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Rock of Refuge

The Bible Study Hour / James Boice
The Truth Network Radio
October 21, 2021 8:00 am

Rock of Refuge

The Bible Study Hour / James Boice

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October 21, 2021 8:00 am

Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the Lord. Today on The Bible Study Hour with Dr. James Boice, we’ll continue our study of the Psalms in Psalm 31, as we hear David move from a desperate cry for deliverance to an unshakable confidence in God and a remembrance of God’s continued faithfulness.

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Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the Lord today on the Bible study hour with Dr. James Boyce will continue our study of the Psalms as we hear David move from a desperate cry for deliverance and rescue from his enemies to an unshakable confidence in God in remembrance of God's continued faithfulness and welcome to the Bible study our radio and Internet broadcast with Dr. James Boyce preparing you to think and act quickly.

In today's message David starts out with a familiar cry for help to God, but he doesn't stay there instead David remembers God's provision throughout his life and he confidently trust God to remain his rock and fortress through difficult times.

If you have your Bible turn to Psalm 31 studying Psalm 31 so again, I invite you to turn the latch in your Bibles as we study to see what God has to say to us from the words of the song. One striking thing about this Psalm is that it is apparently appealed to other biblical writers explain what I mean, there's a phrase in it that appealed to Jeremiah the phrase terror on every side defined in verse 13, Jeremiah seems to have picked this up from the Psalm and use that no less than six times in his prophecy provided in the sixth chapter, the 20th twice in the chapter 46 chapter the 49th and then also in Lamentations which Jeremiah wrote in the second chapter. Are we know that he borrowed it from Psalm 31 because in some of those places.

He reflects some of the other language of the song so he's obviously thinking about that Psalm and meditating on it.

David said he was surrounded by terror in Riverside and Jeremiah found himself to be likewise surrounded crowds interesting, minor, Jonah also seems to borrow from it because if you look at verse six. I hate those who cling to worthless idols and then study the second chapter of Jonah, you'll find that that is there almost intact in the second chapter in Jonah's great prayer from inside the fish you find in verse eight, just before his great testimony that God delivered it while he was still in the fish.

So Jonah seems to have borrowed the author of Psalm 71 very clearly borrowed this Psalm, the author of 71 might even be David. Although we don't know that for sure. But in the opening verses of Psalm 71. You have a reflection of the opening verses of Psalm 31, three or four verses repeated in the latter song and most striking of all the Lord Jesus Christ borrowed from it and when he was on the cross and was about to die. He said father into your hands I commit my spirit. Well, that's what we find in verse five of this song is commended itself to those writers and then also to have a long line of Christians who have likewise been blessed as they've studied it now in spite of the popularity of this Psalm is a bit hard outline.

I look through. I suppose 20 or 30 commentators every week to see how they handle these various Psalms that I discover on this one, a remarkable lack of agreement on an outline. Some see it as falling into three parts. Some of the two parts. But even those who see falling in the two parts of three parts can agree on the subdivisions within the parts and so there almost as many outlines of the Psalms are our commentators. I found an easy way to deal with that. I'm going outline it on the basis of the new international version paragraphs or stances. That's not entirely arbitrary.

Of course, because the translators obviously reflected on the movement of thought of the Psalm, and what goes together. I find each one of these stances that are indicated by line that is skipped I find in those outline which is very very helpful. First of all, I do find the Psalm falling into two parts, and I think that's not difficult to substantiate the break comes toward the end after verse 20 before verse 21 the first 20 verses of the body of the song, David's addressing himself to God and the bulk of what he has to say, or in those 20 verses that having said that, he turns to other people and he applies it, telling them what they should do in the basis of what he has just said and done, so you have a long body of the Psalm 20 verses followed by verses 21 through 24, which he makes an application selects the first main division and then when we look at the first part. There are five sections to that.

I see it flowing along this way, the first five verses are a prayer to God for help in trouble. Following that verse 67 going through verse eight. You have an expression of trust and Gandhi prays for help and he says he trusted God is going to give him help.

