, he justifies us by faith. Therefore I felt myself to be reborn and to have gone through open doors into paradise….. This passage of Paul became to me a gateway into heaven.” Martin Luther was born again, and the reformation began in his heart. One great Lutheran scholar said this was ‘the happiest day in Luther’s life.”’ (David Guzik on Ps. 31) (emphasis original).2 Thus, depending upon God’s righteousness when attacked can bring the blessing of hope.
2. Trust: A Person of Faith Trusts in God’s Guidance. Ps. 31:3-4.
David trusted God to “lead” and “guide” him to victory. Despite his fame as a military hero within Israel, David knew that only God could lead him and guide him to safety: “3 For You are my rock and my fortress; for the sake of Your name You will lead me and guide me. 4 You will pull me out of the net which they have secretly laid for me, for You are my strength.” (Ps. 31:3-4). David promised to give God the glory for any victory on the battlefield. Thus, he asked for guidance and deliverance “for the sake of Your name.”
Lean not on your own understanding. David did not trust in himself. God also wants you to follow David’s example: “LORD, lead me in Your righteousness because of my enemies; make Your way straight before me.” (Ps. 5:8). “He restores my soul; He guides me in the paths of righteousness for the sake of His name.” (Ps. 23:3). “He leads the humble in justice, and He teaches the humble His way.” (Ps. 25:9). Solomon later expanded upon David’s words: “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding.” (Prov. 3:5; 28:26). Do you trust in yourself or in God?
Seek the Holy Spirit’s guidance through the Word and prayer. David would turn to God’s Word to guide his path: “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” (Ps. 119:105). The Holy Spirit will help you to remember the Word and apply it in your life. “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you.” (Jo. 14:26; 14:16; 15:26; 16:13). The Holy Spirit will also give you wisdom: “But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” (Jam. 1:5). “Behold, You desire truth in the innermost being, and in the hidden part You will make me know wisdom.” (Ps. 51:6). “For the LORD gives wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding.” (Prov. 2:6). Are you reading the Word and praying for the Spirit to guide you?
God will protect you when you do His will. You also never need to fear your enemies when you are doing God’s will. When the Jews walked with Him, He promised to cause their enemies to fear them: “I will send My terror ahead of you, and throw into confusion all the people among whom you come, and I will make all your enemies turn their backs to you.” (Ex. 23:27). ‘“This day I will begin to put the dread and fear of you upon the peoples everywhere under the heavens, who, when they hear the report of you, will tremble and be in anguish because of you.’” (Dt. 2:25). If you are serving God, do you trust Him to protect you? Is there any battle for God that you fear?
3. Submission: A Person of Faith Submits to God’s Will. Ps. 31:5-8.
David proclaimed his faith in God to protect his soul. Even if it were God’s will for David to die on the battlefield, he professed his faith that God would protect his soul: “5 Into Your hand I entrust my spirit; You have redeemed me, Lord, God of truth. 6 I hate those who devote themselves to worthless idols, but I trust in the Lord. 7 I will rejoice and be glad in Your faithfulness, because You have seen my misery; You have known the troubles of my soul, 8 and You have not handed me over to the enemy; You have set my feet in a large place.” (Ps. 31:5-8). David’s faith was evidenced through his submission to God’s will. Jesus even quoted from David’s psalm in His final words on the cross.
David submitted his will to God. Although David did not die at the hands of his enemies, he was prepared to do so if it were God’s will (Ps. 31:5). David further professed that God “redeemed me, Lord, God of truth.” (Ps. 31:5). “He will redeem my soul in peace from the battle which is against me, for they are many who are aggressive toward me.” (Ps. 55:18). “My lips will shout for joy when I sing praises to You; and my soul, which You have redeemed.” (Ps. 71:23). “Who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with favor and compassion;” (Ps. 103:4). These words all pointed to Jesus.
