The Righteous One’s
Confidence & Hope in the Storm

a brief study of Psalm 61, adapted from PCC Prayer Meeting Exhortation on 1 August 2008

Psalm 61, was written at a time when David was facing persecution from his enemies and driven into hiding away from the comforts of home. There were two occasions when that happened. Once was when king Saul was pursuing him because he was jealous of his growing popularity. The other time was when his son Absalom rose up in rebellion against him.

Most commentators believe that this psalm was written on this second occasion because verse 6 suggests that David was already king at this time. If so, the suffering of David at this time must have been most intense. What could be worse than having your beloved son and one of your best friends turn against you and turn others against you?

Well, nothing may be worse amongst mere men, but something worse happened to the God-Man. David’s persecution in the hand of his son was largely a result of his own failures as a father and a king. The Greater David’s persecution was entirely on account of the sin of His people. While David was persecuted by a son who hated him; the greater David was persecuted by people who claimed to love His Father.

Indeed, I am convinced that God had so ordered David’s life that he would suffer intensely, yet only sufficiently to give him a taste of what the Son of God would experience. This is so that the Psalms that he would write by the inspiration of the Spirit of Christ would accurately portray the experience and thoughts of our Lord in His days of suffering.

So Psalm 61 gives us an expression of the anguish and hope of our King of kings when He was being persecuted for our sakes.

What about David’s own experience? Well, David could use this psalm not only because he was a type of Christ, but also because he was a member of Christ. I think this is perhaps why when he talks about the king in verse 7 and 8, it is in the third person. What I am saying is that when Christ used this psalm, the whole psalm is about His experience; but when David sang this psalm, verse 7-8 refer to Christ, whereas in the rest of the verses, he can apply to himself as one united to Christ.

So too for us: We can sing this psalm and apply it to our own situation when we sing the first person pronouns. But as we apply it, we must remember that we can use it only because we are united to Christ, and that Christ experienced what is expressed in this psalm for our sakes. Unbelievers may not use this psalm with any sincerity or assurance.

But with that introduction, let us look at the psalm as it applies to our Lord. We may entitle this psalm: The Righteous One’s Confidence and Hope through the Storm.

This psalm has essentially two stanzas separated by a Selah in verse 4.

In the first stanza, we see the Righteous One’s confidence in the Father expressed through prayer and words of  faith.

In the second stanza, we see the Righteous One’s hope on the basis of the Father’s faithfulness.

1. The Righteous One’s

1 Hear my cry, O God; attend unto my prayer. 2 From the end of the earth will I cry unto thee, when my heart is overwhelmed: lead me to the rock that is higher than I.

David wrote this psalm while driven from beloved Jerusalem where the temple of God was. Wherever he might have been, it was too far away for him. He had been, as it were, exiled to the end of the earth, from whence he cried unto God.

Our Lord would have had the same experience. Since He started His ministry, He was forced to wander from place to place. “The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head” says our Lord (Mt 8:20).

But as the shadow of the Cross lengthened, things became even more difficult for him. It became impossible for him to go about freely, especially in Judea, “because the Jews sought to kill him” (Jn 7:1; 11:8).

The Lord was forced to minister in Galilee, which was known as Galilee of the Gentiles. Our Lord was, as it were, in exile from the beloved city Jerusalem and from the “multitude that kept holyday” (Ps 42:4). So great was His desire to be in Jerusalem, the city of the temple, that it appears like He was at “the end of the earth.”

It was, therefore, as it were, from the end of the earth, that our Lord cried unto His Father to hear His prayers. What did He pray? He prays that the Father would hear His cries and lead Him to the rock that is higher than Him.

Our Lord is a Rock Himself as the apostle Paul reminds us (1 Cor 10:4). But there is a Rock that is higher, the Rock which is the First Person of the Godhead, unto whom the Son, the God-Man, must find His hope and confidence. “My Father is greater than I,” says the Son (Jn 14:28).

Though the Son is equal in power and glory to the Father, He is economically subordinate to the Father; and especially in His humiliation, He must depend on His Father for comfort and strength:

3 For thou hast been a shelter for me, and a strong tower from the enemy. 4 I will abide in thy tabernacle for ever: I will trust in the covert of thy wings.

The Father was to our Lord a shelter in the storm and a fortress against the enemy. Who is the enemy? The devil, and those that did the devil’s bidding, and all the fears and doubts that would attempt to assault His soul.

