PSALM 57 Title -- THE SOUL AMONG LIONS part 1

by John Lowe
(Woodruff, S.C.)

November 23, 2015
Tom Lowe

PSALM 57

Title: THE SOUL AMONG LIONS
(To the chief Musician, Altaschith {2], Michtam of David, when he fled from Saul in the cave.)

Theme: the theme of this psalm, like that of Psalm 56, is an appeal of a godly soul to the Most High for deliverance from the plots of bloodthirsty enemies. Both psalms begin with the same words “Be merciful unto me, O God,” followed by an affirmation of trust in God’s good will, and both end with expressions of strong confidence that the answer to their prayers is at hand.

Psalm 57 (KJV)

1 Be merciful unto me, O God, be merciful unto me: for my soul trusteth in thee: yea, in the shadow of thy wings will I make my refuge, until these calamities be overpast.
2 I will cry unto God most high; unto God that performeth all things for me.
3 He shall send from heaven, and save me from the reproach of him that would swallow me up. Selah. God shall send forth his mercy and his truth.
4 My soul is among lions: and I lie even among them that are set on fire, even the sons of men, whose teeth are spears and arrows, and their tongue a sharp sword.
5 Be thou exalted, O God, above the heavens; let thy glory be above all the earth.
6 They have prepared a net for my steps; my soul is bowed down: they have digged a pit before me, into the midst whereof they are fallen themselves. Selah.
7 My heart is fixed, O God, my heart is fixed: I will sing and give praise.
8 Awake up, my glory; awake, psaltery and harp: I myself will awake early.
9 I will praise thee, O Lord, among the people: I will sing unto thee among the nations.
10 For thy mercy is great unto the heavens, and thy truth unto the clouds.
11 Be thou exalted, O God, above the heavens: let thy glory be above all the earth.


Introduction

In Psalm 57 the psalmist makes it known that he feels as if he is in the severest peril. Danger and disgrace stand at his door. Deadly enemies want to take his life. He compares them to ravenous lions who are all set to spring upon the prey. They slander him with words which he equates to piercing weapons. Moreover, they set a cruel trap for him. But his soul is alive with the certainty of his own innocence. There are two ever-present realities before him—the gracious God and the formidable foe. The Psalm see-saws between the two, but faith in the former is greater than fear of the latter and tilts the see-saw in that direction.
This is another of those psalms wrung from the soul of David in the dark days when he was fleeing from Saul. It is a “michtam” psalm, that is, David wished to have it engraved deeply upon his heart. The psalm covers one day in David’s life as a fugitive, for verse 4 records his lying down and verse 8 his waking up to greet the dawn. It is a lament coupled with a hymn of thanksgiving to God for his expected help.
We cannot be sure of the exact occasion where this psalm was written. We know that David was “in the cave,” but whether it was the cave at Adullam {3] or, later, in the cave of En-gedi{4] on the western shores of the Dead Sea we cannot be certain. In view of the triumphant note which rings out in the last five verses it is probable that it was written in the cave of En-gedi, but we cannot be certain. In view of the triumphant note which rings out in the last five verses it is probable that it was written in the cave of En-gedi.
The psalm contains no new truths. One commentator says, “We have, once more, the familiar truths that God hears prayer, that he punishes the wicked, and that he justifies the righteous.” Another commentator summarizes the teaching of the psalm: “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 exultation of God among the nations.”
Unlike Psalm 56 this psalm is a cry to God for help, made by one who knows God will answer, for God has already done so, many times. A number of Christian Churches recite this psalm on Easter morning.
Since verses 7-11 are identical with 108:1-5, it has been supposed that this psalm is a combination of two other psalms or sections of psalms. However, it is more likely that psalm 108 is the combination, having borrowed from 57.

Commentary

The first section includes verses 1-3, and the heading is “THE CALAMITIES WHICH PLAGUED HIM.” David has a three-fold prayer in this opening stanza. “Lord! Hide me! (v. 1) Hear me! (v. 2) Help me!” (v. 3) How often we have found the same three words being torn out of our souls by circumstances which are quite beyond us.

1 Be merciful unto me, O God, be merciful unto me: for my soul trusteth in thee: yea, in the shadow of thy wings will I make my refuge, until these calamities be overpast.

The repetition of the expression “Be merciful unto me”implies both the greatness of his danger and the zeal of his spirit, and in spite of all that that involves, his whole trust and hope was in God’s mercy. He strengthens himself with faith and hope in God, and prayer to Him (vs. 1, 2). Seeing himself surrounded by his enemies, he looks up to God with that appropriate prayer: “Be merciful unto me, O God!”which he again repeats and it is no vain repetition: “Be merciful unto me.”It was the psalmist’s prayer, and the prayer of the tax collector: "But the tax collector stood at a distance and dared not even lift his eyes to heaven as he prayed. Instead, he beat his chest in sorrow, saying, 'O God, be merciful to me, for I am a sinner.'” (Luke 18:13). It is with devout love for his Master that David prays, “Be merciful unto me, O Lord!” Look with compassion upon me and with the eye of love and pity redeemed me.” The verse indicates that it has been the habit of the psalmist to make God his refuge. His appeal therefore is not the cry of one who in a time of trouble suddenly thinks of God.
In his darkest hour when there is no other place for him to go for help, he turns to “the shadow of thy wings.”The reference is either to (1) the Temple, where from the sanctuary he can see into the most holy place; there, above the wings of the cherubim the invisible God sits on His throne, or to (2) God’s protection. In his grim crisis he prays unto the Lord. As the hills were David’s refuge from Saul, so was God the cave of refuge for his soul—a safe hiding place for us all. Israel has not as yet come under His wings. Are you ready to come under His wings? In other words, be obedient to Him, to love him—Jesus said, “If ye love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15)—and to walk in the Spirit?
Our Bible tells us that our life is hid in Christ with God. Think of that! The mighty heart of the Eternal beats for us. Anyone who wants to do us hurt or harm, including all the threats of the world, must first get past Him!
Our thoughts go to Jesus. His mighty arms are outstretched over Jerusalem and His loving heart aches over that great city. He sees its foes gathering down through the years. He would save it if He could: “Oh Jerusalem! Jerusalem! How often would I have gathered you as a hen gathering her chicks and ye the would not!” Could any tragedy be greater than that?
“Until these calamities be overpast” (until the danger passes; the storm blows over) implies that the psalmist was confident his troubles would end well, and at the appropriate time they will be “overpast”; the storm will blow over. The word “calamities”means “a destructive storm that could engulf me.”
We are in much the same position as David. Forces are martialed against us—not just physical forces, but ominous spiritual forces. They would like to tear us apart. But instead of running to Jesus, all too often we’ve run to the doctor, the psychologist, or the lawyer. Or we try to forget our troubles by turning on the television. David was wiser than that: “Lord, hide me!” I don’t know about you, but my prayer is the same as David’s, “O God, be merciful unto me.” I want God to be “merciful to me.” I don’t want Him to be just and fair and righteous with me. If He is, I am going to get a whipping. I want Him to be “merciful”and gracious to me. He is that kind of a God—rich in mercy. He has enough for me—and I’m going to require a lot of it—but there will be enough for you also.

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