The Treasury of David

The Treasury of David is one of several C.H. Spurgeon books that are in the public domain. If you propose to study the Psalms, I suggest you download this as a companion for your other references.

Psalm 61

Exposition
Explanatory Notes and Quaint Sayings
Hints to the Village Preacher


TITLE.To the Chief Musician upon Neginah, a Psalm of David. The original indicates that both the hymn and the musical instrument were David’s. He wrote the verses and himself sang them to the stringed instrument whose sound he loved so well. We have left the Psalms entitled Michtam, but we shall still find much precious meaning though the golden name is wanting. We have met with the title of this Psalm before, in Psalms 4, 6, 54, and 55, but with this difference, that in the present case the word is in the singular number: the Psalm itself is very personal, and well adapted for the private devotion of a single individual.

SUBJECT AND DIVISION. This Psalm is a pearl. It is little but precious. To many a mourner it has furnished utterance when the mind could not have devised a speech for itself. It was evidently composed by David after he had come to the throne,—see Ps 61:6. The second verse leads us to believe that it was written during the psalmist’s enforced exile from the tabernacle, which was the visible abode of God: if so, the period of Absalom’s rebellion has been most suitably suggested as the date of its authorship, and Delitzsch is correct in entitling it, “Prayer and thanksgiving of an expelled King on his way back to his throne.” We might divide the verses according to the sense, but it is preferable to follow the author’s own arrangement and make a break at each SELAH.

Verse 2. From the end of the earth will I cry unto thee. He was banished from the spot which was the center of his delight, and at the same time his mind was in a depressed and melancholy condition; both actually and figuratively he was an outcast, yet he does not, therefore, restrain prayer, but rather finds therein a reason for the louder and more importunate cries. To be absent from the place of divine worship was a sore sorrow to saints in the olden times; they looked upon the tabernacle as the center of the world, and they counted themselves to be at the fag end of the universe when they could no longer resort to the sacred shrine; their heart was heavy as in a strange land when they were banished from its solemnities. Yet even they knew right well that no place is unsuitable for prayer. There may be an end of the earth, but there must not be an end to devotion. On creation’s verge, we may call upon God, for even there he is within call. No spot is too dreary, no condition too deplorable; whether it be the world’s end or life’s end, prayer is equally available. To pray in some circumstances needs to resolve, and the psalmist here expresses it,

I will cry. It was a wise resolution, for had he ceased to pray he would have become the victim of despair; there is an end to a man when he makes an end to prayer. Observe that David never dreamed of seeking any other God; he did not imagine the dominion of Jehovah to be local: he was at the end of the promised land, but he knew himself to be still in the territory of the Great King; to him only does he address his petitions. When my heart is overwhelmed:—when the huge waves of trouble wash over me, and I am completely submerged, not only in my head but also in my heart. It is hard to pray when the very heart is drowning, yet gracious men plead best at such times. Tribulation brings us to God and brings God to us. Faith’s greatest triumphs are achieved in her heaviest trials. It is all over with me, affliction is all over me; it encompasses me as a cloud, it swallows me up like a sea, it shuts me in with thick darkness, yet God is near, near enough to hear my voice, and I will call him. Is not this brave talk? Mark how our psalmist tells the Lord as if he knew he was hearing him, that he intended to call upon him: our prayer by reason of our distress may be like to a call upon a far-off friend, but our inmost faith has its quiet heart whispers to the Lord as to one who is assuredly our very present help. Lead me to the rock that is higher than I. I see thee be my refuge, sure and strong; but alas! I am confused, and cannot find thee; I am weak, and cannot climb thee. Thou art so steadfast, guide me; thou art so high, uplift me. There is a mint of meaning in this brief prayer. Along the iron-bound coast of our northern shores, lives are lost because the rocks are inaccessible to the shipwrecked mariner. A clergyman of one of the coast villages has with immense labor cut steps up from the beach to a large chamber, which he has excavated in the chalk cliffs; here many mariners have been saved; they have climbed the rock, which had else been too high for them, and they have escaped. We have heard of late, however, that the steps have been worn away by the storms, and that poor sailors have perished miserably within sight of the refuge which they could not reach, for it was too high for them: it is therefore proposed to drive in iron stanchions and to hang up chain ladders that shipwrecked mariners may reach the chambers in the rock. The illustration is self-interpreting. Our experience leads us to understand this verse right well, for the time was with us when we were in such amazement of soul by reason of sin, that although we knew the Lord Jesus to be sure salvation for sinners, yet we could not come at him, by reason of our many doubts and forebodings. A Saviour would have been of no use to us if the Holy Spirit had not gently led us to him, and enabled us to rest upon him. To this day we often feel that we not only want a rock but to be led to it. With this in view we treat very leniently the half unbelieving prayers of awakened souls; for in their bewildered state we cannot expect from them all at once a fully believing cry. A seeking soul should at once believe in Jesus, but it is legitimate for a man to ask to be led to Jesus; the Holy Spirit is able to effect such a leading, and he can do it even though the heart is on the borders of despair. How infinitely higher that we are is the salvation of God. We are low and groveling, but it towers like some tall cliff far above us. This is its glory, and is our delight when we have once climbed into the rock and claimed an interest in it; but while we are as yet trembling seekers, the glory and sublimity of salvation appall us, and we feel that we are too unworthy ever to be partakers of it; hence we are led to cry for grace upon grace, and to see how dependent we are for everything, not only for the Savior but for the power to believe on him.

Singing Psalms 61

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