The rock of truth in the storm of fake news.
God is a stronghold for every quaking sinner and sufferer.
This article was originally written for 1517.
The 62nd Psalm is among the most affecting psalms in the entire Bible, and for good reason. From a purely literary perspective, Psalm 62 is surprisingly complex. Despite coming in at a mere twelve verses, it is comprised of an array different genres which appear elsewhere in the Psalter. There are lines of lament and praise and wisdom and exhortation and thanksgiving, all within a few stanzas of each other — which assuredly makes it among the most unique psalms ever composed. I imagine the psalmist reaching to the bottom of his proverbial poet’s bag as he crafts line after line in the hopes of reminding himself to trust in God alone.
History buffs will find these verses equally as enthralling. Unlike other psalms “of David,” this one doesn’t explicitly clue us into the contemporary settings in which these lines were written (e.g., Ps. 56, 57, 59). Even still, taking the entire psalm on its own might provide some insights as to the inspiration of these words. The fourth verse gives us, perhaps, the strongest indication as to the psalmist’s surroundings, where he laments a time in which there were those encircling him who only wanted to “bring him down,” to see him fall. These aggressors aren’t necessarily enemies, they’re (supposedly) friends. This devious betrayal stems from those who outwardly bless him but inwardly curse him (Ps. 62:4).
This, in my estimation, is the best evidence to connect this psalm with that decidedly tumultuous season in David’s life, in which he knew almost nothing but betrayal. That is, his son Absalom’s rebellion (2 Sam. 15). Absalom was a scoundrel, staggeringly conceited and rotten to the core. To jump-start his coup of his father’s throne, he positioned himself “beside the road leading to the city gate” of David’s kingdom and began spreading lies about his reign (2 Sam. 15:2–4). “You won’t find justice in there!” Absalom jeers. “There’s no one that’ll listen to you inside that gate.” Such is how Absalom was able to steal “the hearts of the men of Israel” (2 Sam. 15:5–6, 12), even swindling the affections of one of David’s closest advisors, Ahithophel (2 Sam. 15:30), leading to David’s eventual flight from his own throne.
The episode with Absalom isn’t only insightful for royal family drama. It’s also one of the earliest examples of “fake news.” If you’ve been on social media for any length of time recently, you’re likely well-versed in the current conversation surrounding the phenomenon of “fake news,” which is the reality in which misleading information is presented as fact, as the truth. This is a real journalistic issue and a conflict of professional ethics, to say the least. There’s a tendency, though, to assume that this is an entirely modern problem. But that, in itself, is fake news. Fabricated stories have been around for centuries — and almost always leave a trail of ruin behind them. We are living in an age when falsehood is proclaimed as “the truth” and truth is left in the gutter (Isa. 59:13–14). What is truth? What can we trust nowadays? Who can we trust? In the storm of “fake news,” where is truth to be found? Such is why this psalm exists: to show us that God alone is our exclusive object of trust. He is our Rock of truth, solid to the core.
Trust God because of his steady preservation.
King David opens with a very memorable refrain: “I am at rest in God alone; my salvation comes from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation, my stronghold; I will never be shaken” (Ps. 62:1–2). There’s almost a sense in which he’s exhausting his poetic limits as he runs out of adequate ways and words to describe who his God is and what his God does. The Lord is his rock and salvation and stronghold; the One who fastens his moorings so that he will “never be shaken” by the squall. Such is the psalmist’s firm declaration of trust in God alone.
There is a salient contrast that remains all but unnoticeable in our English translations of Scripture. David says that his soul is “at rest in God alone.” “Rest” (or “wait,” in the King James) is suggestive of silence or stillness — which is quite a statement considering what encompasses him. He is encompassed by a storm of “imagined mischief” (Ps. 62:3 KJV). His assailants are assaulting him with shouts and noisy threats. He is being pummeled by a hoard of conspirators who “take pleasure in lying” (Ps. 62:4). Their only objective is his downfall. They love spitting venom and spreading fake news, and they’ll stop at nothing to “bring him down from his high position.” Where does David go when this flurry of fabrications and revilings reaches a fever pitch? Where else but the stillness of God’s truth. “Truly my soul is stilled by God,” he says in effect. “I am at rest in God alone” (Ps. 62:1).
It’s very easy to listen to the tempestuous storm of fake news which vies for our attention online. To be honest, I’ve felt very much like a “tottering fence,” as David terms it, as the deluge of “imagined mischief” weighs on my mind and my soul like hell’s anvil. The world’s racket assures me that the End of Days is near. Satan bands together all the terraform nonsense and noise, strife and scandal in order to convince God’s children that everything is going to “hell in a hand-basket.” Such is why David’s confession, here, is so powerful.
