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*Scripture verses covered in this section's commentary are noted in italics

Psalm 31:1-5 meaning

Verses covered in this passage:

  • Psalm 31:1
  • Psalm 31:2
  • Psalm 31:3
  • Psalm 31:4
  • Psalm 31:5

Psalm 31:1-5 begins with a prayer of complete trust in the LORD. David, the psalmist petitions God to save him and tells the LORD that he trusts Him even unto death. Jesus the Messiah quotes Psalm 31:5 with His final statement from the cross. 

The Biblical superscription of Psalm 31 is:

A Psalm of Complaint and of Praise.
For the choir director. A Psalm of David.

David is the author of Psalm 31. As a boy David was anointed the future king of Israel, and he killed Goliath. When Saul, the current king of Israel became jealous of David’s popularity, he tried to kill David, forcing him to flee from the king. Later David did become king of Israel. As king he fought many battles on behalf of Israel. David lived a dangerous life and had many enemies—foreign and domestic—who threatened his life. David is the author of this psalm

This psalm is a complaint and a praise to God. Psalm 31 was written for the choir director which indicates that it was intended as a song of worship. Taken altogether, Psalm 31 reads like a prayer to God where the psalmist personally declares his absolute trust in the LORD and petitions for His help during a time of discouragement and danger.

David had many distressing events in his own life which God delivered him from. It is unclear which event(s) he had in mind as he wrote Psalm 31.

Psalm 31 is organized into two sections of praise with a series of complaints set between them. The psalm concludes with an exhortation to trust and hope in the LORD

  • The First Praise is Psalm 31:1-8. 
  • The Complaint to the LORD is Psalm 31:9-13. 
  • The Final Praise is Psalm 31:14-22.
  • The Concluding Exhortation is Psalm 31:23-24.

Psalm 31 is also prophetic of Jesus, the Messiah. In many respects it is similar to the more well-known Psalm 22. From a prophetic standpoint, both psalms focus on the persecution and glorious vindication of the Messiah. 

Most of The Bible Says’ commentary for Psalm 31 will be divided into two sections. One section will explain how the psalm portends to David, the author of the psalm; and one section will explain how the psalm prophetically corresponds to Jesus as the Messiah. For easier navigation, these sections will be marked with boldfaced headings. 

Moreover, the commentary for Psalm 31 will attempt to point the prophetic correlations of David’s prayer to the Messiah. They will keep a running tally of the Messianic prophecies of Psalm 31 and explain their fulfillments in the first and second advents of Jesus. The Bible Says has identified thirty-one distinct Messianic prophecies within Psalm 31. 

Psalm 31:1-5 as David’s Praise

In You, O LORD, I have taken refuge (v 1a).

Psalm 31:1-5 begins with the psalmist personally addressing the LORD. David begins his psalm with its main subject or topic which is: You, O LORD. For all David’s praises and complaints throughout Psalm 31, it is the LORD, and not David, who is the main figure of this psalm

He declares: In You, O LORD, I have taken refuge. 

This declaration introduces one of the major themes of Psalm 31—which is the psalmist’s absolute trust in the LORD. Throughout this psalm David will continually and completely depend upon God alone during a particularly intense and painful trial.

A refuge is a strong place of protection from violent danger. People seek refuge during storms and times of war. David, the psalmist, confesses to God that he has sought out protection and taken refuge in Him. The LORD is David’s place of protection. The LORD is strong. He is able to protect those who trust Him. The LORD is able to withstand the assaults of anything that comes against Him. 

The LORD translates the covenant name of God, Yahweh, the “I AM” who is the essence of Existence. It is to the LORD that Israel is accountable to follow their covenant/treaty, and it is the LORD who has the power to deliver and bless Israel (Exodus 19:8). The second and third lines of Psalm 31 reveals why the psalmist is seeking refuge in the LORD and identifies what he is seeking protection from:

Let me never be ashamed;
In Your righteousness deliver me (v 1b).

David is seeking refuge from unjust humiliation and shame. From his petition, we begin to sense that David’s adversaries are attempting to ruin him with their slanders. The danger is real. On his own, David is powerless to protect himself and/or stop his enemies from destroying him—which is why he has taken refuge in the LORD.

He petitions God to never let him be ashamed. This request is for his enemies to fail in their attempt to bring David down through their slanders. He also petitions God to deliver him in God’s righteousness. This petition reveals that David believes his cause is upright and that he is not like or has not done what his enemies accuse of him. If the LORD’s standards of righteousness are applied, as opposed to his enemies’ unrighteous slanders, David believes he will prevail. 

