New European Commentary


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Deeper Commentary


Psalm 57:1

For the Chief Musician. To the tune of Do Not Destroy. A poem by David, when he fled from Saul, in the cave-
Many of the Psalms appear to be paired; Ps. 56 and Ps. 57 are an example. They are very similar. The title of Ps. 56 ["when seized by the Philistines in Gath"] therefore provides a context for Ps. 57, which was "A poem by David, when he fled from Saul, in the cave" (Ps. 57:1). David's time when seized by the Philistines in Gath could refer to some unrecorded capture and detention of him in Gath- the home town of Goliath, whose sons  / relatives had also been slain by David's men, and David had slain "ten thousands" of Philistines. Or it could refer to the time when he was serving Achish king of Gath and had to feign himself mad in order to get released. Perhaps things were far tougher for David at that time than recorded in 1 Sam. 21:10-15. Whatever, David took comfort from his situation with Saul (the subject of Ps. 57) and reapplied it to his situation in Gath in Ps. 56. And this is how we too pass through life- experiences in one situation strengthen us for another.

Be merciful to me, God, be merciful to me, for my soul takes refuge in You-
The idea is that God was David's city of refuge. These cities were for those who needed to flee when being chased by the avenger of blood (Num. 35:26). The imagery is very appropriate to David when fleeing from Saul and Absalom. David's constant meditation upon God's law would have included the sections about the cities of refuge; he realized that actually no such city was available for him, but the spirit of the law led him to reflect that Yahweh was his refuge, wherever he was. David tends to open wilderness Psalms with this reflection, just as we may tend to begin prayers with the same opening phrase and thoughts (Ps. 7:1; 11:1; 16:1; 31:1; 57:1; 71:1).

Yes, in the shadow of Your wings I will take refuge, until disaster has passed-
Likewise David realized that the cherubim shadowing the mercy seat were over him; he was as it were located on the very mercy seat. But he was nowhere near the sanctuary, and possibly in a state of ritual uncleanness and not technically obedient to the law. But he perceived from that same law that God is in fact beyond the confines of ritual. With God in his heart, he was as it were covered by His glory and the blood of atonement on the mercy seat.

Psalm 57:2

I cry out to God Most High, to God who accomplishes my requests for me-
The thought of the highness and power of God is an inspiration to faith in prayer. The requests of prayer are "accomplished"; not answered by a simple flash action, but involve working out so many facets of the answer.

Psalm 57:3

He will send from heaven and save me, He rebukes the one who is pursuing me. Selah. God will send out His grace and His truth-
The word "send" is normally translated 'to send away, to let depart', implying physical movement away. This implies Angels are physically sent over space to answer prayer. The same word occurs in other verses where this same idea stands up well- e.g. Ps. 144:7 "Send Thine hand (an Angel) from Heaven...”. It seems that great stress is placed in Scripture on the Angels physically moving through space, both on the earth and between Heaven and earth, in order to fulfil their tasks, rather than being static in Heaven or earth and bringing things about by just willing them to happen. See on Gen. 18:10

Psalm 57:4

My soul is among lions. I lie among those who are set on fire, even the sons of men, whose teeth are spears and arrows, and their tongue a sharp sword-
This could be understood as a reference to the men with David. He lay down to sleep next to them. David's men represent the followers of the Lord Jesus (cp. Heb. 13:13). David's motley crew were bitter men, "them that are set on fire... whose teeth are spears and arrows, and their tongue a sharp sword" (Ps. 57:4). So rough were they that David says that having to live with them almost destroyed him spiritually (1 Sam. 26:19). This typology would explain why the body of Christ seems full of bitter men and women with hard words- who eventually will be the rulers in Messiah's Kingdom, after the pattern of David's men. There can be no misunderstanding of David as some softie who let anything go. Of course he was a sensitive man, with a soft heart. The way others’ words so hurt him is evidence enough of this (Ps. 57:4). Yet this was marvellously blended with his clear recognition of evil and firmly expressed desire not to mix with it.

Psalm 57:5

Be exalted, God, above the heavens! Let Your glory be above all the earth!-
David had earlier lamented that Saul "My enemy" (= Saul, 1 Sam. 18:29; 19:17) was "exalted over me" (Ps. 13:2 s.w.). The David who had once triumphed over his enemy Goliath now felt that Saul was triumphing over him. This, in the bigger Divine picture, may have been to keep David from pride at the amazing victory and triumph. And he learned the lesson. David was indeed to triumph / be exalted over Saul (Ps. 18:48), but he saw it is God triumphing / being exalted (Ps. 18:46). His praise Psalms are full of this word and idea- of the exaltation of God (Ps. 57:5,11) and not himself.

