61:0David is far from his home in Jerusalem. Maybe he is in Syria, as in Psalm 60. Or, maybe, he is in Edom after he had run away from his son Absalom, when Absalom tried to become king. Sometimes he was sad. This was because he did not think that he could do anything. This is what ‘my heart is weak’ means in verse 2. He did not feel brave enough to fight, he just wanted to die. But he knew that this was wrong, so he asked God for help. He thought of things around him that made him think about God. To David, God was like a special rock where he could hide.
Pictures of God
61:0The psalm is in 4 parts:
Verses 1 – 4: David writes that he will ask God for help when he feels depressed. Depressed means that he feels that he does not want to do anything, or even live any more, because he is so sad.
Verse 5: David knows that God has heard his prayer.
Verses 6 – 7: David (or maybe someone else) prays for the king. The king may be David, or one of the kings after him.
Verse 8: David writes that he will always praise God.
Some Bible students think that David wrote only verses 1-5. Someone else wrote verses 6-8 so that people could use the psalm after David died. Maybe David wrote verses 6-8 so that people could pray for the new king when David was dead!
This is for the music leader.
He must use stringed instruments.
It is a song that David wrote.
61:0You will find the words ‘always’ and ‘for ever’ in this psalm. In this psalm we use ‘always’ when David means while he is a man on earth. We use ‘for ever’ for when his body dies and his spirit lives with God in heaven.
The Bible tells us not to draw pictures of God. But the Bible itself draws us many word pictures of God. There are several in this psalm. See the comments after verses 2, 3, and 4.
1 Hear me when I ask for help, God.
Listen to my prayer.
2 I will shout to you from the ends of the earth when my heart is weak.
Lead me to a rock that is higher than I am.
61:2God is a rock, verse 2. The rock is a safe place where David can go when his enemies are fighting him. God is not a rock, but he is like a rock. When David is with God, it is like being on a very high rock. His enemies cannot reach him.
3 For you have always been a shelter for me,
a tower against the enemy.
61:3God is a tower, verse 3. Old towns often had walls round them. This kept the enemies out of the town. The walls had tall parts or towers. The soldiers could see their enemies from the towers, but the enemies could not reach the soldiers! Towers made the soldiers feel strong. God is not a real tower, but he makes people strong.
4 I want to live in your house for ever.
I want to hide under the shadow of you wings.
61:4God has a house, verse 4. When David was alive, many people had a tent. This was a house made of animal skins. They could move the tent from one place to another place. When someone asked you to come into their tent, it meant that they would keep you safe in it. David thought that God had a very big tent and that he would be safe in it. Because David says ‘for ever’ he means that God's tent is either in heaven or heaven itself. Really, the Hebrew Bible says, ‘I want to live in your “for ever” house.’ It was the house, or tent, that would be for ever. David wanted to be in it for ever!
God has wings, verse 4. A bird has wings, it flies with them. Also, it keeps its baby birds under them, to make them warm and safe.
God does not really have wings, but he does for people what a mother bird does for its babies. God keeps people safe.
5 For you, God, have heard my promises.
You have given me the inheritance land
of the people that are afraid of your name.
61:5In verse 5 David says that God has answered his prayer. Some Bible students translate ‘the inheritance’ as ‘the answer.’ ‘The inheritance’ means the land of Israel, the Promised Land. ‘The people that are afraid of your name’ are the people that serve God. Here it means David's people. ‘Afraid of’ is difficult to translate. It does not mean that they thought that God would hurt them, but that God was more powerful than they were. In English we say that they were ‘in awe’ of God. If Psalm 61 is about David fighting the Syrians, then the inheritance is the land that David got in the fight. If it is about Absalom wanting to be king, then the inheritance is the land of Israel that David got back when Absalom died. An inheritance is something that someone gives you. God gave David's people the land that he had promised them. That is why we call it ‘The Promised Land.’
6 Give the king a long life,
so that he lives for a very long time.
61:6Verses 6 and 7 make a prayer that we can always pray for our leaders. It is important that our leaders have God's ‘kind love and truth.’ It will make them good leaders.
7 Let him sit with God for ever.
Give him your kind love and truth to make him safe.
8 Then I will praise your name for ever.
I will keep my promises every day.
61:8In verse 8 we do not know what David promised to do. Maybe he said, ‘If you give me help, God, I will always serve you.’