Psalm 31 - Suffering, the King, and the Cross

Psalm 31:5 & 9-13

5 Into your hand I commit my spirit; you have redeemed me, O LORD, faithful God.
9 Be gracious to me, O LORD, for I am in distress; my eye is wasted from grief; my soul and my body also.
10 For my life is spent with sorrow, and my years with sighing; my strength fails because of my iniquity, and my bones waste away.
11 Because of all my adversaries I have become a reproach, especially to my neighbors, and an object of dread to my acquaintances; those who see me in the street flee from me.
12 I have been forgotten like one who is dead; I have become like a broken vessel.
13 For I hear the whispering of many—terror on every side!—as they scheme together against me, as they plot to take my life.


Taken up later by Jeremiah, Jesus, and author of Psalm 71, Psalm 31 is an intense, authentic, and (in the most meaningful sense of the word) raw expression of one man’s suffering and ultimate salvation. Utterly devoid of the usual religious pretenses, platitudes, and banalities, David writes with unflinchingly clarity of the stark emotional realities that living in a fallen, broken world create. And yet, although he is brutally honest, he is not hopeless. Two times in this Psalm, David walks the reader through his pain and in both instances he emerges on the other side clinging to the God who, as the Psalm begins, is a refuge, deliverer, rescuer, rock, and fortress. In this way, Psalm 31 is a powerful model for teaching us how to bring our suffering to God without belittling Him or our suffering itself.


In the context of the Bible’s overarching story, Psalm 31 bridges the gap between the failed kingship of Saul, the ascension of David himself, and the establishment of the Davidic Covenant/Dynasty (i.e., the “partial kingdom”).

Implication (Gospel):

As was briefly noted above, Jesus himself took up the words of Psalm 31:5 as his final, extinguishing prayer in Luke 23:46. However, even without this direct, cross-borne quotation, the Psalm is virtually teeming with the predictive/prophetic pattern that 1Peter 1:11 defines as “the sufferings of the Messiah and the subsequent glories.” In this way, Psalm 31 functions as a sort of internal monologue or emotional commentary on Jesus’ own physical and spiritual suffering. The only difference being that where David was merely “forgotten like one who is dead” and simply “became like a broken vessel,” Jesus was literally destroyed.

For example, as verses 15 and 20 intimate, despite David’s initial suffering the king himself was ultimately rescued from the hands of his enemies and persecutors, covered by God’s presence from the “plots of men,” and stored in God’s shelter from the “strife of tongues.” Far to the contrary, in the case of Jesus, on the cross we see God’s great and final King delivered into the hands of his enemies and persecutors, victimized by the plots of men, and openly exposed to the strife of tongues. And yet, it is out of that suffering and through the resurrection that the gospel takes shape.

Application (Gospel):

No matter how awful, pathetic, or seemingly hopeless my situation, even if as the Psalm says there is “terror on every side,” I can be secure in my suffering knowing that, because Christ died in my place, I will never ultimately be forgotten like one who is dead or become like a broken vessel. In fact, whatever suffering I face, because of the cross, becomes merely a window into the suffering Christ endured on my behalf. Because of this, suffering (of whatever sort) now serves to draw me closer to God and invite me deeper into his love.

Today I will regard my suffering as a opportunity to understand more deeply (without ever being forced to undergo its fullness myself) the wrath that Christ endured to save me from my sin.

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