Psalm 57:6

They have prepared a net for my steps. My soul is bowed down, they dig a snare before me. They fall into its midst themselves. Selah-
It is a common theme that the wicked snare themselves, falling into their own pit, judged by their own words, rather than God specifically snaring them (e.g. Ps. 7:15; 9:15; 57:6; Prov. 26:27; 28:10; Ecc. 10:8).  From their own mouth and words men will be judged (Mt. 12:37; Lk. 19:22 cp. 2 Sam. 1:16; 1 Kings 20:40). It could even be that the Lord cites the condemnatory words of the rejected uttered during their lifetimes and leaves these as their condemnation. Woe, therefore, to he or she who has said unrepentantly that they don’t want to be in the Kingdom if brother x or sister y are going to be there. “He that keepeth his mouth keepeth his life; but he that openeth wide his lips [in this life] shall have destruction” at judgment day (Prov. 13:3).

The snare was dug "before me". Solomon alludes to this in Prov. 1:17 "For in vain is the net spread in the sight of any bird". All Solomon says is inspired truth, but clearly he has a subtext of justifying his father David; this was an obsession with him.

Psalm 57:7

My heart is steadfast, God, my heart is steadfast. I will sing, yes, I will sing praises-
David had earlier understood that for the humble and righteous, God can "prepare their heart" (Ps. 10:17). This is evidence enough that God works directly upon the human heart and psychology, which He does today through the work of His Spirit upon the human spirit. For it is men who must prepare their heart in prayer and relationship toward God (s.w. 2 Chron.  12:14; Job 11:13; Ps. 7:9). But God can also do this for the humble. Hence David later asks God to create in him a 'prepared' heart (s.w. Ps. 51:10). And God heard; for the same phrase is used of how God 'prepared' or (AV) "fixed" / NEV 'made steadfast' his heart (Ps. 57:7; 108:1; 112:7). In allusion to this, Solomon was to later reflect that God can direct or 'prepare' (s.w.) the heart of man, even if he is thinking to direct his steps elsewhere (Prov.  16:9).

Psalm 57:8

Wake up, my glory! Wake up, psaltery and harp! I will wake up the dawn-
Or as AV "I myself will awake early". The Psalms continually stress the importance of starting each day with the Lord; David gives the impression his heart was bursting with praise as he awoke, and he instinctively wanted to grab his harp and play and sing praise.

Psalm 57:9

I will give thanks to You, Lord, among the peoples, I will sing praises to You among the nations-
David knew his sinfulness, he knew his reliance upon the grace of God, more and more as he got older; and increasingly he wanted to spread the knowledge of Israel's God to the Gentile nations around him. One would have thought that after the Bathsheba incident, David would have kept his mouth shut so far as telling other people how to live was concerned. But instead, we find an increasing emphasis in the Psalms (chronologically) upon David's desire to teach others of God's ways- particularly the surrounding Gentile peoples, before whom David had been disgraced over Bathsheba, not to mention from his two faced allegiance to Achish (1 Sam. 27:8-12). There is real stress upon this evangelistic fervour of David (Ps. 4:3; 18:49; 22:25,31; 35:18; 40:9,10; 57:9; 62:8; 66:5,16; 95:1,8; 96:5-8,10; 100:1-4; 105:1,2; 119:27; 145:5,6,12). Indeed, Ps.71:18 records the "old and greyheaded" David pleading with God not to die until he had taught "thy strength unto this generation". As with Paul years later, the only reason he wanted to stay alive was in order to witness the Gospel of grace to others. David therefore coped with his deep inner traumas by looking out of himself to those around him, eagerly desiring to share with them the pureness of God's grace. He didn't do this as some kind of self-help psychiatry; it came naturally from a realization of his own sinfulness and God's mercy, and the wonderful willingness of God to extend this to men.

Psalm 57:10

For Your great grace reaches to the heavens, and Your truth to the skies-
The message David wanted to preach to the Gentiles (:9) was that God's grace stretches between heaven and earth. "Mercy / grace and truth" is a phrase often used about the promises to Abraham. David saw these as the parade example of God's grace, and he wanted to share that covenant with the Gentiles (:9). But the observation could be made that nearly all the "Gentiles" in the land [eretz] promised to Abraham were in fact Abraham's seed in some way anyway. But David is directing them back to their roots and urging them to accept the covenant made with their forefather instead of the idols they had chosen.

Psalm 57:11

Be exalted, God, above the heavens. Let Your glory be over all the earth- The earth / eretz refers to the land promised to Abraham. It was David's desire that God be exalted there, lifted up to heaven, as it were, by the people living there. See on :10. David was a man of wide spiritual vision. The visible glory of God was in those days only seen over the ark of the covenant; but he had a vision of it spreading from there over the entire "earth", and here he is praying for that day to come about. But as noted on :9, he realized [as we must in our day] that this will only happen once the Gospel has been taken to "all the earth".