Lead Me to the Rock
Who is that aged man who flees across the wilderness toward the ascent of Mount Olivet? He wears no royal robes, no kingly crown; he walks barefooted. His head is bowed, as under a heavy burden of care. That man is grief-stricken David in exile from Jerusalem. Absalom has stolen the hearts of the people and seized the throne.
As the weary king pauses to rest by the wayside, he brings forth his stringed instrument and begins to play and sing. Drawing near, we catch the words …”When my heart is overwhelmed, lead me to the rock that is higher than I.” Under the inspiration of the Spirit of God, he is creating the Sixty-First Psalm.
The complete text of his song has been preserved in order that, from its words of comfort, afflicted and discouraged saints through the succeeding centuries may find strength and succour. Let us consider a few thoughts in this Psalm which may bring blessing to our hearts in times of distress.
“My heart is overwhelmed.” The word draws a mental picture of a river swollen by torrential rains bursting its banks and flooding the valley. Such is the description of David’s circumstance, and so often of ours as well.
He is overwhelmed by sorrow, for his own son whom he had so loved and so highly favoured has turned against him in revolt. He is overcome by trial, for he has been driven from the glory of his throne and the comfort of his palace and has been separated from his loved ones and friends. When we are similarly afflicted, well might we cry with David, “Lead me to the rock that is higher than I.”
David is also overwhelmed by his distance from God, for he speaks of himself as being at the ends of the earth. As to actual miles, he is only an overnight journey from Jerusalem, but in his exile, he feels himself to be as far from God’s sanctuary as possible to be. Sad to say, we too have times in our Christian experience when in our coldness of heart we feel ourselves to be far removed from the consciousness of God’s presence. On such occasions we should pray, “Lead me to the rock that is higher than I.”
This petition contains a threefold confession. He acknowledges his weakness, as he declares his need of being set upon the rock, the place of strength. We take the first step toward our gaining that place of safety when we make an honest appraisal of our own helplessness and insufficiency.
He also acknowledges his blindness or ignorance. David is aware of the higher place but, like a poor lost sheep, he does not know the pathway to the top of the rock; hence his request, “Lead me.”
He finally acknowledges his own littleness, for of the rock he uses the expression, “higher than I”. God withholds the blessing from us at times because we esteem ourselves to be too big or too important. On the other hand, when we, like Saul (1 Samuel 15:17), are little in our own eyes, there is lifting up.
What a blessing awaits us when like David we cry, “Lead me to the rock that is higher than I!” We are brought to a place of greater safety. When the Psalmist says, “Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies,” (Psa. 23:5), he cannot be referring to a four-legged piece of furniture laden with food, because sheep do not eat from tables, and he already has mentioned the green pastures. The figure refers to the same place of safety to which David is brought in our passage; that is, the high flat table-rock above his enemies, where the sheep have a sure footing and where their foes cannot climb. In the next Psalm, David tells us that the Lord is that rock. “He only is my Rock and my Salvation: He is my defence; I shall not be moved” (Psa. 62:6). In His safety, we find rest.
We are brought to a place of greater understanding. In the gloomy valley the view is limited to the immediate surroundings, but from the higher rock one is able to see afar off. Spiritually, we are enabled to discern the will of God or, failing this, we see that His unrevealed purpose is working for our good. In His purpose, we find peace.
We are brought to a place of greater fellowship with Himself. To be led by Him means that He goes before and we are close behind. Better still, He takes us by the hand. What greater blessing could we desire than the sweet communion of walking with Him? As we are brought to the higher plane, we become more separated from the world and all that would overcome us or distress us. In His presence, we find joy.
In verse seven, David’s life is preserved. By being led to the higher rock, he is delivered from the overwhelming floods of sorrow, trial, and coldness of heart. When we rest in the Lord, we are delivered out of all our fears.
In verse six, David’s days are prolonged. We would not crave merely a lengthening of life; rather, we would desire that the added time may be used for the glory of God. Many Christians, when on the verge of being overwhelmed by grief or affliction, have cried unto the Lord for deliverance. As a result they have been saved from a fall and their lives have been preserved for greater usefulness.
In verse eight, David’s song is produced, and he concludes by praising God. When we are brought out of the trial or distress into the blessing of the higher place, let us likewise express our gratitude and appreciation to God by offering up our sacrifice of praise and our song of thanksgiving to Him.
In reviewing the lesson which David’s experience teaches us, we see that the very difficulties which to us are so distressing are working for our good as they unfold God’s purpose for us and as they bring us closer to the Lord. Thus we learn to say, “God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day.” (Genesis 50:20).