Psalm 57: Be Exalted, O God!
March 10, 2022
TODAY'S BIBLE READING:
Once again, David is in trouble. This time he is hiding in a cave from the attacks of King Saul. Who among us has experienced this kind of extreme danger? But whatever the scale of difficulty you have encountered, difficulty it still is. And this psalm—and David’s experience—can still help.
He starts with prayer for God to have mercy. “Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me” (57:1). He does not begin with expostulating on his innocence, how undeserving he is, how unfair it is that he is going through what he is going through. Biblically speaking, we all deserve far worse than we experience in this life: outside of Christ, we all deserve literal hell. So it is right for us to cry out to God for mercy.
Then David makes use of some evocative imagery to focus his mind (and our minds) on a real truth. “In the shadow of your wings I will take refuge” (57:1). While God cannot be seen by our physical eyes, his protection is very real. So then David’s “soul” takes “refuge” in God. Would you do the same this morning? Hide yourself in him.
After that, David brings in the theological grounding for his confidence: the covenant of God. “God will send out his steadfast love and his faithfulness” (57:3). This “steadfast love,” his covenant love, is something to which God will be faithful. You can count on his promises. He has said: “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5). “No one can snatch you out of my hand” (John 10:28).
Now comes the first of two interpolations of praise! David cannot help himself but to break into adoration! Sometimes I think the main difference between David and Saul is that David wrote psalms like this one. In other words, David had this rich reserve of security in God, whereas Saul failed to trust God at critical moments in his life. Make sure that your life is steeped in praise for it will help you trust God as you see (again) how trustworthy God is!
Be exalted, O God, above the heavens!
Let your glory be over all the earth! (57:5).
But while David rises high, he does not thereby live with his head in the clouds. He has his feet firmly planted in reality. He knows that there are people out to get him. “They set a net for my steps” (57:6). Such is the truth. Sometimes Christians feel that they cannot be honest about the attacks of people against them. We of all people should know that human nature is desperately wicked and full of sin (while still made in the image of God). Yes, people do “set a net” for our feet. It would be foolish not to face up to the reality that there are people who are anti-Christianity, anti-gospel, anti-church, anti-God, even anti-Christ.
Yet, they “dug a pit in my way, but they have fallen into it themselves” (57:6). So it often is: the one who schemes against us only ends up looking like a schemer. The one who lies against us only ends up looking like a liar. The one who attacks only ends up looking like a vicious person. The pit they dig they fall into themselves. It is comforting to know that while judgment is not fully realized in this world, God does still rule over a creation that, while fallen, has representation nonetheless of his moral order invested in his constant upholding of that creation. Thieves do get away with stealing, but there is a court system and prison sentences. Similarly, with those who attack us: in the court of public opinion they can just end up looking as bad as they tried to make us look.
Astonishingly, considering the situation in which David was placed, he can say: “My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast!” (57:7). Perhaps here as nowhere else is seen the greatness of David. He was a man of passion and emotion—who could doubt that reading his psalms—but he was able to channel that fire within the constraints of self-discipline. Passion without self-control is dangerous, but passion harnessed to discipline is a fire that burns with holy truth and love.
Once more he sings: “Awake, my glory! Awake, O harp and lyre! I will awake the dawn!” (57:8). Did David write this psalm in the morning, I wonder? Here he is up early—is there ever a godly man or woman who does not rise early to pray?—and he is calling on himself to start off the day right! He cranks the music up loud, he gets out the hymnal, and he SINGS! Come on David, sing! God is glorious! Awake!
And so again, the refrain:
Be exalted, O God, above the heavens!
Let your glory be over all the earth! (57:11).
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Josh Moody (Ph.D., University of Cambridge) is the senior pastor of College Church in Wheaton, IL., president and founder of God Centered Life Ministries, and author of several books including How the Bible Can Change Your Life and John 1-12 For You.
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