“Hear my cry, O God, listen to my prayer; from the end of the earth I call to you when my heart is faint. Lead me to the rock that is higher than I, for you have been my refuge, a strong tower against the enemy. Let me dwell in your tent forever! Let me take refuge under the shelter of your wings! Selah.”
Psalm 61:1-4 ESV
There is evidence that this psalm may have been written by David during the time in which his own son, Absalom, briefly dispelled him from his throne, as is recounted in 2 Samuel 15-18. Absalom deceived some Israelites into believing that there were no men appointed by king David to settle their disputes. Absalom gathered followers and stirred up the people to say: “Absalom is king at Hebron!” (2 Samuel 15:10) When king David heard of this, him and his servants fled from Jerusalem.
King David cries out to God for help, as he is yet again displaced, running for his life, and perhaps feeling separated from God as well – “from the end of the earth I call to you when my heart is faint” (emphasis added). David then uses four pictures to describe the sovereign safety that he knows God provides.
The first is that of a rock – “Lead me to the rock that is higher than I”. This metaphor speaks of stability, faithfulness, but also the reliance on something (or rather Someone) that is infinitely strong. The second is that of a strong tower – “for you have been my refuge, a strong tower against the enemy.” God keeps watch over his people and defends them.
The third image speaks of safety in God’s dwelling place – “Let me dwell in your tent forever.” The tabernacle signified the providence and presence of God with his people as they were journeying to the Promised Land. Lastly, David makes the comparison to that of a mother bird protecting, shielding and comforting her young under her wings – “Let me take refuge under the shelter of your wings!”
I have quite a few budgies chirping in an aviary at my home and have had the privilege to witness tiny eggs hatching and incredibly weak, blind, naked and fragile creatures (no bigger than half my thumb!) come forth. They are completely dependent on their mother for food, drink, warmth, guidance – basically everything!
All of these images describing God as refuge, on the flip side, make it plain that human beings are incredibly weak and fragile creatures, who are completely dependent on their Heavenly Father. Even the strong king David was completely dependent on God. We need to humbly acknowledge that our strength and wisdom is limited, and that we are sinners by nature.
Let us look up to our strong tower and rock at the cross of Calvary where Jesus bore our sin and weaknesses; where He shielded us from the wrath of God, so that we may have His righteousness and lean on His strength.