“From the end of the earth will I cry unto thee, when my heart is overwhelmed: lead me to the rock that is higher than I.”
As we wend our way through this vale of tears, there are many times when we feel overwhelmed. The stress, the grief, the pain—it is all too much! There are moments when it seems as if our whole world is collapsing around us. At such times we are mindful of our weakness and our helplessness. And we may struggle against bitterness, rebellion, even total despair. Through all of this we seek something solid, something steadfast upon which to stand, something to keep us from being totally overcome and destroyed.
And by grace, repeatedly and continually we find Jehovah God to be that refuge, that solid rock. We experience again and again that “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (). We confess with David in Psalm 62, “In God is my salvation and my glory: the rock of my strength, and my refuge, is in God.”
The Word of God before us paints a very vivid picture of our desperation in the midst of the calamities of life. It pictures a mighty and terrible enemy in hot pursuit of a weak and defenseless victim. The pursuit has been long and hard, and the enemy is swiftly closing in for the kill. The enemy is relentless, and his object is nothing less than the total ruin and destruction of his prey. It appears to be a hopeless situation. There is no avenue of escape. To try to combat such an enemy is foolishness. One can only flee, and yet, at any moment, the pursuing enemy may reach him with a final bound and, like a ferocious lion, tear him apart and devour him. Panic, dread, and fear fill his soul.
Then, suddenly, there arises before him a mighty tower of rock. Standing upon that rock he would be safe; he would have a sure refuge; he would have peace of mind and soul. But the face of the cliff is sheer and impassable. The rock is too high! It still seems to be an impossible situation. All he can do is cry out! And that is what he does, “Lead me to the rock that is higher than I!”
Perhaps this scene seems like a horrible nightmare. But it is at times the reality of our lives as God’s children. Many of life’s circumstances can fit this frightening picture: affliction, injury, disease, adversity, sorrow, persecution, death. But we can see ourselves in this picture especially when we are confronted with the dreadful reality of our sin and guilt.
What can we do, confronted as we are, with these awful realities. We cannot escape. There is no relief. The only answer is to cry unto God as the psalmist did! “From the end of the earth will I cry unto thee, when my heart is overwhelmed.” Make no mistake—that is all that we can do. There is nowhere else to turn. There is no other alternative. As God’s children, this must be our prayer when our hearts are overwhelmed. Let us cry out, “Lead me to the rock that is higher than I!” And may we experience the everlasting arms of our God lifting us up and setting our feet upon the rock.
An urgent cry
When King David wrote these words, as inspired by the Spirit, he did so on the basis of his own experiences. He likely wrote this concerning the crisis in his own life, when he was forced from the throne upon which God had placed him. Very rapidly he had to flee the royal city, scarcely able to gather a few faithful men and a little food. His son, Absalom, had stolen the hearts of the people and his throne. David was banished from Jerusalem and from the tabernacle of Jehovah. Now he flees, seeking some place of safety, a refuge, some solution to his hopeless situation.
Humanly speaking, it was a no-win situation. If David’s small force under Joab was defeated, David would remain in exile. He likely would be pursued and killed. And, on the other hand, if Joab would defeat Absalom, it would mean the death of his son. The soul of the king was dark with forebodings. His mind was heavily burdened with fear and distress. There was no way out! There was no avoiding the harsh realities. Behind he saw a pursuing enemy. Ahead was the steep, cold face of an impassible tower of stone. That is the same helpless, hopeless feeling we sometimes have. We can but cry with David, “Lead me to the rock that is higher than I!”
What is this rock? Who is this rock that is too high for us? Scripture says in, “There is none holy as the Lord: for there is none beside thee; neither is there any rock like our God.” We read in regarding Jehovah, “He is the Rock, his work is perfect: for all his ways are judgment: a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is he.” Scripture testifies in , “The Lord is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower.” There can be no doubt that Jehovah God is this Rock!
The idea expressed in this concept, that God is the Rock, is very powerful and very comforting. It portrays our God as being almighty, immovable, steadfast, and sure. No matter the strength of the enemy or the frequency of his attacks, Jehovah stands as the solid Rock, a sure Refuge. This implies that in Him safety, security, peace, and relief from distress are to be found. To stand on Him is to possess the same glorious characteristics. Then, when enemies strong and terrible arise, when the power of sin and death would overwhelm us, when affliction and sorrow would cast us down, we are safe and secure. By faith we stand upon our Refuge, the Rock of our salvation.
