No Threat to His Children!
Psalm 57 is such an inspiring Psalm. It reveals David, not without his troubles, manifesting an implicit faith in God in the midst of great adversity. His godliness did not exempt him from being assailed by bitter, relentless enemies cunningly plotting against him. He says (verse 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.
Life for us all is pretty tough! Our experiences as believers may differ in kind, but the intensity and irksomeness of the difficulties are usually as fierce and troubling for each of us. They could so easily plunge us into despair. It may well be that many reading this are just like David (verse 6), ready to admit, “My soul is bowed down”.In Psalm 38:17 he admits, “I am ready to fall; my sorrow (anguish, affliction) is continually before me.” But David knew what to do in his moments of distress. He cried out to God (verses 21-22):
“Do not forsake me, O LORD [Jehovah]: O my God [Elohim], be not far from me. Make haste to help me, O Lord [Adonai] my salvation.” And in this particular Psalm (57) he says (verse 2), “I will cry out to God most high…”
He confesses an implicit trust in One whom he knows in His glory, revealed in His names as the Just and Holy One, the Faithful Covenant keeping One, and here – “God most high, 'El Elyon,' the Transcendent One, “who ultimately and completely controls man's destiny”.
The Psalm is classic for its awesome expressions of a man's knowledge of the Almighty that becomes a sure ground of hope for Divine help in trying times. Here is David's assured refuge!
The title of the Psalm says he composed it “when he fled from Saul, in the cave”. We are not sure what cave is being referred to. Was it Adullam's cave (1 Samuel 22:1), the one in Engedi (24:1-3), or the cave in the hill of Hachilah (26:1)? What is clear is that hate filled King Saul with three thousand of his men hunted David in every known crevice.
David, anointed by Samuel to succeed Saul as Israel's king in God's appointed time, finds his life imperilled. In 1 Samuel we are informed that there were occasions when David had opportunity to remove Saul. His own band of men, his 'guerrilla movement,' even urged him to kill Saul.
But David refused to lift a finger against God's anointed, and later in their eventual and eventful meeting Saul confessed his sin to David, and in one sentence, unexpectedly but nevertheless accurately, declared the whole truth concerning himself, when he said, 'I have played the fool.'(1 Sam 26:21) God vindicated His trusting servant David, who desired to do what was right before Him.
We ought to be encouraged that with this Holy Word as our infallible authority, it matters not what our situation before men might appear to be, the troubles and trials of life, the fears and forebodings that may beset us, the deep anxieties that would weigh down our sensitive souls; God comes to the aid of them that seek to honour Him, and who trust Him in the face of every cruel element of life. This Psalm can help us as it gives glorious testimony to the glory of God's mercy. The Psalm has two parts:
Verses 1-6 reveal DAVID'S POOR PLIGHT;
while Verses 7-11 record DAVID'S PUREPRAISE.
And what great expressions of honour and praise to God are here, particularly verses 5 and 11:
“Be exalted, O God, above the heavens; let Your glory be above all the earth.”
This Psalm helps us behold that awesome panorama of the excellence of “Elohim”, for it is in them we see all the traumas and perplexities of David's experience being swept up into His holy Presence.
The 'names' of the Lord encompass ALL of His supreme beauty, majesty and glory—those natural and moral perfections inherent in Him and unique to Him; names that combine His character and reputation. It seems David understood this. Observe his expressions in the following Scriptures:
The Lord hear you in the day of trouble; the NAME of the God of Jacob defend you; send you help from the sanctuary - Psalm 20:1-2Save me, O God, BY YOUR NAME - Psalm 54:1Our help is IN THE NAME of the Lord... - Psalm 124:8)Then to Goliath the Philistine he said: “You come to me with a sword, and with a spear, and with a shield: but I come to you IN THE NAME of Jehovah of hosts, Elohim of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied...” - 1 Samuel 17:45
This Psalm 57 captures the understanding God gave to David concerning Himself, which becomes the ground of all his hopeful expectations of God's help in his world of troubles. Here are incredible declarations of his faith in God's sovereign power to direct and control all universal destinies. Here’s an overview of the Psalm:
a) David's Awaited Consolation.
What an amazing confession! Here is my paraphrase: “I trust You ... I hide myself in You ...
I will be safe until every perverse thing, every potentially destructive storm has been quelled ... I AM SURE OF YOUR MERCIES.”
b) David's Assured Supplication.
Verses 2-3.David knew in whom he believed and to whom he prayed. It was the God who never ceases to act for His saints, to achieve what He has planned for them. Whatever the attempts of men or demons to thwart such holy purposes, they cannot succeed – you can depend on that!
c) David's Anticipated Salvation.