The LORD is righteous because His ways line up with His creative design for all things to work in harmony, for the best interest of all. In scripture, “righteous” and “just” are both appropriate translations; each connotes the idea of lining up with what is right and good. It is intuitive that God’s love-one-another ethos will create a superior society (Leviticus 19:18; Matthew 22:27-32). David petitions God to uphold His standard, and apply justice to his enemies. 

=Incline Your ear to me, rescue me quickly (v 2a).

The expression: incline your ear to me, is humble language that a desperate supplicant would use when petitioning a powerful figure, such as a king for their assistance and service. If the king will incline his ear to the supplicant, then the king not only listens to the supplicant’s request, he is also “inclined” to favorably grant his request. 

It is a display of humility for David, a mighty king, to put himself in the position of a helpless supplicant who is desperately requesting the LORD’s urgent assistance. But David recognizes that in relationship to the LORD, he is the helpless one and God is the Mighty One. 

David’s situation appears to be urgent and the danger imminent. David calls upon the LORD to rescue him quickly, because if the LORD does not incline His ear to him and act quickly, then it will be too late—David’s enemies will have succeeded in destroying him. 

Be to me a rock of strength,
A stronghold to save me (v 2b).

David began Psalm 31 confessing that he had already entrusted himself to God when he had taken refuge in the LORD. Here he petitions God to be a strong refuge for him. 

The psalmist asks the LORD to be a rock of strength for him. A rock is hard and strong, and difficult to destroy. In David’s time period, a defensive structure made of rock was superior to any other. Rock could also refer to a mountain made of rock with caves. Fighting on the high ground of rock was a superior position in combat. Rocks also provided places to hide from enemies. 

The psalmist repeats this sentiment by asking the LORD to be a stronghold to save me. A stronghold is a powerful defensive structure or fortress

David demonstrates his faith in the LORD when he proclaims: 

For You are my rock and my fortress (v 3a).

In v 2, he petitioned the LORD to be a rock of strength and saving stronghold. In v 3, he confidently declares that the LORD is both of those things—my rock; my fortressThis bold declaration of praise is a prime example of David’s complete trust in the LORD to deliver and save him. 

David’s faith in the LORD continues when he predicts: 

For Your name’s sake You will lead me and guide me (v 3b).

David’s confidence that he will prevail is not in himself, nor is it even for himself. Rather, he trusts in the LORD’s mercy to lead and guide him through the dangers to safety and salvation. David believes the LORD will save him for the LORD’s name’s sake

He is entrusting himself to God’s promises. David believes the LORD will keep His promises no matter what (Romans 11:29). In the LORD’s covenant/treaty with Israel He had promised to bless them if they followed His ways (Deuteronomy 28:1-14). Consequently, David believes that no matter what his enemies manage to do to him, they will not destroy him or triumph over him.

Here are some of the promises the LORD has made to David.

  • David was anointed to be king through the prophet Samuel.
    (1 Samuel 16:1, 12-13)
  • A dynasty would come from David’s family.
    (2 Samuel 7:12)
  • David’s son would build a temple to God.
    (2 Samuel 7:13)
  • God’s lovingkindness would never depart from David’s son.
    (2 Samuel 7:14) 
  • David’s kingdom, house, and throne would be everlasting.
    (2 Samuel 7:15-16)

Perhaps because the LORD had made David these promises, he believed God would never let his enemies ultimately succeed in putting him to shame. 

You will pull me out of the net which they have secretly laid for me,
For You are my strength (v 4).

No matter how painful or desperate things became, David believed that the LORD will pull him out of his enemies’ net which they have deceitfully laid to trap and destroy him. David reiterates that You (the LORD) are my strength. It is God’s strength that will rescue, deliver, save, and pull him out of the net

In the next verse, David expresses what is possibly the purest and highest degree of faith someone can place into another person. David tells the LORD:

Into Your hand I commit my spirit (v 5a).

This line is the faith-pinnacle of Psalm 31. 

To commit something into someone’s hand means to entrust its safety to that person. David tells God that he commits his spirit into the LORD’s hand. David’s spirit is his life. But David’s spirit is more than his physical life. A person’s spirit is everlasting. It continues after a person’s body perishes (Ecclesiastes 12:7). 

When Jesus taught that everyone will face His judgement and be sent to everlasting punishment or everlasting life—He was referring to at least their spirit (Matthew 25:46). 

