Introduction: Psalm 61 records how David responded when he felt overwhelmed following a grave threat to his reign. This may have taken place following Absalom’s coup d’état, a stressful military campaign, or some other circumstance. The exact circumstance is not important. How he responded by turning to God is what makes Psalm 61 such a valuable tool for believers to follow. The next time you feel overwhelmed or stressed out, Jesus offers: (1) answers prayers, (2) guidance, (3) protection, (4) salvation, (5) faithfulness, (6) blessings, and (7) His sovereignty.
First, David cried for God to answer his prayers. You can praise Jesus because He will answer your prayers when you pray in faith, and you pray for His will to be done in His perfect timing. Second, in his time of trouble, David cried out for God to lead him to the rock where God would protect him. You can also praise Jesus because He is your Rock. When you seek Him out and obey Him, He will guide you to a place where He will protect you. Third, David praised God for being his refuge and his strength when his enemies attacked him. You can praise Jesus because He will also offer you protection and strength when you turn to Him. Fourth, David pleaded with God to let him dwell with God forever. You can praise Jesus because He offers you eternal salvation and the chance to dwell with Him forever in heaven. You only need to have faith in His atoning death on the cross. Fifth, David thanked God for hearing his prayers and keeping His promise to grant David an eternal inheritance through a line of kings. You can praise Jesus because He is also faithful to keep His promises to you. He also came to fulfill God’s promise to you as the true King of Kings. Sixth, David praised God for prolonging his life. You can also praise Jesus because of the blessings that He offers you. He is also the King who came to fulfill the promise to David. He will also prolong your life to let you dwell with Him forever. Finally, David praised the future King who will sit on the throne forever. You can praise Jesus because He is the King who will sit and rule on the throne forever. His reign is sovereign, just, and holy.
1. Answered Prayers: Praise Jesus Because He Answers Your Prayers. Ps. 61:1.
David cried out for God to hear his prayers. In one of his many times of need, David turned to God to hear his prayers regarding his distress: “For the music director; on a stringed instrument. A Psalm of David. 1 Hear my cry, God; give Your attention to my prayer.” (Ps. 61:1). David did not show a lack of faith by asking for God to hear his prayers. To the contrary, he showed faith by turning to God instead of his own abilities, some political advisor, or his generals. “This psalm is a great reminder that we can cry out to God. God does not look down on us or judge us harshly when we come to Him with our tears, worries, and sorrows. God wants us to cry out to Him and call upon His name when we are going through hard times. When we are feeling overwhelmed, the first thing we can do is come to the Lord and cry out to Him.” (Pamela Palmer on Ps. 61).1
David believed that God would answer his prayers. As our example, David’s psalms are filled with examples where he thanked God in advance for answering his prayers: “I was crying out to the LORD with my voice, and He answered me from His holy mountain. Selah.” (Ps. 3:4). “I have called upon You, for You will answer me, God; incline Your ear to me, hear my speech.” (Ps. 17:6). “In my distress I called upon the LORD, and cried to my God for help; He heard my voice from His temple, and my cry for help before Him came into His ears.” (Ps. 18:6). “For I wait for You, LORD; You will answer, Lord my God.” (Ps. 38:15). Thus, David always praised God: “Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good; for His faithfulness is everlasting.” (1 Chr. 16:34). 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). Are you thanking God for both the prayers that He has already answered and the future ones?
