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Psalm 31

Prayer and Praise for Deliverance from Enemies

To the leader. A Psalm of David.


In you, O Lord, I seek refuge;

do not let me ever be put to shame;

in your righteousness deliver me.


Incline your ear to me;

rescue me speedily.

Be a rock of refuge for me,

a strong fortress to save me.



You are indeed my rock and my fortress;

for your name’s sake lead me and guide me,


take me out of the net that is hidden for me,

for you are my refuge.


Into your hand I commit my spirit;

you have redeemed me, O Lord, faithful God.



You hate those who pay regard to worthless idols,

but I trust in the Lord.


I will exult and rejoice in your steadfast love,

because you have seen my affliction;

you have taken heed of my adversities,


and have not delivered me into the hand of the enemy;

you have set my feet in a broad place.



Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am in distress;

my eye wastes away from grief,

my soul and body also.


For my life is spent with sorrow,

and my years with sighing;

my strength fails because of my misery,

and my bones waste away.



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.


I have passed out of mind like one who is dead;

I have become like a broken vessel.


For I hear the whispering of many—

terror all around!—

as they scheme together against me,

as they plot to take my life.



But I trust in you, O Lord;

I say, “You are my God.”


My times are in your hand;

deliver me from the hand of my enemies and persecutors.


Let your face shine upon your servant;

save me in your steadfast love.

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Prayer for Deliverance; Profession of Confidence in God.

To the chief musician. A psalm of David.

1 In thee, O Lord, do I put my trust; let me never be ashamed: deliver me in thy righteousness.   2 Bow down thine ear to me; deliver me speedily: be thou my strong rock, for a house of defence to save me.   3 For thou art my rock and my fortress; therefore for thy name's sake lead me, and guide me.   4 Pull me out of the net that they have laid privily for me: for thou art my strength.   5 Into thine hand I commit my spirit: thou hast redeemed me, O Lord God of truth.   6 I have hated them that regard lying vanities: but I trust in the Lord.   7 I will be glad and rejoice in thy mercy: for thou hast considered my trouble; thou hast known my soul in adversities;   8 And hast not shut me up into the hand of the enemy: thou hast set my feet in a large room.

Faith and prayer must go together. He that believes, let his pray—I believe, therefore I have spoken: and he that prays, let him believe, for the prayer of faith is the prevailing prayer. We have both here.

I. David, in distress, is very earnest with God in prayer for succour and relief. This eases a burdened spirit, fetches in promised mercies, and wonderfully supports and comforts the soul in the expectation of them. He prays, 1. That God would deliver him (v. 1), that his life might be preserved from the malice of his enemies, and that an end might be put to their persecutions of him, that God, not only in his mercy, but in righteousness, would deliver him, as a righteous Judge betwixt him and his unrighteous persecutors, that he would bow down his ear to his petitions, to his appeals, and deliver him, v. 2. It is condescension in God to take cognizance of the case of the greatest and best of men; he humbles himself to do it. The psalmist prays also that he would deliver him speedily, lest, if the deliverance were long deferred, his faith should fail. 2. That if he did not immediately deliver him out of his troubles, yet he would protect and shelter him in his troubles; "Be thou my strong rock, immovable, impregnable, as a fastness framed by nature, and my house of defence, a fortress framed by art, and all to save me." Thus we may pray that God's providence would secure to us our lives and comforts, and that by his grace we may be enabled to think ourselves safe in him, Prov. xviii. 10. 3. That his case having much in it of difficulty, both in respect of duty and in respect of prudence, he might be under the divine guidance: "Lord, lead me and guide me (v. 3), so order my steps, so order my spirit, that I may never do any thing unlawful and unjustifiable—against my conscience, nor unwise and indiscreet—against my interest." Those that resolve to follow God's direction may in faith pray for it. 4. That his enemies being very crafty, as well as very spiteful, God would frustrate and baffle their designs against him (v. 4): "Pull me out of the net that they have laid privily for me, and keep me from the sin, the trouble, the death, they aim to entrap me in."