When David tells the LORD: Into your hand I commit my spirit he is entrusting God with much more than his possessions, much more than his honor, and more than even his health and physical life. David is totally and 100% entrusting himself and all that he is and could possibly become into the LORD’s hand. He commits his entire existence and wellbeing to God, both in the present as well as in the next life. 

David’s faith is remarkable. David’s expression indicates how he trusts the LORD even in death. It is inferred that even if he were to die in dishonor and shame by his enemies’ slanders that God would somehow restore his life and honor. David’s faith in the LORD seems to anticipate the possibility of his resurrection to a new life. In this respect, David displayed the same faith as Abraham, who believed that God would resurrect Isaac (Hebrews 11:17-19). 

You have ransomed me, O LORD, God of truth (v 5b).

The psalmist’s expression—You have ransomed me, O LORD—speaks to how the LORD has redeemed David

The Hebrew word that is translated as you have ransomed me is a form of פָּדָה (H6299—pronounced: “paw-daw”). “Pawdaw” can also be translated as “redeemed” or “rescue.” David praises the LORD for rescuing him from his enemies, including from their humiliating slanders and threats of death. 

Interestingly, the Hebrew word “pawdaw” is often used to describe resurrection or a rescue/return to life from death. 

“But God will redeem [“pawdaw”] my soul from the power of Sheol [death],
For He will receive me. Selah.”
(Psalm 49:15)

“And the ransomed [“pawdaw”] of the LORD will return
And come with joyful shouting to Zion,
With everlasting joy upon their heads.
They will find gladness and joy,
And sorrow and sighing will flee away.”
(Isaiah 35:10)

“Shall I ransom [“pawdaw”] them from the power of Sheol?
Shall I redeem them from death?
O Death, where are your thorns?
O Sheol, where is your sting?
Compassion will be hidden from My sight.”
(Hosea 13:14)

Resurrection seems to be a theme in Psalm 35:5 also.

It is inferred that the LORD has ransomed him from death, which would include the hope of his resurrection. Finally, David describes the LORD as: God of truth

This description, God of truth, could refer to one of two things. David could be describing the LORD as a God who is faithful and true to His promises. If so, this would explain why David is willing to commit his spirit into the LORD’s hand, because he knows God is faithful to do what He has said He will do. 

David could also be describing the LORD’s righteousness. If so, he believes God will see what is true about David and the LORD will never accept the slanders of his enemies, which are designed to make David ashamed. This could apply to the next life, as David understands that his relationship with the LORD spans into eternity. 

It is possible, if not likely, that David has both the LORD’s faithfulness and His righteousness in mind when he describes Him as: God of truth.

Psalm 31:1-5 as Messianic Prophecy

Psalm 31:1-5 is prophetic of Jesus, the Messiah.

1.   The Messiah will take refuge in the LORD.

In You, O LORD, I have taken refuge (v 1a).

As David took refuge in the LORD, so did Jesus take refuge in the LORD

Throughout His ministry, the Gospels portray Jesus as someone who consistently sought refuge in the LORD, and in a variety of ways.

  • When Jesus was tempted in the wilderness, He entrusted His wellbeing to God and His word (Matthew 4:4).
  • Jesus did not entrust Himself to men (John 2:24-25).
  • Jesus often withdrew to spend time alone with God (Luke 5:16).
  • When Jesus was grieved to the point of death, He went to the LORD in prayer, and He submitted to His Father’s will (Matthew 26:38-39).

2.   The Messiah will never be ashamed once the LORD delivered Him in the LORD’s righteousness.

Let me never be ashamed;
In Your righteousness deliver me (v 1b).

These lines are prophetic of Jesus the Messiah in an ultimate sense. 

Obviously, Jesus the Messiah experienced temporary shame as He was scorned by His enemies and humiliated on the cross (Hebrews 12:2). The Messiah’s suffering was notably predicted in Psalm 22 and Isaiah 53 among other prophecies, including portions of this very psalm—Psalm 31 (Isaiah 53:3; Psalm 22:6-7). 

But the cross was not the final or ultimate statement concerning Jesus. 

First, Jesus’s resurrection from the dead after three days demands that the humiliation Jesus experienced on the cross be reexamined. At the very least, Jesus the Messiah was vindicated by the LORD when He was delivered and resurrected from the dead (Romans 1:4). 

Moreover, because of His obedience unto death, the LORD granted all authority to Jesus in heaven and on earth (Matthew 28:18; Philippians 2:8-9). The prophecy let me never be ashamed speaks most directly to Jesus’s exaltation (Isaiah 53:12), when every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus is King of the Universe (Philippians 2:10-11).