And then you have the emotional heart of the Psalm verses nine through 13 which are properly described as a lament here. David describes what's wrong why he's praying for help why he's starting to God and trusting him that in verses 14 through 18 you have an expression of trust again and finally, in verses 19 through 20 have a mother prayer this one rising to the height of praise when the graphite it's a little bit like a wave going from a crest of a wave down in the trough and back up to the crest again starts out on the crest and his prayer for help in trouble expressing great trust in God expresses trust in the second stanza in the bottom is giving his lament moves back up to trust again in the end is doing the same thing he was doing at the beginning, but with a slight edition will come to now the first five verses are a prayer for help in trouble. And as I say this is not the kind of prayer you honor and despair say that with a case I'd say that belongs down in the trough as well. It doesn't is on the crest because even though David is praying for help in trouble. He sprang with a remarkable degree of trust. One commentator calls this entire Psalm, a magnificent Psalm of confidence. That's true. It's the way it begins and it's also the way it ends is a theme this first stanza, and the theme is that when I've taken for the title rock of refuge to nouns in that phrase rock of refuge in each other was repeated elsewhere in the stanza word rock is not only there in verse two where the phrase rock of refuge occurs but also in verse three see you are my rock and my fortress, and then the word refuge occurs three times you find it in verse one and you oh Lord, I have taken refuge find it inverse to be my rock of refuge and then in verse four, you are my refuge and if that weren't enough, you also have the word fortress word fortress is almost a synonym for rock refuge and that word occurs twice. So by the mere repetition of those terms. You get a David is saying he's declaring that God is his refuge and he's rejoicing in that now there's an interesting combination of phrases in which he does that, which are in verses two and three in verse three he says you are my rock and my fortress and I verse two he says be my rock of refuge and a strong fortress are people who looked at that and said well that is logically inconsistent.

Here's David saying you are my rock spring, be my rock that's only logically inconsistent to those who know very little about the life of faith you reflect yourself on what it means to grow in grace, you know that that is a very apt description of the way we move through the Christian life. We read in the word what God is is is Holy Spirit bears witness in our heart we say we believe it and then it doesn't mean that we actually lived it out and when we get into the difficulty we say in prayer to God not be what I know you to be.

That is, be it in my experience, I want to know it myself. Other times in your life and you are weak. Well you know the God is strong you've known that for a long time. Not only is he strong his omnipotent.

He's all strong and powerful. You believe that it's not right to say well I really don't believe that you do what you want to say would you go through times of weakness is this. Now God be my strength in the time of weakness. In other words, demonstrate your omnipotence to me.

Same way we go through times in our lives, we feel very very foolish. The situation we face is overwhelming. We don't know what to do. I we know that God is all why she's omniscient, knows all things filled with wisdom. We don't doubt that. But when we pray in a situation like that we say God be wise to me. Show me your wisdom demonstrate your omniscience in my situation. We want to live it out.

One of the great joys of the Christian life is being able to do that. Especially do we want to live it out and death. That phrase from verse five, into your hands I commit my spirit is one that Christian people have turned to again and again.

