Psalm 31: In Your Shadow Is My Refuge

Psalm 31 has a place in Holy Week worship because Jesus quoted it from the cross: “Into your hands I commit my spirit.” Though verses 9-13 give a glimpse into the terror of the cross, much of the Psalm focuses on trust in God’s deliverance with images like refuge, fortress, trust, and (safe in your) dwelling. It ends with the admonition: “Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the Lord.” It is a great comfort to me to know that I can meditate and hope in the same scriptures that Jesus recited in his time of deepest distress.

I asked Kate Bluett to work with me on this Psalm and she wrote a lovely setting of the text. It captures not only the heart of the Psalm, but also the structure, from plea for help, to description of affliction, to final words of hope.

Kate had mentioned to me her surprise at how triumphal the Psalm is, given its place in the passion narrative. I assumed this triumph would manifest itself in a rousing, sturdy melody. Instead, I found myself writing a flowing, confident tune that is full of quiet courage.

1. In your shadow is my refuge–
let me not be put to shame.
In your righteousness, my shelter–
listen and make haste to save!
In your name, what joy to hear it,
all my trust, O guard and guide.
In your hands I place my spirit:
O God of truth, redeem my life!

2. I have not served gold or idols;
no, I place my trust in you.
You who see my pain and trials,
surely you will see me through.
Though my days wear out in sorrow,
though my years wind down in sighs,
still you hold all my tomorrows.
O God of truth, redeem my life!

3. See my brothers and my sisters
turn away from me in fear.
Every day I hear their whispers;
shame surrounds me everywhere.
Yet I trust in you forever–
yes, your light on me will shine.
They forget, but you remember:
O God of truth, redeem my life!

4. In your goodness to your children,
I sit down as to a feast.
In your presence I am hidden,
safe from all my enemies.
Though I said in fear and hurting,
I was cut off from your sight,
yet you heard me in your mercy:
The God of truth redeemed my life!

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