Truly my soul finds rest in God;
my salvation comes from him.
Truly he is my rock and my salvation;
he is my fortress, I shall never be shaken.
How long will you assault me?
Would all of you throw me down –
this leaning wall, this tottering fence?
Surely they intend to topple me
from my lofty place;
they take delight in lies.
With their mouths they bless,
but in their hearts they curse.
St Augustine once said that our hearts do not find rest until they rest in God. The Psalmist agrees. We are born to trouble as sparks fly upward from the fire (Job 5:7) and it’s easy to get swallowed up by the flames. Sparks fly from a variety of sources. People get burnt up by relationships that go wrong, scorched by disappointment, slowly consumed by illness and old age.
In v. 1 David seems to be talking to himself, reminding himself of his only true source of security in an insecure world, and that is something that we need to do as well. The imagery of God as rock featured in the previous Psalm (61:2) and is picked up by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount when he declares that whoever listens to him and puts his words into practice is building on solid rock (Matthew 7:24).
Left to ourselves we often don’t amount to much. David declares himself a leaning wall and a tottering fence (v. 3). David was a celebrity, national hero, rock star, Elvis and four-star general all rolled into one. He seemed to have it all, but in the Psalms David reveals his vulnerability. He might be seen by others – maybe most – as being in a lofty place (v. 4) but David knows only too well how deceptive appearances might be. His true security rests not in power or wealth or status but in God his rock, something so important that it needs repeating (vv. 2, 6). If it was worth David recalling and reiterating that conviction, then how much more is it so for ourselves when we are confronted with our own vulnerability? These words are a mantra for weary souls.
David’s self-encouragement becomes public as he exhorts others to find refuge in the God who can be trusted to hear the cries of our hearts (v8). We’re all human, we’re all travelling the same road and we’re all heading in the same direction – as David’s son Solomon relentlessly reminded us (Ecclesiastes 9:2, 3). Whether we have fame and fortune or obscurity and poverty, our lives are just a breath (v. 9). The question then arises, how we should live our lives? What are we to do with the brief time that God has lent to us? The temptation in David’s day and our own is to live for ourselves and to use others as a means to our own ends. David specifically mentions extortion and profiting from crime but there are plenty of legal ways in which we can use and exploit others. There is no mention here of judgement or punishment, but underneath all of this is the unspoken conviction that such a life is self-destructive and that the person who lives that way will ultimately harm themselves.
The Psalm ends with a short confession or creed: God is all powerful and God is love (vv. 11, 12). God sees what is done (v. 12) and will ensure that the right prevails. As always, we see the fulfilment of those words most clearly in the Gospels and the story of Easter. At the cross we see the full extent of God’s love, and in Christ’s rising we see the power of the God who is our rock and our salvation.