Psalm 57 -

David in the Cave

For the director of music. To the tune of "Do Not Destroy".

Of David. A miktam. When he had fled from Saul into the cave.

1Have mercy on me, O God, have mercy on me,

for in You my soul takes refuge.

I will take refuge in the shadow of Your wings

until the disaster has passed.

2I cry out to God Most High, to God,

who fulfills His purpose for me.

3He sends from heaven and saves me,

rebuking those who hotly pursue me; Selah

God sends His love and His faithfulness.

4I am in the midst of lions;

I lie among ravenous beasts—

Men whose teeth are spears and arrows,

whose tongues are sharp swords.

5Be exalted, O God, above the heavens;

let Your glory be over all the earth.

6They spread a net for my feet—

I was bowed down in distress.

They dug a pit in my path—

but they have fallen into it themselves. Selah

7My heart is steadfast, O God,

my heart is steadfast;

I will sing and make music.

8Awake, my soul! Awake, harp and lyre!

I will awaken the dawn.

9I will praise You, O Lord, among the nations;

I will sing of You among the peoples.

10For great is Your love, reaching to the heavens;

Your faithfulness reaches to the skies.

11Be exalted, O God, above the heavens;

let Your glory be over all the earth.

The occasion of this psalm was "when [David] had fled from Saul into the cave." There are two instances (that we know about) of David fleeing into caves from Saul. He fled into a cave at Adullam (see I Sam. 22:1-5), and at En-gedi (see I Sam. 24:1-22). We do not know which instance this psalm refers to. In any case, for David to flee from his ruthless enemies to a cave must have been frightening. For, if Saul and his army had found David, it would have been easy for them to seal the entrance, and subject David to a slow, painful death by starvation.

David well knew the desperateness of his situation. He prayed: "Have mercy on me, O God, have mercy on me for in You my soul takes refuge. I will take refuge in the shadow of Your wings until the disaster has passed" (vs. 1). David repetition of the phrase, "Have mercy on me," reflects his desperation. Being trapped in a cave, surely there was no one else for David to "take refuge" in but God. Could the flitting shadow of bat wings on cave walls have inspired David to take "refuge in the shadow of [God’s] wings"?

Certainly, even were David not in a cave, the proper place at all times in which to take refuge is our God. "The only refuge of a man in trouble is the mercy of the Lord; be it sin, be it misery, be it peril, or pressing evil; in mercy only is the relief of one and all sad conditions: and in this case must a soul double its petition in the Lord’s bosom" [Dickson, 340]. And in this life of trouble, we will have plenty of opportunities to seek the refuge of God. "While life lasts we shall never be done crying for mercy. Whether it be famine, pestilence or war, whether it be foes without, or fears within, whether it be at sea or on land, whether it be in sickness or health, in life or in death, our great need is mercy. Yea, we shall need it at the day of Judgment. Nothing but mercy can protect us from human malice or diabolical rage, from personal vindictiveness or legal injustice, from sin in life, from despair in death, or from hell in eternity" [Plumer, 596].

Though in a desperate situation, David had faith that God was at work: "I cry out to God Most High, to God, who fulfills His purpose for me. He sends from heaven and saves me, rebuking those who hotly pursue me; God sends His love and His faithfulness" (vss. 2-3). It truly takes a man of faith to be able to say, while trapped by his enemies in a cave, that God "fulfills His purpose for me." We must all realize that God is at work, even when we are in times of trouble, even when we are beset by cruel enemies.

David describes his enemies: "I am in the midst of lions; I lie among ravenous beasts—men whose teeth are spears and arrows, whose tongues are sharp swords" (vs. 4). "It is no new thing for good men to have barbarous foes, who would, if they could, swallow them up" [Plumer, 597]. It is interesting that, of all the weapons in Saul’s armory, David speaks of the ammunition spewing from the mouths of his enemies, presumably referring to malicious slander and gossip being used to turn the people against David. "Malicious men carry a whole armoury in their mouths; they have not harmless mouths, whose teeth grind their own food as in a mill, but their jaws are as mischievous as if every tooth were a javelin or an arrow" [Spurgeon, on vs. 4].

David, in his prayer, turns from focusing on his own safety, to more important considerations: "Be exalted, O God, above the heavens; let Your glory be over all the earth" (vs. 5). "But pious minds in the midst of their greatest sufferings turn with alacrity from themselves to God. Thus our Lord Jesus in His agony cried, ‘Father, glorify Thy name,’ (John 12:28). So here the type of Christ forgets his discomforts or cheerfully submits to them, asking that thereby the Lord may be honored" [Plumer, 595].

Interestingly, as David focuses on God’s glory, rather than his own safety, he begins to see his prayers being answered: "They spread a net for my feet—I was bowed down in distress. They dug a pit in my path—but they have fallen into it themselves" (vs. 6).

In the last section of the psalm, David does something that we would all do well to do when we are faced with affliction. David forgets his own problems and gives himself totally over to the praise of God: "My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast; I will sing and make music. Awake, my soul! Awake, harp and lyre! I will awaken the dawn. I will praise You, O Lord, among the nations; I will sing of You among the peoples. For great is Your love, reaching to the heavens; Your faithfulness reaches to the skies. Be exalted, O God, above the heavens; let Your glory be over all the earth" (vss. 7-11). "Faith does not free us from trial, but it does enable us to triumph over it. Moreover, faith lifts us high above the purely personal sense of pain, and creates a passion for the exaltation of God among the nations" [Morgan, 104].

David’s giving of himself over to the praise of God was not an easy thing to do. It was something he had to will himself to do. He says twice, as if to convince himself, "My heart is steadfast… my heart is steadfast." He then verbally slaps himself: "Awake, my soul!" "Our natural powers are dull and sluggish in God’s praises, and so they must be aroused by self-exhortation" [Plumer, 595]. He uses his musical instruments (and God-given musical talent) to help himself enter into praise: "Awake, harp and lyre! I will awaken the dawn." He resolves to praise God everywhere, in every way: "I will praise You, O Lord, among the nations; I will sing of You among the peoples." Then, finally, not surprisingly, after making great efforts to enter into praise, David give us words that have helped God’s people through many generations to enter into the praise of God: "For great is Your love, reaching to the heavens; Your faithfulness reaches to the skies. Be exalted, O God, above the heavens; let Your glory be over all the earth."

Home | Previous Article | Next Article | Back Issues | Contents | Complete Index | Mailing List

To contact us:

ssper@scripturestudies.com