Saturday, July 27, 2013

Notes on the Psalms – Psalm 62

Psalm 62 is a persuasive psalm. The psalmist, David according to the inscription, chooses a position, supports it with evidence, and makes a recommendation. Let's look at each of these actions. 

David's position is very clear. He will rely on God alone for his help and salvation. He begins the psalm with this strong statement: “For God alone my soul waits in silence; from Him comes my salvation.” As usual, the Hebrew words give us some insight into the depths of this first verse. The Hebrew word for “waits in silence” is dûmı̂yâh. It suggests a quiet trust, a repose. David is not agitated. He is not afraid that God will let him down. He is simply waiting for God, and only God, to come to him. When God comes, He will bring salvation for David. The Hebrew word for “salvation” is yeshû‛âh. Yeshuah. Joshua. Jesus. David could not have known about Jesus, of course. For him, salvation, yeshû‛âh, meant deliverance from his enemies, victory, and prosperity. But as Christians, we automatically think of our Savior when we see this Hebrew word, which becomes a kind of prophecy whenever it is used in the Old Testament (for the Holy Spirit Who inspired the Scriptures certainly knew what was to come). 

David elaborates on his position in verse 2: “He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall never be shaken.” David knows where to turn for security: only to God. God is a rock for him, the One who is solid, never changing, secure. He is David's salvation, yeshû‛âh, again. He is a fortress, in Hebrew miśgâb, a high place where David can seek refuge and security. If David turns to God alone, he will not be shaken. He will not slip or stagger or totter. He will not fall or give way. He will remain immoveable in his immoveable God. While David does not say so, he is almost certainly basing this statement on his past experience. God has held him securely in the past. He has been his strength and brought him victory. David is positive that He will continue to do so in the future.

Such security cannot be found elsewhere. David makes that clear in verses 3 and 4. He addresses his enemies in verse three, asking them, “How long will you assail a person, will you batter your victim, all of you, as you would a leaning wall, a tottering fence?” These are violent enemies. The Hebrew word for “batter” is râtsach. It actually refers to murder. His enemies are slamming against their weak victim as they would attempt to destroy a leaning wall or a tottering fence. What they do not realize is that their victim may appear weak but is actually clinging to a Rock that can never be moved. 

David continues, speaking to his first audience again rather than to his enemies directly, “Their only plan is to bring down a person of prominence. They take pleasure in falsehood; they bless with their mouths, but inwardly they curse.” These are smooth people. They put on a good show with their blessings and flattery, but underneath, they are bent on destroying their victim. The Hebrew word for “bring down” is nâdach, which can mean overthrow, cast out, or drive away. These scheming men want their victim's power, for he is a man of excellence and dignity, of high rank (Hebrew śe'êth). 

Who is this victim? Most likely, David is referring to himself here. He is under some threat from people very close to him. This psalm may even have been written before his son Absalom seized power by treachery and exiled his father from Jerusalem. David feels what is coming. He cannot trust those around him, but he can and does rely on God alone for his security.

David reiterates his point in verses 5, 6, and 7. He repeats his assertion from verse 1: “For God alone my soul waits in silence...” While the English translation is the same, the Hebrew word for “waits in silence” is different. In verse 5, it is dâmam, and it has a greater range of meanings than the word dûmı̂yâh in verse 1. The Hebrew dâmam still refers to a silent waiting, but it can also mean “to be astonished” or “to perish.” David seems to be saying that he will wait quietly for God even unto death, no matter what happens. Why? He continues: “...for my hope is from Him.” The Hebrew word for hope is tiqvâh. It literally means “cord.” David is tied to God, bound to Him, so he has hope. He expects great things. He can repeat with confidence that God alone is his rock and salvation, his fortress. He will not be shaken. 

In verse 7, David adds to his description of God, further supporting his position: “On God rests my deliverance and my honor; my mighty rock, my refuge is in God.” In God, David finds deliverance, in Hebrew yesha‛ (safety, salvation, welfare, rescue, victory). In God, David finds honor, in Hebrew kâbôd (glory, reputation, dignity). In God, David finds his rock, in Hebrew ‛ôz (might, strength, power). In God, David finds his refuge, in Hebrew machăseh (shelter, hope, trust). Only God can give him all these things. Only in God is David truly secure. 

David has now expressed his position, namely, that only in God will people find their help and salvation. He has also supported it with evidence. Now, in verse 8, he makes a recommendation: “Trust in Him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before Him; God is a refuge for us.” David wants others to realize what he already has grasped and to act accordingly. The Hebrew word for “trust” is bâṭach, which means to confidently turn to for refuge. People must trust in God always, pouring out their hearts to Him. They are to give their entire selves to God, right down to their deepest core. Then they, too, will understand that God is their refuge.

But David does not stop with his recommendation. He reminds his audience once again that they will find such protection nowhere else. People are fleeting, he argues in verse 9. The lowly and the prominent alike are “lighter than a breath” in the overall scheme of things. They cannot provide the protection and salvation found in God. Riches cannot do so either, whether they are gained justly or unjustly. “[D]o not set your heart on them,” David warns his listeners. 

In conclusion, David once again recognizes God's power (Hebrew ‛ôz) and steadfast love (Hebrew chêsêd – mercy, kindness, favor) and reminds his readers that God repays all people “according to their work.” In other words, human beings have a choice. They can choose to put their trust in God and turn to Him for protection, salvation, help, and love or they can choose to put their trust in other human beings or in material riches and lose out on God's protection, salvation, help, and love. David knows his choice. He has stated it clearly, supported it with evidence, and recommended to all people to choose God, their rock and their salvation.

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