Synthesis and Outline of Psalm 62.
Summary: God’s people sing Psalm 62 to foster confidence in the care of God, especially as they are faced with people who use power and wealth to oppress them. The temptation in such a case is either to despair or else to seek security in power and wealth rather than in God. The simplest way to follow the thought in the psalm is to observe how the addresses shift: from a description of “my soul” and God (vv.1-2), to speaking directly to and about the attackers (vv.3-4), then back to “my soul” and God (vv.5-7), on to exhorting the whole of the worshiping congregation (vv.8-10) and finally back to a description of God’s trustworthiness (vv.11-12).
I. My Soul Waits for God’s alone (Psalm 62:1-2). The Psalmist opens Psalm 62 by stressing how “my soul” relies on God in silence.
A) The Psalmist emphasizes that God is the only reliable hope (Psalm 62:1).
B) The description the Psalmist gives of a trusting soul is there to set an example for the people of God that every believer should aspire to the quiet faith he describes (Psalm 62:1-2).
II. To the Attackers: We Know What You Want (Psalm 62:3-4).
A) The Psalmist speaks against those who attack a man using lies and injustice (Psalm 62:3)
B) The purpose of singing Psalm 62 is to remind the godly that the attacks they experience have only one plan, and only one pleasure so there is only one recourse for them to trust in God.
III. O My Soul, Wait For God Alone (Psalm 62:5-7).
A) The main difference between vv.1-2 is the descriptive “wait in silence” is now an imperative; wait in silence (Psalm 62:5).
B) The Psalmist expresses his confidence in the reliability of God (Psalm 62:6-7).
III. To the Faithful: Evil Men Are But a Breathe (Psalm 62:8-10).
A) The Psalmist turns from addressing his soul (Psalm 62:5-7) to now addressing the whole congregation with whom he is singing the hymn (Psalm 62:8).
B) The Psalmist urges the congregation to trust in and take refuge in God (Psalm 62:8).
C) The Psalmist urges the people to earnest prayer (Psalm 62:8) and refusing to take any part in the methods of their attackers (Psalm 62:10).
IV. God’s Word is Certain (Psalm 62:11-12)
A) The Psalmist stresses the power and character of God (Psalm 62:11-12)
B) A persons work reveals whether his or her faith is real or counterfeit (Psalm 62:
Exposition of the Text
I. Historical Setting
Psalm 62 is in Book 2 of the Psalms. From the Davidic voice of Book 1, Book 2 introduces the first Korah collection, with a single Asaph psalm at Psalm 50. A further Davidic collection is found in Psalms 51-65 and 68-69, including the bulk of the “historical” superscriptions (51-62; 54; 56-57; 59-60; 63). Lament and distress dominate the content of these prayers, which now include a communal voice (Psalm 44; 67; 68). The lone psalm attributed to Solomon concludes Book 2 with the Psalm’s pinnacle of royal theology (72).
The heading of Psalm 62 is to the choirmaster according to Jeduthun, a psalm of David. The setting of the Psalm finds David surrounded by evil conspirators who wanted to dethrone him. The setting could be the treason he faced during Absalmon’s rebellion (2 Sam. 15-18) or it could have been Saul’s jealous rage.
Jeduthun was one of the leading musicians of the Jerusalem cultus, along with Asaph and Heman. All these names appear in the headings o psalms, and here in Psalm 62, where David also figures, the reason is more uncertain than usual.
II. Literary Analysis
Psalm 62 seems to reflect a situation of trouble for the psalmist, but it does not follow the usual pattern of laments or pleas for deliverance. Instead it has more in common with the instructive discourses both to the wicked (Psalm 62:3-4) and the reader, for whom the psalmist is mostly intended as exhortation to faithful endurance.
