Psalm 61


In this psalm of David we find he, for some reason, can’t get to the tabernacle to assemble with God’s people, but he reaffirms his commitment to keep his vows.


‘For the director of music. With stringed instruments. Of David.’

Although the headings aren’t inspired by God, they are important because they give us some understanding about the Psalm and they help us to see why it was written. The headings usually tell us four things.

1. Who wrote them, probably wrote them or possibly wrote them.

2. Information about the historical background to the Psalm. Why it was written.

3. They tell us of the tune the Psalm was written to.

4. How it was used.

The heading tells us that this psalm of David for the director of music and a stringed instrument is to be used. Some commentators believe that ‘director or music’ is God Himself and others believe that it is a song leader who led choirs or musicians, 1 Chronicles 6:33 / 1 Chronicles 16:17 / 1 Chronicles 25:6.

‘Hear my cry, O God; listen to my prayer. From the ends of the earth I call to you, I call as my heart grows faint; lead me to the rock that is higher than I. For you have been my refuge, a strong tower against the foe. I long to dwell in your tent forever and take refuge in the shelter of your wings.’ Psalm 61:1-4

David begins by asking God to hear his cry and listen to his prayer. It’s clear that David understands that God hears his prayers, never took God answering his prayers for granted, Psalm 5:1-2 / Psalm 17:1 / Psalm 17:6 / Psalm 39:12 / Psalm 71:2 / James 5:13.

David didn’t literally go to the ‘ends of the earth’ to pray, this is speaking about how he felt, he felt that he was at the end of the road, so to speak, he’s exhausted all resources, 2 Samuel 17:22 / Psalm 42:1-11. In other words, he felt spiritually far away from God, Deuteronomy 28:49 / Psalm 46:9.

David’s heart was beginning to grow faint, that is, he’s feeling overwhelmed and needs comforted, Psalm 42:3 / Psalm 42:6-7. He asks God to lead him to the ‘rock’ that is higher than him, he wants God to take him to His source of power.

For Israel, the Rock symbolised the love and protection of God, 2 Samuel 22:2-3 / Psalm 18:2. Who is that Rock? This Rock is Christ, Matthew 7:24-29 / Luke 6:48. Today, our Lord Jesus Christ is the true Rock for human souls.

For David God was his refuge, his place of safety and God was his strong tower, Psalm 18:2. He had a deep longing to dwell in God’s tent, that is, the tabernacle, Psalm 23:6 / Psalm 26:8 / Psalm 27:4. In the tabernacle, David would feel secure and be able to offer his sacrifices to God.

In the tabernacle he would take refuge in the shelter of God’s wings, Psalm 17:8. This is obviously a metaphor for a place of safety and security, like a young bird finds safety and security under the wings of its mother, Psalm 36:7 / Psalm 57:1.

You may notice at the end of verse four, some translations have the word, ‘selah’, although no-one really knows what this word means, it’s likely it means to pause. It’s a time to stop and reflect upon what has just been said.

We can almost imagine David pausing for a breath as he contemplates God as his refuge, strong tower, and as he thinks about the safety in God’s tabernacle and the shelter he would find under His wings.

‘For you, God, have heard my vows; you have given me the heritage of those who fear your name. Increase the days of the king’s life, his years for many generations. May he be enthroned in God’s presence forever; appoint your love and faithfulness to protect him. Then I will ever sing in praise of your name and fulfil my vows day after day.’ Psalm 61:5-8

David apparently had made some vows to the Lord, these vows were voluntary vows which were basically promises to God, but once made they were binding, Deuteronomy 23:21-23 / Numbers 30:2. They are made as a way of dedicating oneself to the commitment of the Lord and so, a person was then made accountable for keeping the vow.

The ‘heritage’ which God gave David, speaks of those who had committed themselves to God, and so, they were given to follow the leadership of David as king of Israel, Romans 8:16-17. David asks God to increase the days and years of his life, as king over Israel.

David wanted to be ‘enthroned in God’s presence forever’, physically this would not be possible but spiritually this would be true, because the Messiah would come through the linage of David, 2 Samuel 7:11-16 / Ephesians 4:7-13.

Notice that ‘love’ and ‘faithfulness’ are personified here, some translations use the words, ‘mercy and truth’, Psalm 25:10 / Psalm 57:3 / Psalm 57:10 / John 1:17. Love and faithfulness are going to protect him.

As a result of God’s intervention, Isaiah 38:20, David will ever sing praises of God’s Name and fulfil how vows days after day. In other words, singing praises to God and reminding himself to fulfil his vows to God would become a regular practice of his life.


David had made several vows to the Lord which were binding, by the time Jesus came on the scene, people were breaking and abusing the vows they had made, Matthew 5:33-37. The thrust of Jesus’ teaching was to correct the abuses of oaths common among men, not to forbid every type of oath.

Ultimately, God wants us to be a person of our word. Our word should be our bond. We shouldn’t feel a need to voluntarily make an oath. We shouldn’t feel a need to say, ‘I promise’. A simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ ought to be sufficient.

When we affirm that we will do something, do it! Stick by our word regardless of the cost to ourselves, Psalm 15:4. The only exception to this would be if our words would end up forcing us to commit sin. In that case, we should break our word and seek forgiveness for making such a foolish promise to begin with.

Furthermore, when we don’t want to do something, or simply cannot, then declare such plainly. Don’t say ‘maybe’ when we know the answer is ‘no’. Don’t say ‘yes’ when we don’t mean it.

When we give our word, regardless of the situation, people are listening and watching to see if we mean what we say. It is difficult to trust a person when their words don’t harmonise with their actions.

It is better to say nothing than to lie, Matthew 12:36-37, but the best course of action by far is to speak the truth plainly and be a man or woman of our word.

Go To Psalm 62


"Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see."

Hebrews 11:1