9 Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am in distress;
my eye wastes away from grief,
my soul and body also.
10 For my life is spent with sorrow,
and my years with sighing;
my strength fails because of my iniquity,*
and my bones waste away.
11 I am the scorn of all my adversaries,
a horror* to my neighbors,
an object of dread to my acquaintances;
those who see me in the street flee from me.
12 I have passed out of mind like one who is dead;
I have become like a broken vessel.
13 For I hear the whispering of many—
terror all around!—
as they scheme together against me,
as they plot to take my life.
14 But I trust in you, O Lord;
I say, ‘You are my God.’
15 My times are in your hand;
deliver me from the hand of my enemies and persecutors.
16 Let your face shine upon your servant;
save me in your steadfast love.
Summary— The 31st Psalm is unlike many others, in that David makes his familiar trek from heartache to hope twice, first in verses 1-8, and then again starting in v.9, doubling back in more detail. Whatever his distress was, he attributes it in part to his own iniquity (v.10). Whether or not he has some particular sin in mind, we don’t know; if he does, that would explain the scorn of his adversaries (v.11). In any case, he begs God to deal with him graciously (v.9), quickly adding that distress in his soul creates distress in his body (v.9): weeping eyes (v.9) and failing strength (v.10). Due to his situation—whatever it is—those who know him are suddenly avoiding him (v.11) and forgetting him (v.12). Some are even malicious (v.13). Nevertheless, he wrenches his soul around to make himself say, “But I trust in you, O LORD,” which is well founded since “You are my God” (v.14). Back in verse 5 he had said, “Into your hand I commit my spirit,” which is why in verse 15 he can say, “My times are in your hand.” Finally, he binds unto himself the Aaronic benediction—God’s face shining on him (v.16, cr. Num. 6:25), which takes on special meaning in light of the dark looks and avoided looks he’s getting from others (v.11).
Insight— It’s perfectly natural to wish you weren’t thought poorly of by others. In the world as it was meant to be, we’d all give each other due respect and never even notice it. The world isn’t as it was meant to be, though, so being thought poorly of is a normal abnormality. Sometimes it’s for sake of righteousness, sometimes for sake of sin, meaning that it’s sometimes their problem, sometimes yours—often some of both. Either way, and whatever else you should do about it, one thing you should always do about it is treasure God’s face shining on you more than you treasure theirs. God is worth more than any other person is worth, so His favor is worth more than any other person’s favor is worth. If we lose everything else but have God, He is enough; if we lose everybody else’s favor but have God’s, it is enough. David walks himself through this prioritization: in verse 11, he tells God that others avoid looking on him, or else look at him darkly, so in verse 16 he asks that God look on him, and that He do so beamingly. For those of us in Christ—because we’re in Christ—God does just that. And when it has to be, it is enough.
Child Catechism— Who’s love is better, God’s or your friends’? God’s!
Discussion— Sometimes, we learn to treasure God’s love most when we have others’ least; but, do you think that it will be easier to find satisfaction in God when things get rocky if you’ve already pursued satisfaction in God while things are smooth?
Prayer— O God, we are the scorn of our adversaries, and may sometimes be disliked and avoided by our neighbors and acquaintances; yes, and may sometimes be forgotten by our friends. But whom do we desire besides You? In Your presence is fullness of joy, and if You delight is us, Your children, it is enough. So, O Lord, make Your face to shine upon us and be gracious to us; lift up Your countenance upon us and give us peace, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Contributed by Scott Cline