As for the shame He suffered on the cross, Jesus despised and dismissed it as a temporary humiliation. He chose to see it in its eternal context. He viewed His suffering through the lens of faith and looked forward with joyful anticipation of the reward it would yield Him—the salvation of the world; and eternal glory and honor:

“for the joy set before Him [Jesus] endured the cross, despising its shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2).

To “despise” something is to give it little to no value. The “shame” Jesus endured was real. It was severe. It caused Him great pain. But compared to the “joy set before Him” to please His Father by obeying His will, Jesus chose to view the “shame” He endured as having no account. 

Following the example of Jesus, the Apostle Paul also endured severe suffering at the hands of those who rejected him. But he also accounted such rejection and loss as “momentary light affliction” as compared to the “eternal weight of glory” of what God has in store for those who love Him and follow His ways (2 Corinthians 4:17; 1 Corinthians 2:9). 

 

3.   The psalmist’s petitions in v 2-4 foreshadows Jesus the Messiah’s prayer in Gethsemane.

Incline Your ear to me, rescue me quickly;
Be to me a rock of strength,
A stronghold to save me (v 2).
For You are my rock and my fortress;
For Your name’s sake You will lead me and guide me (v 3)
You will pull me out of the net which they have secretly laid for me,
For You are my strength (v 4).

On the evening of His last Passover, during the late hours of the night, Jesus led His disciples into a garden called “Gethsemane” to pray (Matthew 26:36, John 18:1). He knew He was being betrayed and would soon suffer for the sins of the world on the cross (Matthew 20:18-19, 26:21-25, John 12:27-32, 13:21-30). 

Upon entering Gethsemane (which means “Olive Press”), Jesus “began to be grieved and distressed” (Matthew 26:37) over what was about to happen to Him. He confided to Peter, James, and John, “My soul is deeply grieved, to the point of death” before asking them to pray with Him (Matthew 26:38). The image of Jesus at Gethsemane (“Olive Press”) is that of immense pressure—being pressed like an olive in an olive press.

It was at this point that Jesus “fell on His face” in desperation to pray: “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will” (Matthew 26:39). Luke adds: “being in agony He was praying very fervently; and His sweat became like drops of blood, falling down upon the ground” (Luke 22:44). These great beads of sweat were like beads of olive oil being squeezed in a press. 

Christ’s response during His desperation is strikingly similar to how David responded when he was endangered, indicating that His Gethsemane experience was a fulfillment of this psalm. 

They both were imperiled by adversaries who secretly conspired against them.

  • David’s enemies: secretly laid a net to trap him.
  • Jesus’s enemies: “plotted together to seize Jesus by stealth and kill Him” (Matthew 26:4).

They both turned to God in their trouble and personally petitioned Him.

  • David prayed to: You, O LORD
  • Jesus prayed to: “My Father” (Matthew 26:39).

 They both called upon God with urgency and fervor.

  • David prayed: Incline Your ear to me, rescue me quickly.
  • Jesus prayed “very fervently” (Luke 22:44).

They both looked to God for deliverance from their troubles.

  • David asked the LORD to: rescue me and to save me
  • Jesus asked His Father, “if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me” (Matthew 26:39).

They both trusted God with the outcome.

  • David told the LORD: For Your name’s sake You will lead me and guide me; and: You will pull me out of the net which they have secretly laid for me.
  • Jesus told His Father: “yet not as I will, but as You will” (Matthew 26:39).

Each of the above similarities appear to be prophetic allusions within Psalm 31 concerning the Messiah. 

4.   The LORD will rescue the Messiah from His adversaries for His (the LORD’s) name’s sake.

Even as David predicted for himself: For Your name’s sake You will lead me and guide me. You will pull me out of the net which they have secretly laid for me; so too was he prophesying of how and for what cause the LORD would rescue Jesus, the Messiah.

As His hour approached, Jesus prayed that through His sufferings: “Father, glorify Your name” (John 12:28). 

And when His hour finally came, Jesus petitioned His Father to “glorify Your Son” (i.e. pull Him out of the net of death which His enemies had secretly laid for Him) “so that the Son may glorify You” (by His resurrection) (John 17:1). 

These prayers reveal how Jesus’s mission (including His death and resurrection) was for His Father’s glory and name’s sake. In glorifying His Father, Jesus was also be glorified. 