You see, when David wrote that in the Psalm he was thinking of being delivered from death. Undoubtedly, later on in the Psalm we find what's bothering him. His enemies surrounded him and they're plotting to take his life. So when he says, into your hands I commit my spirit means I'm committing my spirit into your hands to deliver me. We remember that the Lord Jesus Christ took those words upon his lips when he was hanging on the cross and that's what he muttered as he died, he said to his father. Father, into your hands I commit my spirit. Christians down through the centuries of remembered what Jesus Christ did and died with those words on their lips. Some of them are quite striking St. Bernard died with those words on his lips. John Hoss Jerome of Prague, Martin Luther LeBlanc than many many others. Luther said as he was reflecting on this blessed are they who die not only for the Lord is martyrs not only in the Lord as all believers do, but likewise with the Lord as breathing forth their lives in these words by hands I commend my spirit. Sorry John Hoss is particularly interesting. He was perhaps the first marker of the Reformation. General precursor of the Reformation. He had discovered the same doctrines that Luther discovered he was preaching them and they arrested him and tried him on heresy convicted him and burn him at the stake now in the process of the trial of ecclesiastical trial there came that moment when the judgment was pronounced and the judgment was excommunication on the basis of which the civil authorities were authorized to take his life and excommunication means to be delivered in the hands of the devil and those very solemn words were pronounced by the presiding Bishop. Here's what he said now I commit thy soul to the devil which John Hoss very calmly replied, I commit my spirit into your hands were Jesus Christ. Under the I commend my spirit which thou us redeems many Christians abide with those words on their lips and it's an appropriate expression of the song because the song as a whole is a Psalm of confidence, trust in God. In these first verses obviously doing a great measure down the second section we come to what I am called and expression of trust we've already had that in the first stanza, but here they would does it explicitly because he says in the first verse.

I trust in the Lord, why does he trust in the Lord really explains it in the stands.

This is not something that's just off the wall as we might say, as if he were saying got a trust in somebody. I think I'll trust in the Lord. Not bad at all what he says in these verses is as he is experienced a large deliverance in the past because his experience the Lord's deliverance in the plastic of the trust of in the present, not simply making a random meaningless choice. He's making a rational choice is as God has demonstrated himself to be faithful.

Nobody else has. So I'm in a trust God was really sensitive about therefore things in verses seven and eight I take them slightly out of order that last phrase in verse seven, you knew the anguish of my soul. God knew what was going on or seven you saw my affliction. I think that means you saw with the desire to help me and a willingness to help. Verse eight the negative side of it because you knew my anguish and saw my affliction. You have not handed me over to my enemy negative what you have not done, but rather positively, you will set my feet and a spacious place. In other words, David in the past had been delivered by God. God was faithful to deliver them. Therefore, in the present he was going to trust them as well. The memory of past deliverances should for each of us. Bear fruit in present confidence, yet often does, is that God has delivered us in the past. He certainly delivered us of the cross of Christ from the penalty of our sins we know that for Christians, and it would be a strange question is not experienced other deliverances of one sort or another in the course of a life so that we forget that so easily.

I suppose it simply because we don't have the mental discipline to remember the things and to ring them to our consciousness. When the times of difficulty, David remembered, and we should learn to remember to now in verses nine through 13. We have, as I said a moment ago, the emotional heart of the song because here is describing the danger is really in some of the songs you see begin with this sort of thing they would do so overwhelmingly begins in the trough about this all begins from the crest confidence but yes to express why it is that he is praying as he is and so at this point in the Psalm. He begins to describe it now. The opening verses contain a lot of references to bodily afflictions or weaknesses whose eyes grew weak. His body is overcome with grief and his life is consumed. His strength fails in his bones grow weak. Sometimes when we find phrases like that in the Psalms, we have to ask whether he is really talking about physical affliction, or whether this is metaphorical language earlier some of the Psalms. I've tried to argue that it is literal sickness that is describing. I think that's true in the preceding song. I don't think that's true in this one.

And the reason for that is what he goes on to say he's explaining is the stanza unfolds why it is that he feels is weekend afflicted as he does and what he describes there is not part of the song because here is describing danger is really in some of the songs you see begin with this sort of thing they would do so overwhelmingly begins in the trough about this all begins on the crest confidence but yes to express why it is that he is praying as he is. So at this point in the Psalm. He begins to describe it now.

The opening verses contain a lot of references to bodily afflictions or weaknesses whose eyes grew weak. His body is overcome with grief.

His life is consumed.

His strength fails in his bones grow weak. Sometimes when we find phrases like that in the Psalms, we have to ask whether he is really talking about physical affliction, or whether this is metaphorical language earlier some of the Psalms.

