Psalm 31:2
Bow down thine ear to me; deliver me speedily: be thou my strong rock, for an house of defence to save me.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(2) My strong rock.—Literally,

“Thou art to me for a rock of a stronghold,

For a house of fortresses to save me.”

Psalms

‘BE . . . FOR THOU ART’

Psalm 31:2 - Psalm 31:3
.

It sounds strange logic, ‘Be . . . for Thou art,’ and yet it is the logic of prayer, and goes very deep, pointing out both its limits and its encouragements. The parallelism between these two clauses is even stronger in the original than in our Version, for whilst the two words which designate the ‘Rock’ are not identical, their meaning is identical, and the difference between them is insignificant; one being a rock of any shape or size, the other being a perpendicular cliff or elevated promontory. And in the other clause, ‘for a house of defence to save me,’ the word rendered ‘defence’ is the same as that which is translated in the next clause ‘fortress.’ So that if we were to read thus: ‘Be Thou a strong Rock to me, for a house, a fortress, for Thou art my Rock and my Fortress,’ we should get the whole force of the parallelism. Of course the main idea in that of the ‘Rock,’ and ‘Fortress’ is only an exposition of one phase of the meaning of that metaphor.

I. So let us look first at what God is.

‘A rock, a fortress-house.’ Now, what is the force of that metaphor? Stable being, as it seems to me, is the first thought in it, for there is nothing that is more absolutely the type of unchangeableness and steadfast continuance. The great cliffs rise up, and the river glides at their base-it is a type of mutability, and of the fleeting generations of men, who are as the drops and ripples in its course-it eddies round the foot of the rocks to which the old man looks up, and sees the same dints and streaks and fissures in it that he saw when he was a child. The river runs onwards, the trees that root themselves in the clefts of the rock bear their spring foliage, and drop their leaves like the generations of men, and the Rock is ‘the same yesterday, and to-day, and for ever.’ And God the Unchangeable rises, if I may so say, like some majestic cliff, round the foot of which rolls for ever the tide of human life, and round which are littered the successive layers of the leaves of many summers.

Then besides this stable being, and the consequences of it, is the other thought which is attached to the emblem in a hundred places in Scripture, and that is defence. ‘His place of defence shall be the munitions of rocks.’ When the floods are out, and all the plain is being dissolved into mud, the dwellers on it fly to the cliffs. When the enemy’s banners appear on the horizon, and the open country is being harried and burned, the peasants hurry to the defence of the hills, and, sheltered there, are safe. And so for us this Name assures us that in Him, whatever floods may sweep across the low levels, and whatever foes may storm over the open land and the unwalled villages, there is always the fortress up in the hills, and thither no flood can rise, and there no enemy can come. A defence and a sure abode is his who dwells in God, and thus folds over himself the warm wings that stretch on either side, and shelter him from all assault. ‘Lead me to the Rock that is higher than I.’

But the Rock is a defence in another way. If a hard-pressed fugitive is brought to a stand and can set his back against a rock, he can front his assailants, secure that no unseen foe shall creep up behind and deal a stealthy stab and that he will not be surrounded unawares. ‘The God of Israel shall be your rearward,’ and he who has ‘made the Most High his habitation’ is sheltered from ‘the pestilence that walketh in darkness,’ as well as from ‘the destruction that wasteth at noon-day,’ and will be cleansed from ‘secret faults’ if he keeps up unbroken his union with God, for the ‘faults’ which are not recognised as faults by his partially illuminated conscience are known to God. But the Rock is a defence in yet another way, for it is a sure foundation for our lives. Whoso builds on God need fear no change. When the floods rise, and the winds blow, and the rain storms down, the house that is on the Rock will stand.

And, then, in the Rock there is a spring, and round the spring there is ‘the light of laughing flowers,’ amidst the stern majesty of the cliff. Just as the Law-giver of old smote the rock, and there gushed out the stream that satisfied the thirst of the whole travelling nation, so Paul would have us Christians repeat the miracle by our faith. Of us, too, it may be said, they drank ‘of that Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ.’ Stable being, secure defence, a fountain of refreshment and satisfaction: all these blessings lie in that great metaphor.

II. Now, note our plea with God, from what He is.

‘Be Thou to me a Rock . . . for Thou art a Rock.’ Is that not illogical? No, for notice that little word, ‘to me’-be Thou to me what Thou art in Thyself, and hast been to all generations.’ That makes all the difference. It is not merely ‘Be what Thou art,’ although that would be much, but it is ‘be it to me,’ and let me have all which is meant in that great Name.

