We all need a safe place where we can escape the fears and anxieties of the world. Young children who enter a new and intimidating situation will often hide behind their parent and grab onto their leg. Their parent is their safe place, or refuge. As adults, we choose different things to help feel secure. Our home or a favorite hobby can become a place of refuge.
Psalm 31 has two main movements. The first 18 verses contain a prayer of trust and petition. The second half celebrates an answer to that prayer. In the first section, the themes of trust in God are interwoven with desperate cries for help. David looks to God as his safe place, or his refuge. “In you, Lord, I have taken refuge . . . be my rock of refuge, a strong fortress to save me” (vv. 1–2). David found the Lord to be faithful and declared his steadfast trust in Him (v. 5). Because of this deep level of trust, David is able to beg God for help. Here, he shouted commands at God, “turn your ear to me, come quickly . . . deliver me . . . save me” (vv. 2, 15–16). David was the object of slander from enemies who wanted to take his life (vv. 11, 13, 17–18). That kind of public humiliation coupled with the threat of violence made David run to the Lord as his refuge.
The tone of the psalm changes dramatically in verses 19–24. David’s prayer has been heard. The Lord is his secure refuge. David declares, “In the shelter of your presence you hide them from all human intrigues” (v. 20). This deliverance motivates David to call all of God’s people to praise the Lord: “Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the Lord” (v. 24).
On the cross, Jesus was slandered by His enemies and publicly humiliated. He prayed words from this psalm, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit” (Luke 23:46). Jesus modeled what it looks like to take refuge in the Lord. When surrounded by evil, we can run to the Lord. We know that, ultimately, evil will not have the last word.