I've tried to argue that it is literal sickness that is describing. I think that's true in the preceding song. I don't think that's true in this one. And the reason for that is what he goes on to say he's explaining is the stanza unfolds why it is that he feels this weekend. Afflicted as he does and what he describes there is not physical sickness but rather the fact that is surrounded by his enemies. I think you have to take what he says here in inverse order because he's working away from how he feels to the cause of breast understand that we have to start with the cause and work back to how he feels start at the end he says he surrounded by enemies and their conspiring to take his life is literally true. David was surrounded by enemies virtually during his entire reign over Israel during 40 years and he was even surrounded by enemies in his court. Sometimes I broke out against and ways he knew perfectly well what the dangers were so all of that is true. Apparently these enemies were so strong in that. His describing was one of such apparent weakness on his part that the second thing happened. Notice verse 11 because of all my enemies. I am the utter contempt of my neighbors and I Madrid to my friends as they seem to be in such danger from his enemies and even his friends were turning against him and his neighbors were despising him ever experience anything like that. I'm sure you see, as long as we're riding on the crest of popularity and were succeeding in our work where wealthy or well-to-do, and everything goes fine but were surrounded by friends. People come in they like people that are succeeding a ride in your coattails are glad to have a good time as long as you're doing well, but things turn against you as they do as Christians to have hard times and money is in there. You lose your job as a case that your neighbors instead of expressing concern and compassion say well I wonder what he did you know to get into a situation like that must be something you did wrong or she did wrong and so they begin to look down on you. They score near for failure might be a failure. This come as the result of a righteous stance. You can stand something right at work can be fired for it but your friends won't say how courageous he was to do that to stand against that unrighteousness.

They'll say well there's probably more to it than I probably wasn't handling the work very well. They would fire him for nothing was nothing. Of course, but nevertheless that's the way it's looked at them friends. Unfortunately, often abandon us in such times. The third thing David says as we read backwards is that affected think it is great King David. This man after God's own heart.

Obviously, a pillar of strength you say well what he care what his neighbor slaughter what he care about his friends forsaking him he care a lot this the way you and I care a lot. It's foolish to pretend that it doesn't bother us when we are slandered are people speak against us unjustly. David says that affected me such an extent that I am in great distress. My eyes grow weak with sorrow, not losing his eyesight.

Sorrow is talking about my soul, my body with grief my life by anguish years by groaning my strength fails because of affliction and a my bones grow weak and say that's his lament.

So we read that we say well if David felt that way might be all right for us to feel that way to right to feel that way. It's natural to see what David is not ON which we sometimes do is wallow in the trough. We get down there in the bottom. We don't want to get out of the trough because what we like feeling sorry for ourselves. Although Dave is perfectly honest, expressing what's bothering him and stay down there so that's what's bothering me. I want you to know the trouble, but I trust in God's of what we find in the very next stanza is that word explicitly.

I trust in you, oh Lord, I say you are my God, my times are in your hand disease beginning to come back up again versus six through H expression of trust.

I trust in the Lord now in verses 14 through 18. We have the same thing. I trust you oh Lord.

Christians like verse 15 refer to it, and rightly so. My times are in your hands met a wonderful expression of what it is to be a Christian to have our times in the hands of God is able. What times is that while all our times course times of our youth are in God's hands. The days are you where to get foolish. We don't know much the way in which we should go wonderful that the times of our youth are in God's hands as he guides us through all the folly of youth and keeps us from the worst of our sins and mistakes directs us in his path. Sometimes we don't even know what that path is an art seeking God is faithful in our youth is faithful and middle-aged heroes of our productivity. Sometimes were successful during those years. Lots of good things happen sometimes were not experienced lots of failures but God is with us in those times as well. Times are times of middle-age are in his hands and also our old age is in his hands those days when powers fail in we begin to say is anything I can really do for the Lord anymore. Yes, there is as long as we are here. He has worked for us to do is faithful to us you know in one of our hymns weak thing about old age beautifully and it goes like this, even down to old age by saints show proof line on an estimable unchangeable love when quarry hairstyle their temples adorned like lambs, they shouted.

