“Hear my cry, O God;
Give heed to my prayer.
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.
For You have been a refuge for me,
A tower of strength against the enemy.
Let me dwell in Your tent forever;
Let me take refuge in the shelter of Your wings. Selah.
For You have heard my vows, O God;
You have given me the inheritance of those who fear Your name.
You will prolong the king’s life;
His years will be as many generations.
He will abide before God forever;
Appoint lovingkindness and truth that they may preserve him.
So I will sing praise to Your name forever,
That I may pay my vows day by day.” (Ps. 61; musical version by Matthew Ward)
The sixty-first Psalm is often said to be a Psalm that is of confidence in God’s protection. As the faithful come under attack by the enemy, God is there, to whom they are to run, after which He shelters them mightily. Is it not, though, also of God’s comfort? God, to whom they run and in whom they find shelter, is indeed the One who also rubs balm upon wounded hearts. He cures with a healing salve. He restores their soul.
Poe famously asked the raven, “Is there- is there balm in Gilead?- tell me- tell me, I implore!” His heart was stricken with grief, for which he sought relief, none which came, though exacerbated by a single, “Nevermore.” Yet, the Psalmist knew of this balm, singing (Ps. 23):
“The LORD is my shepherd,
I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside quiet waters.
He restores my soul;
He guides me in the paths of righteousness
For His name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I fear no evil, for You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.”
Here, he sings that His authority and sovereignty comforts him in dark times, which is a theme that continues through the Old Testament and into the New, leading to the day wherein God Himself shall wipe away every tear (Rev. 21:4). How shall one, then, be comforted unless they seek refuge in Him? From these, echoes of Poe’s lament ring out, “Where is this balm? Please tell me.” Yes, it is only when one flees to God in search of refuge that they are also comforted, for it is His authority and sovereignty, through which they may have confidence and in His kindness and mercy that they may find relief, for “neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rm. 8:38-39).
Glory to God – Redeemer, Counselor, Lord, and Comforter, through His Son, Christ Jesus, the Living Lord and Savior of souls. Amen.
“Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.”