What is Psalm 31?

In this post, let us discover the deep and powerful lessons and meaning of Psalm 31. We will learn what Psalm 31 is, how it should be understood, and why it is written.

Introduction

Psalm 31 is among the most popular chapters in the Book of Psalms. It has so many lessons we can derive from it. From God’s protection to his answers to our prayer, Psalm 31 tells us about the struggle of our human existence and how we can always depend on God.

In this post, you will read more about the following:

Psalm 31 KJV translation

To start with our discussion, let me write here the entire chapter of Psalm 31. 

You can read it from other Bible translations, but for this time, let me use the King James Version (KJV).

1 In thee, O LORD, do I put my trust; let me never be ashamed: deliver me in thy righteousness.

2 Bow down thine ear to me; deliver me speedily: be thou my strong rock, for an house of defence to save me.

3 For thou art my rock and my fortress; therefore for thy name’s sake lead me, and guide me.

4 Pull me out of the net that they have laid privily for me: for thou art my strength.

5 Into thine hand I commit my spirit: thou hast redeemed me, O LORD God of truth.

6 I have hated them that regard lying vanities: but I trust in the LORD.

7 I will be glad and rejoice in thy mercy: for thou hast considered my trouble; thou hast known my soul in adversities;

8 And hast not shut me up into the hand of the enemy: thou hast set my feet in a large room.

9 Have mercy upon me, O LORD, for I am in trouble: mine eye is consumed with grief, yea, my soul and my belly.

10 For my life is spent with grief, and my years with sighing: my strength faileth because of mine iniquity, and my bones are consumed.

11 I was a reproach among all mine enemies, but especially among my neighbours, and a fear to mine acquaintance: they that did see me without fled from me.

12 I am forgotten as a dead man out of mind: I am like a broken vessel.

13 For I have heard the slander of many: fear was on every side: while they took counsel together against me, they devised to take away my life.

14 But I trusted in thee, O LORD: I said, Thou art my God.

15 My times are in thy hand: deliver me from the hand of mine enemies, and from them that persecute me.

16 Make thy face to shine upon thy servant: save me for thy mercies’ sake.

17 Let me not be ashamed, O LORD; for I have called upon thee: let the wicked be ashamed, and let them be silent in the grave.

18 Let the lying lips be put to silence; which speak grievous things proudly and contemptuously against the righteous.

19 Oh how great is thy goodness, which thou hast laid up for them that fear thee; which thou hast wrought for them that trust in thee before the sons of men!

20 Thou shalt hide them in the secret of thy presence from the pride of man: thou shalt keep them secretly in a pavilion from the strife of tongues.

21 Blessed be the LORD: for he hath shewed me his marvellous kindness in a strong city.

22 For I said in my haste, I am cut off from before thine eyes: nevertheless thou heardest the voice of my supplications when I cried unto thee.

23 O love the LORD, all ye his saints: for the LORD preserveth the faithful, and plentifully rewardeth the proud doer.

24 Be of good courage, and he shall strengthen your heart, all ye that hope in the LORD.

What is Psalm 31?

As its name suggests, Psalm 31 is the 31st chapter of the book of Psalms in the Hebrew Writings.

Psalm 31 is a fascinating and interesting work because of how it is written. It uses a wide range of imagery and expressions that talk about difficulties in life.

However, it doesn’t end there. The Psalm also includes confidence in God and the assurance of deliverance. Throughout the Psalm, there’s an alternative expression of trust and petition.

While the writer of this Psalm talked about his dire situation, he continually mentioned his confidence in God.

Overall, Psalms 31 is an expression of the psalmist’s despair but at the same time, a prayer for God’s protection.

Other commentaries about Psalm you might be interested in:

Who wrote Psalm 31?

Psalm 31 is commonly ascribed to King David. However, most scholars believe that Psalm 31 is a composite work, which means it’s a combination of different writings from anonymous authors.

If you look into Psalm 31 KJV, it has common language and expressions you can find in other places in the Bible. For example, you will find some elements of it in the Pentateuch and in the books of Job, Jeremiah, Jonah, and Lamentation.

Thus, scholars believe this is still an original work of David, but it was creatively written to combine various biblical writings.

