For the director of music. With stringed instruments. Of David.
Hear my cry, O God;
listen to my prayer.
From the ends of the earth I call to you,
I call as my heart grows faint;
lead me to the rock that is higher than I.
For you have been my refuge,
a strong tower against the foe.
I long to dwell in your tent for ever
and take refuge in the shelter of your wings.
For you, God, have heard my vows;
you have given me the heritage of those who fear your name.
Increase the days of the king’s life,
his years for many generations.
May he be enthroned in God’s presence for ever;
appoint your love and faithfulness to protect him.
Then I will ever sing in praise of your name(Ps. 61:1-8 NIV)
and fulfil my vows day after day.
The Psalmist almost seems too weak to pray, he utters a cry and he feels like he is far away. Whether he is physically at a distance or emotionally at a distance from God is not clear and it may be both. ‘From the ends of the earth’ is often used as a metaphor for despair, alienation and spiritual distance from the Lord. He is feeling ‘prayed out’, weary from battling the relentless enemy, tired of the daily grind. Those who suffer from any chronic ailment may identify with this feeling. Constant physical pain can cause weariness. If you have been battling long enough at anything with no clear hope of the problem subsiding then you can become weary. Even battling in the Lord’s work, day after day can be a wearisome task. This is why Paul exhorts us not to give up..
Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labour in the Lord is not in vain.(1 Cor. 15:58 NIV)
Even the cry for help saps the energy from the Psalmist. Even as he calls out his heart grows faint. He is so faint that he cannot come to the rock, he asks to be led to the rock. The rock is described as the rock that is higher than I. Perhaps there have been times that he considered himself a rock. A rock that provided resource and stability in his own life and a rock for others. A ‘loan ranger’ Christian soon runs out of strength. The rock has got to be higher than his own rock, higher than the rock he can imagine, because he is drowning in weariness.
The Psalmist recalls the days when the Lord has been his refuge, a strong tower to withstand the attack of the enemy. His soul longs to be in the sanctuary with God, to feel the presence of God. His reflection is on the Tabernacle in the wilderness. He wants to be out of the heat of the wilderness and dwelling in the tent of the Lord. He wants to be in the presence of the Lord for ever. His vitality, his ability and his strength to function have always come from the presence of the Lord, but now he feels so far away, right at the end of the earth. He wants to find rest under the wings of the Lord. When he is sheltered under the wings of the Lord, he is close to the Lord and the Lord is close to him. He can’t be seen by the enemy, he can’t be approached by the enemy, no harm can befall him.
As a covenant child the Psalmist has taken vows to serve the Lord, to offer praise and thanksgiving. The memory of being in the presence of the Lord, fulfilling those vows, creates a real thirst to be led to that place. The Psalmist thinks of the inheritance that he has been given. When we feel like this it is good to think of the inheritance that God has given us.
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.(1 Pet. 1:3-5 NIV)
The Psalmist may not necessarily be the king, but he intercedes for the ruler and prays for long life. He wants a ruler who will be godly and rule from the presence of the Lord. When the king experiences the love and faithfulness of God, love and faithfulness will be meted out towards his subjects. as he shares what he has received. It is a prayer we can pray for our Queen and the royal family, that they might know the love and faithfulness of God. We can also pray this for our government. If there was widescale blessing in the government and opposition parties, and they all were brought to Christ what a change this would make in our country.
The Psalmist looks forward to the time when this prayer will be answered, and he vows to sing in praise of the Lord’s name forever and to fulfil his vows. Peterson in the paraphrase called ‘The Message’ so often captures the meaning of the Psalm and expresses it in a very meaningful way. He paraphrases v8 this way – ‘And I’ll be a poet who sings your glory – and live what I sing every day.’
Lord our God, we can grow weary in the day to day business of life. Especially now as we live at a time of ‘lock down’. We listen to the bickering of the politicians and just long for them to pull together. We become angry, weary just longing for an end to these days. Then we feel guilty as we remember that many have lost loved ones, and we know that the burden we bear is insignificant compared to their heartbreak. Even these emotions weary us because we feel that we don’t empathise the way we should. We’re caught in a cluster of mixed, and at times shameful, selfish feelings. We just long to be in your presence to escape, to enjoy forgiveness, to be properly thankful, to escape our self-centred focus and pray for our nation and its rulers. Lead me to the rock that is higher than I, because I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.