During the South Asian monsoons, heavy rains can swell rivers and flood entire cities. Mixed with mud, debris, and sewage, the unavoidable floodwaters invade streets, homes, and businesses alike. Residents have no choice but to wade through the sometimes chest-deep filth, carrying their precious possessions high over their heads to keep them safe.
The desperate attempt to preserve our lives and dignity in the midst of overwhelming circumstances is an experience that David knew all too well. Psalm 31 describes a metaphorical rising river carrying slander, contempt, abandonment, and terror. This river stemmed from the evil intentions of his enemies and was compounded by the unwitting cooperation of his friends. It seemed only a matter of time until he would be completely engulfed. His only hope was to lift his spirit over the muddy floodwaters and commit it into God’s hands for safekeeping (v. 5), just as Jesus did when He quoted the verse as a final prayer from the cross (Luke 23:46).
Psalm 31 offers us a prayer for those times when shame and defeat seem inevitable, when life’s foul circumstances threaten to sully our souls. Only God could provide a safe refuge for David’s spirit in the midst of overwhelming attack and shame. Despite the failure of friends to stand by and defend him, David was confident he could trust God’s unfailing love for him. As long as God still looked on him with favor, other people’s disgraceful treatment couldn’t destroy his soul.
David took refuge in God. He had confidence in knowing how God works. God not only shelters the souls of those who trust in Him, He also restores their honor in the sight of all (v. 19).