David is in danger in Psalm 62 but in spite of the danger his trust in God is so strong that the psalm is wonderfully serene and confident. H.C. Leupold wrote, “There is scarcely another psalm that reveals such an absolute and undisturbed peace, in which confidence in God is so completely unshaken, and in which assurance is so strong that not even one single petition is voice throughout the psalm. J.J. Steward Perowne observed, “Scarcely anywhere do we find faith in God more nobly asserted, more victoriously triumphant; the vanity of man, of human strength and riches, more clearly confessed; courage in the midst of peril more calm and more unshaken, than in this psalm.
- III. My Soul Waits for God’s alone Psalm 62:1-2
Psalm 62:1. David begins Psalm 62 by reaffirming to his own soul who God is. The word soul (Hebrew nephesh) refers to one’s entire being, one’s whole inner self, encompassing the mind, emotion and will. David’s entire inner person or his whole heart finds rest in God alone. This particular word for God (Hebrew elohiym) is in the plural form, indicating plentitude of power, majesty and dominion (Gen. 1:1, 3, 6). David vowed to trust in God, who was his salvation and who would deliver him from all harm. This word alone (Heb. Ak) is used with a fourfold, intentional repetition (vv. 1-2, 5-6) to underscore the exclusivity of David’s reliance on God. It is difficult to wait on God when danger lurks, yet David chose to do so. Refusing to take matters into his own hands, he waited on God to act.
The most important thing about Psalm 62 is that the psalmist is making God his only object of trust. He does not trust something other than God, nor is he trusting God and something else, or God and someone else. His trust is in God only, and that is why he is so confident. Alexander Maclaren one of the best commentators and preaches on the psalms captures this when he says, “That one word only is the record of conflict and the trophy of the psalmist’s victory.
Psalm 62:2. The psalmist’s trust was well placed. He boasted that God alone was his rock. The thought of God as rock and fortress is a favorite with David, whose psalms are seldom free from some shadow of an enemy. Although David’s world was quaking, his hour was dark, and his circumstances were difficult he was sustained by God, who was his rock-solid and immovable, David’s salvation and fortress (Heb. Misag, “high place,” “a refuge set high up”). Although he had reasons to fear, he wrote with confident resolve, I will never be shaken. In this time of mounting difficulty the psalmist’s faith rose still higher. He was safe in God’s care (Psalm 10:6; 37:24).
- IV. To the Attackers: We Know What You Want (Psalm 62:3-4).
Psalm 62:3. Addressing his assailants, David asked rhetorically, “How long will you assault a man?” The man to whom he referred was himself. He accused them of trying to throw him down like a leaning wall or tottering fence. These two metaphors show how he saw himself- in a weakened state, ready to fall.
Psalm 62:4. These conspirators intended to topple David from his lofty place. David was probably referring to an attempted coup to remove him from his royal throne. The people who plotted to do so were those around him who posed as his friends. With their mouths they were blessing David and praising him, but in their hearts they were cursing him and plotting evil plans against him. Their slanderous lies threatened to turn the tide of public opinion against him and undermine his leadership.
The question here turns to an assertion. The intent of the wicked is to bring ruin and destruction by insurrection (V.4a), by delighting in deception (v.4b), and by hypocritical speech (v.4c; 12:2; 28:3; 55:21). Facing this enmity the psalmist finds his strength in the Lord alone (vv.5-6).
- V. O My Soul, Wait For God Alone (Psalm 62:5-7)
Psalm 62:5-7. Reaffirming his confident trust in God (vv.1-2), David instructed his heart to find rest in God alone. By repeating the open refrain, he called upon himself to have faith in God, a reliance that was full of hope, a Hebrew word meaning an eager waiting upon God that looked forward to his intervention. His natural tendency would be to act impetuously, taking these matters into his own hands. David understood that God alone was his rock, salvation, and fortress, the one who could protect and defend him. God was his sole deliverance. God alone would uphold his honor.
The hope in the Lord (v.5) receives its proper focus because of the underlying faith in God, who can protect and defend His own (Psalm 18:2). Faith is the antidote to despair (Psalm 37:7). Silence in the presence of the Lord will speed God’s deliverance as Calvin observes, “Never, as if he had said, will he frustrate the patient waiting o his saints; doubtless my silence shall meet with its reward; I shall restrain myself, and not make that false haste which will only retard my deliverance” (2:423).
