Praise the Lord, for He has shown me the wonders of His unfailing love. He kept me safe when my city was under attack (Psalm 31-21 NLT). What is "my city" in this verse?
We should interpret Bible passages with an understanding of the immediate context. Still, in studying God's Word and mining it, we often uncover vast layers of treasures in a single word or phrase as we consider the Hebrew/Greek meanings and examine cross-references.
I visited a very old building once that housed an attractive antique store. The new owners renovated parts of the house, and upon peeling old wallpaper off the living room wall layer by layer, they discovered a fireplace that had been completely covered and hidden from view. It was a glorious treasure to them, and they began restoring it, adding to the beauty of the old house. Other such treasures were discovered in the walls as the renovation continued throughout the house.
In Psalm 31, David was writing about an amazing rescue the Lord had accomplished for him during an intensely frightening time when King Saul was in pursuit and trying to kill him. God preserved him in caves and woods as though he were in the familiar strong city of Keilah, where David had rescued the inhabitants from their formidable enemies, the Philistines. In the NKJV, Psalm 31:21 says, Blessed be the Lord, for He has shown me His marvelous kindness in a strong city! Many strong cities were walled and secured from enemies. When mentioned in the Bible, cities are often symbols of security, safety, and permanency.
The strong city—my city—is Yahweh (God) Himself! In Him, we live and move and have our being, Acts 17:28 declares. When we are in Christ, we are also in God. His strong hedge of protection is always around us, affording us security, safety, and a permanent dwelling place, like a well-fortified, walled-in city that no enemy can penetrate. Of course, our protection is compromised if we walk away from the Lord and out of the strong city. Hebrews 13:14 (NLT) reminds us that this world is not our permanent home; we are looking forward to a home yet to come. The marvelous thing about this strong city--my city--is that until I actually take up residency in my permanent home in Heaven, I can live within God's strong city of protection and safekeeping right here and now.
A previous verse reads, You shall hide them in the secret place of Your presence, from the plots of man; You shall keep them secretly in a pavilion, from the strife of tongues, (Psalm 31:20 NKJV). "Them" in this verse refers to those who fear and trust God (verse 19). If you believe in Jesus Christ, you qualify as a "them!" A walled-in, well-fortified city sounds rather militant and cold, like a stone fortress or castle. "You shall keep them secretly in a pavilion" softens it a bit for those who like a cozier setting, as the word "pavilion" here means booth, cottage, tabernacle, or tent.
God is our city--our home, our pavilion, our cottage of safety, peace, warmth, security, and permanency. Do you live there? Have life's troubles yanked you out the window and away from the strong city of God? His unfailing love draws us to His strong city. It is my city; is it yours?
© 2023, Chris Werre