In direct opposition to the frenzy of the world, David testifies that he is “at rest in God alone” (Ps. 62:1). His soul is quieted in, and on, God’s truth. All around him rages a maelstrom of chaos, a storm of noise, a whirlwind of commotion, which would make it very easy to give in and give up. But if the Rock isn’t shaken, neither will you be. Such is the resounding implication of verse 2: “I will never be shaken,” not because he was so steady and strong that he was able to withstand all of the lies and lambasting hurled his way, but only because he was trusting in the Rock. “Nothing,” comments Alexander Maclaren, “which does not shake the rock can shake the frail tent pitched on it.”1
God alone is the solid immovable surface underneath your feet. When all else gives way, he does not. The Lord surely and steadily preserves every single one of his children. Perhaps you’ve felt, of late, as though you too are a “tottering fence,” ready to crumble with the slightest nudge. Or maybe you’re already there. But notwithstanding what “imagined mischief” may be shouting in your ear, your God unshakeable God comes close to whisper, “Peace be still.” And while the storm might still rage, your soul can be at rest, because nothing has shaken or rattled the Rock. He is your steadfast salvation. Your defense. Your stronghold.
Trust God because of his shared protection.
David repeats himself in the fifth and sixth verses, nearly copying verbatim the opening refrain: “Rest in God alone, my soul, for my hope comes from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation, my stronghold; I will not be shaken” (Ps. 62:5–6). It is clear that this constitutes the anthem he aims to remember. Like the majority of the psalms, David is reminding himself where his truest trust lies, and why it is secure. Many of the stanzas which come from David’s pen are those which he himself so desperately needed. The Psalms, you see, aren’t the clandestine successes of a faithful soul, but are the journaled hopes of a desperate soul — of one teetering on the edge of oblivion.
There’s a variation worth noting, however, in this second iteration of the refrain. “Salvation” in verse 1 is changed to “hope” in verse 5 (or “expectation” in the King James), which means to suggest a cord or rope. David’s confession, therefore, is that God alone is worthy of trust precisely because God alone is his tether to something secure. When life is cracking, when the chaos is deafening, when we come to the end of our rope, that’s where God is found. His office is at the end of our rope. “Our extremity is His opportunity.”2 The safety of the Rock is primarily known when we are at our wit’s end. We’re most conscious of our need for God when he is the only hope we have. Those who hope most in the Lord are those who have found him to be their only hope. “Practical and experimental religion,” writes Charles Bridges, “is only learned in that extremity, that brings us to contrite prayer, and casts us in unreserved trust upon our God.”3
What’s more, up to this point, the psalm has been written with possessive pronouns: my salvation, my rock, my stronghold, my hope, my refuge. Suddenly, though, a shift occurs — the personal possessive is turned into a collective exhortation. “Trust in him at all times, you people,” says the psalmist; “pour out your hearts before him. God is our refuge” (Ps. 62:8). God’s promise of protection and preservation is shared by all his children. Let all of God’s people exclaim, “God is a refuge for us!” None are excluded. Everyone “at all times” can trust in him. He is a stronghold for every quaking sinner and sufferer, safeguarding all those that come to him for refuge. The God of all is the protector of all his people.
Trust God because of his sufficient power.
The concluding portion of this psalm is noteworthy because the refrain he’s been reciting doesn’t make an appearance. No mention of the rock, or the refuge, or the salvation. Instead, by way of stark contrast, David seeks to draw attention to the vast disparity between life’s false resources of trust and the true, ultimate Source of steadiness, i.e., God himself. To that end, he employs a term of considerable interest in verse 9: “Common people are only a vapor; important people, an illusion. Together on a scale, they weigh less than a vapor.”
Twice he uses the word “vapor,” which is the same Hebrew word peppered throughout the Preacher’s wrestling with futility (Eccl. 1:1–2), and is meant to imply something transient and temporary. Whatever we are trusting in that’s not God is everything opposite of him; that is, it’s impermanent and unstable and unreliable. That’s not like our God. He is everything steady and strong and secure. Therefore, the psalmist calls for the recognition of the utter vanity of anything else but God alone. “Place no trust in oppression or false hope in robbery,” the psalmist declares. “If wealth increases, don’t set your heart on it” (Ps. 62:10). “The more we rely an upon God,” comments Charles Spurgeon, “the more shall we perceive the utter hollowness of every other confidence.”4 “The eyes that have been looking on God,” notes Maclaren similarly, “are cleared to see the shadowy nothingness of men of all degrees.”5
It’s hard to see that, at times. The flurry of news and headlines make it impossible to know who or what to trust. But piercing through the storm cloud is the crag upon which our eternity clings. There is nothing you and I can get for ourselves that is worthy of our trust, because only God alone possesses true power and authority and mercy (Ps. 62:11–12). He sits alone as the Judge of all things, the only One able to hold the gavel. He alone has the power to punish or to pardon. He alone has the capacity for judgment and for mercy. He is the only all-powerful One. Every other source of so-called “power” is fake — nothing but fake news and “imagined mischief.” But there is nothing fake about the gospel of God. We are invited to entrust our lives to this Solid Rock. To plant our feet and faith on the only One who exercises omnipotent mercy on behalf of the desperate.
Alexander Maclaren, The Psalms, Vol. 2: Psalms XXXIX—LXXXIX (New York: A. C. Armstrong & Son, 1902), 226.
Thomas Guthrie, Man and the Gospel (New York: Robert Carter & Bros., 1866), 26.
Charles Bridges, A Commentary on Ecclesiastes (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 2009), 159.
Charles Spurgeon, The Treasury of David, Vols. 1–3 (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1988), 2:1.52.
Maclaren, Psalms, 229.