2. Guidance: Praise Jesus for the Guidance that He Offers You. Ps. 61:2.
David asked for God to lead him on the path to safety. Instead of turning to his own abilities, David pleaded with God to lead him to the rock where he would be safe: “2 From the end of the earth I call to You when my heart is faint; lead me to the rock that is higher than I.” (Ps. 61:2). “David knew there would be times when his heart was overwhelmed. In those moments he needed at least three things. · He needed the rock, a place of stability and security, something strong enough to stand against crashing waves or quaking earth. · He needed a rock that is higher than I, a place above himself, above his wisdom, above his abilities. · He needed God to lead him to that rock. David was unable to get to the firm-footed place above his crisis on his own . . . We are not told why David was overwhelmed, and it is better that we do not know. If we knew his specific circumstances, we would be strongly tempted to limit God’s rescue only to those in the same situation. God wanted this prayer to be prayed by His people no matter the reason their heart is overwhelmed.” (David Guzik on Ps. 61) (emphasis original)2
When you feel overwhelmed, turn to Jesus and let Him be your rock3
God can be your rock when you take refuge in Him. David praised God as his “rock” (Ps. 61:2). He repeatedly celebrated that God was both his rock and his shield when his enemies attacked him: “My God, my rock, in whom I take refuge; My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.” (Ps. 18:2). “He is a shield to all who take refuge in Him.” (2 Sam. 22:31). “But You, O LORD, are a shield about me, My glory, and the One who lifts my head.” (Ps. 3:3). “For it is You who blesses the righteous man, O LORD, You surround him with favor as with a shield.” (Ps. 5:12). From David’s example, his son Solomon also called God his shield: “Every word of God is tested; He is a shield to those who take refuge in Him.” (Prov. 30:5). When God is your refuge, He can also be your rock and your shield in the face of any trial or attack.
David trusted God to direct and guide him. Because David knew that he would have chosen a path leading to his destruction, he praised God for guiding his every step: “5 My steps have held to Your paths. My feet have not slipped.” (Ps. 17:5). “LORD, lead me in Your righteousness because of my enemies; make Your way straight before me.” (Ps. 5:8). “Establish my footsteps in Your word, and do not let any wrongdoing have power over me.” (Ps. 119:133). Solomon made a similar prayer: “then hear in heaven and forgive the sin of Your servants and Your people Israel; indeed, teach them the good way in which they are to walk. And provide rain on Your land, which You have given to Your people as an inheritance.” (1 Kgs. 8:36). God also wants you to turn to Him to guide your every step. Trusting in your own wisdom frequently leads to disaster.
Read God’s Word and pray to let the Holy Spirit guide your actions. David trusted God’s Word to light the path and to guide him every step of the way: “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” (Ps. 119:105; 2 Pet. 1:19). When you read God’s Word and pray, the Holy Spirit can speak to you: “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. 14:16). “But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come.” (Jo. 16:13). Are you reading the Word and praying on a daily basis for God to guide you?
Don’t rely on your own understanding. God freely gives wisdom when you ask for it: “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). “For the LORD gives wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding.” (Prov. 2:6). “Behold, You desire truth in the innermost being, and in secret You will make wisdom known to me.” (Ps. 51:6). If you reject God’s wisdom and instead rely upon your own understanding the result is frequently disastrous: “There is a way which seems right to a person, but its end is the way of death.” (Prov. 14:12; 16:25).
3. Protection: Praise Jesus for the Protection that He Offers You. Ps. 61:3.
David praised God for being his refuge and strength when attacked. David could not rescue himself. Thus, he praised God for being his refuge and his strength: “3 For You have been a refuge for me, a tower of strength against the enemy.” (Ps. 61:3). “Because of his strength I will watch for You, for God is my refuge. . . But as for me, I will sing of Your strength; yes, I will joyfully sing of Your faithfulness in the morning, for You have been my refuge and a place of refuge on the day of my distress.” (Ps. 59:9, 16).
In addition to being your rock, Jesus can protect you, deliverer you, and be your refuge4
Cry out to God, when you need deliverance. David knew that he could cry out to God for deliverance from his enemies. “I was crying out to the LORD with my voice, and He answered me from His holy mountain. Selah” (Ps. 3:4). “But know that the LORD has set apart the godly person for Himself; the LORD hears when I call to Him.” (Ps. 4:3). “Leave me, all you who practice injustice, for the LORD has heard the sound of my weeping.” (Ps. 6:8). “In my distress I called upon the LORD, and cried to my God for help; He heard my voice from His temple, and my cry for help before Him came into His ears.” (Ps. 18:6). “Blessed be the LORD, because He has heard the sound of my pleading.” (Ps. 28:6). If you need deliverance, cry out to God for His help.
Jesus’ model prayer included a petition for deliverance. In His model prayer for believers, Jesus also urged believers to include a daily request for deliverance: ‘“And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil.’” (Matt. 6:13). This is also His prayer for believers: “I am not asking You to take them out of the world, but to keep them away from the evil one.” (Jo. 17:15). Are you praying for God’s daily protection?
