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A Study of Psalm 57:1-11

Superscription

To the Choirmaster: according to Do Not Destroy. A Miktam of David, when he fled from Saul, in the cave.

The superscription tells us this psalm was written when David fled from Saul into the cave. This story is recorded in 1 Samuel 24. This is a remarkable example of how David listened to God’s voice in every area of his life. David and his men were trapped. They were hiding from Saul and his army in a cave. But then God delivers Saul, David’s sworn enemy, into his hands, and yet David would not touch God’s anointed. It seems that Saul is genuinely moved by this show of compassion by David.

This psalm teaches us how to exalt God in time of trouble. Sometimes we may feel like David – trapped in darkness and surrounded by enemies. But in spite of the trouble around us, we can still reach out to God in faith.

Faith

Faith is dead to doubts—
dumb to discouragements,
blind to impossibilities,
knows nothing but success.
Faith lifts its hand up through
the threatening clouds,
lays hold of Him who has
all power in heaven and on earth.
Faith makes the uplook good,
the outlook bright,
the inlook favorable,
and the future glorious.

Verse 1

Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me, for in thee my soul takes refuge; in the shadow of thy wings I will take refuge, till the storms of destruction pass by.

David wrote in verse 1 "in you my soul takes refuge. I will take refuge in the shadow of your wings until the disaster has passed." David understood that we can rest secure under the shadow of God’s wings. His protecting hand would guard and protect us. Even though the storms of destruction were surrounding David, he knew he could take refuge in God.

Moll wrote, "A fugitive is not so safe and hidden in the gloom of the mountain cave as in the shadow of God’s wings. He who flees there gains a courageous spirit and a steadfast, confident heart...."

Verse 2

I cry to God Most High, to God who fulfils his purpose for me.

When we are overwhelmed and not sure where to turn, it is then that our heart cries out to God. During normal times we may just quietly come before him, but when distress seems to overtake us, then we cry out to God.

Notice David could confidently say even in the midst of his troubles that it was "God who fulfils his purpose for me." He knew that even the troubles he was now facing were all according to God’s purpose in his life. He could trust in God because he understood that there was a divine plan for his life that was going to be fulfilled no matter what may come against him. Do we feel that same confidence, or do we feel overwhelmed by our troubles?

Scroggie comments, "In content the Psalm moves, as in an ellipse, around two facts present to the Psalmist’s consciousness–the fact of foes, and the fact of God; but his fear of the one is more than counteracted by his faith in the Other."

Verse 3

He will send from heaven and save me, he will put to shame those who trample upon me. God will send forth his steadfast love and his faithfulness!

God will rescue David. Verse 3 tells us why – "God sends his love and his faithfulness." David knew that his deliverance would come from heaven. He did not trust in his own strength or his own wisdom or his own skills. He trusted in God’s deliverance because he believed that "God will send forth his steadfast love and his faithfulness." It was because he knew God’s nature, he understood God’s love and faithfulness, that he could trust for his deliverance.

John Wesley wrote,

Jesus, Lover of my soul
Let me to Thy bosom fly
While the nearer waters roll,
While the tempest still is high
Hide me, O my Saviour, hide
Till the storm of life is past.

Verse 4

I lie in the midst of lions that greedily devour the sons of men; their teeth are spears and arrows, their tongues sharp swords.

David was not facing a mild problem. He wasn’t just having a bad day. Saul and his army were chasing after him and had stopped at the very spot where David and his men were hiding. We usually aren’t in danger of our lives, but sometimes we face situations where we can identify with David’s words – I lie in the midst of lions that greedily devour, their teeth are spears and arrows, their tongues sharp swords.

Sometimes mean and biting words from those at work, or school, or even relatives can cause us extreme misery. Sometimes it may seem that everyone is out to get us. If you ever feel that way, remember these words of David. He was in desperate trouble, but God heard his cry and rescued him.

Verse 5

Be exalted, O God, above the heavens! Let thy glory be over all the earth!

In the midst of David’s trouble, he exalts God. His soul magnifies the Lord. He focuses on God’s power and majesty. He exalts God as the one above the heavens. He exalts God as the one whose glory is over all the earth. This is a real key to victory when we are surrounded by trouble. We need to learn how to exalt God. As we praise him from our heart, we will find our faith being renewed and our confidence being restored. We need to learn to exalt God in times of trouble.

Verse 6

They set a net for my steps; my soul was bowed down. They dug a pit in my way, but they have fallen into it themselves.

God delivers David in a miraculous way. Saul is weary from chasing David and his men. So he gives his men a breather. Saul decides to take a nap in an adjacent cave. But it just happens to be the very cave in which David and his men are hiding. Saul falls asleep. God has delivered Saul into David’s hands. His men urge him to kill the ruthless king, but David senses that the God who delivered Saul into his hands is also the God who appointed Saul as king. So he spares Saul’s life. He just cuts off a corner of the king’s robe. When Saul and his army return down the mountain, David calls out to them from the heights. David shows Saul the cut-off portion of the robe and tells him how he could not kill him because he was God’s anointed. This act greatly moves Saul. In fact he refers to David as "my son." Immediately Saul calls off the chase and returns home. David’s act of faith in God has had a profound influence on his men, Saul’s men, and perhaps even Saul himself.