II. In this prayer he gives glory to God by a repeated profession of his confidence in him and dependence on him. This encouraged his prayers and qualified him for the mercies he prayed for (v. 1): "In thee, O Lord! do I put my trust, and not in myself, or any sufficiency of my own, or in any creature; let me never be ashamed, let me not be disappointed of any of that good which thou hast promised me and which therefore I have promised myself in thee." 1. He had chosen God for his protector, and God had, by his promise, undertaken to be so (v. 3): "Thou art my rock and my fortress, by thy covenant with me and my believing consent to that covenant; therefore be my strong rock," v. 2. Those that have in sincerity avouched the Lord for theirs may expect the benefit of his being so; for God's relations to us carry with them both name and thing. Thou art my strength, v. 4. If God be our strength, we may hope that he will both put his strength in us and put forth his strength for us. 2. He gave up his soul in a special manner to him (v. 5): Into thy hands I commit my spirit. (1.) If David here looks upon himself as a dying man, by these words he resigns his departing soul to God who gave it, and to whom, at death, the spirit returns. "Men can but kill the body, but I trust in God to redeem my soul from the power of the grave," Ps. xlix. 15. He is willing to die if God will have it so; but let my soul fall into the hands of the Lord, for his mercies are great. With these words our Lord Jesus yielded up the ghost upon the cross, and made his soul an offering, a free-will offering for sin, voluntarily laying down his life a ransom. By Stephen's example we are taught in, our dying moment, to eye Christ at God's right hand, and to commit our spirits to him: Lord Jesus, receive my spirit. But, 2. David is here to be looked upon as a man in distress and trouble. And, [1.] His great care is about his soul, his spirit, his better part. Note, Our outward afflictions should increase our concern for our souls. Many think that while they are perplexed about their worldly affairs, and Providence multiplies their cares about them, they may be excused if they neglect their souls; whereas the greater hazard our lives and secular interests lie at the more we are concerned to look to our souls, that, though the outward man perish, the inward man may suffer no damage (2 Cor. iv. 16), and that we may keep possession of our souls when we can keep possession of nothing else, Luke xxi. 19. [2.] He thinks the best he can do for the soul is to commit it into the hand of God, and lodge that great trust with him. He had prayed (v. 4) to be plucked out of the net of outward trouble, but, as not insisting upon that (God's will be done), he immediately lets fall that petition, and commits the spirit, the inward man, into God's hand. "Lord, however it goes with me, as to my body, let it go well with my soul." Note, It is the wisdom and duty of every one of us solemnly to commit our spirits into the hands of God, to be sanctified by his grace, devoted to his honour, employed in his service, and fitted for his kingdom. That which encourages us to commit our spirits into the hand of God is that he has not only created, but redeemed, them; the particular redemptions of the Old-Testament church and the Old-Testament saints were typical of our redemption by Jesus Christ, Gen. xlviii. 16. The redemption of the soul is so precious that it must have ceased for ever if Christ had not undertaken it; but, by redeeming our souls, he has not only acquired an additional right and title to them, which obliges us to commit them to him as his own, but has shown the extraordinary kindness and concern he has for them, which encourages us to commit them to him, to be preserved to his heavenly kingdom (2 Tim. i. 12): "Thou hast redeemed me, O Lord God of truth! redeem me according to a promise which thou wilt be true to."

III. He disclaimed all confederacy with those that made an arm of flesh their confidence (v. 6): I have hated those that regard lying vanities—idolaters (to some), who expect aid from false gods, which are vanity and a lie—astrologers, and those that give heed to them, so others. David abhorred the use of enchantments and divinations; he consulted not, nor even took notice of, the flight of birds or entrails of beasts, good omens or bad omens; they are lying vanities, and he not only did not regard them himself, but hated the wickedness of those that did. He trusted in God only, and not in any creature. His interest in the court or country, his retreats or strongholds, even Goliath's sword itself—these were lying vanities, which he could not depend upon, but trusted in the Lord only. See Ps. xl. 4; Jer. xvii. 5.

IV. He comforted himself with his hope in God, and made himself, not only easy, but cheerful, with it, v. 7. Having relied on God's mercy, he will be glad and rejoice in it; and those know not how to value their hope in God who cannot find joy enough in that hope to counterbalance their grievances and silence their griefs.

V. He encouraged himself in this hope with the experiences he had had of late, and formerly, of God's goodness to him, which he mentions to the glory of God; he that has delivered doth and will. 1. God had taken notice of his afflictions and all the circumstances of them: "Thou hast considered my trouble, with wisdom to suit relief to it, with condescension and compassion regarding the low estate of they servant." 2. He had observed the temper of his spirit and the workings of his heart under his afflictions: "Thou hast known my soul in adversities, with a tender concern and care for it." God's eye is upon our souls when we are in trouble, to see whether they be humbled for sin, submissive to the will of God, and bettered by the affliction. If the soul, when cast down under affliction, has been lifted up to him in true devotion, he knows it. 3. He had rescued him out of the hands of Saul when he had him safe enough in Keilah (1 Sam. xxiii. 7): "Thou hast not shut me up into the hand of the enemy, but set me at liberty, in a large room, where I may shift for my own safety," v. 8. Christ's using those words (v. 5) upon the cross may warrant us to apply all this to Christ, who trusted in his Father and was supported and delivered by him, and (because he humbled himself) highly exalted, which it is proper to think of when we sing these verses, as also therein to acknowledge the experience we have had of God's gracious presence with us in our troubles and to encourage ourselves to trust in him for the future.

