Word pictures create images in our minds that make our reading come alive. Enlivened writing is more easily internalized and becomes more personal. And Psalm 61 pulses with images that increase our awareness of God as our protector.
The ESV title for the psalm is “Lead Me to the Rock” with a notation “To the choirmaster: with stringed instruments. Of David.”
Like many psalms, it begins with an emotional petition seeking God’s help:
Hear my cry, O God,
listen to my prayer;
from the end of the earth I call to you
when my heart is faint.
Lead me to the rock
that is higher than I,
for you have been my refuge,
a strong tower against the enemy (Psalm 61:1-3, ESV).
The Bible doesn’t tell us about David traveling to a far country, known as the end of the earth, or about him experiencing heart failure, but we understand this is symbolic language. His cry implies his feelings of isolation and weakness. In his distress, he seeks protection and strength from the One who has repeatedly provided it in the past. He compares God to a high rock, an immovable physical feature upon which a soldier can stand above the heads of his enemies. He also uses the battle picture of God as a strong tower.
Having acknowledged God’s past help and his present provision, David places his hope for the future firmly in the Lord:
Let me dwell in your tent forever!
Let me take refuge under the shelter of your wings! Selah
For you, O God, have heard my vows;
you have given me the heritage of those who fear your name (verses 4 & 5, ESV).
We see more vivid images as David longs to live eternally in God’s tent and shelter under his wings.
David’s confidence in God is so sure because God has helped him in the past and has given him the good heritage enjoyed by all believers. David often speaks of God’s future deliverance as if it’s already accomplished, and he may be doing that when he says God has heard his vows. That seems likely when we consider the messianic character of the next verses (6 & 7, ESV):
Prolong the life of the king;
may his years endure to all generations!
May he be enthroned forever before God;
appoint steadfast love and faithfulness to watch over him!
Obviously David is asking God to prolong his own life and reign, but it’s equally apparent that the reference extends far beyond a human ruler. No man will be enthroned forever before God, except the God-man Jesus Christ.
While David knew his reign foreshadowed that of the eternal king, he also expresses his personal and immediate need: for God’s steadfast love and faithfulness to watch over him.
Confident that God does and will care for him, David promises his continual praise:
So will I ever sing praises to your name,
as I perform my vows day after day (verse 8, ESV).
King David never saw King Jesus, but he speaks about him with the certainty that his salvation was sure. How much more can we, as believers who’ve read God’s complete revelation about Christ, daily proclaim his praise!