How was Psalm 31 written?

In our modern Bible translations, Psalm 31 comes with 24 verses.

Psalm 31 can be divided into two parts: prayer and thanksgiving.

The prayer part is found in verses 1 to 18. According to the book, Psalms (New Cambridge Bible Commentary), the prayer can be subdivided into the following:

  • Prayer for Yahweh’s Righteousness (verses 1-5)
  • Expression of Trust (verses 6-8)
  • Prayer for Yahweh’s Favor (verses 9-13)
  • Expression of Trust (verses 14-18)

The Thanksgiving part of Psalm 31 starts from verses 19 to 24.

Verse by verse Psalm 31 commentary

Let’s now have a quick look at each of the verses of Psalm 31 and read a comprehensive commentary.

Psalm 31:1

1 In You, O LORD, I put my trust;
Let me never be ashamed;
Deliver me in Your righteousness.

Right in the first verse of Psalms 31, we already see the foundation of David’s prayer. It was his trust in God. It was because he trusted in God that he appealed to Him.

Because David trusts in Yahweh, his first appeal was for him not to be ashamed for trusting in Yahweh. Instead of being ashamed, David asked God to deliver him in His righteousness. 

In other words, David wanted God’s righteousness to be the ground on which he stands.

[You may want to read, “How to Trust God Completely (Even in Difficult Times): 7 Steps to Take.”]

Psalm 32:2

2 Bow down Your ear to me,
Deliver me speedily;
Be my rock of refuge,
A fortress of defense to save me.

David here expressed his desire for God to hear his plea. He wanted God to move closer by bowing down and letting God’s ear be near to his mouth.

Bowing down the ear is an expression of the clear intent of listening and not just hearing. It is intentional and conscious attention to the one speaking.

David’s prayer was for quick deliverance and that God would serve as a refuge and defense for him.

Psalms 31:3

3 For You are my rock and my fortress;
Therefore, for Your name’s sake,
Lead me and guide me.

David here confirmed that God is indeed his rock and fortress — a strong defense that no one can breakthrough.

Since God is David’s rock, fortress, and trust, he proceeded by asking the Almighty to lead and guide him. He was asking this as well for the sake of God’s name since He is God’s anointed and representative.

Psalms 31:4

4 Pull me out of the net which they have secretly laid for me,
For You are my strength.

David was alluding to the manner in which hunters catch their prey. In this statement, David was saying that he was like prey being hunted by his enemies. 

David knew how cunning his enemies were and that they had laid a lot of hidden traps just to catch and destroy him.

Again, David was looking to God for strength. This shows us how David trusted not to his own strength, but in the strength of God.

Psalms 31:5

5 Into Your hand I commit my spirit;
You have redeemed me, O LORD God of truth. 

It’s quite astonishing how Jesus Christ (Yahshua the Messiah) used the same words when He was dying on the cross as we read in Luke 23:46:

46 And when Jesus had cried out with a loud voice, He said, “Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit.’ ” Having said this, He breathed His last. 

This shows us that it is appropriate for us to also mention these words when we are in danger or we are on the brink of death. It’s an expression of complete surrender and trust in the Most High God.

David’s reason to surrender his spirit to God is simple:

God has redeemed him.

Since David was redeemed by God, then the most logical response is to surrender his spirit to Him.

David also expressed the thought that Yahweh is not just for truth, but God is truth.

Because God is truth, there’s no lie in Him. He is fully dependable. David knew that what God has promised, He will surely deliver.

Psalms 31:6

6 I have hated those who regard useless idols;
But I trust in the LORD.

David knew very well the danger of having other gods in their lives. He had seen and known this from the history of his nation and how this also affected the nation around them.

As a result, he made a point to never serve other idols. He ensured that he only served the one true, living God, Yahweh, the Most High.

He was saying that he will not trust in anyone or anything, but only in God.

Psalms 31:7

7 I will be glad and rejoice in Your mercy,
For You have considered my trouble;
You have known my soul in adversities…

There is great joy found in God’s mercy. It is like being forgiven for a huge sum of debt — a debt we can’t pay in a million lifetime.

God’s mercy is a cause of mercy to David and should also be to us.