- VI. To the Faithful: Evil Men Are But a Breathe (Psalm 62:8-10)
Psalm 62:8. David invited others to share his confident faith in God: Trust (Heb. Batah, “o attach oneself to another object”) in him at all times, O people, even in the midst of difficult times. As a parallel synonym for trust David called out to the people, pour out their hearts to Him. This was a reference to earnest prayer, or the unburdening of oneself to God who alone is our refuge. True faith will express itself in fervent prayer to God. The emphatic confession of trust in the Lord (vv.5-7) transforms into an even bolder proclamation, calling on all the godly to put their trust in God. Mankind is unreliable whereas God is unfailing.
Psalm 62:9-10. David concludes by contrasting the weakness of man (vv.9-10) with the power of God (vv.11-12). David’s unwavering testimony was to trust God, not man. Lowborn men- meaning those of low rank and social standing- as well as the highborn- those born into privilege- are but a breath, meaning futile, empty and a lie, representing those who are not anchored to God’s holy trust. They are weighted on a balance, helpless to deliver themselves out of trouble. Mortal man must not trust in his own devices such as extortion, stolen goods or riches. All of those will fail.
With the Lord there is salvation and refuge (vv.6-8), whereas man is found wanting “on a balance” (v.9; Prov. 16:2; 21:2; 24:12). Man is but a breath, lacking in lasting perfections. Man’s riches and power are all too often the result of extortion, deception and theft (Isa. 30:12; Ezek. 22:29). Even when riches are gained legitimately, there is an inherent danger in self-reliance on them (Matthew 19:22; 1 Tim. 6:17). Though man may increase in riches and thereby in power, the godly know that their hope lies in the Lord and not in man. The positive “trust him” and the negative “do not trust in extortion” (v.10) undergird the psalmist’s contention that with the Lord is lasting salvation. Though the godly may have to wait with “hope” for his salvation, they are assured that the Lord provides a “refuge” (v.) to those who long for his salvation and who do not set their hearts on the riches of man.
- VII. God’s Word is Certain (Psalm 62:11-12)
In contrast to mortal men, God alone can be trusted. Only he is strong and loving. In other words, he is able to deliver his people who trust him, and he is willing to take into account their best interests and highest good. Unquestionably, God will reward each person who trusts Him, according to what he has done. The believer who trusts God will be rewarded by him. It is futile to initiate our own deliverance. We must wait patiently on God to act.
VI. Theological Significance
Psalm 62 begins with the awkward but impressive image of finding a place of stillness in relation to God. In this passage the Hebrew root describes a kind of motionless waiting- a sort of “holy inactivity” in anticipation of divine action and deliverance. The lack of movement- the stillness of the whole being indicates the psalmist’s trust and confidence. There are a variety of Hebrew words and phrases in the Old Testament that capture this holy inactivity.
First, keep still. In Exodus 14, the Israelites, having fled Egypt following the death of the firstborn, find themselves in a difficult spot. The pursuing army of Pharaoh has caught them up against the sea, with no way to escape. The Israelites, aware of the approaching Egyptians, mob Moses in a panic, expressing their fear in terms of wishing they had never left Egypt in the first place. Moses responds in words most often used to encourage troops just before an attack: “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Lord will fight for you; you need only be still” (Exodus 14:13-14). The Israelites were encouraged not to fight but allow God to fight for them. Their inactivity was a sign of their trust and reliance on God, that he had to do what they could not hope to do alone.
Dr. Wilson points out that the verb used in Psalm 62:1 (dmm) expressed much of the same idea as hrs. Both have the idea of remaining still, not beginning activity although dmm may have a bit more emphasis on motionless. Psalm 4:4, “In your anger do not sin; when you are on your beds, search your hearts and be silent [dmm].” The point is not to get caught up in frantic activity that relies on human strength.
