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Bible Commentaries

Kingcomments on the Whole Bible

Psalms 57

Verses 1-3

Prayer for Grace

For “for the choir director” (Psa 57:1a) see Psalm 4:1.

The phrase “[set to] Al-tashheth”, literally “Do not destroy”, has the form of a prayer (cf. Deu 9:26) and seems to be a musical term. This term appears in three more psalms (Psa 58:1; Psa 59:1; Psa 75:1). It links Psalms 57, 58 and 59 together. These three psalms prophetically deal with the time of the great tribulation being wrought by the antichrist. The tribulation is so severe that no man would be saved if those days had not been cut short for the sake of the elect (Mt 24:22). Psalm 75 has this same expression in the heading. There we see God’s response to the problems in these three psalms.

For “a Mikhtam of David” see at Psalm 56:1.

Also in this psalm, the heading gives the reason for its writing. David writes this psalm “when he fled from Saul in the cave” (cf. Psa 142:1). Because it does not speak of ‘a cave’ but of “the cave”, it is plausible that “the cave of Adullam” is meant. That is where David fled from Saul and where others joined him (1Sam 22:1-2).

In this psalm we look at a dark night in David’s life. In Psa 57:4 we see David lying down to sleep, and in Psa 57:8 we see David waking up in the early morning.

David makes no claim to deliverance, but makes a penetrating appeal to the grace of God (Psa 57:1b). Twice he asks God “be gracious to me”, exclaiming “O God” in between. This illustrates how great the need is. Also, the appeal to grace shows that David realizes that he has no right to claim help. If God helps, it is by grace alone.

In Psalm 56, David begins by asking once “be gracious to me, O God”. Here, in Psalm 57, he places additional emphasis on this request by uttering this question twice. In Psalm 56, the danger comes primarily from the foreign enemy, the Philistines. In Psalm 57, the danger comes from his own people led by King Saul.

As he sits in the darkness of the cave, he expresses that his soul has taken refuge in God. Just as he asks God twice to be gracious to him, so he speaks twice about taking refuge in God. The first time it is an act in the present, he takes refuge in God at this time. The second time it is future tense, “I will take refuge”, indicating that he takes refuge continuously, until the danger has passed.

After all, he cannot take refuge in anyone else. Not the cave is his refuge, but God (cf. Isa 25:4). He has taken refuge “under the shadow” of God’s “wings”. Wings symbolize security and warmth (cf. Rth 2:12; Psa 36:7; Psa 61:4; Psa 63:7; Psa 91:4; Mt 23:37). In that security David wants to remain “until destruction passes by”. In doing so, he expresses his trust in God that He will bring an end to his threatening situation.

From that safe place David cries “to God Most High” (Psa 57:2). Whatever happens, happens under His watch, it is under His authority and control. This crying to God, as well as his taking refuge in God, is an expression of his trust in God. God is infinitely superior to all enemies and their plans to harm him.

That God, so David says, will “accomplish [all things] for me”. By this he is saying that nothing or no one can prevent God from accomplishing His purpose with the lives of His own (cf. Phil 1:6; Rth 3:18). The same applies to the whole world event. Everything that God has planned, He will finish (Rev 21:5-6).

Therefore, David knows, God will “send from heaven and save” him (Psa 57:3). This is the confidence that the remnant will also express when they are in the great tribulation. God will deliver them by sending them the Messiah from heaven. At His coming, He will put the enemies to shame by destroying them. For the believer, His coming means that God is sending in Him “His lovingkindness and His truth”.

God uses the very presence of His people’s enemies to show His lovingkindness and His truth. “His lovingkindness” is the basis of His action. He acts in accordance with the promises and blessings of the covenant. He shows this in the redemption of His own. His faithfulness He shows in the fulfillment of His promises.

Verses 4-6

The Complaint

David compares his opponents to tearing lions (Psa 57:4; cf. Psa 10:9). He is in the midst of them; he is surrounded by them. They are people “who breathe forth fire”. Their hatred glows like a fire within them and they want to scorch him. Their words come from the fire of hell (Jam 3:6). He lies between them, unable to change anything about his position. At the same time, “I must lie” indicates a certain rest. He can lie down and sleep (cf. Psa 3:5-6).

The “sons of men” who are around him have teeth like “spears and arrows”. They want to devour him with their words (Psa 52:4). Their tongue he compares to “a sharp sword” (cf. Psa 52:2). They express the murderousness and hatred that fills them in words that have a deadly effect. They completely tear David down by spreading the worst slander about him (1Sam 24:10; 1Sam 26:19).