The mercy of God includes knowing exactly how we feel during our trouble and adversity. God perfectly knows what we are going through. He knows our intimate thoughts. He knows everything that comes when we are in danger.

That’s the source of David’s comfort. He went through troubles and difficulties in life knowing that God wasn’t indifferent to his plight.

God is concerned. He casts loving and merciful eyes upon us.

Psalms 31:8

8 And have not shut me up into the hand of the enemy;
You have set my feet in a wide place. 

David talked about the net that was laid secretly. He knew without God’s help, he would easily be shut up into the hands of his enemies.

While his enemies worked hard to ensure that David would be trapped, the opposite happened.

God instead set him up not in a small room or cage, but in a wide place, where freedom is found.

Psalms 31:9

9 Have mercy on me, O LORD, for I am in trouble;
My eye wastes away with grief,
Yes, my soul and my body!

After expressing David’s confidence in God, he turned his Psalm into a prayer.

In the onset, David once again appeals to God’s everlasting and abundant mercy.

David was going through a severe trial. His poetic choice of words captured exactly what he felt inside.

He said he cried so many times that his eyes wastes away with grief. Even his soul and body are wasting away with sorrow. So great was his trouble and problem that he was consumed by them.

David was afflicted not just physically, but also mentally. David understood that it is only God’s mercy that can deliver him.

Psalms 31:10

10 For my life is spent with grief,
And my years with sighing;

My strength fails because of my iniquity,
And my bones waste away. 

David continued to describe how his troubles are causing him great grief.

He spent a good amount of his life sighing. It means that he was a man acquainted with sadness and loneliness.

David recognized the reason for his trouble.

He knew that part of his suffering was caused by his sins — sins that caused a great amount of stress in his life.

The poor choices he made in the past were now catching up on him.

Even his bones were wasting away. His strength was beginning to wane and he became more and more vulnerable to his enemies.

Psalms 31:11

11 I am a reproach among all my enemies,
But especially among my neighbors,
And am repulsive to my acquaintances;
Those who see me outside flee from me.

There are friends who will stick with you through thick and thin.

There are also fair-weather friends who will just be there during the good times.

Sad but it’s true. King David also experienced it. His neighbors might be good to him when all things are going according to plan. However, they soon turned against David.

Now, his enemies were not simply the people from other towns or cities. His enemies were his neighbors. Even those who knew him became aggressive towards him.

When David stepped out of his house, people would stare at him with disdain. They would turn away from him and avoid him.

Psalms 31:12

12 I am forgotten like a dead man, out of mind;
I am like a broken vessel.

Because of how other people treated David, he felt like a dead man. Like a dead person, he will soon be forgotten, blotted out from the recollection of men. David was still alive and yet, people thought of him as a dead person.

Yes, a few friends might be sorrowful, but eventually, they will simply move on with their lives.

A broken vessel is worthless. It doesn’t serve its purpose anymore. David felt like he was a broken vessel that was good for nothing but to be thrown away.

Psalms 31:13

13 For I hear the slander of many;
Fear is on every side;
While they take counsel together against me,
They scheme to take away my life.

Slander means false accusations. While accusations might be false, they can still destroy a person’s reputation. This can cause a lot of stress and difficulty.

Because of the many troubles David was having, fear is on every side. He couldn’t trust anyone. People hated him. He was regarded as a dead man.

People are united against David. They all took counsel against him. Their ultimate goal was to take away David’s life.

Psalms 31:14

14 But as for me, I trust in You, O LORD;
I say, “You are my God.”

David just presented the problems that he had. Now, he went back to expressing his confidence in God.

For David, God was His. David once again showed his loyalty to the Almighty and as a result, it is only in Him that he will trust.

Psalms 31:15

15 My times are in Your hand;
Deliver me from the hand of my enemies,
And from those who persecute me.

Here we could see David’s complete surrender to His Creator. He declared how his life is in God’s hands. Many people might hate him, but his life will continue as long as God pleases.

For David, God owns His life. It was God’s to give and it was God’s to take away.

Because of this, David believed that if God still had a purpose or mission for David, then God would deliver him from his enemies and persecutors.

