For God alone my soul waits in silence;
from him comes my salvation.
He alone is my rock and my salvation,
my fortress; I shall not be greatly shaken.
How long will all of you attack a man
to batter him,
like a leaning wall, a tottering fence?
They only plan to thrust him down from his high position.
They take pleasure in falsehood.
They bless with their mouths,
but inwardly they curse. Selah
For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence,
for my hope is from him.
He only is my rock and my salvation,
my fortress; I shall not be shaken.
On God rests my salvation and my glory;
my mighty rock, my refuge is God.
Trust in him at all times, O people;
pour out your heart before him;
God is a refuge for us. Selah
Those of low estate are but a breath;
those of high estate are a delusion;
in the balances they go up;
they are together lighter than a breath.
Put no trust in extortion;
set no vain hopes on robbery;
if riches increase, set not your heart on them.
Once God has spoken;
twice have I heard this:
that power belongs to God,
and that to you, O Lord, belongs steadfast love.
For you will render to a man
according to his work. (Psalm 62; ESV)
A Lonely King
A good, just, and merciful king is not supposed to be lonely or afraid. He is not supposed to have to hide. We expect to see him enthroned and receiving the honor that is due his office, but God’s king does not often appear this way in the second book of the Psalter (Psalms 42–72). In this book of the Psalter, which is preeminently about the king and the kingdom of God’s people,1 we often see him hiding and pleading with God for deliverance from his enemies.
According to the superscription, this is a Psalm of David and nothing in the psalm gives us reason to think it is not about David. The king is besieged, attacked, and battered. We do not know by whom or why, but why do God’s opponents hate God’s king? To ask that question is to answer it.
The psalm is in three parts. The first two parts (vv. 1–4; 5–10) are thematically united by silence. The king waits for God alone in silence. Everyone else has abandoned him. Only God is his friend, his “rock” (v. 2) and “salvation.”2 God is his fortress. Anyone who has been abandoned or betrayed by friends knows how precious it is that God is our friend, our rock, our fortress.
The king’s enemies are active. They are seeking not only to remove him from power but to destroy him. It seems as though they might. They “plan” and then they “attack” and “batter” (v.3). It seems as though the king might lose. He is tottering. The broken old fence, as it were, might tip over at any moment.
Having grown up on the plains, I am well familiar with tottering fences and barns. Sometimes a farmer just does not have the resources to fix the old barn and he must let it go. Grandpa did that. The barn where he kept the horses and tack, where we sat on the saddles and pretended to ride, aged and began to lean. After a while, we were banned from going in because it might tip over at any moment. A strong east wind would knock it over and us with it. One day, coming home from the town pool, the barn had finally tipped over. After a while, he hired a man to carry it all away. So it is with King David. He has taken about all he can. He is, as we say back home, about done in.
Worst of all, perhaps, his friends only pretended to love him. They blessed him with their mouths but simultaneously plotted against him (v. 4). They lie about him but are jealous, bitter, and poisonous. The king is overwhelmed by the bitterness of betrayal, loneliness, and suspicion. Whom can he trust? Who is not duplicitous?
He answers those questions in the second stanza (v. 5). “For God alone my soul waits in silence.” Again, the king is silent; all he knows to do is wait on God. All his friends have abandoned him and he has abandoned hope in them. Only God really loves him. Only God really upholds him. Only God God really protects him. Because God is his fortress, his rock, and his refuge (vv. 5–7), he has hope and he cannot ultimately be shaken.
In the second half of this stanza (vv. 8–10), he confesses his hope and exhorts the church to trust in the God who rescued his king from enemies within and without. Here we see the king speaking from deep personal experience. He does not speak theoretically. He has known the deliverance of his God. Thus, he can say with confidence, “Trust in him always, O people.” We may not be able to pour out our hearts to our friends, who may betray us, but we can always trust God who always hears and is always faithful. Social status matters nothing here (v.9). Unlike the gods of the social gospel, liberation theology, and prosperity gospel, God is no respecter of persons (Rom 2:11).
The exhortation of verse 10 is general, but it has an application to David’s situation. Surely the king was tempted to plot against his enemies, to play the same sorts of political games, and to do to them what they sought to do to him, but robbery and extortion are no answers.
We find no resolution in the psalm until the third stanza, when, as it were, God finally breaks his silence and speaks to the king (v. 11): “Our God has spoken” and he has assured the king “power belongs to God,” and to him (alone) belongs covenant faithfulness (hesed). God has kept his promise and will act justly. The last part of verse 12 introduces a note that pushes our eyes away from David, does it not?
Our Righteous, Silent King
There has only been one king who could say those words, “for you will render to a man according to his work” unequivocally. He, even more than David was battered. He could barely carry his cross halfway up Golgotha before Simon the Cyrene had to take it over. He was tottering like a broken-down old fence. He endured the silence of God knowing that he was just, even though he had been abandoned by all—from Judas, that antichrist, to Peter, who promised never to leave him.
King Jesus would know silence in a way that David never could because he was not merely wounded and abandoned. He was murdered in the most brutal way the Romans knew. He was publicly humiliated and shamed, and then, they hoped, silenced by being placed in a tomb.
What they thought was a safe place for them, however, became his fortress, his safe place where he rested, as it were, waiting for the voice and power of God to speak. On the third day, God did speak. He did put an end to the suffering of the king. He would restore him to his rightful place, but on this day we see the king lying in state, in silence, guarded by Rome’s best, abandoned and waiting for that efficacious Word. He went to that tomb trusting his Father, knowing what covenant faithfulness truly is, being hesed itself embodied. For God alone, his soul waits in silence.
1. W. Robert Godfrey, Learning to Love the Psalms (Sanford, FL: Reformation Trust Publishing, 2017), 87–88.
2. Yet another piece of evidence against the doctrine of so-called “final salvation through works.” Augustine’s comments on vv. 6ff are edifying in this regard.
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