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Young At Heart Bible Study: The Book of Psalms Psalm 57

Psalm 57: His mercy reaches to the heavens

1 <To the chief Musician, Al taschith (“do not destroy”), Michtam of David, when

he fled from Saul in the cave.> Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me, for

my soul trusts in you; yes, in the shadow of your wings will I make my refuge

until these calamities have passed by.

2 I will cry to God most high, to God who completes 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 exalted, O God, above the heavens; let your glory be above all the earth.

6 They have prepared a net for my steps; my soul is bowed down. They have dug

a pit before me, into the midst of which they have 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 you, O Lord, among the people; I will sing to you among the

nations.

10 For your mercy is great to the heavens, and your truth to the clouds.

11 Be exalted, O God, above the heavens; let your glory be above all the earth.
Psalms Bible Study Psalm 57

Psalm 57 is the story in prayer David’s time in the caves and, in particular, fleeing from

Saul. It is thought that this recounts the episode when David and his men encountered

Saul in a cave but did not take advantage so as to kill Saul. The Psalm also has

Messianic overtones, some passages reminding us of Christ’s persecution and later

exaltation.

The words “do not destroy” at the beginning of the psalm may speak of David’s counsel

not to slay Saul but also could be viewed as David’s prayer that God would not allow

him to be harmed. We read of this meeting in 1 Samuel 24:

And it came to pass, when Saul was returned from following the Philistines, that it was told him,
saying, Behold, David is in the wilderness of Engedi. Then Saul took three thousand chosen
men out of all Israel, and went to seek David and his men upon the rocks of the wild goats. And
he came to the sheepcotes by the way, where was a cave; and Saul went in to cover his feet:
and David and his men remained in the sides of the cave. And the men of David said unto him,
Behold the day of which the LORD said unto thee, Behold, I will deliver thine enemy into thine
and, that thou mayest do to him as it shall seem good unto thee. Then David arose, and cut off
the skirt of Saul's robe privily.

And it came to pass afterward, that David's heart smote him, because he had cut off Saul's skirt.
And he said unto his men, The LORD forbid that I should do this thing unto my master, the
LORD'S anointed, to stretch forth mine hand against him, seeing he is the anointed of the
LORD. So David stayed his servants with these words, and suffered them not to rise against
Saul. But Saul rose up out of the cave, and went on his way. David also arose afterward, and
went out of the cave, and cried after Saul, saying, My lord the king. And when Saul looked
behind him, David stooped with his face to the earth, and bowed himself. And David said to
Saul, Wherefore hearest thou men's words, saying, Behold, David seeketh thy hurt?

Behold, this day thine eyes have seen how that the LORD had delivered thee to day into mine
hand in the cave: and some bade me kill thee: but mine eye spared thee; and I said, I will not
put forth mine hand against my lord; for he is the LORD'S anointed. Moreover, my father, see,
yea, see the skirt of thy robe in my hand: for in that I cut off the skirt of thy robe, and killed thee
not, know thou and see that there is neither evil nor transgression in mine hand, and I have not
sinned against thee; yet thou huntest my soul to take it. The LORD judge between me and thee,
and the LORD avenge me of thee: but mine hand shall not be upon thee. As saith the proverb of
the ancients, Wickedness proceedeth from the wicked: but mine hand shall not be upon thee.
After whom is the king of Israel come out? after whom dost thou pursue? after a dead dog, after
a flea.

The LORD therefore be judge, and judge between me and thee, and see, and plead my cause,
and deliver me out of thine hand. And it came to pass, when David had made an end of

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Psalms Bible Study Psalm 57

speaking these words unto Saul, that Saul said, Is this thy voice, my son David? And Saul lifted
up his voice, and wept. And he said to David, Thou art more righteous than I: for thou hast
rewarded me good, whereas I have rewarded thee evil. And thou hast shewed this day how that
thou hast dealt well with me: forasmuch as when the LORD had delivered me into thine hand,
thou killedst me not. For if a man find his enemy, will he let him go well away? wherefore the
LORD reward thee good for that thou hast done unto me this day. And now, behold, I know well
that thou shalt surely be king, and that the kingdom of Israel shall be established in thine hand.
Swear now therefore unto me by the LORD, that thou wilt not cut off my seed after me, and that
thou wilt not destroy my name out of my father's house. And David sware unto Saul. And Saul
went home; but David and his men gat them up unto the hold.