Pray also for others in need of deliverance. God also wants you to pray for others. In response to Moses’ prayers, God repeatedly spared the Jews (e.g., Ex. 32:11-14; Nu. 14:18-22; 16:21-24). The apostles also continually prayed for others. “. . . I constantly remember you in my prayers night and day,” (2 Tim. 1:3). “. . . we have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding,” (Col. 1:9). “do not cease giving thanks for you, while making mention of you in my prayers;” (Eph. 1:16). “as we night and day keep praying most earnestly that we may see your face, . . .” (1 Thess. 3:10). You are part of Jesus’ holy priesthood (1 Pet. 2:5, 9; Rev. 1:6). As His appointed priest, you too have the power of intercessory prayer. But it is unlikely to work if you lack faith. “But he must ask in faith without any doubting, . . .” (Jam. 1:6). If you know someone who is under physical or spiritual attack, are you earnestly praying for their deliverance?
4. Salvation: Praise Jesus for Offering You Eternal Salvation. Ps. 61:4.
David praised God for promising to let him dwell with God “forever”. David’s greatest hope was not in his own kingdom. Instead, his hope was in living with God forever: “4 Let me dwell in Your tent forever; let me take refuge in the shelter of Your wings. Selah” (Ps. 61:4). David repeated this desire many times: “Certainly goodness and faithfulness will follow me all the days of my life, and my dwelling will be in the house of the Lord forever.” (Ps. 23:6). “One thing I have asked from the LORD, that I shall seek: That I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD and to meditate in His temple.” (Ps. 27:4).
Out of love, Jesus died on the cross so that everyone might find eternal life. David had the faith to know that he could live with God “forever” (e.g., Ps. 61:4; 23:6). Out of love, God sent Jesus to die on the cross to allow all who believe to have eternal life: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” (John 3:16). “Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies,’” (Jo. 11:25-26; 14:19). You cannot earn eternal life through your works. What Jesus offers is a “free” gift: “For the wages of sin is death, but the gracious gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Ro. 6:23). Your faith alone can bring you the blessing of Jesus’ fellowship: “God is faithful, through whom you were called into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” (1 Cor. 1:9). But merely accepting Jesus as Lord and Savior is not enough to be in fellowship with Him. There are plenty of people who have accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior but then make no effort to walk with Him. Your faith should be accompanied by a willingness to accept Jesus’ invitation for a deeper relationship. (Rev. 3:20). Are you accepting Jesus’ invitation for His full fellowship?
Jesus offers you hope when you face death and sorrow. David wrote Psalm 61 when he felt overwhelmed. At times, every believer will feel overwhelmed. When this happens, you can also find hope in Jesus’ salvation. He promises that the deceased believer is only “asleep” until He returns: “But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus.” (1 Thess. 4:13-14). “who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep, we will live together with Him.” (1 Thess. 5:10). “For to this end Christ died and lived again, that He might be Lord both of the dead and of the living.” (Ro. 14:9). “It is a trustworthy statement: For if we died with Him, we will also live with Him;” (2 Tim. 2:11). Knowing that your loved one is in a better place that you cannot see is the kind of faith that God expects from you: “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” (Heb. 11:1). “while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” (2 Cor. 4:18). “For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for who hopes for what he already sees?” (Ro. 8:24). “for we walk by faith, not by sight-- we are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord.” (2 Cor. 5:7-8). If someone is grieving the loss of a believer, let them grieve. But also encourage them that the believer is merely “asleep” until Jesus returns.
5. Faithfulness: Praise Jesus Because He is Faithful to Keep His Promises. Ps. 61:5.
David praised God for keeping His promise regarding David’s inheritance. David praised God for His faithfulness in keeping His promises to maintain David’s dynasty: “5 For You have heard my vows, God; You have given me the inheritance of those who fear Your name.” (Ps. 61:5). God promised that an eternal kingship lineage would come from David’s line (2 Sam.7:11-16). David knew that God would keep His promise.