Sorrowful Complaints; Humble and Believing Prayer.

9 Have mercy upon me, O Lord, for I am in trouble: mine eye is consumed with grief, yea, my soul and my belly.   10 For my life is spent with grief, and my years with sighing: my strength faileth because of mine iniquity, and my bones are consumed.   11 I was a reproach among all mine enemies, but especially among my neighbours, and a fear to mine acquaintance: they that did see me without fled from me.   12 I am forgotten as a dead man out of mind: I am like a broken vessel.   13 For I have heard the slander of many: fear was on every side: while they took counsel together against me, they devised to take away my life.   14 But I trusted in thee, O Lord: I said, Thou art my God.   15 My times are in thy hand: deliver me from the hand of mine enemies, and from them that persecute me.   16 Make thy face to shine upon thy servant: save me for thy mercies' sake.   17 Let me not be ashamed, O Lord; for I have called upon thee: let the wicked be ashamed, and let them be silent in the grave.   18 Let the lying lips be put to silence; which speak grievous things proudly and contemptuously against the righteous.

In the foregoing verses David had appealed to God's righteousness, and pleaded his relation to him and dependence on him; here he appeals to his mercy, and pleads the greatness of his own misery, which made his case the proper object of that mercy. Observe,

I. The complaint he makes of his trouble and distress (v. 9): "Have mercy upon me, O Lord! for I am in trouble, and need thy mercy." The remembrance he makes of his condition is not much unlike some even of Job's complaints. 1. His troubles had fixed a very deep impression upon his mind and made him a man of sorrows. So great was his grief that his very soul was consumed with it, and his life spent with it, and he was continually sighing, v. 9, 10. Herein he was a type of Christ,—who was intimately acquainted with grief and often in tears. We may guess by David's complexion, which was ruddy and sanguine, by his genius for music, and by his daring enterprises in his early days, that his natural disposition was both cheerful and firm, that he was apt to be cheerful, and not to lay trouble to his heart; yet here we see what he is brought to: he has almost wept out his eyes, and sighed away his breath. Let those that are airy and gay take heed of running into extremes, and never set sorrow at defiance; God can find out ways to make them melancholy if they will not otherwise learn to be serious. 2. His body was afflicted with the sorrows of his mind (v. 10): My strength fails, my bones are consumed, and all because of my iniquity. As to Saul, and the quarrel he had with him, he could confidently insist upon his righteousness; but, as it was an affliction God laid upon him, he owns he had deserved it, and freely confesses his iniquity to have been the procuring cause of all his trouble; and the sense of sin touched him to the quick and wasted him more than all his calamities. 3. His friends were unkind and became shy of him. He was a fear to his acquaintance, when they saw him they fled from him, v. 11. They durst not harbour him nor give him any assistance, durst not show him any countenance, nor so much as be seen in his company, for fear of being brought into trouble by it, now that Saul had proclaimed him a traitor and outlawed him. They saw how dearly Ahimelech the priest had paid for aiding and abetting him, though ignorantly; and therefore, though they could not but own he had a great deal of wrong done him, yet they had not the courage to appear for him. He was forgotten by them, as a dead man out of mind (v. 12), and looked upon with contempt as a broken vessel. Those that showed him all possible respect when he was in honour at court, now that he had fallen into disgrace, though unjustly, were strange to him. Such swallow-friends the world is full of, that are gone in winter. Let those that fall on the losing side not think it strange if they be thus deserted, but make sure a friend in heaven, that will not fail them, and make use of him. 4. His enemies were unjust in their censures of him. They would not have persecuted him as they did if they had not first represented him as a bad man; he was a reproach among all his enemies, but especially among his neighbours, v. 11. Those that had been the witnesses of his integrity, and could not but be convinced in their consciences that he was an honest man, were the most forward to represent him quite otherwise, that they might curry favour with Saul. Thus he heard the slander of many; every one had a stone to throw at him, because fear was in every side; that is, they durst not do otherwise, for he that would not join with his neighbours to accuse David was looked upon as disaffected to Saul. Thus the best of men have been represented under the worst characters by those that resolved to give them the worst treatment. 5. His life was aimed at and he went in continual peril of it. Fear was on every side, and he knew that, whatever counsel his enemies took against him, the design was not to take away his liberty, but to take away his life (v. 13), a life so valuable, so useful, to the good services of which all Israel owed so much, and which was never forfeited. Thus, in all the plots of the Pharisees and Herodians against Christ, still the design was to take away his life, such are the enmity and cruelty of the serpent's seed.