(1) <To the chief Musician, Al taschith (“do not destroy”), Michtam of David, when

he fled from Saul in the cave.> Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me, for

my soul trusts in you; yes, in the shadow of your wings will I make my refuge

until these calamities have passed by. (2) I will cry to God most high, to God who

completes 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.

• Another Psalm for the Chief Musician. The Al taschith reference mean, as we

have said, “do not destroy.” The michtam is a poem, so again it is possible that

the poem was composed for an existing tune known as “Do Not Destroy.”

• Here David prays for mercy, and reminds God that he has come to God for aid.

The image of the wings is powerful – David tells God that he has come to Him

like a chick looking for shelter under its mother’s wings. How can God refuse

when David is trusting him like this?

• The titles of God also give David comfort, and can comfort us as well. Like David

in verse 2, we should remember that our God is El Elyon, the highest or most

supreme God! Few things can quicken our faith as much as reflecting on the

wonderful titles of God, of the Son or of the Spirit.

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Psalms Bible Study Psalm 57

• God perfects or completes all things for David. This reminds us of another

Scripture in which David says God will perfect that which concerns him. (Psalm

138:8) This gave him a strong assurance.

• In verse 3 we see God fully in control. He can “send from Heaven,” whether by a

decree or by dispatching angels, and save David from reproach. In the selah we

are called to reflect on this sure deliverance. David is certain that God will send

mercy and truth – these are the antidotes to David’s predicament, and also the

qualities that need to be present in society in order to prevent the tyranny of a

Saul.

(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 exalted, O God, above the heavens; let your glory be above all the

earth. (6) They have prepared a net for my steps; my soul is bowed down. They

have dug a pit before me, into the midst of which they have fallen themselves.

Selah.

• His enemies seemed like lions who were waiting to pounce on him. The

reference to men being on fire is an expression like our expression which speaks

of people being inflamed with passion. Men of great passions and jealousies, like

Saul, are seldom good leaders. In Saul’s case, of course, these ungodly tempers

led him to pursue David and hunt him as if he were a wild animal. By words and

deeds they persecuted him.

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Psalms Bible Study Psalm 57

• Rather than kill Saul or even pray for Saul’s death outright, David instead prays

for the glory of God to come and set things right. He knew he would one day be

kind but was content to leave the final disposition of the matter to God’s wisdom.

• In verse 6 there is more imagery from the world of hunting and trapping which

was so common to the men of that day. As David and his men doubtless

engaged in it themselves, there would have been constant reminders to them

that from Saul’s perspective, they were quarry to be hunted down!

(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.

• It is not as if David did not experience those “dark nights of the soul.” Certainly,

from a human perspective, he had reason to complain and had experienced

much suffering in life. But part of what made him a man after God’s own heart

was his determination to praise God in all circumstances. David kept his heart in

a “fixed” position. No matter what happened in his life he was determined to sing

and give God the praise he deserves.

• Having a fixed or established heart, David was not rocked by setbacks or bad

reports. All of these became opportunities to press in closer to the Lord. As we

have recently seen, he said, “What time I am afraid, I will trust in thee.” (Psalm

56:3).

• Some say that by the glory David refers to his tongue; others say his soul. In any

case, it is a part of him that he values highly enough to speak of in this way.

David was not above “talking to himself.” “Bless the LORD, O my soul!”

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Psalms Bible Study Psalm 57

• The psaltery and harp were two forms of stringed instruments. The psaltery is

said to have had 12 strings and been played by hand. The harp is thought to

have had 10 strings and been played by hand or by a key.

• David recommends the early part of the day as an important time for worship.

Why not give God the first of the day and the first of our strength? It will set the

tone for the rest of our day.

(9) I will praise you, O Lord, among the people; I will sing to you among the

nations. (10) For your mercy is great to the heavens, and your truth to the clouds.

(11) Be exalted, O God, above the heavens; let your glory be above all the earth.

• David will sing of God’s deliverance not only to the people of Israel but among

the nations of the earth. God’s mercy and truth reappear in verse 10 – we can

hardly appreciate the depth of either except by referring to the heavens as David

does. We see His mercy now in the cross… what might David had said if he had

seen the love of God in Christ?

• He closes with another petition for God to display His glory. This will cause all

wickedness to cease. Indeed, the manifestation of this glory in our world, as in

Habakkuk and 2 Thessalonians, is the sign that His Kingdom has come in its

fullness! God came from Teman, and the Holy One from Mount Paran. Selah.

His glory covered the heavens, and the earth was full of his praise. And his

brightness was as the light; he had rays of light coming out of his hand, and

there was the hiding of his power. (Hab. 3:3-4)