Psalms 31:16

16 Make Your face shine upon Your servant;
Save me for Your mercies’ sake.

The expression of making one’s face shine upon others means that he shows favor, kindness, and mercy. Just like how God shines his face to Moses, David also requested for God to shine his face on him.

Psalms 31:17

17 Do not let me be ashamed, O LORD, for I have called upon You;
Let the wicked be ashamed;
Let them be silent in the grave.

David was asking God to save him from shame and bring this shame instead to his wicked enemies. David was asking deliverance and that God would act to bring his enemies to the grave and be silenced.

Psalms 31:18

18 Let the lying lips be put to silence,
Which speak insolent things proudly and contemptuously against the righteous.

We see here the characteristics of the enemies of David.

His enemies were liars. They speak insolent things, meaning they are wicked in a reckless manner. They were even proud of what they were doing.

They were especially against the righteous, the very people who serve and obey God.

Psalms 31:19

19 Oh, how great is Your goodness,
Which You have laid up for those who fear You,
Which You have prepared for those who trust in You
In the presence of the sons of men!

For David, it is a great and inexpressible privilege to be able to come boldly to God’s throne. He knew how good it is to call Yahweh His God.

He knew that goodness awaits those who fear the Almighty. God has already prepared — planned, intended, and commanded — blessings and protection to those who will trust Him.

To make it all good, David knew that God would vindicate him from his accusers. The reward of God will be seen before the sons of men and they will know that David was innocent and God was with him.

Psalms 31:20

20 You shall hide them in the secret place of Your presence
From the plots of man;
You shall keep them secretly in a pavilion
From the strife of tongues.

God will hide the righteous men. They will be saved because God will place them in a secret place — a place where God’s presence is.

The proximity of living in God’s presence makes it all more secure. Psalm 91 also talks about this secret place where the righteous will abide.

God will not only deliver the righteous from real danger, but also from the deadly words of their enemies.

Psalms 31:21

21 Blessed be the LORD,
For He has shown me His marvelous kindness in a strong city!

Blessed be Yahweh was David’s expression of thanksgiving. Great was his trust to God that David was already thanking God for the future deliverance from his enemies.

David has seen God’s power and divine protection in the past. He knew that if God has been kind to him in the past, he will surely be kind as well in his present and future problems.

Psalms 31:22

22 For I said in my haste,
“I am cut off from before Your eyes”;
Nevertheless You heard the voice of my supplications
When I cried out to You.

Contrary to what David had felt, God answered him. When David was fleeing for his life, when he thought that his life would end, God was there to deliver him from all those dangers.

Psalms 31:23

23 Oh, love the LORD, all you His saints!
For the LORD preserves the faithful,
And fully repays the proud person.

David here was exhorting others to love Yahweh. He was not simply thinking of himself, he also wanted others to experience the love, joy, and peace of becoming God’s servant.

If He experienced God’s protection, surely other people would also experience the same level of protection if they put God first in their lives.

If those who are faithful would be rewarded by God with good things, those who are proud and wicked would also be fully repaid by God according to their works.

Psalms 31:24

24 Be of good courage,
And He shall strengthen your heart,
All you who hope in the LORD.

Psalm 27:14 also gives us the same exhortation. David was actually a person who loved to encourage others.

Just a few verses before this, David was grieved. Now, because of David’s realization, because he surrendered his life in the hands of God because he simply let God handle his problem, he can now encourage others.

Because David was encouraging himself, now, he was extending the same exhortation to others.

If you only trust God and put your hope in Him, you will surely enjoy the same relationship David has with the Heavenly Father.

What a great way to finish Psalm 31!

If you are looking for other Psalm 31 commentaries, here are some that you might find helpful:

What can we learn from Psalm 31?

Now that we had a quick rundown of each of the verses of Psalm 31 KJV, it is time to learn its many lessons.

In this point, let me share with you 5 lessons from Psalm 31:

Lesson no. 1: We must trust God

One of the greatest lessons we learn from Psalm 31 is about trusting God. In Psalm 31, four times David wrote the word trust (verses 1, 6, 14, and 19).

David’s ultimate trust, and that should include us, is God. He didn’t trust in pagan idols, created statues, or even on himself.