David did not flinch in the face of trouble, nor deny its existence. He details every aggravation, and states his conviction that every evil design on his life will be reversed upon his enemies. And right in the midst of his plight there is that remarkable verse 5,
Be exalted, O God, above the heavens; let Your glory be above all the earth.
d) David's Affirmed Intention.
Whatever else might happen, and however persistent the calamities that may well overtake him, David's confession of faith stands firm —“MY HEART IS FIXED!” Fixed o n d o i n g w h a t ? D av i d s ay s ( my paraphrase):
“I'm going to sing and shout abroad YOUR PRAISES. The situation, as discomforting as it may be, is NOT going to rob YOU of my praise—nor me of my peace. I'll ever extol your mercies and moral integrity.”
e) David's Awesome Revelation.
Verses 11 (as in v.5).
What an insight into the nature of God! God does everything by independent, sovereign authority. He is lord of history; He bows to no one. His Throne is established above the heavens and for eternity. He is God and God alone!Though David knew that God was working for him, he nevertheless prayed. He needed the assurance of God's presence and the liberating power of His Truth. Please note that David's first utterance in coming to God with his problem was not a lament, even though he was aware of the fact that (verse 4)
“My soul is among lions.” Rather, his first expression was one of hope (verse 1), “My soul trusts in You.” He then follows on with a remarkable confession of the truth that had been personally revealed to him of 'Elohim Elyon,' “I will cry to God Most High,” the transcendent one who would faithfully undertake for him in His mercy. Only the man who has such a biblical view of God acts and speaks in this manner.David had a primary desire in his life to exalt God, never himself. He had learned that if he put GOD between himself and his troubles, he would be rescued from their consequences. And is not that what you want – to discover “the secret” of how to get out of your troubles? Well, David shows us the way, and it is grounded in the knowledge we have of 'God Most High,' practically applied in the situation we are in. It is NOT some profound, clever, complicated formula. Just listen to David's simplicity:
“My soul trusts in You”; that is, “I cry for mercy with a faith that's anchored in my awareness of WHO YOU ARE.”
John Piper says that two inferences follow from any revelation of God:
The first is that the goal of all that God does is to uphold and display His glory. All God's actions flow from fullness, not from deficiency ... The other inference ... is that the duty of man is to DELIGHT in God's glory.
This proves to be so true in David's case, desirous as he is to see God glorified: “Be exalted O God, above the heavens; let Your glory be above all the earth” (verses 5 and 11).
In other words: 'Whatever You do, O God, let every issue of Your actions bring honour to Your name'. Thus being aware of the fullness of glory in God, he anticipates an overwhelming tide of mercy to sweep in upon him in his plight to save him from his enemies.
O, what disclosures David gives us of his knowledge of God, such as undergird his confident prayer. As Tozer so rightly observes,The character of God is the Christian's final ground of assurance and the solution of many, if not most, of his practical religious problems ... God has never at anytime anywhere in the vast universe acted otherwise than in character with His infinite perfections. This knowledge should be a warning to the enemies of God, and it cannot but be an immense consolation to His friends.
Take those two aspects and particularly the first – this 'warning to the enemies of God.' Nearly 50 years ago, as a young pastor and preacher I read a most challenging book by the Puritan preacher Joseph Alleine, An Alarm to the Unconverted (1671). It embodies the substance of his message and in so doing provides a true model of Puritan evangelism…C.H. Spurgeon records how, when he was a child, his mother would often read a piece of Alleine's ALARM to them as they sat round the fire on a Sunday evening.
This is what Alleine wrote:
So unspeakably dreadful is the case of every unconverted soul, that I have sometimes thought if I could only convince men that they are still unregenerate, the work were more than half done …
It is therefore of high necessity that I not only convince men that they are unconverted, but that I also endeavour to bring them to a sense of the fearful misery of this state …
Where is the ready writer whose pen can depict their misery who are without God in the world? This cannot fully be done, unless we know the infinite ocean of bliss which is in perfection in God, and from which a state of sin excludes man.He then speaks with tender tones, though with marked sobriety, as he addresses sinners:
In Christ there is a possibility of mercy for you, yea, an offer of mercy to you, that you may have God more for you than He is now against you. But if you will not forsake your sins or turn thoroughly and purposefully to God by a sound conversion, the wrath of God abides on you, and He proclaims Himself to be against you, as in the prophet: “Therefore, thus says the Lord God, Behold I, even I, am against you!” - Ezekiel 5:8
Alleine then spells it out how the Infinite God is engaged against the sinner, clearly and faithfully expounding from the Scriptures –
(1) His face is against you;
(2) His heart is against you; and then
(3) All His attributes are against you.
It is truly an outstanding exposition of The Gospel, with a passionate invitation and appeal to sinners to turn to God. Sadly there is little of this faithful preaching of the Gospel in our pulpits today.