David’s submission was evidenced through his obedience. David’s words of faith were backed up with his actions. He obeyed God’s Ten Commandments and refused to trust in any idol as many did around him (Ps. 31:6). “I will delight in Your commandments, which I love. . . How I love Your Law! It is my meditation all the day. . . I hate and loathe falsehood, but I love Your Law.” (Ps. 119:47, 97, 163).
Jesus submitted in faith to God the Father’s will. David’s expression of his faith was so strong that Jesus quoted from David in His final words before He died: “And Jesus, crying out with a loud voice, said, “Father, into Your hands I entrust My Spirit.”’ And having said this, He died.” (Lk. 23:46). Just before the moment of his death, Stephan was also inspired by Jesus’ and David’s words of submission: They went on stoning Stephen as he called on the Lord and said, ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!”’ (Acts 7:59). God may not call upon you to die for your faith. But He wants you to submit to Him.
Follow the examples of David and Jesus when things feel hopeless. As one commentator observes, “Jesus also set an example for us. We too should entrust ourselves to the Lord when we face difficulty and persecution. We too should rejoice in the Lord’s goodness and lovingkindness and truth, seeking His presence at all times and particularly as our place of strength and safety. This is what it will mean for us to be strong and make our hearts stout as we wait for the Lord.” (James M. Hamilton Jr., Evangelical Bible Theology Commentary Psalms (Vol. I: Psalms 1-72) (Lexham Academic 2021) p. 360).
Show your submission to God through your obedience. On multiple occasions, the Bible also records how David faithfully obeyed God’s Word. While Saul hunted him in the wilderness, he obeyed the prophet Gad to leave the safety of Moab for the territory of Judah (1 Sam. 22:3-5). When David and his men stepped out of their shelter in obedience, God blessed them with victory over their more powerful Philistine adversaries. After leaving his sanctuary in Judah, God helped David liberate the people of Keilah from Philistine oppression when Saul did nothing to help them (1 Sam. 23:5). Because of his obedience, God blessed David. David then praised God (Ps. 31:7-8). When your faith leads to obedience, God also promises to bless you. Like David, God wants you to show your love to Him through your obedience. “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” (Jo. 14:15, 21; 1 Jo. 5:3; 2 Jo. 1:6). “If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love.” (Jo. 15:10; Matt. 19:17). “By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments.” (1 Jo. 2:3). Is the evidence of your faith and submission visible through your obedience to God’s Word?
4. Humility: A Person of Faith Approaches God in Humility. Ps. 31:9-13.
David pleaded for God’s grace after feeling broken and rejected. Like Job, David at one point was rejected and despised by everyone around him. He humbly asked for God’s grace: “9 Be gracious to me, Lord, for I am in distress; My eye is wasted away from grief, my soul and my body too. 10 For my life is spent with sorrow and my years with sighing; my strength has failed because of my guilt, and my body has wasted away. 11 Because of all my adversaries, I have become a disgrace, especially to my neighbors, and an object of dread to my acquaintances; those who see me in the street flee from me. 12 I am forgotten like a dead person, out of mind; I am like a broken vessel. 13 For I have heard the slander of many, terror is on every side; while they took counsel together against me, they schemed to take away my life.” (Ps. 31:9-13). David’s shame and isolation brought him to tears (Ps. 31:9). His feeling of sorrow also caused his strength to wither (Ps. 31:10). His shame also caused his acquaintances to reject him (Ps. 31:11). He was the victim of slander (Ps. 31:13), and this made him feel broken (Ps. 31:12).
David repeatedly cried out to God when he was unfairly disgraced. On many occasions, David cried out when he was falsely dishonored because of alleged sins: “But I am a worm and not a person, a disgrace of mankind and despised by the people.” (Ps. 22:6). “Those who sit in the gate talk about me, and songs of mockery by those habitually drunk are about me.” (Ps. 69:12). “You have removed my acquaintances far from me; You have made me an object of loathing to them; I am shut up and cannot go out.” (Ps. 88:8). “I have become a laughingstock to all my people, their song of ridicule all the day.” (Lam. 3:14). When you are feeling disgraced, God wants you to cry out to Him.