David was clear where he put his trust and that is and should be in God.

Lesson no. 2: God protects His people

There’s no doubt: we live in a difficult and dangerous world. We live in a world full of conflicts, wars, and even accidents. We also have to deal with natural calamities. Sicknesses can happen at any time.

Thus, the most wonderful thing that could happen to you is to get protection from the Supreme Ruler of this vast universe.

In Psalm 31:2, we read:

Bow down Your ear to me,
Deliver me speedily;
Be my rock of refuge,
A fortress of defense to save me.

God is the Rock of refuge. He is the Fortress of defense.

If God is your Protector, no weapon formed against you will prosper.

If God is your Protector, your enemies may try their very best, but they won’t be able to harm you.

If God is your Protector, you will gain the peace of mind and confidence that He will save you in times of danger.

Lesson no. 3: God will not forsake us

If there’s one important realization King David had, it was that he understood that even if all his friends, families, and loved ones leave him, God never will!

Notice how David described the problem how low he has been in his life in Psalms 31:11-13:

11 I am a reproach among all my enemies,
But especially among my neighbors,
And am repulsive to my acquaintances;
Those who see me outside flee from me.

12 I am forgotten like a dead man, out of mind;
I am like a broken vessel.

13 For I hear the slander of many;
Fear is on every side;
While they take counsel together against me,
They scheme to take away my life. 

Reading through this verse, we can see the sadness and loneliness of David.

He has become a reproach not just to his enemies but also to his neighbors and acquaintances. When he stepped outside of their home, people tried to flee away from him.

He described himself as a dead man who was forgotten and a broken vessel who was useless.

People everywhere try to destroy him.

However, we see, in spite of all these, David remained faithful to God. He kept on trusting Him and called upon his name.

David knew that even if people would leave him, God would not forsake him.

He knew very well what Deuteronomy 31:6 says:

6 Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them; for the LORD your God, He is the One who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you.

Lesson 4: Our life is in God’s hands

We read in verse 5 and 15:

“Into Your hand I commit my spirit … my times are in Your hand.”

This is not just a statement of trust, but a statement of truism. There’s no doubt that our lives are in God’s hands. He has given us our lives and He has the power to take them back.

Yes, there’s nothing wrong with doing your best in staying out of danger. You keep yourself healthy to be safe from illnesses. You live peaceably and do your part in staying safe.

However, after doing your best in protecting yourself, none can save you from what’s going to happen in this world, unless God will step in and divinely deliver you.

You can have all the best armies and bodyguards in the world. You can have the most sophisticated security locks and systems. You can have all the wealth in the world to build a safe place.

Nevertheless, all those things are nothing if God isn’t in your life. All those things are nothing if you don’t surrender your life to the Almighty.

Lesson no. 5: Be an encourager

Have you been discouraged?

David was.

When David is discouraged, he does something to help him with discouragement.

What is that?

He encouraged other people!

We just Psalms 31 and how David felt how discouraged he was.

However, we read how David sought his strength in God. He trusted Him. He looked to God for safety and comfort.

As a result, David gained complete confidence in God that he was able to trust Him even during the darkest hour of his life.

Now, David didn’t simply try to strengthen himself, but he also strengthened others.

We read in Psalms 31:23-24:

23 Oh, love the LORD, all you His saints!
For the LORD preserves the faithful,
And fully repays the proud person.

24 Be of good courage,
And He shall strengthen your heart,
All you who hope in the LORD.

We should also have the same attitude as David.

We don’t simply try to think about ourselves. We must also become encouragers.

Yes, it’s difficult when we become discouraged and that should tell us how others might also feel when they are discouraged.

Because we know how they feel, then we can better sympathize with them.

Don’t stop being encouraged. Be a source of encouragement as well!

Conclusion

Psalm 31 is no doubt a great psalm to read during a crisis. It tells us that no matter how dangerous life can be, we can always trust in God’s divine protection.

By trusting and putting our trust in Him, we are able to commit our life to the one who gave us life. 

Read Psalm 31 every time you feel like you are in the midst of trouble.

Draw your strength from God’s word and learn more about His love for you.

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