But then, beyond that, let me point out to you how this prayer suggests to us that all true prayer will keep itself within God’s revelation of what He is. We take His promises, and all the elements which make up His name or manifestation of His character to the world, whether by His acts or by the utterances of this Book, or by the inferences to be drawn from the life of Jesus Christ, the great Revealer, or by what we ourselves have experienced of Him. The ways by which God has revealed Himself to the world define the legitimate subjects, and lay down the firm foundation, of our petitions. In all His acts God reveals Himself, and if I may so say, when we truly pray, we catch these up, and send them back again to heaven, like arrows from a bow. It is only when our desires and prayers foot themselves upon God’s revelation of Himself, and in essence are, in various fashions, the repetition of this prayer of my text: ‘Be . . . for Thou art,’ that we can expect to have them answered. Much else may call itself prayer, but it is often but petulant and self-willed endeavour to force our wishes upon Him, and no answer will come to that. We are to pray about everything; but we are to pray about nothing, except within the lines which are marked out for us by what God has told us, in His words and acts, that He Himself is. Catch these up and fling them back to Him, and for every utterance that He has made of Himself, ‘I am’ so-and-so, let us go to Him and say ‘Be Thou that to me,’ and then we may be sure of an answer.

So then two things follow. If we pray after the pattern of this prayer, ‘Be Thou to me what Thou art,’ then a great many foolish and presumptuous wishes will be stifled in the birth, and, on the other hand, a great many feeble desires will be strengthened and made confident, and we shall be encouraged to expect great things of God. Have you widened your prayers, dear friend!-and I do not mean by that only your outward ones, but the habitual aspiration and expectation of your minds-have you widened these to be as wide as what God has shown us that He is? Have you taken all God’s revelation of Himself, and translated it into petition? And do you expect Him to be to you all that He has ever been to any soul of man upon earth? Oh! how such a prayer as this, if we rightly understand it and feel it, puts to shame the narrowness and the poverty of our prayers, the falterings of our faith, and the absence of expectation in ourselves that we shall receive the fulness of God.

God owns that plea: ‘Be . . . what Thou art.’ He cannot resist that. That is what the Apostle meant when he said, ‘He abideth faithful, He cannot deny Himself.’ He must be true to His character. He can never be other than He always has been. And that is what the Psalmist meant when he goes on, after the words that I have taken for my text, and says, ‘For Thy Name’s sake lead me and guide me,’ What is God’s Name? The collocation of letters by which we designate Him? Certainly not. The Name of God is the sum total of what God has revealed Himself as being. And ‘for the sake of the Name,’ that He may be true to that which He has shown Himself to be, He will always endorse this bill that you draw upon Him when you present Him with His own character, and say ‘Be to me what Thou art.’

III. Lastly, we have here the plea with God drawn from what we have taken Him to be to us.

That is somewhat different from what I have already been dwelling upon. Mark the words: ‘Be Thou to me a strong Rock, for Thou art my Rock and my Fortress.’ What does that mean? It means that the suppliant has, by his own act of faith, taken God for his; that he has appropriated the great divine revelation, and made it his own. Now it seems to me that that appropriation is, if not the point, at least one of the points, in which real faith is distinguished from the sham thing which goes by that name amongst so many people. A man by faith encloses a bit of the common for his very own. When God says that He ‘so loved the world that He gave His . . . Son,’ I should say, ‘He loved me, and gave Himself for me.’ When the great revelation is made that He is the Rock of Ages, my faith says: ‘My Rock and my Fortress.’ Having said that, and claimed Him for mine, I can then turn round to Him and say, ‘Be to me what I have taken Thee to be.’

And that faith is expressed very beautifully and strikingly in one of the Old Testament metaphors, which frequently goes along with this one of the Rock. For instance, in a great chapter in Isaiah we find the original of that phrase ‘the Rock of Ages.’ It runs thus, ‘Trust ye in the Lord for ever, for in the Lord JEHOVAH is the Rock of Ages.’ Now the word for trust there literally means, to flee into a refuge, and so the true idea of faith is ‘to fly for refuge,’ as the Epistle to the Hebrews has it, ‘to the Hope set before us,’-that is {keeping to the metaphor}, to the cleft in the Rock.

That act of trust or flight will make it certain that God will be to us for a house of defence, a fortress to save us. Other rock-shelters may crumble. They may be carried by assault; they may be riven by earthquakes. ‘The mountains shall depart, and the hills shall be removed,’ but this Rock is impregnable, and all who take refuge in it are safe for ever.

