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



"1. In you, O LORD, I take refuge;
let me never be put to shame.
2. In your righteousness deliver me and rescue me;
incline your ear to me and save me.
3. Be to me a rock of refuge,
a strong fortress, to save me,
for you are my rock and my fortress.

4. Rescue me, O my God, from the hand of the wicked,
from the grasp of the unjust and cruel.
5. For you, O Lord, are my hope,
my trust, O LORD, from my youth.
6. Upon you I have leaned from my birth;
it was you who took me from my mother's womb.
My praise is continually of you.

7. I have been like a portent to many,
but you are my strong refuge.
8. My mouth is filled with your praise,
and with your glory all day long.
9. Do not cast me off in the time of old age;
do not forsake me when my strength is spent.
10. For my enemies speak concerning me,
and those who watch for my life consult together.
11. They say, 'Pursue and seize that person
whom God has forsaken,
for there is no one to deliver.'

12. O God, do not be far from me;
O my God, make haste to help me!
13. Let my accusers be put to shame and consumed;
let those who seek to hurt me
be covered with scorn and disgrace.
14. But I will hope continually,
and will praise you yet more and more.
15. My mouth will tell of your righteous acts,
of your deeds of salvation all day long,
though their number is past my knowledge.
16. I will come praising the mighty deeds of the Lord God,
I will praise your righteousness, yours alone.

17. O God, from my youth you have taught me,
and I will still proclaim your wondrous deeds.
18. So even to old age and grey hairs,
O God do not forsake me,
until I proclaim your might
to all the generations to come.
Your power 19. and your righteousness, O God,
reach the high heavens.

You who have done great things,
O God, who is like you?
20. You who have made me see many troubles and calamities
will revive me again;
from the depths of the earth
you will bring me up again.
21. You will increase my honour,
and comfort me once again.

22. I will also praise you with the harp
for your faithfulness, O my God;
I will sing praises to you with the lyre,
O Holy One of Israel.
23. My lips will shout for joy
when I sing praises to you;
my soul also, which you have rescued.
24. All day long my tongue will talk of your righteous help,
for those who tried to do me harm
have been put to shame, and disgraced."

Old people frequently look back on the earlier years of their lives. Godly old people can look back and recall many ways in which they have known the help and blessing of God. Clearly this psalm was written by one who looked back like this, but also he courageously faced the present with its difficulties, and had hopes for the future.

Looking back to the past

The psalmist's thoughts go right back to the beginning of his life, as he says, "it was you who took me from my mother's womb". He knew that from his birth he had been dependent on God. His earliest memories were of relying on God and finding him faithful: "you, O Lord, are my hope, my trust, O Lord, from my youth" (verses 5-6). He could say to the Lord, "from my youth you have taught me" (verse 17). He had had to face "many troubles and calamities" (verse 20), but he had been brought through them all. We have been learning from many of the psalms that remembering God's help in the past is a great booster to faith amidst present difficulties and future uncertainties. The question is, Do we remember?

Looking around in the present

The memories of the past were wonderful and continued to be an inspiration and encouragement to the psalmist. But he faced a difficult situation in his old age. He may have been sick. At least he was weak, and he had enemies who took advantage of his weakness. Like Job's friends, who were not true friends at all, there were those who said that his weakness meant that God had forsaken him, and so they could do what they liked against him (verses 10-11).

Looking up to God

In earnest prayer the psalmist brought this to God. "In you, O Lord, I take refuge", he prayed. "Save me --- you are my rock and my fortress" (verses 1-3). "Do not cast me off in the time of old age; do not forsake me when my strength is spent" (verse 9). The words of prayers often used in the past, and the words of earlier psalms, came to his mind, "O God, do not be far from me; O my God, make haste to help me!" (verse 12, and see Psalms 22:11, 35:22, and 38:21-22). "You who have done great things, O God, who is like you?" (verse 19, and see Exodus 15:11, Psalms 35:10, 86:8, and 89:6 and 8 where we have similar words). Five times in the psalm (in verses 2, 15, 16, 19 and 24) he speaks of God's "righteousness". The fact that God was just and fair gave him confidence that those who trusted him would "never be put to shame" or disappointed (verse 1). He would be delivered "from the grasp of the unjust and cruel" (verse 4); they would be "put to shame" and be "disgraced" (verses 13 and 24).

Looking to the future

What then was the psalmist's hope for the future? He wanted to live to the end of his life praising God more and more because of all that he had done for him (verses 14-16). He asked that the Lord would never leave him till he had had opportunity to tell of God's power and righteousness to the coming generation. Looking back on God's mercies in the past, and trusting God in the present, should give us hope for the future and lead us always to the desire to sing praises to our loving, righteous and mighty Lord (verses 22-24).

Prayer Lord, give to us and to all your people thankfulness for the past, trust in the present, and hope for the future.

For further thought and study

a. Look up Psalms 22:9-11, 30-31, 33:1-3, 35:4, 10, 22, 26, 28, 36:5, 38:21-22 and note the similarities to verses of this psalm. What does this suggest about the value of having in our minds the words of Scripture, and words of prayers and songs of praise so that we can use them in our own prayers and thanksgiving to God? b. What can we learn from the great emphasis in the Old Testament on parents telling their children, and those of one generation telling the next of the things that God has done? See Exodus 12:25-27, Deuteronomy 6:20-25, Joshua 4:4-7, Psalm 44:1-3 and 78:1-8.


1. There is no heading to this psalm, and it is thought that it may originally have belonged together with Psalm 70, but we cannot be sure of that.

2. In verse 3 the New International Version is closer to the words of the Hebrew, "give the command to save me" (and similarly other translations). Our translation has taken the words from the parallel in Psalm 31:2.

3. It is hard to be sure what is meant in verse 7 by the psalmist being "a portent to many". The word often meant an example of divine punishment, but it could mean an example of God's help and grace. The Good News Bible translates, "My life has been an example to many, because you have been my strong defender."

4. Verse 15 is also a verse that is translated in different ways by different versions, but whether it is taken in the sense that the God's deeds of salvation are more than can be numbered, or beyond description, the meaning is similar.