Moreover, Paul wrote that the reason for Jesus’s ultimate vindication when every knee bows before Him and every tongue confesses His Lordship is “the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:11). 

This again, reveals how Jesus’s humiliation and death on a cross (Philippians 2:8) was ultimately for the LORD’s name’s sake just as David’s deliverance in Psalm 31:3b was for the LORD’s name’s sake. It was because He glorified His Father that He Himself was lifted up, and His name raised above every name (Philippians 2:9-10). Amazingly, believers in Jesus are promised that if they glorify God they will also be lifted up (1 Peter 5:5-6; Philippians 2:5-10).

5.   The Messiah will commit His spirit into the LORD’s hand.

Into Your hand I commit my spirit (v 5a).

This line alludes to the Messiah’s total trust in the LORD—even in the face of death.

Jesus the Messiah trusted God and was obedient to God even unto death (Philippians 2:8).

Moreover, the last thing which Jesus uttered before He “yielded up His spirit” (Matthew 27:50) was personally paraphrasing David’s greatest expression of faith in Psalm 31.

“And Jesus, crying out with a loud voice, said, ‘Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit.’ Having said this, He breathed His last.”
(Luke 23:46)

Like David before him, Jesus completely entrusted Himself to the LORD. Christ’s faith in the LORD included trusting God with His death.

This direct allusion to this psalm is a persuasive indication that the entire psalm can be viewed as a messianic prophecy. 

To delve deeper into the meaning of Psalm 31:5 as it pertains to Jesus see the Bible Says article, “Jesus’s Seven Last Words from the Cross—Part Seven: A Word of Trust”.

6.   The Messiah will be resurrected by the LORD.

You have ransomed me, O LORD, God of truth (v 5b).

The final line of v 5 alludes to the Messiah’s resurrection. The Hebrew word that is translated as You have ransomed is “pawdaw.” This word is strongly associated with resurrection and is often translated that way in the Old Testament (Psalm 49:15, Isaiah 35:10, Hosea 13:14).

Jesus, the Messiah, was ransomed/resurrected from the dead by the LORD, three days after He committed His spirit into His Father’s hand (Acts 2:24, 1 Corinthians 15:4).

7.   The Messiah will be ransomed by God.

You have ransomed me, O LORD, God of truth (v 5b).

Even as “pawdaw” alludes to the Messiah’s resurrection, it also alludes to how the Messiah will be given as a ransom. Thus, the Messiah will be ransomed in multiple senses: 

  • The Messiah will be ransomed from defeat and shame at the hands of His adversaries. 
  • The Messiah will be ransomed from the enemy of death and brought back to life. 
  • The Messiah will be ransomed as a payment for the sins of the world (Colossians 2:14). 

Jesus, the Messiah, told His disciples that as the Son of Man, He “came to give His life a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28). Paul, wrote how as the Messiah, “Jesus…gave Himself as a ransom for all” (1 Timothy 2:5b-6a). 

Moreover, the ransom (sacrifice) of Jesus is what made the LORD’s ransoming (redemption) of the world possible according to God’s standards of righteousness and truth

“But He was pierced through for our transgressions,
He was crushed for our iniquities;
The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him,
And by His scourging we are healed.”
(Isaiah 53:5)

“For God so loved the world, that He gave [ransomed] His only begotten Son”.
(John 3:16)

“Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation…He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”
(2 Corinthians 5:18-19, 21)

Finally, it is noteworthy that up to this point in Psalm 31, David has described the LORD’s actions in the future tense (i.e. You will lead, will guide, will pull me out) or appealed to God to rescue and save him in the present tense. But here David’s confidence in the LORD is so strong that he describes the LORD’s future-deliverance of his spirit in the past tense as though he has previously been delivered—You have already ransomed me, O LORD, God of truth. This use of the prophetic past tense is a common device in prophetic passages, and indicates that future fulfillment is so certain that it can be spoken of as having already occurred. 

David has complete assurance in the LORD of the things he hopes for and the conviction of things he has not yet seen (Hebrews 11:1). In other words, David has faith. 

Biblical Text

1 In You, O LORD, I have taken refuge;
Let me never be ashamed;
In Your righteousness deliver me.
2 Incline Your ear to me, rescue me quickly;
Be to me a rock of strength,
A stronghold to save me.
3 For You are my rock and my fortress;
For Your name’s sake You will lead me and guide me.
4 You will pull me out of the net which they have secretly laid for me,
For You are my strength.
5 Into Your hand I commit my spirit;
You have ransomed me, O LORD, God of truth.




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