Job also pleaded to God when others rejected him. Like David, Job also cried out to God after everyone around him unfairly despised him: “6 But He has made me a proverb among the people, and I am one at whom people spit. 7 My eye has also become inexpressive because of grief, and all my body parts are like a shadow.” (Job 17:6-7). “I am full of shame, and conscious of my misery.” (Job 10:15b). “And now I have become their taunt, and I have become a byword to them.” (Job 30:9).
Jesus can lift your head when others falsely attack you. When you trust in Jesus, He will protect you from false accusers: “But You, LORD, are a shield around me, My glory, and the One who lifts my head.” (Ps. 3:3). “A Psalm; a song at the dedication of the House. A Psalm of David. I will exalt You, LORD, for You have lifted me up, and have not let my enemies rejoice over me.” (Ps. 30:1). “But when these things begin to take place, straighten up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” (Lk. 21:28). When you are falsely attacked, turn to Jesus and let him restore your honor.
Jesus exalts the humble. If you humble yourself, Jesus will also honor you: “Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, so that He may exalt you at the proper time,” (1 Pet. 5:6). But don’t turn a humble prayer into a doubting prayer.
5. Perseverance: A Person of Faith Perseveres During a Trial. Ps. 31:14-18.
In the face of his attacks, David’s faith in God persevered. David’s social isolation makes clear that God did not immediately deliver him. But David’s faith never wavered: “14 But as for me, I trust in You, Lord, I say, ‘You are my God.’ 15 My times are in Your hand; rescue me from the hand of my enemies and from those who persecute me. 16 Make Your face shine upon Your servant; save me in Your faithfulness. 17 Let me not be put to shame, Lord, for I call upon You; let the wicked be put to shame, let them be silent in Sheol. 18 Let the lying lips be speechless, which speak arrogantly against the righteous with pride and contempt.” (Ps. 31:14-18). David’s battle was not a one-time event. Many times God had rescued him (e.g., Ps. 31:15). No matter how many times he was attacked, David continued to cry out to God. He persevered and never gave up his faith.
Let God use your trials to build perseverance and draw you closer to Him. God likely allowed David to suffer for a season so that he would have a deeper faith in Him. Your trials should also produce perseverance and build up your faith: “And not only this, but we also celebrate in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance;” (Ro. 5:3). “Consider it all joy, my brothers and sisters, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.” (Jam. 1:2-3; 2 Cor. 1:8-10). Are you trusting Jesus to protect you during your trials?
Seek God’s fellowship for the strength to persevere. David pleaded “Make Your face shine upon Your servant;” (Ps. 31:16). This was a request that he had made previously for the strength to endure: “Lift up the light of Your face upon us, LORD!” (Ps. 4:6b). Future psalms also contain similar pleas: “God be gracious to us and bless us, and cause His face to shine upon us— Selah” (Ps. 67:1). “God, restore us and make Your face shine upon us, and we will be saved.” (Ps. 80:3). These psalms were based upon Aaron’s prayer of blessing: “The LORD cause His face to shine on you, and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up His face to you, and give you peace.” (Nu. 6:25-26). With each of the prayers, the request involved a plea for the blessings of God’s fellowship. With God’s fellowship, He will give you the strength to endure any trial (Phil. 4:13).