II. His confidence in God in the midst of these troubles. Every thing looked black and dismal round about him, and threatened to drive him to despair: "But I trusted in thee, O Lord! (v. 14) and was thereby kept from sinking." His enemies robbed him of his reputation among men, but they could not rob him of his comfort in God, because they could not drive him from his confidence in God. Two things he comforted himself with in his straits, and he went to God and pleaded them with him:—1. "Thou art my God; I have chosen thee for mine, and thou hast promised to be mine;" and, if he be ours and we can by faith call him so, it is enough, when we can call nothing else ours. "Thou art my God; and therefore to whom shall I go for relief but to thee?" Those need not be straitened in their prayers who can plead this; for, if God undertake to be our God, he will do that for us which will answer the compass and vast extent of the engagement. 2. My times are in thy hand. Join this with the former and it makes the comfort complete. If God have our times in his hand, he can help us; and, if he be our God, he will help us; and then what can discourage us? It is a great support to those who have God for their God that their times are in his hand and he will be sure to order and dispose of them for the best, to all those who commit their spirits also into his hand, to suit them to their times, as David here, v. 5. The time of life is in God's hands, to lengthen or shorten, embitter or sweeten, as he pleases, according to the counsel of his will. Our times (all events that concern us, and the timing of them) are at God's disposal; they are not in our own hands, for the way of man is not in himself, not in our friends' hands, nor in our enemies' hands, but in God's; every man's judgment proceedeth from him. David does not, in his prayers, prescribe to God, but subscribe to him. "Lord, my times are in thy hand, and I am well pleased that they are so; they could not be in a better hand. Thy will be done."

III. His petitions to God, in this faith and confidence, 1. He prays that God would deliver him out of the hand of his enemies (v. 15), and save him (v. 16), and this for his mercies' sake, and not for any merit of his own. Our opportunities are in God's hand (so some read it), and therefore he knows how to choose the best and fittest time for our deliverance, and we must be willing to wait that time. When David had Saul at his mercy in the cave those about him said, "This is the time in which God will deliver thee," 1 Sam. xxiv. 4. "No," says David, "the time has not come for my deliverance till it can be wrought without sin; and I will wait for that time; for it is God's time, and that is the best time." 2. That God would give him the comfort of his favour in the mean time (v. 16): "Make they face to shine upon thy servant; let me have the comfortable tokens and evidences of thy favour to me, and that shall put gladness in my heart in the midst of all my griefs." 3. That his prayers to God might be answered and his hopes in God accomplished (v. 17): "Let me not be ashamed of my hopes and prayers, for I have called upon thee, who never saidst to thy people, Seek in vain, and hope in vain." 4. That shame and silence might be the portion of wicked people, and particularly of his enemies. They were confident of their success against David, and that they should run him down and ruin him. "Lord," says he, "let them be made ashamed of that confidence by the disappointment of their expectations," as those that opposed the building of the wall about Jerusalem, when it was finished, were much cast down in their own eye, Neh. vi. 16. Let them be silent in the grave. Note, Death will silence the rage and clamour of cruel persecutors, whom reason would not silence. In the grave the wicked cease from troubling. Particularly, he prays for (that is, he prophesies) the silencing of those that reproach and calumniate the people of God (v. 18): Let lying lips be put to silence, that speak grievous things proudly and contemptuously against the righteous. This is a very good prayer which, (1.) We have often occasion to put up to God; for those that set their mouth against the heavens commonly revile the heirs of heaven. Religion, in the strict and serious professors of it, are every where spoken against, [1.] With a great deal of malice: They speak grievous things, on purpose to vex them, and hoping, with what they say, to do them a real mischief. They speak hard things (so the word is), which bear hard upon them, and by which they hope to fasten indelible characters of infamy upon them. [2.] With a great deal of falsehood: They are lying lips, taught by the father of lies and serving his interest. [3.] With a great deal of scorn and disdain: They speak proudly and contemptuously, as if the righteous, whom God has honoured, were the most despicable people in the world, and not worthy to be set with the dogs of their flock. One would think they thought it no sin to tell a deliberate lie if it might but serve to expose a good man either to hatred or contempt. Hear, O our God! for we are despised. (2.) We may pray in faith; for these lying lips shall be put to silence. God has many ways of doing it. Sometimes he convinces the consciences of those that reproach his people, and turns their hearts. Sometimes by his providence he visibly confutes their calumnies, and brings forth the righteousness of his people as the light. However, there is a day coming when God will convince ungodly sinners of the falsehood of all the hard speeches that have spoken against his people and will execute judgment upon them, Jude 14, 15. Then shall this prayer be fully answered, and to that day we should have an eye in the singing of it, engaging ourselves likewise by well-doing, if possible, to silence the ignorance of foolish men, 1 Pet. ii. 15.