The Righteous One’s Song of Repose in the Father

a brief study of Psalm 31, adapted from PCC Prayer Meeting Exhortation on 5 Jan 2007

Psalm 31 is not usually classified as a Messianic Psalm. But it is not difficult to see how this Psalm would have been taken up by the Lord in His soul during the quiet moments as He hung on the Cross of Calvary. This is especially so as the last of seven statements uttered audibly by the Lord on the cross was taken from this Psalm, and in particular, verse 5—“Unto thy hands I commend my spirit” (cf. Lk 23:46).

It has been conjectured that this Psalm was written by David after he was betrayed by the Ziphites to Saul as recorded in 1 Sam 13:19-26. We can’t be sure of that. But we can be sure that David wrote it in the Spirit of Christ. And when we read this Psalm vis-à-vis the sufferings of our Lord on the Cross, it becomes just so much more meaningful and precious.

This, then, is how we must look at this Psalm in this study.

This Psalm has roughly 4 parts.

· v. 1-13 A Petition for Deliverance

· v. 14-18 A Declaration of Trust

· v. 19-22 An Eruption of Thanksgiving

· v. 23-24 An Exhortation to Others

1. A Petition for Deliverance

This Palm opens with our Lord calling unto His Father to deliver Him in His righteousness.

1 In thee, O LORD, do I put my trust; let me never be ashamed: deliver me in thy righteousness.

God is not only just and holy, but He is righteous. His holiness prevents the sinner from having fellowship with Him. His justice demands that sinners be punished. But His righteousness requires that He spare those who trust in Him.

Our Lord trusted in His Father perfectly. He went to the cross upon a covenantal promise that He would be punished only as much as necessarily to secure the redemption of His people.

But our Lord is not presumptuous about His deliverance. He cried unto His Father that He would in His righteousness keep His promise to deliver Him.

So even as He committed His spirit unto His Father (v. 5), He petitions that He would deliver Him from the snares that His enemies has laid for Him (verse 2-4).

His enemies set traps for Him countless number of times. When our Lord allowed Himself to be arrested, they bounded Him and demanded His crucifixion. They tried to silence Him with death.

But our Lord could not be contained by death because God is His rock, defence, fortress and deliverer.

5 Into thine hand I commit my spirit: thou hast redeemed me, O LORD God of truth.

The enemies of the Lord Jesus thought that He was in their hand to do what they would to Him. But the Lord was still in control. He would commit His soul to none but His Father.

The word translated ‘truth’ here speaks of faithfulness. God is faithful. He keeps His promises. Therefore our Lord committed His spirit unto Him.

But as usual, our Lord does not petition His Father without context or arguments. The Father, of course, knows all things. But He delights to hear His Son and His adoptive sons and daughters tell Him about their struggles.

So our Lord supports His petition for deliverance with several arguments.

· He demonstrates His faith in the Father by expressing His hatred of lying vanities or idols (v. 6).

· He expresses His confidence in His father by highlighting past deliverance which He remembers (v. 7-8).

· He delineates His present trouble and grief on account of His enemies and friends who mocked Him and forsook Him (v. 9-12). Even His disciples fled from Him.

· He asserts His integrity in the midst of slander and plots against Him (v. 13).

Can you see how a study of the Psalms will provide us with a glimpse of the Lord’s thought life?

Let us, beloved brethren, learn likewise to pray with godly arguments as our Lord did.

But our Lord does not only petition His Father. His meditation is rich. He declares His trust; He expresses His gratitude and thinks about others.

Consider secondly,…

2. A Declaration of Trust

14 But I trusted in thee, O LORD: I said, Thou art my God. 15 My times are in thy hand:…

We wonder how many times our Lord must have used this prayer. Though His prayer is not recorded for us in the Gospel, we read of the chief priests and scribes and elders mocking Him:

“He trusted in God; let him deliver him now, if he will have him: for he said, I am the Son of God” (Mt 27:43).

It is apparent that our Lord must have taken the words of Psalm 31 in His prayers. Indeed, when He told His disciples, “my time is not yet full come” (Jn 7:8); and later “my time is at hand” (Mt 26:18), He was most probably thinking of Ps 31:15—“My times are in thy hand.”

Our Lord was fully aware that His time was completely in His Father’s hands. And He trusted Him fully each step of the way. But that does not stop Him from expressing His desires unto His Father.

He desired to be delivered from the hand of His enemies (v. 15b). His Father would answer His prayer by raising Him from the grave.

He desired that His Father’s face would shine upon Him again (v. 16). His Father would indeed receive Him again when His atonement for our sin is completed.