Secondly, be still. Silence is another way to demonstrate “holy inactivity.” Israel did not do silence well. Israel constantly voiced their complaints and laments to God and his human representatives. Their many words needed to be stilled in order to allow them to hear God speaking or to see him acting on their behalf.
Stillness and quietness, reflect a strong them in Israel’s understanding of her relationship to Yahweh. When Yahweh comes, silence shows proper respect and attention in order to learn his will and purpose. Cessation of activity mirrors the Sabbath rest, which witnesses to Israel’s dependence on God rather than on human strength and endeavor. Frantic activity, whether in conflict with the enemy or in pursuit of wealth and personal security, does not acknowledge the strength and power of God as the place of refuge and ultimate security in the midst of trouble. Quiet repose in the face of attack is the ultimate evidence of trust in God and reliance on his strength.
When fear, worry, anxiety and panic come to a believer’s heart, he, or she must remember that God is strong and loving toward him, or her. These two divine attributes are the twin towers of every believer’s trust in God. Because God is strong, He is over all the events of history, even our own lives. Thus, He is able to deliver believers out of all their troubles. We may rest assured that nothing is impossible for God, who rules over all. Likewise, God is loving and merciful, a kind King who uses his omnipotence with infinite tenderness, coming to the aid of his people in their darkest hour. Believers can confidently call out to God for help, knowing that He loves them perfectly and will use his power wisely when they are attacked and endangered.
The last two verses of Psalm 62 are intended as a summary of what David has been learning, but they also go a step beyond it. David says that he has learned two lessons: that God is strong and that God is loving.
The opening lines (“one thing God has spoken, two things have I heard”) can be taken three ways. First, they can mean that God has spoken one thing twice. That is, God has repeated his lesson for emphasis. Second, they can mean that God has taught David two lessons, “one” and “two” being only a Semitic literary device. Third, they can mean that God spoke once but that David learned two things from it. David means that he has learned two great things about God as a result of God’s continuing self-revelation of himself.
First, God is strong; that is, he is sovereign in all the events of history, including the dangers that have threatened David. Second, God is loving or merciful, even in these apparently contradicting things. The word David uses is hesed, which refers to God’s faithful covenants with his people. It means that he is a covenant-keeping God.
Understanding God and the salvation he has provided in Jesus Christ ought to lead the believer to rejoicing in the Lord for these two great attributes of God. There would be no salvation if God lacked either of these attributes. If God had no power but lacked mercy, he would be able to save mankind but would have no inclination to do so. If God was merciful but lacked power, he might desire to save us, but he would not be able to do it. Fortunately, God is both all-powerful and compassionate. Therefore, he has reached out to save us and has been successful in doing so through Jesus Christ.
J.J. Steward Perowne reflects on these attributes in a slightly broader way, saying, “This is the only truly worthy representation of God. Power without love is brutality, and love without power is weakness. Power is the strong foundation of love, and love is the beauty and the crown of power.” Calvin commenting on this said, “The Psalmist coupling two things together, his power and his clemency. They are the two wings wherewith we fly upwards to heaven; the two pillar s which we rest, and may defy the surges of temptation.” The God who covers His children with the shadow of His wings, is the same God who rules the universe with His nod, holds in secret chains the devil and all the wicked. This is why we can rest in God alone. We can come to God for help, because he loves us and invites us to come to him. Once there, we can rest in perfect contentment, because we know that God is also able to protect us. Indeed, he is more than able. He is an impregnable fortress.
The psalms concern with silence has made it seem an appropriate text to encourage contemplative prayer, yet this is not the silence of contemplative piety but the silence after the storm, or rather, in the midst of storm. This Psalm teaches that if there is a way to live through the storm it is in light of some basic truths about God. The number of things to be learnt about God is very small and may reduced to just two. The central theme of the Old Testament understandings of relationship between God and humanity. In these two things are contained nearly all the Scriptures. They are the two pillars on which we rest, and may defy the surges of temptation.
