The Suffering Servant Calling, “Abba, Father!”: Psalm 31

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Psalm 31 (NIV)

In you, Lord, I have taken refuge;
    let me never be put to shame;
    deliver me in your righteousness.
Turn your ear to me,
    come quickly to my rescue;
be my rock of refuge,
    a strong fortress to save me.
Since you are my rock and my fortress,
    for the sake of your name lead and guide me.
Keep me free from the trap that is set for me,
    for you are my refuge.
Into your hands I commit my spirit;
    deliver me, Lord, my faithful God.

Be merciful to me, Lord, for I am in distress;
    my eyes grow weak with sorrow,
    my soul and body with grief.
10 My life is consumed by anguish
    and my years by groaning;
my strength fails because of my affliction,
    and my bones grow weak.
11 Because of all my enemies,
    I am the utter contempt of my neighbors
and an object of dread to my closest friends—
    those who see me on the street flee from me.
12 I am forgotten as though I were dead;
    I have become like broken pottery.
13 For I hear many whispering,
    “Terror on every side!”
They conspire against me
    and plot to take my life.

14 But I trust in you, Lord;
    I say, “You are my God.”
15 My times are in your hands;
    deliver me from the hands of my enemies,
    from those who pursue me.
16 Let your face shine on your servant;
    save me in your unfailing love.
17 Let me not be put to shame, Lord,
    for I have cried out to you;
but let the wicked be put to shame
    and be silent in the realm of the dead.
18 Let their lying lips be silenced,
    for with pride and contempt
    they speak arrogantly against the righteous.

 

23 Love the Lord, all his faithful people!
    The Lord preserves those who are true to him,
    but the proud he pays back in full.
24 Be strong and take heart,
    all you who hope in the Lord.

Sing this psalm with the Seedbed Psalter today! Visit the resource here.

CONSIDER THIS

Psalm 31 holds a special place in Christian history because it is one of only two psalms that are explicitly quoted by Jesus on the cross. The other, Psalm 22, is frequently cited in our sacred remembrance of the passion, but it is here in Psalm 31 where we find the last spoken words of Jesus according to the Gospel of Luke: “Into your hands I commit my spirit” (v. 5; Luke 23:46). However, there is a little detail that you should notice when comparing the two passages. Psalm 31 addresses Yahweh, the sacred covenantal name of God. It is a name so exalted and holy that the Jews would not even pronounce the name. It is rendered in the Hebrew Bible with only four consonants: YHWH. However, Jesus precedes these words from Psalm 31 with the most intimate term imaginable when he says, “Father, into your hands, I commit my spirit.” The movement from YHWH to Father is, in seed form, one of the greatest summaries of the gospel message and is why Jesus came to earth. Before the coming of Christ, God was distant and unapproachable. His name could not be spoken. Now, through the intercession of Christ and his redemptive work, we who were once “far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ” (Eph. 2:13).

Indeed, it is fitting that at the very moment Jesus was, quite literally, shedding his blood for us, he addressed God as Father, thereby modeling for us the new and living way that was being opened to all of us through the gospel. Now, we can all cry, “Father” for, as Paul declares, “you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, ‘Abba, Father’” (Rom. 8:15). This is the good news that is ours through the work of Jesus Christ!

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Timothy C. Tennent is the President of Asbury Theological Seminary and a Professor of Global Christianity. His works include Invitation to World Missions: A Trinitarian Missiology for the Twenty-first Century and Theology in the Context of World Christianity: How the Global Church Is Influencing the Way We Think about and Discuss Theology. He blogs at timothytennent.com and can be followed on twitter @TimTennent.

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