David repeatedly praised God for His faithfulness. As our example, David’s prayers always included praises for God: “Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good; for His faithfulness is everlasting.” (1 Chr. 16:34). “I will rejoice and be jubilant in You; I will sing praise to Your name, O Most High.” (Ps. 9:2). “That my soul may sing praise to You and not be silent. LORD my God, I will give thanks to You forever.” (Ps. 30:12). “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!” (Ps. 31:19). “The righteous person will be glad in the LORD and take refuge in Him; and all the upright in heart will boast.” (Ps. 64:10). “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). “A Song, a Psalm of David. My heart is steadfast, God; I will sing, I will sing praises also with my soul.” (Ps. 108:1). “Praise Him with trumpet sound; praise Him with harp and lyre. Praise Him with tambourine and dancing; praise Him with stringed instruments and flute. Praise Him with loud cymbals; praise Him with resounding cymbals. Everything that has breath shall praise the LORD. Praise the LORD!” (Ps. 150:3-6). Don’t ever take God’s blessings for granted. In your prayers, are you praising God for His faithfulness?
God is faithful. Also as our example, Moses celebrated God’s faithfulness: “Know therefore that the LORD your God, He is God, the faithful God, who keeps His covenant and His lovingkindness to a thousandth generation with those who love Him and keep His commandments;” (Dt. 7:9). “ . . . I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, . . . showing lovingkindness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.” (Ex. 20:5-6). “and I will remember My covenant, . . .” (Gen. 9:15). Nehemiah, another prayer warrior, also praised God’s faithfulness when he prayed (Neh. 1:5). Do your prayers also praise God for His faithfulness?
Jesus is also faithful. As part of the triune God, Jesus is also faithful to keep His promises to you: “God is faithful, through whom you were called into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” (1 Cor. 1:9). He is faithful, even when we are not: “If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself.” (2 Tim. 2:13). This means that you can trust His many promises to you. But you cannot have faith in His many promises if you don’t know them. How many of Jesus’ promises can you name?
Be grateful for God’s faithfulness in your life5
6. Blessings: Praise Jesus Because of the Blessings that He Offers You. Ps. 61:6.
David praised God for the blessing of a prolonged life. David also praised God for his grace in extending his life and reign in the face of multiple enemies who sought to kill him: “6 You will prolong the king’s life; His years will be like generations.” (Ps. 61:6). David also spoke prophetically of the Messiah, Jesus Christ: “Of the Messiah, the King of whom he was a type. It was a comfort to David to think, whatever became of him, that the years of the Lord's Anointed would be as many generations, and that of the increase of his government and peace there should be no end.” The Mediator shall abide before God for ever, for he always appears in the presence of God for us, and ever lives, making intercession; and, because he lives, we shall live also.” (Matthew Henry on Ps. 61).6
Because of his faith-led obedience, David enjoyed a “prolonged life.” Through Moses, God had repeatedly promised that faith-led obedience will lead to His blessing of a “prolonged life” on Earth: “‘Take to your heart all the words with which I am warning you today, which you shall command your sons to observe carefully, even all the words of this law. 47 For it is not an idle word for you; indeed it is your life. And by this word you will prolong your days in the land, . .. .” (Dt. 32:46-47). “Walk in all the way that the Lord your God has commanded you, so that you may live and prosper and prolong your days in the land that you will possess.” (Dt. 5:32-33). “So you shall keep His statutes and His commandments which I am giving you today, that it may go well with you and with your children after you, and that you may live long on the land which the LORD your God is giving you for all time.” (Dt. 4:40; 6:1-2; 12:28; 22:6-7; 25:13-16; Lev. 18:5). Faith-led obedience to the Fifth Commandment by honoring your parents and your heavenly Father will also lead to a “prolonged life”. (Ex. 20:12; Dt. 5:16; Eph. 6:2-3). In these verses, God does not promise that you will live to be old or any specific age. Instead, you have an allotted time on Earth that can be extended through faith-led obedience. Your acts of faith-led obedience might extend your life a week, a month, a year, a decade, or some other increment of time. Only when you get to heaven will you learn of the extent of God’s blessings. Are you giving God reasons to prolong your life?