Verse 7

My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast! I will sing and make melody!

Beginning with this verse to the end of the psalm, David begins a prayer exalting God for his deliverance. He had seen God’s rescue. He had trusted in God before the miracle of deliverance, and now he must exalt God because of his gratitude. Notice he repeats the phrase, "my heart is steadfast." His heart was firmly placed on God. He was now going to sing and make melody to his Creator for his blessing of deliverance.

In 1791, John Wesley lay on his deathbed at the age of 88. Those who gathered around him

realized how well he had learned the lesson of praising God in every circumstance. Despite Wesley's extreme weakness, he began singing this hymn,

"I'll praise my Maker while I've breath,
And when my voice is lost in death,
Praise shall employ my nobler power;
My days of praise shall ne'er be past,
While life, and thought, and being last,
Or immortality endures."

Even though we may be surrounded by troubles, our heart needs to be steadfast on the Lord. We need to trust in God and not allow our faith to waver. As we stand fast in the Lord, we will find that God sends his love and his faithfulness.

Verse 8

Awake, my soul! Awake, O harp and lyre! I will awake the dawn!

My whole life I have been crying out to God. Fortunately, he has always been there to rescue me, to comfort me, and to meet my need. Sometimes when we are going through a difficult time, we don’t fully understand how God is working in our behalf. It is only later after the storm clouds have disappeared that we are able to put things in perspective and realize how God was orchestrating circumstances for our benefit.

Moll comments, "The servant of God will not only late and early praise God, awake cither and harp and anticipate the dawn, so that he is not called by it, but the dawn by him; he will likewise encourage and lead the nations throughout the earth by his praise of God that they may praise Him likewise."

Verse 9

I will give thanks to thee, O Lord, among the peoples; I will sing praises to thee among the nations.

David give thanks among the peoples, he sings praises to God among the nations. He does not just quietly worship God. He wants everyone to know about God’s faithfulness and his deliverance. When we realize that this psalm has been repeated down through the centuries, we see how David truly did give thanks to God among all the nations.

Bruce Larson relates, "At a conference at a Presbyterian church in Omaha, people were given helium filled balloons and told to release them at some point in the service when they felt like expressing the joy in their hearts. All through the service balloons ascended, but when it was over 1/3 of the balloons were unreleased."

That’s the way we are sometimes – we are afraid to release our praise to God. We wish to hold onto our problems and live in our misery. We must release our faith to God. We must learn to exalt him even in time of trouble. When we do this, we will find the joy of the Lord flooding over our soul.

Verse 10

For thy steadfast love is great to the heavens, thy faithfulness to the clouds.

When we realize that God was faithful to David, we know that he will also be faithful to us. We can do the same things David did: cry out to him, trust in him, and praise him. Let us not be overwhelmed by disaster, but let us learn that God’s love and faithfulness will rescue us.

Matthew Henry comments, "To God as the God of grace will I fly, and his promise shall be my refuge, and a sure passport it will be through all these dangers.–We need no more to make us happy, but to have the benefit of the mercy and truth of God.–When God is coming towards us with his favors, we must go forth to meet him with our praises."

Verse 11

Be exalted, O God, above the heavens! Let thy glory be over all the earth!

David once again repeats the refrain to exalt God that he wrote in verse 5. He is exalting God because he is above the heavens. He is exalting God because his glory is over all the earth. Verses 9-11 of this psalm have inspired many English songs to be written. One of the most recent is the one by Brent Chambers,

I Will give thanks to Thee O Lord among the peoples
I Will sing praises to Thee among the nations
For Thy steadfast love is great, is great to the heavens
And Thy faithfulness, Thy faithfulness to the clouds
Be exalted O God above the heavens, Let Thy glory be over all the earth
Be exalted O God above the heavens, Let Thy glory be over all the earth

As we consider this psalm, let us join David and all the other song writers in exalting God when we are facing times of trouble. Let us realize that he will rescue us because of his love and his faithfulness. Let us not be afraid to exalt him, but let our praise pour forth from our heart toward heaven – even in the midst of turmoil and confusion.

Footnotes:

This study on Psalm 57:1-11 1998 by David Humpal. All Rights Reserved.
All scriptures unless otherwise noted are from the Revised Standard Version 1971, A. J. Holman Company

Faith by V. Raymond Edman

Moll: Lange’s Commentary on the Holy Scriptures, Psalms, pg. 349, Zondervan Publishing House

Scroggie: A Guide to the Psalms, vol. 2, pg. 42, Kregel Publications

Moll: Lange’s Commentary on the Holy Scriptures, Psalms, pg. 349, Zondervan Publishing Company

Larson: Luke , pg. 43

Henry: quoted in Lange’s Commentary on the Holy Scriptures, Psalms, pg. 350, Zondervan Publishing Company

Be Exalted O God by Brent Chambers 1977, Scripture in Song

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