And so the upshot of the whole matter is that God will be to us what we have faith to believe that He is, and our faith will be the measure of our possession of the fulness of God. If we can only say in the fulness of our hearts-and keep to the saying: ‘Be Thou to me a Rock, for Thou art my Rock,’ then nothing shall ever hurt us; and ‘dwelling in the secret place of the Most High’ we shall be kept in safety; our ‘abode shall be the munitions of rocks, our bread shall be given us, and our water shall be made sure.’

31:1-8 Faith and prayer must go together, for the prayer of faith is the prevailing prayer. David gave up his soul in a special manner to God. And with the words, ver. 5, our Lord Jesus yielded up his last breath on the cross, and made his soul a free-will offering for sin, laying down his life as a ransom. But David is here as a man in distress and trouble. And his great care is about his soul, his spirit, his better part. Many think that while perplexed about their worldly affairs, and their cares multiply, they may be excused if they neglect their souls; but we are the more concerned to look to our souls, that, though the outward man perish, the inward man may suffer no damage. The redemption of the soul is so precious, that it must have ceased for ever, if Christ had not undertaken it. Having relied on God's mercy, he will be glad and rejoice in it. God looks upon our souls, when we are in trouble, to see whether they are humbled for sin, and made better by the affliction. Every believer will meet with such dangers and deliverances, until he is delivered from death, his last enemy.Bow down thine ear to me - As He does who inclines His ear toward one whom He is willing to hear, or whom He is desirous of hearing. See the notes at Psalm 17:6.

Deliver me speedily - Without delay. Or, hasten to deliver me. It is right to pray to be delivered from all evil; equally right to pray to be delivered immediately.

Be thou my strong rock - Margin: "to me for a rock of strength." See Psalm 18:1-2, note; Psalm 18:46, note.

For an house of defense to save me - A fortified house; a house made safe and strong. It is equivalent to praying that he might have a secure abode or dwelling-place.

2-4. He seeks help in God's righteous government (Ps 5:8), and begs for an attentive hearing, and speedy and effectual aid. With no other help and no claim of merit, he relies solely on God's regard to His own perfections for a safe guidance and release from the snares of his enemies. On the terms "rock," &c., (compare Ps 17:2; 18:2, 50; 20:6; 23:3; 25:21). Deliver me speedily, because of the greatness and urgency of my danger, which is even ready to swallow me up.

Bow down thine ear to me,.... Which is said after the manner of men, who, when they give attention, and listen to anything, stoop, and incline the ear; and this for God to do, as he sometimes does, is wonderful condescending grace!

deliver me speedily; which shows that he was in great danger, and his case required haste: the Lord does help right early, and is sometimes a present help in time of need, and delivers at once, as soon as the mercy is asked for;

be thou my strong rock: for shelter and security from enemies, as well as to build his everlasting salvation on, and to stand firmly upon, and out of danger;

for an house of defence to save me; both for an house to dwell in, Lord being the dwelling place of his people in all generations, and a strong habitation to which they may continually resort; and for protection and safety, their place of defence in him being the munition of rocks, a strong hold, and a strong tower from the enemy.

Bow down thine ear to me; deliver me speedily: be thou my strong rock, for an house of defence to save me.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
2. Bow down] Or, incline, as in Psalm 17:6; &c.

2, 3. Be thou &c.] Lit. Become (LXX γενοῦ) to me a stronghold-rock, a fortress-house to save me: for (he goes on to give the ground of his prayer) thou art my cliff and my fortress: i.e. prove Thyself to be what I know Thou art. “It is the logic of every believing prayer.” Delitzsch. For the figures see note on Psalm 18:2.

therefore &c.] And for thy name’s sake thou wilt lead me and guide me. A further expression of trust rather than a petition. By gentle and unerring guidance God will shew Himself all that He has declared Himself to be. Cp. the same words in Psalm 23:2; Psalms 3, and see notes there.