In the face of such threatening circumstances, David asks God to exalt Himself above the heavens, the firmament, and make His glory visible above all the earth (Psa 57:5). In doing so, he asks that God execute judgment on iniquity. It can no longer go on like this. David is concerned with God’s glory. That has to become visible whereas now there is nothing to see of it.

It is necessary for God to exalt Himself and show Himself, because his enemies are in control. They have “prepared a net” for his steps to catch him (Psa 57:6). That net, which is camouflaged with twigs and leaves, lies over “a pit” which they have dug for him to catch him in it as a wild animal is caught (cf. Psa 35:7).

They want to trap him. His soul is bowed down by them, so much so that he is cornered by his many adversaries. But in faith David sees that their ambushes will fail and that his enemies will suffer the fate they had in mind for him (cf. Psa 7:15; Est 9:25; Dan 6:25).

Verses 7-11

The Glory of God

In the evening (Psa 57:1b-4) David prayed for deliverance. In the morning (Psa 57:7-11) he praises God for the assurance of salvation (cf. Psa 108:1-5). In his trust in God’s salvation, he intends in his heart to sing praises to God (Psa 57:7). His heart is “steadfast”, prepared or at rest, he says twice. It is, as it were, the echo of the prayer he twice utters to God to be gracious to him (Psa 57:1b). There is no longer any fear in his heart, but a firm conviction of God’s lovingkindness and faithfulness.

The fact that he says twice that his heart is steadfast is not a meaningless repetition. It is a testimony to a rising enthusiasm. This is also echoed in “I will sing, yes, I will sing praises”. Here again we hear a repetition, this time of singing, with the second time given to singing a further clarification.

David says to his “glory” that it must awaken (Psa 57:8). He also tells his “harp and lyre” to awake. Musical instruments are part of a celebration. His “glory” is paralleled by “harp and lyre” in connection with the giving thanks to the Lord. It is his “glory” that God’s greatness is manifested in his life through God’s salvation and by his praise.

When his glory and his musical instruments are awakened, he can “awaken the dawn”. The metaphor is that a night of suffering, is followed by a joyful shout of salvation in the morning (cf. Psa 30:5). He sees himself set at the beginning of a new day or a new period. It is still dark. Everything is still asleep. But it will not be long before the dawn breaks. With his singing accompanied by musical instruments he wants to speed up the dawn, he wants to awaken the dawn.

The dawning of the new day not only promises blessing for his own life. The dawning of the day – and this prophetically means the realm of peace – will be noticed among the peoples, that is his own people, and among the peoples, that is the nations (Psa 57:9). This happens through the giving thanks to the Lord, Adonai, a thanksgiving he will make heard “among the peoples”. The same is true of the praises he will sing to God’s glory. He will do so “among the nations”.

The occasion, which is represented by the word “for”, is the lovingkindness and truth of God (Psa 57:10). In Psa 57:3, David has asked that God send His salvation trusting that God will send His lovingkindness and His faithfulness. Here he testifies among the nations that all of creation is full of God’s lovingkindness and faithfulness. It is an abundant reason to glorify God.

He calls God’s lovingkindness “great”. He connects that great lovingkindness with heaven and says it reaches up to there. Heaven is the place from which all blessing comes (Psa 57:3). God’s faithfulness or truth he connects with the clouds and says that His faithfulness or truth reaches up to there. By the clouds we can think of His government moving above and over the earth, untouchable by men. Both of these features of God are above the earth, but are known and enjoyed on earth (Psa 36:5).

David concludes his psalm by again asking God to exalt Himself above the heavens (Psa 57:11). Yet there is a different sound connected to it than in Psa 57:5. There the question is asked against the background of the enemies surrounding him. If God exalts Himself and brings them down, His glory will be seen over all the earth. At this point, salvation is a fact for faith. Therefore, God can show His glory “above all the earth” and it can be enjoyed everywhere.

May our desire be that our tribulations or trials will lead to the glorification of God in our whole live.

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Kingcomments on the Whole Bible © 2021 Author: G. de Koning. All rights reserved. Used with the permission of the author
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Bibliographical Information
de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Psalms 57". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". 'Stichting Titus' / 'Stichting Uitgeverij Daniël', Zwolle, Nederland. 2021.