THE SUPERSCRIPTION OF Psalm 57 specifies that this psalm was written when David “had fled from Saul into the cave” (cf. 1 Sam. 22:1; 24:3). What we find, then, is something of the emotional and spiritual tone of the man when he could say, in effect, that “there is only a step between me and death” (1 Sam. 20:3). Some reflections:
(1) Even as he cries for mercy, David expresses his confidence in God’s sovereign power. The language is stunning: “I cry out to God Most High, to God, who fulfills his purpose for me” (Ps. 57:2). The title “God Most High” is not very common in the Psalms. Perhaps David is thinking of another man without a home, Abraham, who was more familiar with this way of addressing God. Certainly David does not think that somehow circumstances have slipped away from such a God. He begs for mercy, but he recognizes that God, the powerful God, fulfills his purposes in him. This mixture of humble pleading and quiet trust in God’s sovereign power recurs in Scripture again and again. Nowhere does it reach a higher plane than in the prayer of the Lord Jesus in the garden: “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will” (Matt. 26:39). In some measure or another, every follower of Jesus Christ will want to learn the anguish and the joy of that sort of praying.
(2) The refrain in Psalm 57:5 and 11—“Be exalted, O God, above the heavens; let your glory be over all the earth”—finds David not only in reverent worship, but affirming something believers easily forget, not least when they are under duress. Perhaps the clearest New Testament equivalent lies in the prayer the Lord Jesus taught us: “[H]allowed be your name” (Matt. 6:9). Here David meditates not on God’s sovereign power, but on God’s sovereign importance. More important, for David, than whether or not he gets out of the cave, is that God be exalted above the heavens. The passionate prayer that willingly submerges urgent personal interests to God’s glory breeds both joy and stability: “My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast; I will sing and make music” (Ps. 57:7).
(3) Rather striking is David’s glance at the orbit where he intends to bear witness: “I will praise you, O LORD, among the nations; I will sing of you among the peoples. For great is your love, reaching to the heavens; your faithfulness reaches to the skies” (Ps. 57:9-10). No truncated vision, this. And today as countless millions sing these words, David’s vow has been fulfilled far more extensively than even he could have imagined.