The kind of calm confidence believers seek is not found in the absence of attack. The narrator of the psalm acknowledges that outside the center of calm, all hell is still breaking loose. The winds still howl, the rain still blows horizontally. The trouble, whatever it might be, assumes impossible proportions beyond any hope. But simply to acknowledge to oneself and another that the trouble is real is to begin to rob the situation of its power to attack one.
Secondly, acknowledging one’s dependence on God. Giving up attempts to escape or avoid attack forces one to acknowledge just how dependent one is on God alone. Psalm 62:7, “My salvation and my honor depend on God; he is my mighty rock, my refuge.” Whenever one accepts the lack of power and control they have over any situation, calm begins to descend. To acknowledge one’s rightful place in the world- that one is not particularly unique and that they are powerless, out of control, needy, dependent- actually restores calm.
Finally pour out your hearts to God. This kind of confident stillness does carry a price tag. It involves vulnerability and transparency before God. The words of the Psalmist are “pour out your hearts to him” (Psalm 62:8). The verb “pour out” describes the completely pouring out of liquid with no reserve- nothing held back. That might be water on the desert sands; a libation of oil or wine before Yahweh; the lifeblood of a murder victim or sacrifice; or metaphorically anger; God’s spirit, one’s mind or the heart. To enter the still point of confidence afforded by God’s power means opening ourselves completely to God: our need, our fears, our weakness, our sin. This kind of vulnerable honesty is characteristic of the psalmists as a whole and is the foundation of their trust in God.
Bonhoeffer, Dietrich, Mediation on the Word (Cambridge, MA; Crowley, 1986), 58-63.
Calvin, John, Psalm 36-92 (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2009), 431.
Lawson, Steve, Holman Old Testament Commentary Psalms 1-27 (Nashville: Broadman and Holman, 2003), 312.
Leupolad, H.C, Exposition of the Psalms (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1969), 458.
Kidner, Derek, Psalms 1-72 (Illnois: Intervarsity, 2008), 239.
Maclaren, Alexander, Expositions of Holy Scripture, vol.3, The Psalms, Isaiah 1-48 (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1959), part 2, 67.
Perowne, J.J. Stewart, Commentary on the Psalms, 2 vols. In 1 Grand Rapids: Kregel, 1989), 1:480.
VanGemeren, Willem A, The Expositors Bible Commentary with NIV Version: Psalms (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1991), 424.
Wilson, Gerald, The NIV Application Commentary Psalms Volume 1 (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2002), 882.
 H.C. Leupolad, Exposition of the Psalms (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1969), 458.
 J.J. Stewart Perowne, Commentary on the Psalms, 2 vols. In 1 Grand Rapids: Kregel, 1989), 1:480.
 Steve Lawson, Holman Old Testament Commentary Psalms 1-27 (Nashville: Broadman and Holman, 2003), 312.
 Alexander Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture, vol.3, The Psalms, Isaiah 1-48 (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1959), part 2, 67.
 Derek Kidner, Psalms 1-72 (Illnois: Intervarsity, 2008), 239.
 Willem A. VanGemeren, The Expositors Bible Commentary with NIV Version: Psalms (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1991), 424.
 Gerald Wilson, The NIV Application Commentary Psalms Volume 1 (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2002), 882.
 Eccl. 5:3, 7; Matthew 6:7.
 J.J. Stewart Perowne, Commentary on the Psalms, 2 vols. In 1 Grand Rapids: Kregel, 1989), 1:484.
 John Calvin, Psalm 36-92 (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2009), 431.
 Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Mediation on the Word (Cambridge, MA; Crowley, 1986), 58-63.
 Augustine, Psalms, 256.
 John Calvin, Psalm 36-92 (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2009), 2:431.
 Ex. 4:; 1 Sam. 7:6; Psalm 22:14.
 Judg. 6:20; Isa. 57:6.
 Gen. 9:6; 37:22; Ex. 29:12; Lev. 4:7; 17:13.
 Isa. 42:55; Ezek. 9:8.
 Joel 2:28-29.
 Ps. 42:4.
 1 Sam. 1:15; Lam. 2:19