Jesus is the Messiah and heir to God’s Covenant with David. David also spoke of the King who would reign forever. This referenced the promised Messiah. God promised David an eternal dynasty: “Your house and your kingdom shall endure before Me forever; your throne shall be established forever.”’ (2 Sam. 7:16). Daniel repeated this promise: “But the saints of the Highest One will receive the kingdom and take possession of the kingdom forever, for all ages to come.’” (Dan. 7:18). Jesus was born into the line of David (Matt. 1:1). He came to fulfill God’s covenant with David as the eternal King of Kings: “He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David; and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.” (Lk. 1:33; Rev. 19:16). If you have faith, you can also give thanks that you will live under His reign.
7. Sovereignty: Praise Jesus Because He is a Sovereign, Just, and Holy. Ps. 61:7-8.
David praised God for being sovereign, just, and holy. Finally, David praised God that a future descendant through David’s line would sit a throne before God and rule “forever:” “7 He will sit enthroned before God forever; appoint faithfulness and truth that they may watch over him. 8 So I will sing praise to Your name forever, that I may pay my vows day by day.” (Ps. 61:7-8). When David praised God’s “name” he praised His holy character.
Praise Jesus for His Holy name. Like David, Nehemiah praised God’s name: “bless the Lord your God forever and ever! May Your glorious name be blessed and exalted above all blessing and praise!” (Neh. 9:5). The psalmist also blessed God’s holy name: “And blessed be His glorious name forever; and may the whole earth be filled with His glory. Amen, and Amen.” (Ps. 72:19). “Ascribe to the LORD the glory of His name; bring an offering and come into His courts.” (Ps. 96:8). “Not to us, O LORD, not to us, but to Your name give glory because of Your lovingkindness, because of Your truth.” (Ps. 115:1). David also praised God’s holy name: “that Your name may be magnified forever,” (2 Sam. 7:26). Jesus also began the Lord’s prayer by declaring God’s name to be holy (Matt. 6:9) Do your prayers also include blessings and praises for God’s name?
God promised that the King of Glory would come through David’s line. God repeatedly promised that the Messiah would inherit an eternal kingship that would come through David’s line: “. . . I will set up one of your descendants after you, who will be of your sons; and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build for Me a house, and I will establish his throne forever.” (1 Chr. 17:11-12; 2 Sam. 7:13). ‘“He shall build a house for My name, and he shall be My son and I will be his father; and I will establish the throne of his kingdom over Israel forever.”’ (1 Chr. 22:10). ‘“I will establish your seed forever and build up your throne to all generations.’ Selah.” (Ps. 89:4). “He gives great deliverance to His king, and shows lovingkindness to His anointed, to David and his descendants forever.” (Ps. 18:50). “I also shall make him My firstborn, the highest of the kings of the earth.” (Ps. 89:27). “For thus says the LORD, ‘David shall never lack a man to sit on the throne of the house of Israel;”’ (Jer. 33:17). “For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; and the government will rest on His shoulders; and His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness from then on and forevermore.” (Is. 9:6-7a). “A throne will even be established in lovingkindness, and a judge will sit on it in faithfulness in the tent of David; moreover, he will seek justice and be prompt in righteousness.” (Is. 16:5). “Behold, the days are coming,” declares the Lord, ‘When I will raise up for David a righteous Branch; and He will reign as king and act wisely and do justice and righteousness in the land. In His days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely; and this is His name by which He will be called, ‘The Lord our righteousness.’”’ (Jer. 23:5-6). He would also be the King of Glory: “So I will establish his descendants forever and his throne as the days of heaven.” (Ps. 89:29).
Jesus was the fulfillment of God’s promised King of Glory. Jesus was born into the line of David (Matt. 1:1). He came to fulfill God’s covenant with David as the eternal King of Kings: “He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David; and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end.” (Lk. 1:32-33). “And on His robe and on His thigh He has a name written, ‘King of Kings, and Lord of Lords.’” (Rev. 19:16).
Jesus will receive full authority over the nations. Jesus will one day reign with full authority over the nations: “Then the seventh angel sounded; and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, ‘The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ; and He will reign forever and ever.”’ (Rev. 11:15). “The one who overcomes, and the one who keeps My deeds until the end, I will give him authority over the nations;” (Rev. 2:26).
Praise Jesus because He uses His sovereignty for good. You can give thanks that Jesus uses His power over everything to cause all things to work together for His greater good: “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” (Ro. 8:28). We may never know the reasons for our suffering. But we can rest assured that Jesus has a greater plan.