The general purpose of this psalm is to lead people to put their trust in God, for He alone is worthy.
There Is Shelter in the Rock
1 Truly my soul waiteth upon God: from Him cometh my salvation.
“Truly” It is certain. David has tried God over and over and always found Him to be faithful. God has never failed. He trusts God implicitly because God is worthy of his trust.
2 He only is my rock and my salvation; He is my defense; I shall not be greatly moved.
Sure, David has friends, but friends may turn on him; friends may be killed in battle; friends may be captured by the enemy. Only God is completely invincible. Only God is as sure as a rock. Only God can always save him.
There Is Justice in the Rock
3 How long will ye imagine mischief against a man? ye shall be slain all of you: as a bowing wall shall ye be, and as a tottering fence.
Here David speaks to his enemies. He knows their end is destruction, for they have dared to raise their hand against the anointed king of Israel. God will protect him, and He will do so by destroying those who would rise up against him. “As a bowing wall… and… tottering fence,” they cannot stand.
4 They only consult to cast him down from his excellency: they delight in lies: they bless with their mouth, but they curse inwardly. Selah.
This verse is written from the perspective of the enemy toward David. Their goal is to seize the throne, and they have used treachery to create an uprising against David by flattering him one minute and stabbing him in the back the next.
5 My soul, wait thou only upon God; for my expectation is from Him.
David encourages himself in the Lord. Again, his hope is in the Lord because only the Lord has the power to deliver him from this trial he is facing.
6 He only is my rock and my salvation: He is my defense; I shall not be moved.
This verse is almost identical to verse 2, where David said, “I shall not be greatly moved,” but now with more confidence he says, “I shall not be moved.” His confidence is not in anything he can do for himself, but it is wholly in the Lord.
There Is Power in the Rock
7 In God is my salvation and my glory: the rock of my strength, and my refuge, is in God.
David is not ashamed to admit that he trusts God for protection and strength; he gives all the glory to God.
8 Trust in Him at all times; ye people, pour out your heart before Him: God is a refuge for us. Selah.
This is not just for David, but for all of us. Whenever we are afraid, we can pour our hearts out before God, for He is our refuge, our place of safety.
9 Surely men of low degree are vanity, and men of high degree are a lie: to be laid in the balance, they are altogether lighter than vanity.
Without exception, if we all were to be put in the balance together, we would be lighter than nothing, lighter than emptiness. Wow! What a blow to the ego. Humble men know they fit this description, but proud men, men of substance and station are in this balance too, and still the scale is unmoved. We are all less than nothing.
10 Trust not in oppression, and become not vain in robbery: if riches increase, set not your heart upon them.
Leaders who think themselves powerful because they rule with an iron fist and increase their wealth by means of unfair taxes should take warning. And what of the “ordinary” man? This would be the boss who treats his employees harshly and does not pay them what they are worth, or perhaps cheats his customers by overpricing his products. David says, “If riches increase, set not your heart upon them.” Money does not last, it cannot satisfy, and it certainly cannot buy the things that matter the most in this life—namely, life itself.
11 God hath spoken once; twice have I heard this; that power belongeth unto God.
The repetition is designed to give emphasis to the fact that all power comes from God alone. David had no power that God did not give him, nor do you or I.
There Is Mercy in the Rock
12 Also unto Thee, O Lord, belongeth mercy: for Thou renderest to every man according to His work.
This seems like a sudden shift in the subject. All throughout the psalm, David has been talking about trusting God, and now here in the final verse, He mentions the mercy of God and the fact that we must give account for our deeds, suggesting justice. But actually, God’s power must be tempered with mercy and justice in order for us to fully trust Him. If all we saw were His power alone, we might fear Him too greatly, wondering what it might take to be on the wrong end of His power. But understanding that God’s character includes a perfect balance of power, mercy, and justice gives us the confidence of knowing that He will judge with equity. God truly desires what is best for everyone—our enemies included. They are His created beings too. We were all at one time the enemies of God. But God, who is rich in mercy, and for His great love with which He loved us, when we were dead in our sins, made us alive in Christ, for by grace we are saved (Eph. 2:4-5). That is the power of God at work in us. That is the Rock on which I stand.
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Photo taken at Stone Mountain, NC, 2008.