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Psalm 31:23-24 meaning

Psalm 31 concludes with an exhortation to trust the LORD no matter what and to be strong and courageous as we hope in Him.

Psalm 31, composed by David, is a personal declaration of absolute trust in the LORD and a petition for His help during a time of deep discouragement and extreme danger. It is a prayer to God organized into two sections of praise with a series of complaints set between them. Psalm 31 concludes with an exhortation to trust and hope in the LORD.

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

Psalm 31:23-24 as David's Exhortation

With these verses, the primary audience of Psalm 31 shifts from the LORD to the reader or listener of the psalm. Everything to this point has been a prayer to God in the form of a praise or petition. Starting with verse 23, David speaks directly to the reader of the psalm.

In light of the LORD's lovingkindness and His marvelous rescue of the psalmist from what appeared to be certain destruction (Psalm 31:19-22), David exhorts those who love the LORD (v 23) to remain faithful (v 23) no matter how difficult their circumstances may be. 

David addresses the readers/listeners of Psalm 31 as: all you His godly ones (v 23). And he exhorts them to: O love the LORD (v 23a). The exhortation comes first, and the address comes second. Verse 23 reads like this: O love the LORD, all you His godly ones!

After opening his closing exhortation this way—David reminds his readers of the core truths of Psalm 31, which are:

The LORD preserves the faithful
And fully recompenses the proud doer (v 23b).

This couplet is how Psalm 31 renders Jesus's teaching: "Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted" (Matthew 23:12, Luke 14:11) with the psalm's central theme of trust in the LORD. (See also Proverbs 3:34, 29:23, Isaiah 40:4, James 4:6, 1 Peter 5:5-6).

The LORD preserves the faithful means that God protects those who faithfully trust Him in all their circumstances. He will not let their circumstances, nor their proud adversaries destroy them or cheat them out of their ultimate reward. He will work all things together for the good of those who love Him (Romans 8:28). The LORD rewards those who have faith to seek Him (Hebrews 11:6). 

The second core truth of this couplet is: And fully recompenses the proud doer

To recompense is to reward appropriately. Those who are proud will gain a just reward. Scripture describes this in various ways, including His "wrath and indignation" (Romans 2:8). This is another place where pride is presented as the opposite of faith. "Faith" is described as the means to gain righteousness (Habakkuk 2:4). When we have faith that God's ways are for our best, then we live in His good design, which is "righteousness." Pride, on the other hand, is believing that we can do better choosing our own way. 

Just as the LORD's lovingkindness (mercy/"hesed)" preserves the faithful for their faith, hope (v 24), and love in Him; the LORD's vengeance recompenses the proud for their arrogant wickedness. They will be repaid (Hebrews 10:30-31). 

The proud doer is the person who is not humble. To be humble is to be willing to seek and see reality as it is, which will always be to see things from God's perspective. To see things from God's perspective leads us to trust and rely upon the LORD. The proud doer trusts his own way apart from the LORD. The proud oppose those who are humble and faithful to the LORD

Both the faithful as well as the godless proud will have their reward in full (Matthew 6:2-4, 5-6, 16-18). This is why Paul warns the Galatians to not be deceived by misinterpreting their current circumstances—there will be an ultimate accounting for all things:

"Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap."
(Galatians 6:7)

Like Psalm 31 illustrates, Paul explains: 

"For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life."
(Galatians 6:8)

The application of this truth and exhortation of both David in Psalm 31, Paul to the Galatians is the same. Paul exhorts the Galatians:

"Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary" (Galatians 6:9).

David, the psalmist, exhorts his readers/listeners:

Be strong and let your heart take courage,
All you who hope in the LORD (v 24).

David's exhortation to his readers to be strong and courageous appears to be an echo of the LORD's exhortation to Joshua on the eve of him leading God's people into the Promised Land:

"Be strong and courageous, for you shall give this people possession of the land which I swore to their fathers to give them."
(Joshua 1:6)

The Promised Land had been granted to Abraham's descendants through Isaac as an inheritance hundreds of years prior (Genesis 15:18). But in order to possess their inheritance, the Israelites had to walk in faith, and follow in obedience. Because the first generation refused to follow in faith, they failed to possess their inheritance. Hebrews uses this loss of inheritance to warn New Testament believers not to walk in pride, but to walk in faith (Hebrews 3:16-17, 4:1). 

David's exhortation is to trust and hope in God in all circumstances—even the incredibly painful and difficult ones that seem hopeless—because the LORD is faithful and His mercy will make it more than worth it (Matthew 10:32, 38-42, Romans 5:3-5, 8:18, 2 Corinthians 4:16-17, Hebrews 10:35, James 1:2-4, 1 Peter 1:3-7, Revelation 3:21, 21:7). 

To do this requires strength and courage. These come from the LORD. We cannot remain faithful in our own strength, but we can remain faithful in the grace of the LORD's strength. Whenever we encounter a trial to overcome we must have faith to ask the LORD for the grace of His strength and His wisdom (Philippians 4:16, James 1:5-6). 

The final line of Psalm 31 is another description of those who are faithful. The faithful are described as All you who hope in the LORD. Those who believe in God's future promises (hope) are those who will follow in the paths He lays out in order to gain those promises. 

It is interesting that in the final exhortation of Psalm 31—a psalm about trusting God in all circumstances—that the faithful are to abide in the three great virtues taught by Paul—faith, hope, and love (1 Corinthians 13:13). 

Faith is the virtue of trusting the LORD in all circumstances. Faith is believing that God has our best interest at heart even when things are impossible for us to explain. Faith is believing that God's reward for following Him will be greater than any and all other rewards we might gain in this life (Hebrews 11:6, 2 Corinthians 4:17, 1 Corinthians 2:9). 

Faith is the central theme of Psalm 31, is the main virtue this exhortation to be strong and take courage describes. 

Love is the virtue of seeking to please the LORD by obeying His commands to serve other people's needs and seek their good. This exhortation begins: O love the LORD. This kind of love is action/decision-based, rather than passion-based. This kind of biblical loves seeks to do what is right and good and what gains benefit for others. It is others-focused rather than self-focused.

Hope is the virtue of living in expectation of The LORD's goodness. The last line describes the faithful as you who hope in the LORD. The faithful believe that God's ways are for their best. Jesus illustrated this point by describing it as entering a narrow gate that leads to life (Luke 13:24). The narrow gate does not look as inviting, but is for our best.

Finally, the Concluding Exhortation of Psalm 31 (Psalm 31:23-24) could be read in the voice of David the psalmist or Jesus the Messiah. The meaning and application of this exhortation is the same whether it is in the voice of David or Jesus. Therefore, this commentary will not dedicate a specific section to how these verses are to be understood as a Messianic prophecy. 

On this topic, what we will add is only this: Jesus the Messiah is the reason we can be strong and let our heart take courage no matter what. Or in the words of Jesus: "Because I live, you will live also" (John 14:19). Jesus is our hope in the LORD.

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