Monday, April 9, 2012

Protection, Refuge and Fellowship

[To the chief Musician upon Neg'inah, A Psalm of David]

1 Hear my cry, O God; attend unto my prayer.

2 From the end of the earth will I cry unto thee, when my heart is overwhelmed: lead me to the rock that is higher than I.

3 For thou hast been a shelter for me, and a strong tower from the enemy.

4 I will abide in thy tabernacle for ever: I will trust in the covert of thy wings. Selah.

5 For thou, O God, hast heard my vows: thou hast given me the heritage of those that fear thy name.

6 Thou wilt prolong the king's life: and his years as many generations.

7 He shall abide before God for ever: O prepare mercy and truth, which may preserve him.

8 So will I sing praise unto thy name for ever, that I may daily perform my vows.

—Psalm 61 KJV Bible

This is a psalm of David. In this song, David is disheartened. He prays for strength and security, based on the comfort that comes from God's character and on the confidence that comes from God’s faithfulness to His promises. All of this motivates David to praise and give thanks to God.

We do not know specifically when or where David wrote this psalm. The song suggests that David is far from his home in Jerusalem. It could be that David was in Syria, as in Psalm 60. Or He might have been in Edom after fleeing from the troupes of his rebellious son Absalom. Whatever the circumstances, David is feeling both physically and spiritually distant from God.

The psalm superscription addresses the psalm to the “chief Musician.” The Hebrew is "lamnatzeach," meaning “the one who is preeminent or enduring.” This would have been the tabernacle or temple priest in charge of the singers and instrumentalists—technically speaking, both vocalists and instrumentalists are musicians. The priest Asaph was one of David’s chief musicians (1 Chronicles 16:4-5).

The psalm superscription also states it is to be performed on "Neginoth." This Hebrew expression is interpreted as "stringed instruments." this direction is used in Psalm 4, 6, 54, 55, 61, 67, and 76.

The Hebrew "selah" is used in verse 4 of the psalm. The word is thought to be a musical notation to the choir director and musicians. It loosely translates as a break in the song or an instruction to pause and reflect, perhaps with a musical interlude. Some translators suggest the phrase "stop and listen." Others say that a more concise translation would be "let those with eyes see and with ears hear." The word "selah" has been compared to the word "amen" in that it stresses to the listener the importance of the preceding passage. The word "selah" is used in thirty-nine of the psalms.

In verses 1 through 4, David is overwhelmed and prays to God for strength and security. In verses 2 through 4, David uses several images for the protective and nurturing character of God. For the military strategist seeking a defensible position, God is "the rock that is higher than I" and "a strong tower." For the weary traveler beaten by the elements, God is "a shelter" and "a refuge." In God's tabernacle—in the presence of God—the lonely spirit finds fellowship and protection, like a mother hen protecting her chicks with her "wings."

In verses 5 through 8, David praises the confidence that comes from God’s faithfulness to His promises. David appeals to God's covenant with him, as anointed leader of God's people, and David's descendants (2 Samuel 7:12-16). David vows to daily praise and give thanks to God.

Father, when I am beaten down by the world and feel that I am forsaken by all, remind me that You are always with me. You only wait for my call. You shelter and protect me. You nurture and give me fellowship. I thank You and I praise You.


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