I was be borne. See our times, whether the times of use middle-age or old age or whatever it may be here in the hands of God. We can praise and thank you for running this means of course, is that our circumstances are in his hands thing comes into our lives, citizens guided by God and therefore we can say all things operation that we can say as Paul did. I have learned in whatever state I am, therewith to be content.

So were deprived we can thank God. If we are blessed we can thank God and in the abundance or in the deep libation we can have Verizon God makes all the difference in the world. See that's what trusting God really is, which is why verse 15 follows verse 14 in verse 19 we come to the crest again. I pointed out that we have this wonderful sequence here and it's intentional theme of stanza one is repeated when we get to stanza five theme of stanza two is repeated in stanza four and so on. We get to stanza five. We have this additional thing you recall what I said about the first dams I said that it's a prayer for help in time of trouble when you get to the fifth stanza. It's a prayer yes money goes beyond that, because now it's praise to God for his deliverance, which is a slight variation of the pattern we would expect pattern holds true that we have a simple prayer for help in deliverance. Once again, but actually by the time David gets to this point is praising God.

The deliverance he hasn't for his goodness. I found that to be true when you've prayed start off presenting a problem.

The God and if you play wisely and as we should you reflect on his attributes, which are certainly able to help you in the circumstance into his faithfulness and love which means that he will and with the confidence that God hears and understands you pour out your heart before him all the things that are distressing you, but as you do that you lead back to an expression of trust in him. And when you get to the end you find yourself praising him and not merely repeating the earlier petition is a good form of prayer. If you have an experience that I hope you will on the lights to hear as you pray as you reflect on who is well. You'll find yourself lifted up praise him as David does what he praise him for really praises God for his goodness is and how he talks about this number of preachers throughout the history of the church and turned to these verses because of the contrast it makes between the goodness of God which is stored for those who fear him that his goodness which is not yet seen and the goodness which he bestows in the sight of men. Notice how that works great is your goodness, which is the first subordinate clause you have stored up for those who fear you, which you bestow on the site of and that's a second subordinate clause was saying two things about the goodness of God is the goodness of God to us which people see and then there's the goodness of God, stored up, which they don't say that really calls for some reflection and I would say it goes like this is a contrast between the goodness of God to us that other people see now and the goodness of God to us now which they cannot see see if we are blessed by God as we are many important ways the world will see that I said on occasion based on the Gallup poll that I like to refer to that there are noticeable measurable differences, the lives of people whose hearts are given to God.

They are noticeably happier and declare themselves to be so. According to George Gallup statistically demonstrated.

They are less prejudiced they are engaged in social work regularly and they have more stable families.

All of those are outward blessings send their things the world can say George Gallup concealed by the Gallup poll and those are evidences of the glory of God, in his goodness which he has bestowed in the sight of men. Any Christian who reflects on those visible things would say yes, but they're nothing compared to the blessings that God has given me that other people cannot see. I think of the times of quiet prayer. When God makes himself, especially real to me and I say well there's no comparison between the outward things people look at and those moments of quiet spiritual blessing.

Every Christian is a large number of things like that and testify to it so you got that kind of a contrast is a second kind of contrast and that is between the goodness of God that other people see because it's already been given and the goodness of God, which they don't see because it hasn't yet been given that it will be given later. The way of saying that in the Christian life we go on for blessing the blessing God is gracious and what he gives to us than the end of the life of the righteous man of a righteous woman is greater than the beginning, start good, which in good yet even better. And there's that kind of a contrast stored up sort of force in this life to see it. What I do experience it. Others going to experience it to. And then there's 1/3 contrast and it's this. The goodness which is experienced and at least partially seen in this life and the superlative goodness which is yet to be experienced in heaven say there is a lot of good that we enjoy now, and we testified to another people can see it but we say what is that we compared with the glory of the saints in heaven when they taste the goodness of our God in full measure, and indeed go on tasting that goodness forever and ever know.

The 23rd Psalm how it goes. It's a testimony to this very thing almost wise. I know David didn't explicitly make the Association is talking about present goodness now seemly goes on to talk about goodness still to be seen on earth. And then he looks forward to the goodness in heaven.

