The thing about the psalter is that while there are historical nuances we should consider, it's largely a universal hymnal for all of us to sing the words as if they are our own because in fact they are.
When we come to Psalm 31 and we see the enemy advancing, in Columbia, SC in October of 2015, we know that this enemy is the rising water. Many have suffered and many continue to wait for deliverance. This is the theme of so many of the psalms.
This is why we continue to sing, to pray, to read these psalms. We memorize them for their universal quality. The backwater, nomadic shepherd (possibly?) sang these words 3,000 years ago about a completely different situation; the enemy that advanced many have been something different and difficult to understand from our vantage point, but we know what it's like to be in a desperate situation or perhaps to see the precarious nature of our neighbor and the little, if anything, we can do.
When we sing of the goodness of the Lord performed in the sight of all (verse 19) we can't help but think of all of the good things that come out of natural disasters like floods. Still, I get chills thinking about a choir member's husband who was rescued from what we were all wondering might be the end for him in a truck that could have been washed away in the flood. Because of people in our own congregation, friends and neighbors and Facebook, the word got out and he was rescued.
And today, when we're tempted to think that the worst is behind us, neighborhoods are told to evacuate to the local shelter. I am not sure what the psalmist had in mind when he sang it in the beginning, but when we think of verse 3, "Be my strong rock, a castle to keep me safe, for you are my crag and my stronghold;" we have a completely different feeling about the psalm than we might have on a regular Sunday morning.
Blessed be the Lord!
for he has shown me the wonders of his love in a besieged city.
Our city has been besieged by flood waters. Our hearts are heavy and we hold our breath for what is next. The recovery will not be easy. When the enemy waters encompass us round about, I am reminded of another psalm, "but in the name of the Lord, I will repel them!" (118).
Take comfort, what small bit you may be able to, in the work of God so evident in our neighbors and friends. Take comfort in those whose needs are being met and pray for those whose needs haven't yet been met. And finally, remember the charge of psalm 31:
Be strong and let your heart take courage,
all you who wait for the Lord.