For this reason, our Lord resolved that He would remain in the tabernacle or tent of the LORD, that is, to remain under His care. And He would continue to trust in the covert of the Father’s wings, that is, to trust that the Father would protect Him as the eagle would protect her eaglets under her wings.

Our Lord, beloved brethren and children, needed the support of the Father. What does this tell us about His suffering? Does it not tell us that it was real and intense? Our Lord was tempted at all points like as we are and yet without sin. Emotionally, He would have suffered as David did, and as all of us would when we are faced with a storm in our life.

Thank God for our Lord Jesus Christ. He suffered in order that one day we would be freed from suffering. He suffered that today we may confidently rest in the Father knowing that we have a sympathetic elder Brother to intercede for us as our Great High Priest.

But now, our Lord did not only rest in the Father, He enjoyed a firm hope of deliverance.

2. The Righteous One’s Hope

5 For thou, O God, hast heard my vows: thou hast given me the heritage of those that fear thy name.

Our Lord entered into a covenant with the Father to deliver us from sin. The cutting of this covenant was made in eternity, but enacted in the ceremony before Abraham recorded in Genesis 15. The Father was represented by the burning furnace, while the Son was represented by the smoking lamp that passed between the pieces. In the covenant, our Lord vows to lay down His life for us according as it is written in the volume of the book.

The Father heard His vow; and the Father has reciprocated with His own oath to give Him the heritage of those that fear His name. The oath that God made with Abraham in Genesis 15 was not really made with Abraham, for Abraham was sleeping (v. 12). The oath was made with the Son of Abraham, Christ. The writer Hebrews tells us that God “willing more abundantly to shew unto the heirs of promise the immutability of his counsel, confirmed it by an oath,” which oath involves 2 immutable things (Heb 6:17).

So the Lord Jesus told His disciples: “I appoint unto you a kingdom, as my Father hath appointed unto me” (Lk 22:29). The word which He used, which is translated ‘appoint’ literally means ‘assign unto by covenant.’

The Father heard and reciprocated the Son’s vow with His own promissory oath, for which reason the Son could have an infallible hope that the Father would deliver Him. So we read:

6 Thou wilt prolong the king’s life: and his years as many generations. 7 He shall abide before God for ever: O prepare mercy and truth, which may preserve him.

Christ is the king. He must suffer and He must die, for He came to bear the iniquity of us all.  But He would yet live. He would live on from generation to generation. He would abide before God forever.

Thus we read also in Isaiah 53:10-11—

10 Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand.  11 He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities.”

Those whom He justifies are united to Him. He would praise God with them; they would praise God with Him forever and ever. So the psalm ends:

 8 So will I sing praise unto thy name for ever, that I may daily perform my vows.

What is the vow of the Lord? It was, no doubt, to redeem a people who would glorify God and enjoy Him forever and ever!

Thank God that the Lord kept His promise. Thank God that the Father kept His promise. Thank God that our Lord rose from the dead even as He had hoped in this psalm. Our Lord suffered and died for us, but He rose for our justification. His sacrifice is complete. His atonement was sufficient. He has won for us the rights to be the sons and daughters of God and the privilege of praising the Father for all eternity.


What, beloved brethren, is this psalm to you? Are you able to identify with the suffering of the Lord? Christ our Lord suffered not only physically, but also emotionally and spiritually.

Indeed, a large part of His suffering is emotional and spiritual. For this reason though we rarely suffer physical pains today, we should be able to identify with Him in our emotional sufferings—for do not most of us suffer emotionally on a very regular basis?

Is not our life like as Andrew Bonar describes so well in his introduction to Psalm 61—

In this life, every member of the Church has a varied lot—now at rest, then troubled; now hopeful, then fearful; now a conqueror, then a combatant. Seated as he is on the Rock of Ages, immovably seated, he sees at one time a fair sky and a bright sun; then the thick cloud spreads over nature; soon, the beam struggles through again, but soon it is mist once more.

Is this your experience brethren and children? If it is, this psalm is for you. It is for you to sing especially in the moments when the dark clouds envelop your soul.

When the dark clouds envelop your soul, go to the Lord, cry unto Him who is the Rock higher than you. Go to Him with the understanding that as He was delivered by the Father, He would deliver you. Amen.

—JJ Lim