Coming back to the words of Dr. A. W. Tozer – that is one thing he draws attention to in reflecting on “the infinite perfections of God: a warning to sinners, God's enemies.”
But then, the immense consolation such truth brings to His friends. I am so glad I am a friend of God, reconciled to Him by the blood of the Cross, all enmity slain, and His peace within to garrison the heart and mind in times of trial and need. (Colossians 1:20- 22). It is so true – the revelation of God holds no threat to His children, but will ever be a great and overwhelming comfort.
In Psalm 57, consider verses 2-3, where David is full of confident hope. Note his precise words: “I will CRY to God most high (Elohim Elyon)…” The Hebrew verb for 'to cry' here means 'to call out, to address someone by name’. There is nothing vague or in vain here. It is not some uncertain, ill- defined expression, hoping someone may be 'out there' to hear the cry and help.
Around us is a world of hopeless pessimism and despair with poor, distressed souls in anguish and affliction crying – but just crying! No, with David there is such confident hope. In fact he says (Psalm 34:17), “The righteous cry...” Here the verb is another Hebrew word, showing it to be a veritable “shriek,” evidently because of the severity of the trouble. But there is no hopelessness or lack of response, for David continues: “… and the Lord hears, and delivers them out of all their troubles.” O yes, we cry at times when some unpleasant situation is hard to bear and (let's admit it) it seems that God is far away. It happened to Jesus.Psalm 69: 20-21 is prophetic of CHRIST in the great trauma of His Cross experience, suffering painful dishonour so gallingly painful such as man can never comprehend, bearing the reproach of ALL sinners of ALL ages, (1 Peter 2:24) and causing Him to CRY OUT in anguish, “My God...?” (Matthew 27:46).
Listen to Him in this prophetic Psalm—
Reproach has broken my heart; and I am full of heaviness: and I looked for some to take pity, but there was none: and for comforters, but I found none. They gave me also gall for my meat, and in my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink.
That's our Redeemer at Calvary. HE CRIED! HE CRIED! Don't feel condemned if and when YOU cry. Jesus did, and in Hebrews 5:7 it says it was “with strong crying and tears…” But what consolation, for it goes on to say: “…to Him that was able to save Him from (out from under) death, and was heard for His godly fear.” It further states (verses 8-9):... though He were a Son, yet learned obedience by (from) the things which he suffered; and being made perfect (i.e. complete as a Saviour) He became the Author of eternal salvation to all them that obey Him.
Yes, DAVID cried out; but mark it: “… to God Most High,” — Elohim Elyon! His supplication is evidently grounded in a revelation of THE ONE he is calling upon, the one David knew was able to save him from the threat of death. What a difference when believers cry! They look to “the Father of mercies,” who never disappoints, cf. 2 Corinthians 1:3-4. So it is proper for us to have a brief look at “God Most High” as David saw Him here, to reveal this God of glory as no threat to His children, but that He is for them.
1. God's Personal Reality
I will cry to God (verse 1).
David did not speak into the air like the heathen around him. He said, in Psalm 96:5, “All the gods of the nations (peoples) are IDOLS” (the Hebrew word denotes 'nothings', worthless, vain objects.” He then makes this great contrast, “… but the Lord made the heavens”. Paul affirms this: “But we know that an idol is NOTHING in the world, and that there is none other God BUT ONE” (1 Corinthians 8:4). David knew he was calling upon a real Person, eternal in the heavens, one who is exalted far above every other created being: “God Most High”, whose “greatness is unsearchable”(Psalm 145:3).
We will never be able to fully comprehend the awesome majesty, grandeur, and surpassing glory of God, whom Jesus said was pure SPIRIT (John 4:24). Yet He is personally real. And while we can never find Him out to perfection (Job 11:7), we can assuredly KNOW HIM (John 17:3). That is the very essence of Christianity. How well it has been said that,… because we are finite beings, we tend to perceive the Infinite in the light of our limitations ...
The Bible encourages us to reach beyond our limitations and think exalted thoughts about God. This is what David expresses here, giving rise to his expectation of Divine help in his troubled life. Do you see Him and know Him in such personal glory? If so then you may confidently CRY unto Him today! He is so real, and comes to us personally with His sufficient help.
2. God's Providential Care
God PERFORMS all things for me (verse 2).
This is probably one of the most glorious of truths as it concerns our destinies: the PROVIDENCE of God. David knew that nothing could thwart the purpose that God had for him. Whatever happened, every single thing would promote rather than hinder the outworking of God's will. This is a marvellous and comforting reality, that assists our assuring cry to God in times of need – that not only do good things work for our good, but God likewise causes even seeming bad things to work out for our good (Romans 8:28).