6. Gratitude: A Person of Faith is Grateful for God’s Faithfulness. Ps. 31:19-22.
David expressed gratitude for God’s faithfulness. David never forgot the many times when God delivered him. Each time he showed his faith by thanking God for His grace: “19 How great is Your goodness, which You have stored up for those who fear You, which You have performed for those who take refuge in You, before the sons of mankind! 20 You hide them in the secret place of Your presence from the conspiracies of mankind; You keep them secretly in a shelter from the strife of tongues. 21 Blessed be the Lord, for He has shown His marvelous faithfulness to me in a besieged city. 22 As for me, I said in my alarm, ‘I am cut off from Your eyes’; nevertheless You heard the sound of my pleadings when I called to You for help.” (Ps. 31:19-22). David also thanked God for offering the same protection for any who would turn to Him and take refuge in Him (Ps. 31:19-20). Every time David’s faith waivered and he incorrectly believed that God had cut him off (Ps. 31:22), God showed that He remained faithful. For this reason, David gave thanks.
Praise God because He is faithful to keep His promises. As a man of faith, David led the Jews with both psalms and songs of praise and thanksgiving: “Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good; for His faithfulness is everlasting.” (1 Chr. 16:34) “Then David and all Israel played music before God with all their might, with singing, on harps, on stringed instruments, on tambourines, on cymbals, and with trumpets.” (1 Chr. 13:8). The psalms also encourage believers to express their praise to God with worship music: “It is good to give thanks to the LORD and to sing praises to Your name, Most High; to declare Your goodness in the morning and Your faithfulness by night, with the ten-stringed lute and with the harp, with resounding music on the lyre. For You, LORD, have made me joyful by what You have done, I will sing for joy over the works of Your hands.” (Ps. 92:104; Ps. 150:3-6). Does your devotion to God include heartfelt worship and praise?
Be thankful in all things. Whenever God answered David, he gave thanks “Blessed be the LORD, because He has heard the sound of my pleading.” (Ps. 28:6). “But God has heard; He has given attention to the sound of my prayer.” (Ps. 66:19). When God answers your prayers, many psalms remind you to give Him the credit. If you fail to make a habit of thanking Him, you may take Him for granted. Even in times when he was jailed and persecuted, Paul worshiped God and gave thanks: “always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to our God and Father;” (Eph. 5:20). Giving thanks can also remind you of His faithfulness.
7. Encouragement: A Person of Faith Encourages Others to Turn to God. Ps. 31:23-24.
David encouraged others to also turn to God. As a man of faith, David did not just care for himself. He also turned to those around him and encouraged them to turn to God: “23 Love the Lord, all His godly ones! The Lord watches over the faithful but fully repays the one who acts arrogantly. 24 Be strong and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the Lord.” (Ps. 31:23-24). His encouragement was a precursor to the call to evangelism in the New Testament. You can encourage others to turn to Jesus.
Encourage one another when others are filled with doubt. Like David, God wants you to be a source of encouragement to others when they face trials or when they doubt God's faithfulness. “But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called ‘Today,’ so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.” (Heb. 3:13). “But I urge you, brethren, bear with this word of exhortation, for I have written to you briefly.” (Heb. 13:22). Will you encourage others the way God encourages you?
Encourage those who face death. David most likely encouraged his followers who faced the possibility of death. Jesus encourages those who preserve in the face of possible death with His crown of life: “Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, so that you will be tested, and you will have tribulation for ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.” (Rev. 2:10). “I am coming quickly; hold firmly to what you have, so that no one will take your crown.” (Rev. 3:11). If you face a trial or death, put your hope in Jesus.
Like David, be a light to non-believers around you. Some mistakenly believe that the call to evangelism began in the New Testament. Yet, God originally called upon the Jews to be His light to the gentile nations around them: “He says, ‘It is too small a thing that You should be My Servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore the preserved ones of Israel; I will also make You a light of the nations so that My salvation may reach to the end of the earth.”’ (Is. 49:6). “For so the Lord has commanded us, ‘I have placed you as a light for the gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the end of the Earth.’” (Acts 13:47). David showed his love for the lost by telling them to turn to God. Jesus is the “true light” (Jo. 1:9). He is also the Light of the World (Jo. 8:12). Like David, are you sharing Jesus’ true light to non-believers around you? (Matt. 28:16-20).