Verse 2. - Bow down thine ear to me; or, incline thine ear to me, as the same phrase is translated in Psalm 71:2. Deliver me speedily. Not doubting of deliverance, he makes his request for speedy deliverance (comp. Psalm 38:22; Psalm 40:17; Psalm 70:1; Psalm 71:12, etc.). Be thou my strong Rock, for an House of defence to save me; rather, as in the Revised Version, Be thou to me a strong Rock, an House of defence, etc. (comp. Psalm 18:2). Psalm 31:2(Heb.: 31:2-9) The poet begins with the prayer for deliverance, based upon the trust which Jahve, to whom he surrenders himself, cannot possibly disappoint; and rejoices beforehand in the protection which he assumes will, without any doubt, be granted. Out of his confident security in God (הסיתי) springs the prayer: may it never come to this with me, that I am put to confusion by the disappointment of my hope. This prayer in the form of intense desire is followed by prayers in the direct form of supplication. The supplicatory פלּטני is based upon God's righteousness, which cannot refrain from repaying conduct consistent with the order of redemption, though after prolonged trial, with the longed for tokens of deliverance. In the second paragraph, the prayer is moulded in accordance with the circumstances of him who is chased by Saul hither and thither among the mountains and in the desert, homeless and defenceless. In the expression צוּר מעוז, מעוז is genit. appositionis: a rock of defence (מעוז from עזז, as in Psalm 27:1), or rather: of refuge (מעוז equals Arab. m‛âd, from עוּז, עוז equals Arab. 'âd, as in Psalm 37:39; Psalm 52:9, and probably also in Isaiah 30:2 and elsewhere);

(Note: It can hardly be doubted, that, in opposition to the pointing as we have it, which only recognises one מעוז (מעז) from עזז, to be strong, there are two different substantives having this principal form, viz., מעז a fortress, secure place, bulwark, which according to its derivation is inflected מעזּי, etc., and מעוז equivalent to the Arabic ma‛âdh, a hiding-place, defence, refuge, which ought to have been declined מעוזי or מעוּזי like the synonymous מנוּסי (Olshausen 201, 202). Moreover עוּז, Arab. 'âd, like חסה, of which it is the parallel word in Isaiah 30:2, means to hide one's self anywhere (Piel and Hiph., Hebrew העיז, according to the Kamus, Zamachshari and Neshwn: to hide any one, e.g., Koran 3:31); hence Arab. 'â‛d, a plant that grows among bushes (bên esh-shôk according to the Kamus) or in the crevices of the rocks (fi-l-hazn according to Neshwn) and is thus inaccessible to the herds; Arab. 'wwad, gazelles that are invisible, i.e., keep hidden, for seven days after giving birth, also used of pieces of flesh of which part is hidden among the bones; Arab. 'ûdat, an amulet with which a man covers himself (protegit), and so forth. - Wetzstein.

Consequently מעוז (formed like Arab. m‛âd, according to Neshwn equivalent to Arab. ma'wad) is prop. a place in which to hide one's self, synonymous with מחסה, מנוס, Arab. mlâd, malja‛, and the like. True, the two substantives from עזז and עוז meet in their meanings like praesidium and asylum, and according to passages like Jeremiah 16:19 appear to be blended in the genius of the language, but they are radically distinct.)

a rock-castle, i.e., a castle upon a rock, would be called מעוז צוּר, reversing the order of the words. צוּר מעוז in Psalm 71:3, a rock of habitation, i.e., of safe sojourn, fully warrants this interpretation. מצוּדה, prop. specula, signifies a mountain height or the summit of a mountain; a house on the mountain height is one that is situated on some high mountain top and affords a safe asylum (vid., on Psalm 18:3). The thought "show me Thy salvation, for Thou art my Saviour," underlies the connection expressed by כּי in Psalm 31:4 and Psalm 31:5. Lster considers it to be illogical, but it is the logic of every believing prayer. The poet prays that God would become to him, actu reflexo, that which to the actus directus of his faith He is even now. The futures in Psalm 31:4, Psalm 31:5 express hopes which necessarily arise out of that which Jahve is to the poet. The interchangeable notions הנחה and נהל, with which we are familiar from Psalm 23:1-6, stand side by side, in order to give urgency to the utterance of the longing for God's gentle and safe guidance. Instead of translating it "out of the net, which etc.," according to the accents (cf. Psalm 10:2; Psalm 12:8) it should be rendered "out of the net there," so that טמנוּ לּי is a relative clause without the relative.

