Refuge in the Night

Refuge in the Night

Refuge in the Night.

“Be my strong rock, a castle to keep me safe, for you are my crag and my stronghold. For the sake of your Name, lead me and guide me.”  (Psalm 31:3, Authorized Version in the Book of Common Prayer; Psalm 31 is one of the readings in the Compline, a night service of prayers).

Psalm 31 was composed by David, recited by Jesus, and continues to be prayed by believers everywhere. David wrote the psalm while in the midst of an ordeal of some sort, facing a challenging adversity. This psalm was also recited by Jesus while hanging on the Cross, the instrument of His death. We hear the voice of Christ throughout this psalm, and we witness His intimate relationship with the Father, to whom He prays as He speaks these verses.

While suffering on the Cross, Jesus prayed the opening line of Psalm 22, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me!” (Mark 15:34). And then we see that His last prayer on the Cross was recited from Psalm 31, “Into your hands I commit my spirit.” (Luke 23:46). Taking both of these Cross-prayers into account, “There arose the popular Christian story that Jesus, while He hung on the Cross, silently recited all the lines of the Psalter that lie between these two verses.” (Patrick Reardon, Christ in the Psalms). So it is a part of Christian tradition that Jesus quietly spoke all the verses in Psalms 22 through 31 while on the Cross. That practice was very Hebraic… When one line of Scripture is recited in Judaism, it is intended to bring to mind all the surrounding verses. One verse in the Hebrew Bible was a springboard to recite and discuss all the related verses. One verse in a psalm opened the door to all the verses in the psalm. One can see in Psalm 31 that Jesus had complete trust in the Father, and that the Father was Jesus’ refuge and shelter. As in all the verses in Psalms 22-31, this verse in Psalm 31:3 should be read with Jesus in mind, while agonizing in His last breaths on the Cross.

Words of David, words of Christ, and now our words as well as we see the night approaching. We acknowledge our vulnerable position as we rest in sleep, that there are “perils and dangers of this night” as we face our “little death.” God loves our statements of faith and trust in Him. God’s heart is warmed as we lean into Him each night, and declare Him to be our refuge and shelter.

As we lay our head on our pillow, consider this weaving of many translations of Psalm 31:3:

O Lord, since you are my strong, rugged rock of protection, be my high fortress, my castle to keep me safe; for you are my cave to hide in, my refuge, my stronghold in your house of fortresses. True to your Name, and to bring you honor, lead me and guide me. Be my safe leader, be my true mountain guide. 

Orthodox Jewish Night Prayer Before Retiring to Rest:

“Blessed are you, O Eternal! Our God, King of the universe who causes the bands of sleep to fall upon my eyes and slumber upon my eyelids. May it be your will, O Eternal! My God and the God of my fathers, to cause me to lie down in peace, as also to rise up in peace. O let not my thoughts or evil dreams or ill-imaginings, harass me, but allow my nightly couch to be tranquil in your presence; and illumine my eyes lest I sleep the sleep of death, for you are He who enlightens the apple of your eye. Blessed are you, O Eternal! Whose glory irradiates the whole universe.” Amen.