What we need to guard against is the tendency to redefine bad and pretend it is good! That is not so. In God's working we behold Him sovereignly overruling what is bad, and causing it to work out for our good in the long run. It may be suffering, or temptations, or severe business losses, or unfaithful friends, or other overwhelming disappointments that we may be called upon to painfully endure. The biblical classic is the experience of Joseph. In Genesis 37:18 we read about his brothers who “conspired against him to slay him”. You pass through 13 chapters (over a span of some 40 years) until you come to the incredible vindication of God in respect of this enviable character.
In Genesis 50:20 we read:But as for you, you thought evil against me; but God meant it for good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save many people alive.” Or, “As for you, it was in your mind to do me evil, but God has given a happy outcome, the salvation of numbers of people, as you see today - 1965, Bible in Basic EnglishGod is faithful—and “not always in a hurry”! But He is working for us. In marvellous ways He is bringing to pass His purposes.
3. God's Loving Nature
To God that performs all things FOR ME. (Verse 2).
David was certainly surrounded by enemies who designed his hurt to the point of death; they were not for him but against him. But his greatest comfort and assurance of life rested in this knowledge that GOD WAS FOR HIM. God had planned for him, had anointed him, and was lovingly working to bring all things to their divinely destined end. Thus does David venture on this impressive assertion: “GOD 'does' THINGS FOR ME”. 'He must LOVE me!' What a truth – this personal God looks down and lovingly respects the most insignificant of us. HE LOVES US! “God is love,” which must be the profoundest of revelations concerning the Most High – a love that is eternal, and holy, and measureless, and impartial – and directed in its totality towards sinful creatures like you and me.
Hallelujah! What a glorious truth, that God wills the good of all, and cannot will them any evil. It is not so with men. And David knew it. BUT GOD! He is so different.As a child our lovely daughter Angela caused us a few embarrassments in crowded departmental stores when suddenly she felt she was LOST. We would have just turned around to look at items on another counter, so for a moment were back-to-back with her. The store was soon resounding with the screams of a seeming “lost child.” Fear had gripped her because strangers milling around were to her as enemies. I would turn round and reassuringly put my arms around her. In a flash all terror abated for the known good will of a loving father cast out all fear.Well, David knew something of this, and when he cried he knew “Elohim Elyon” would be lovingly working for him. And He is working for you too! He takes loving pleasure in you.
Romans 8:31 – “What shall we say as pertaining to all of these things? If God be for us, WHO can be against us (i.e. against us effectually)?” In the midst of your dilemma and distress today, CRY to your loving Heavenly Father! He performs all things for your good.
4. God's Sovereign Authority
He shall send from heaven and save me from the reproach of him that would swallow me up (verse 3).
Whichever way God would do it is never to be a concern. David's GOD was “the Most High,” and thus help would be summoned from heaven to work deliverance. God can dispense His power directly and personally, and in such a variety of ways to fulfil His holy ends. He sometimes despatches angels to perform His works (cf. Acts 27:22-25 with Hebrews 1:14). He is free to carry out His will at any time and in every single detail, without any fear of interference or prevention. And what persuasion on David's part! The need was desperate – but he said, “He's coming to my aid!” Our praying does not change God's disposition or His intention, but it is our re-affirmation of faith in His sovereign authority to act for us. What peace that brings! Just HOW God will come to us is not s not our concern. That He comes in His own sovereign way is all that matters. And He does.
5. God's Just Omnipotence
God shall send forth His mercy and His truth (verse 3).
When God acts He does so always in accordance with His nature of holiness, mercy AND truth – never one at the expense of the other. We sometimes want God to act, without any regard for righteousness, simply that He will act for us. Maybe we desire Him to exercise justice in terms we approve of, in ways we would be glad to see happen.
NO, leave it with God. That's why, even though we know He is working – we pray!Isn't God GOOD! Have you allowed your troubles to overwhelm you and keep you from really reaching out to Him – maybe even doubting His goodness and grace?
CRY TO HIM TODAY. God is no threat; He's FOR YOU!I have an old friend, in a church I once pastored, and whenever I had need to speak to him I would phone his office. His first words were generally, and humorously: 'You may speak: I'm listening!' How true that is in our relationship to this incredibly great, almighty, and loving God. He says to us today: You may speak:
I'm listening! The Most High waits for your trusting cry.
About the author
Aeron Morgan and wife Dinah, have served the Lord for more than fifty years. They are Welsh and have pastored churches in the UK and Australia, where they now reside. Aeron served on the National Executives of the British and the Australian AoG fellowships. He was the first General Superintendent of the British AoG, and was Principal of the Australian National Bible College for twelve years. He was also an adjunct faculty member of the South Pacific Bible College in Suva, Fiji. Now retired from active pastoral ministry he fulfils an extensive itinerant ministry in many countries speaking at churches, Conferences, ministers' seminars, and short-term teaching in Bible Schools. Aeron has a website - www.aeronmorgan.org