Into the hand of this God, who is and will be all this to him, he commends his spirit; he gives it over into His hand as a trust or deposit (פּקּדון); for whatsoever is deposited there is safely kept, and freed from all danger and all distress. The word used is not נפשׁי, which Theodotion substitutes when he renders it τὴν ἐμαυτοῦ ψυχὴν τῇ σῇ παρατίθημι προμηθείᾳ but רוּחי; and this is used designedly. The language of the prayer lays hold of life at its root, as springing directly from God and as also living in the believer from God and in God; and this life it places under His protection, who is the true life of all spirit-life (Isaiah 38:16) and of all life. It is the language of prayer with which the dying Christ breathed forth His life, Luke 23:46. The period of David's persecution by Saul is the most prolific in types of the Passion; and this language of prayer, which proceeded from the furnace of affliction through which David at that time passed, denotes, in the mouth of Christ a crisis in the history of redemption in which the Old Testament receives its fulfilment. Like David, He commends His spirit to God; but not, that He may not die, but that dying He may not die, i.e., that He may receive back again His spirit-corporeal life, which is hidden in the hand of God, in imperishable power and glory. That which is so ardently desired and hoped for is regarded by him, who thus in faith commends himself to God, as having already taken place, "Thou hast redeemed me, Jahve, God of truth." The perfect פּדיתה is not used here, as in Psalm 4:2, of that which is past, but of that which is already as good as past; it is not precative (Ew. 223, b), but, like the perfects in Psalm 31:8, Psalm 31:9, an expression of believing anticipation of redemption. It is the praet. confidentiae which is closely related to the praet. prophet.; for the spirit of faith, like the spirit of the prophets, speaks of the future with historic certainty. In the notion of אל אמת it is impossible to exclude the reference to false gods which is contained in אלהי אמת, 2 Chronicles 15:3, since, in Psalm 31:7, "vain illusions" are used as an antithesis. הבלים, ever since Deuteronomy 32:21, has become a favourite name for idols, and more particularly in Jeremiah (e.g., Psalm 8:1-9 :19). On the other hand, according to the context, it may also not differ very greatly from אל אמוּנה, Deuteronomy 32:4; since the idea of God as a depositary or trustee still influences the thought, and אמת and אמוּנה are used interchangeably in other passages as personal attributes. We may say that אמת is being that lasts and verifies itself, and אמונה is sentiment that lasts and verifies itself. Therefore אל אמת is the God, who as the true God, maintains the truth of His revelation, and more especially of His promises, by a living authority or rule.

In Psalm 31:7, David appeals to his entire and simple surrender to this true and faithful God: hateful to him are those, who worship vain images, whilst he, on the other hand, cleaves to Jahve. It is the false gods, which are called הבלי־שׁוא, as beings without being, which are of no service to their worshippers and only disappoint their expectations. Probably (as in Psalm 5:6) it is to be read שׂנאת with the lxx, Vulgate, Syriac, and Arabic versions (Hitzig, Ewald, Olshausen, and others). In the text before us, which gives us no corrective Ker as in 2 Samuel 14:21; Ruth 4:5, ואני is not an antithesis to the preceding clause, but to the member of that clause which immediately precedes it. In Jonah's psalm, Psalm 2:9, this is expressed by משׁמּרים הבלי־שׁוא; in the present instance the Kal is used in the signification observare, colere, as in Hosea 4:10, and even in Proverbs 27:18. In the waiting of service is included, according to Psalm 59:10, the waiting of trust. The word בּטח which denotes the fiducia fidei is usually construed with בּ of adhering to, or על of resting upon; but here it is combined with אל of hanging on. The cohortatives in Psalm 31:8 express intentions. Olshausen and Hitzig translate them as optatives: may I be able to rejoice; but this, as a continuation of Psalm 31:7, seems less appropriate. Certain that he will be heard, he determines to manifest thankful joy for Jahve's mercy, that (אשׁר as in Genesis 34:27) He has regarded (ἐπέβλεψε, Luke 1:48) his affliction, that He has known and exerted Himself about his soul's distresses. The construction ידע בּ, in the presence of Genesis 19:33, Genesis 19:35; Job 12:9; Job 35:15, cannot be doubted (Hupfeld); it is more significant than the expression "to know of anything;" בּ is like ἐπὶ in ἐπιγιγνώσκειν used of the perception or comprehensive knowledge, which grasps an object and takes possession of it, or makes itself master of it. הסגּיר, Psalm 31:9, συγκλείειν, as in 1 Samuel 23:11 (in the mouth of David) is so to abandon, that the hand of another closes upon that which is abandoned to it, i.e., has it completely in its power. מרחב, as in Psalm 18:20, cf. Psalm 26:12. The language is David's, in which the language of the Tra, and more especially of Deuteronomy (Deuteronomy 32:30; Deuteronomy 23:16), is re-echoed.

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