But the psalmist cries, “Lead me to the rock!” The idea portrayed is that he cannot ascend the rock himself. Of himself he is unable to climb to its top and enjoy the safety and security its heights provide. He is too weak; he has no strength. But even more, the rock itself is too high for him!
Perhaps you ask, “How is it that God is too high for David and for us?” Do you not know? Do we not grasp this from our knowledge of ourselves and of our God? When we look at ourselves and then behold our righteous and holy God, it becomes obvious why we cannot climb the Rock ourselves, why we cannot unite ourselves to Him. God is perfect; He is holy and just! He is the over-flowing fount of all good! He is light and in Him is no darkness at all! Nothing of sin and corruption can stand in His holy presence, much less, be united to Him.
And we, what are we? We are but miserable sinners! The enemy of sin has beset us from the moment of our conception. The devil and his hosts relentlessly attack us. We see our sin and guilt, and we behold the blinding holiness of the glorious God of heaven and earth. Our unavoidable conclusion: the Rock is too high for us!
Besides, do not our sufferings, our miseries, and our sorrows teach us that the Rock is too high for us? We experience the turmoil of our minds and souls in the midst of our distress. We are so inclined to ask, “Why?” We struggle to stifle that questioning of the Lord’s ways, the spirit of rebellion that raises its ugly head. In our weakness we ask with the psalmist Asaph, “Hath God forgotten to be gracious? Hath he in anger shut up his tender mercies?” (Ps. 77:9). But in that way we can find no rest for our souls. In the way of complaint and rebellion we find no peace, no relief, no comfort. The Rock is too high for us!
A sure refuge
Yet, in the midst of all his troubles and distress, David knows that God is his only help. The preceding verse beseeches the Lord, “Hear my cry, O God; attend unto my prayer.” And he continues, “From the end of the earth will I cry unto thee….” With David we must see that the Rock is our only help and hope. And that becomes clear when we understand to whom the psalmist is speaking when he makes this request to be led to the rock.
He is speaking to the Rock itself! Salvation, deliverance, help, and strength come from the Rock! And the Rock Jehovah God has revealed Himself in is His only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ. Christ is Himself the Rock, the precious cornerstone of the church. Believing that, we know that on top of the Rock is the cross. There is redemption, full and free, the forgiveness of all our sins, deliverance from the power of sin and death. There is comfort, true comfort, our only comfort in life and death—that we belong unto our faithful Savior Jesus Christ.
It is all of grace that we behold Christ, our Rock, and deem Him precious. For many He is a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense. According to God’s sovereign determination, the disobedient stumble at the word of Christ crucified. It is of God’s sovereign, irresistible grace that we believe on Him and that He is precious to us.
But the psalmist declares that his heart is overwhelmed. And so it is for us at times—overwhelmed! We are yet so weak, so helpless and the rock is so high. The battle of faith saps our strength. We are left trembling, helpless, drained. The way before us appears long, dark, and frightening. But faith is the victory that overcomes the world and all our enemies. In faith, which is itself the gift of God (), we breathe the prayer, “Lead me to the rock that is higher than I!” and that plea is the beginning of victory. For though faith makes us mindful of our own weakness, it holds before us the Rock, the Rock who is our strength, yea, the God of our salvation. We behold the Rock; we look unto Him for our help. We hear Him speak; “My strength is made perfect in weakness” ( ).
So we are set upon the Rock, lifted up, rescued by the grace of our God. A blessed calm settles in upon our souls. We rest in the Lord. We are assured once again that God causes all things to work together for good unto His people. Our trust is fixed in God, the God of our salvation, the God who does all things well.
We are enabled to continue our pilgrim journey. We know we shall continue to be assailed by the enemy. We realize that we cannot ignore the harsh realities of life. But we go forward knowing “Jesus is a Rock in a weary land, a shelter in the time of storm.” He has always been and always will be a safe Refuge to all who flee to Him for shelter. And He is the only Refuge: “On Christ the solid rock I stand; all other ground is sinking sand.”
Let us rejoice in the God of our salvation! In His faithfulness He reaches out His almighty arm to draw us out of danger and distress, to lift us up, to set our feet upon the solid Rock, Christ Jesus. May we go forward with this song in our souls:
“When troubles overwhelm my heart,
Then Thou wilt hear my cry,
For safety lead me to the Rock
That higher is than I.”
(Psalter #160, stanza 2)