Here's a way goes you prepare a table before me in the presence of mine enemies you anoint my head with oil my cup overflows.

Everybody could say that is eating from the banquet of the Lord that he goes on to say. Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life. What I'm experiencing now I'm going to go on experiencing and for major and the very last phrase of that well-known Psalm says, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord, since which have been God's house now, but to be compared, glory, and the goodness will enjoy hereafter like to give you quotations from classics from time to time.

Alexander McLaren is a great preacher in the Psalms as a whole book of Psalms, and here's what he says about this. It's really very well put here is talking about here and now we see sometimes the messengers coming to the one cluster of grapes on the pole. There we shall live in the vineyard under wish you could write like that naturally express yourself in images. Here we are in the vestibule of the king's house.

There, we shall be in the throne room in each chamber. As we passed through. It will be richer and fair.

On the one preceding God begins to compare his adjectives. He does not stop until he gets to the superlative degree. Good begets better and the better of earth ensures best of heaven. So a lot of our poor little experience. Here we may gather grounds of confidence will carry our thoughts peacefully, even in the great darkness the darkness of death, and we may say what thou didst work as much, but what thou hast laid up is more of a contrast will continue forever and ever. All through eternity, that which is wrought will be less than that which is laid up and we shall never get to the end of God to the end of his goodness. Wonderful thought of ever thought about the inexhaustible goodness of God in those terms. We are never going to get to the end of his goodness, and those who know this. I am sure say a man well in verse 21 we come to the application I been making applications all through this, but we get to the end.

We have David's own application and its in three phrases. First of all praise the Lord in the earlier Psalm that is Psalm 30 before this he called upon the saints to praise God. Verse four and his reasoning was like this. God delivered David and he called upon them to praise God because it was God's nature to be good and therefore they would experience it as well.

I had and they would so praise God because it's like him to do that.

Remember the words. His anger lasts only a moment's favor lasts a lifetime. We don't have exactly that. Here there to praise the Lord. I think because of the very thing David himself experiences not extracting it to a principal but a saying I been delivered. You been delivered to another was what I think he speaking of here when he says he was in the besieged city is a literal deliverance from city was not always that way. Sometimes you use that terminology figuratively, but I don't think he's doing that here.

I think it was literally besieged in a saying God delivered man of God delivered him from the besieged city delivered those were with them as well. I say I'm praising God for the deliverance. I want you to praise God to say probably that's what he's talking about in this section on the lament when there is terror on every side there conspiring against them to take away his life.

That's probably the same thing saying God delivered man. He wants them to praise God for the deliverance, then the second application is in verse 23 he says love the Lord, all the saints. It's one thing to praise him.

Another thing to love him and that song rightly ends by commending us to love God who is so good to us and say love and trust go together. David has been saying all along I trust the Lord that the reason he trust them is that he knows it is a good and faithful God know a good and faithful God is to love them well.

He wants us to love them as well.

Love the Lord, all the saints, because the Lord preserves the faithful of the product pays back in full and then verse 24 last of his three points of application, be strong and take heart.

It's a way of saying keep on trusting say that point is we will do this as long as we keep close to God as David is keeping close to God and the solvent as long as we love them. One commentator AC who Paul puts it like this. The practical application amounts to this. Don't ever lose faith in him and he says faith will never be lost if love keeps burning well you could never love God too much. Never trust God too much and you will do both will both love and trust and when you reflect on the degree to which he has loved and delivered you much prayer father, we thank you for this song. Great song. We ask you to bless it to our hearts.

Here David out of his heart expresses his experience of living with you experience which takes them from the expression of his own agony and distress to great and superlative confidence in you because you are the faithful and loving God, and that's what we need to make us conscious of who you are to teach us to trust you more and more and love you and to keep on trusting you because your God, who is above all worthy to be both loved and trusted Jesus and thank you for listening to this message from the Bible study our listener supported ministry of the alliance of confessing Evangelicals.

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