Psalm 71:1–3

“Be to me a rock of refuge, to which I may continually come; you have given the command to save me, for you are my rock and my fortress” (Ps. 71:3).

Like most of the metaphors applied to God in Scripture, the idea that our Creator is a rock is multifaceted in its meaning. In addition to informing us of the Lord’s stable, unchanging nature (Deut. 32:4), it also tells us about His strength and ability to safeguard His people, much as stone fortifications provide an excellent refuge from the elements and other dangers. This, in fact, is how the metaphor of God as a rock is used in today’s passage.

Psalm 71 is an expression of confidence in the ability of our Creator to rescue His people according to the standard of His own righteousness (v. 2). Because the Lord is true to His promises, He must ultimately save His children from all their enemies (Ex. 23:27; Ps. 41:1–2). Certainly, God often intervenes on our behalf to deliver us from our foes when we fail to ask for His assistance, but that does not mean we should take His protection for granted or believe that we need not go before Him in prayer to ask for His help. He delights to hear us confess our reliance on His mighty hand.

Such is the lesson that the psalmist learned over a lifetime of walking with the Lord, for, apparently, the author was an older man when he penned this hymn of praise (Ps. 71:9). If this psalm, as many scholars believe, was written as part of Psalm 70, then the author is David, who knew from experience God’s gracious work of protection in many circumstances. The greatest king of ancient Israel was saved time and again both from external threats and from dangers of his own making (1 Sam. 20; 2 Sam. 13–18).

Finally, we note that the people of God need protection not only from foes, both human and demonic, but also from the Lord Himself. Born into this world as sons and daughters of Adam, we deserve the righteous wrath of the one, true, holy God (Rom. 5:12–21). The only way to escape this wrath is to find shelter in the only one who can save us from God, namely, God Himself (1 Thess. 1:9–10). We find this protection in Jesus Christ alone, the incarnate Son of God, who bore His Father’s wrath on behalf of His people, that they might enjoy the benefit of eternal life. Like the famous hymn writer Augustus Toplady, we all must confess to Him: “Rock of Ages, cleft for me, let me hide myself in thee.”

Coram Deo

We are accustomed to identifying our enemies solely as those who hate us here on earth and whose opposition is easy to see and experience. Yet we should never forget that we come into this world at enmity with God and remain that way unless and until we repent of our sin and seek refuge in the rock of His righteousness. Let us thank Him that He has provided the only shelter that can guard us from His righteous wrath.

For Further Study