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Psalm chapter 61

What does Psalm chapter 61 mean?

Some of David's psalms are connected directly to historical events (Psalm 54; 59; 60). This song includes no such details. However, it refers to David being displaced and seeking a rocky sanctuary (Psalm 61:2). It also mentions his continued life and heritage (Psalm 61:6). It's possible that the song was composed after David's hasty evacuation during the rebellion of Absalom (2 Samuel 15:13–14). David initially fled over the Mount of Olives (2 Samuel 15:30) and headed to a fortified city, Mahanaim (2 Samuel 17:24).

David begins this psalm with an appeal for the Lord to hear his requests. David's reference to "the end of the earth" may resemble the English phrase "in the middle of nowhere." Apparently, David was feeling displaced and could feel his confidence sagging. The Hebrew words speaking of a "faint heart" include the ideas of being overwhelmed, covered up, or of something collapsing. To counter that, David asks God to do what He has done in the past: to be a sanctuary against the enemy (Psalm 61:1–3).

During David's life, the ark of the covenant was kept in a tent—a "tabernacle"—which was the center of Israel's worship. The ark included images of angels spreading out their wings (Exodus 25:18–20). A common metaphor in Scripture is to be guarded under the Lord's "wings," as a mother bird would defend her young (Psalm 17:8; 36:7; 63:7). In a sense, David is not only praying for the Lord's protection, but also expressing his desire to worship the Lord in the tabernacle. David knows that God has already given him victory and protection (Psalm 16:6; 2 Samuel 8:6), and that there are still people loyal to his rule (Psalm 61:4–5).

A large part of God's promises about David's kingship involved his descendants (2 Samuel 7:12–16). David's appeal here would include being allowed to live a longer life, but also evokes the idea that his successors are meant to keep the throne. The ultimate fulfillment of these comes in Jesus Christ: the Messiah and a descendant of King David. As he does in other songs (Psalm 22:25; 35:18), David looks ahead with confidence to the day when he will continue to praise and obey the Lord (Psalm 61:6–8).
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