He desired that He would not be ashamed, for shame is fitting only for the wicked (v. 17). His Father would indeed vindicate Him in His resurrection and exaltation.

He desired that the liars, the wicked and the proud be put to silence (v. 18). This would indeed happen not just through the condemnation of the wicked upon their death, but in the day of the wrath of the Lamb when every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord.

He who trusts in the Father can desire as the Lord desired. Indeed, he who trusts in the Father does not only desire, but hopes in the Father, for the Father will hear the outpouring of his heart.

For our Lord, hope was as good as reality. Therefore, even before it happen, His hope gave way to…

3. An Eruption of Thanksgiving

19 Oh how great is thy goodness, which thou hast laid up for them that fear thee; which thou hast wrought for them that trust in thee before the sons of men!

The Father is good! But He does not dispense His goodness to all without distinction. His blessings are especially reserved for all who trust in Him and fear Him. Paul says the same thing when he declares that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are called according to His purpose (Rom 8:28).

These are beloved by the Father. They are they whom the Lord Jesus came to live and die for.

Indeed, He died and rose from the dead that the sons of men might become the sons of God. This is why our Lord speaks now of the Father’s goodness unto them rather than unto Him.

When the Father heard Him in His incarnation, it was partly for the sake of the elect for whom He came.

These are in the world, but not of the world. Therefore they would know the Father’s special protection from wicked men in the world (v. 20).

But above all, they would experience the Father’s blessing, when He received the Son’s sacrifice. Remember the three hours of darkness that our Lord experienced as He bore our guilt.

Our Lord must have felt like David when he was trapped in a besieged city as He experienced the wrath of God. But when the Father’s face finally shone on Him again, and the sun began to shine, He was again experiencing the assurance of the Father’s love and kindness. Look at verse 21—

21 Blessed be the LORD: for he hath shewed me his marvellous kindness in a strong city. 22 For I said in my haste, I am cut off from before thine eyes: nevertheless thou heardest the voice of my supplications when I cried unto thee.

At the end of the three hours of darkness, our Lord cried out using the words in Psalm 22—“My God, my God why hast thou forsaken me?” “I said in my haste, I am cut off from before thine eyes.”

The Gospel does not record the Father’s answer. What we are told, however, is the Lord’s cry of victory and contentment: “It is finished!”

The Father heard His cry: “nevertheless thou heardest the voice of my supplications when I cried unto thee.” He accepted His sacrifice. He must still die bodily so that bodily death might be conquered for His people. But the Sacrifice was completed for all intents and purposes on the Cross.

The Father has sealed His love unto His Son and unto His sons and daughters who would come unto Him by faith in His Son!

What marvellous love! How should we respond to Him but to love Him? “We love Him, because He first loved us” (1Jn 4:19). So our Lord concludes this Psalm with an exhortation to all the saints to love the LORD:

4. An Exhortation to Others

23 O love the LORD, all ye his saints: for the LORD preserveth the faithful, and plentifully rewardeth the proud doer.

The psalms are given to us by our Lord not only that we may know how a godly heart should beat. It is given to us too that the word of Christ may dwell in us richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in our hearts to the Lord (Col 3:16).

So this psalm ends with a word of instruction.

Beloved brethren and children, let us learn from our Lord’s example and take heed to His exhortation.

Let us love Him. Let us love the Father and the Spirit. The Lord will preserve those who are faithful to Him, and who believe in the Son. He will deal with all our enemies and all things that bring grief to us.

One day, we shall not need to cry for help and deliverance anymore, for in that day, everything will be perfected. We shall be perfect. Those around us shall be perfect. The environment we dwell in will be perfect. Best of all our enjoyment of God will be perfect.

Therefore, verse 24—

24 Be of good courage, and he shall strengthen your heart, all ye that hope in the LORD.

Run the Christian race courageously. All ye who hope in the LORD, run bravely! When you are weak remember that His grace is sufficient for you, His power is made perfect in weakness and you can do all things through Christ who strengthens you.

Christ, the Captain of your salvation, the Author and Finisher of your faith, has run ahead of you. “For the joy that was set before him [He] endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Heb 12:2).


Look to the Lord Jesus Christ! Consider how He was tempted at all points like as you are and yet fell not into sin.

But consider also how He suffered and how He petitioned His Father. He was not, as some suppose, impervious to suffering and fear. But He found courage in His Father’s love. And so let us learn to do likewise—to petition the Father. Let us learn to do so in the name of the Son who loved us and laid down His life for us. Amen.

— JJ Lim