Commentary on Psalms (42 - 89)
© by Francis Foulkes
& Cyril Okorocha


"1. Hear my cry, O God;
listen to my prayer.
2. From the end of the earth I call to you,
when my heart is faint.

Lead me to the rock that is higher than I;
3. for you are my refuge,
a strong tower against the enemy.
4. Let me abide in your tent forever,
find refuge under the shelter of your wings. Selah
5. For you, O God, have heard my vows;
you have given me the heritage of those who fear your name.

6. Prolong the life of the king;
may his years endure to all generations!
7. May he be enthroned forever before God;
appoint steadfast love and faithfulness to watch over him!

8. So I will always sing praises to your name,
as I pay my vows day after day."

This is another psalm that is a prayer in time of need. It shows how prayer is the cure for anxiety, and how confidence in God means that prayer ends up in praise.

Great need

Verse 1 speaks not just of prayer to God, but of a "cry" that rings out with the earnest plea that God will hear. The psalmist is far from home and from friends on whose support he has relied in the past. He feels that he is at "the end of the earth". (Compare the feelings expressed in Psalm 42.) His "heart is faint" - in other words he is discouraged and depressed. He realises too the strength of an enemy against him (verse 3), and his utter need of God's defence and protection.

Great security in God

All the psalmist's circumstances make him feel insecure, but to turn to God is to realise the source of true security. Notice the five ways in which he expresses this, ways that we find in other Psalms as well.

a. God is like a rock, a great rock that is high above him, a protection from the storm and shade from the burning heat of the sun. "Who is a rock besides our God?" Psalm 18:31 says.

b. God is "refuge", protection in times of danger. "God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble" says Psalm 46:1.

c. God is like a "strong tower" in which people can be safe from their enemies.

d. He prays "let me abide in your tent forever", and this may mean God's sanctuary or temple, which originally was the "tent of meeting" that the people carried with them as they wandered in the wilderness and then took into the land of Canaan. But it may mean his relying on the tender care of God's hospitality, as Psalm 23:5 puts it, "You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows".

e. Finally he says, "let me --- find refuge under the shelter of your wings". Here also the thought could be of the temple because of the way that the wings of the cherubim were stretched out in the inner sanctuary of the temple, but it is more likely that here, as in Psalm 57:1, the thought is of the way that young birds find protection under the wings of their mother (see Ruth 2:12 and Matthew 23:37).

Expressed in all these ways the underlying thought is what we have especially in Psalm 91. In order to find rest and peace and security in God in a world full of troubles, we need to learn to appreciate and totally rely on the love and power of God. We need to "dwell", "abide", and "take refuge" in God. In the New Testament the apostle Paul reminds Christian people of the total security that is ours in Christ especially in relation to spiritual warfare. He says, "your life is hidden with Christ in God" (see Colossians 3:1-3). God offers full protection to those who are humble and courageous enough to depend entirely on him.

Great cause for praise

Answered prayer should always lead to praise. Verse 5 speaks of praise for "vows" being heard and a "heritage" given. We need to think of what both of these mean. People often made vows at times when they prayed to God in the face of some great difficulty or danger, as we can tell from Psalm 66:13-14 and from Jephthah's vow in Judges 11:29-33 (though that was a foolish vow). Vows were not necessarily bargains with God as Jacob's vow in Genesis 28:20-22 seems to have been. 'If you do this for me, then I will serve you'. One of David's vows, of which Psalm 132:1-5 speaks, was a very different vow, an expression of a desire to honour the Lord and worship him. In thankfulness to God we should make our vows or promises to serve him, but it is most important that we keep the vows that we make (see Ecclesiastes 5:4-5). For Israel in Old Testament days their "heritage" or "inheritance" was the land that God gave them. The "inheritance" of Christians is the spiritual wealth that we have in Christ, which Hebrews 9:15 speaks of as an "eternal inheritance", and 1 Peter 1:4 as "an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled and unfading". For such an inheritance, the life and hope involved, Peter says, "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ" (see also Ephesians 1:3 which speaks of God as the Source of "every spiritual blessing" that is offered to us "in Christ").

Verses 6 and 7 are a prayer for the king. It was important for the king to realise that he was on his throne "before God", (in the presence of God and under God's watchful eye), and to know that God gave his "steadfast love and faithfulness to watch over him". When rulers govern their people in the fear of God and with a concern for justice, a country can prosper and be at peace. The New Testament teaches us the duty of praying for our rulers that this may be so (see 1 Timothy 2:1-3).

Meditation: "When I am afraid, I put my trust in you" (Psalm 56:3).

For further thought and study

a. Recalling what the Psalms say about the right kind of "fear", and what is meant by the "name" of the Lord, what kind of people are spoken of in verse 5 as "those who fear your name"?

b. From the references given above and also Ephesians 1:11 and 14 and Colossians 1:12 and 3:24 how would you describe the "inheritance" of those who believe in Jesus Christ?


  1. The particular feature of the heading of this Psalm is that it is said to be used "with stringed instruments". We have had this also in the headings of Psalms 4, 6, 54 and 55.
  2. If we understand verse 6 as a prayer for an individual king it is in exaggerated terms, the request that his years might "endure to all generations". It may be right to understand this as a prayer for the whole line of Davidic kings, that this might go on from generation to generation. Such psalms, however, came to be understood to refer to the Messiah, and their perfect fulfilment is in our Lord Jesus Christ, whose "years will never end" (Hebrews 1:12, quoting Psalm 102:27.