Similar to most languages, in English we have lots of idioms. One we say is that “he/she is in good hands”, for example, when referring to a patient being cared for or being operated upon by a particular physician or surgeon. There is something very reassuring in this phrase, but even more if the “good hands” referred to are those of God!
The word “hands” is actually used four times in Psalm 31 as follows:
3 Since you are my rock and my fortress,
for the sake of your name lead and guide me.
4 Keep me free from the trap that is set for me,
for you are my refuge.
5 Into your hands I commit my spirit;
deliver me, Lord, my faithful God.
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.
7 I will be glad and rejoice in your love,
for you saw my affliction
and knew the anguish of my soul.
8 You have not given me into the hands of the enemy
but have set my feet in a spacious place.
Verse 5a, Into your hands I commit my spirit, is a well-known verse, having been later quoted by Jesus as he hung on a cruel Roman cross (Luke 23:46).
Here the psalmist acknowledges God as his “rock and his fortress”, as his “refuge” in the times of trouble that surround him due to his “enemies”. He can think of no better way to deal with this situation than to be completely surrendered to God in faith that He will act on his behalf. And so he prays, “into your [good] hands I commit my spirit.”
Spurgeon says, “These living words of David were our Lord’s dying words, and have been frequently used by holy men in their hour of departure.” (see references # 28)
Longman suggests, the psalmist “realizes that he lacks the necessary resources to save himself, so he puts himself totally into God’s hands.”
He continues, “Jesus found encouragement in this psalm as he was dying on the cross. At the climactic moment, he uttered the words of verse 5 to express his absolute confidence in God’s ability to rescue him. Of course, God did not rescue him from the cross, and he died, but God’s rescue came in the form of the resurrection. Peter encourages believers to have the same attitude towards God: ‘So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.’ (1 Peter 4:19)” (see references # 30)
Verse 15a, My times are in your hands; is also well known, probably having been prayed by many believers over the years since David wrote them. Recently I went to a 70th birthday party and when I looked around, the majority there were over 70, and thankful to God for the time that God has given them to live for him and serve him. Amongst these great people there were a good number who had served God in Australia as well as in places like Africa, Asia and South America. Whether we believe it or not, “our times are in God’s hands” and he gives us the years of our lives to live well and to glorify him.
Spurgeon (writing in the 1860’s), says concerning this truth, “The sovereign arbiter of destiny holds in his own power all the issues of life; we are not waifs and strays upon the ocean of life, but are steered by infinite wisdom towards our desired haven.”
W.G. Scroggie tells the story of “Dan Crawford, the African missionary” who translated these words as follows: “All my life’s why’s and when’s and where’s and wherefore’s are in God’s hands.” (see reference # 41)
Verses 15b and 8a are different. You have not given me into the hands of the enemy… deliver me from the hands of my enemies. Not only is the psalmist grateful for being in God’s good hands, he is also grateful that so far in his life he has been delivered from falling into the hands of his enemies and prays that this will continue.
Sometimes, of course, we are our own worst “enemy”, and when tempted, give in to temptation and find ourselves, temporarily, “in the hands of the enemy”, or so it seems. Jesus, when talking with some who opposed him (who were held captive “in the hands of the enemy”) said to them:
42 “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I have come here from God. I have not come on my own; God sent me. 43 Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say. 44 You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” (John 8)
“To be shut up in one’s hand is to be delivered over absolutely to his power; now, the believer is not in the hand of death or the devil, much less is he in the power of man. The enemy may get a temporary advantage over us, but we are like men in prison with the door open; God will not let us be shut up, he always provides a way of escape.”
As Paul says:
No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it. (1 Corinthians 10:13)
So, let me finish with a promise to believers made by Jesus, the Good Shepherd:
“My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. 30 I and the Father are one.” (John 10)
Thank you Father that you are good and we can commit our whole being into your safe and good hands knowing that you will work out your good purposes in and through us. Our minutes, hours, days, weeks, months and years are in your hands and that is a great comfort. “Teach us to number our days and recognize how few they are; help us to spend them as we should.” (Psalm 90:12 Living Bible) And, “Our Father…Don’t bring us into temptation, but deliver us from the Evil One. “ (Matthew 6:13 Living Bible). Amen.