Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me,
for in you my soul takes refuge;
in the shadow of your wings I will take refuge,
till the storms of destruction pass by (Psa. 57:1).
When David wrote this psalm, he was overwhelmed by dangers and fears. He said “my soul is in the midst of lions,” and he spoke of enemies whose “teeth are spears and arrows,” and he described them as “fiery beasts” (4).
Sounds pretty bad, and it makes you wonder what the situation was, doesn’t it?
The psalm’s heading provides a clue to what David is talking about. He wrote this psalm when he was inside, hiding from danger outside. Sounds a bit familiar! In David’s case, he was hiding in a cave hoping to avoid Saul who was hunting him down and wanting to murder him. There’s the “fiery beast” he speaks of.
But the story doesn’t end with David in a cave, afraid. Saul entered the cave in which David was hiding; he rested and then left the cave not knowing David was right there and could have killed him but didn’t. See 1 Samuel 24 for the full story.
Psalm 57 lets us in on David’s state of mind in this episode; he wanted “the storms of destruction” to pass him by. We might be able to identify with that sentiment right about now. In this time of the Coronavirus and its uncertain economic effects, we too may want a danger, a “storm of destruction,” to pass us by. I want to point us to David’s good example here. He takes refuge in the shadow of God’s wings. He says “I cry out to God Most High, who fulfills his purpose for me” (2).
David was hiding out in a cave, but he was clinging to the promises of God. He trusted that God had purposes for him and that God was faithfully carrying them out, despite appearances to the contrary. David thought of God as near, involved in his life, and totally committed to him personally. David was in a cave with danger outside. You are in your home, waiting to see how bad this present situation will be outside. My prayer for you as you wait is that you too will cling to God’s promises, that you will reflect on God’s past goodness to you, his assurances about your future as a believer, and his nearness to you. As you are in your own “cave,” may you be able to say with David “He will send from heaven and save me … God will send out his steadfast love and his faithfulness” (3).
The amazing thing about this psalm is it’s backstory. Saul, the “fiery beast,” didn’t harm David. In fact, almost as a token of his favor to David, God let his enemy fall into his hands. David didn’t slay him, but he could have. Can you imagine how David must have marveled at God’s goodness at this moment? It was as if the frightening “fiery beast” had come cringing to him and licked his hand! It was as if the “storm of destruction” had turned into a gentle breeze! When God says that all things work together for good to those who love him (Rom. 8:28), we can be assured that whatever illness or economic effect may come from this Coronavirus situation, they will never work against the good of God’s people, and that means you, if you are a believer in Christ. The storm of destruction may bring difficulty (David’s storm had him hiding in a cave!) but God will turn it into a gentle breeze. We still don’t know how extensive the effect of our current situation will be, but even if it means more difficulty for us than a few weeks stuck at home, we can take refuge in God, as David does in Psalm 57, and we can know that he is our God.
May our time at home be a time of spiritual refreshing! And may we see each other again soon when it is safe. Missing you all,
P.S. The Puritan John Flavel gives an excellent sermon on Psalm 57:2 in the first few pages of his book “The Mystery of Providence,” which you can find online for free or cheap. The sermon is a model of good Puritan preaching. In it Flavel said the following about God’s sovereign providence over all our lives:
Providence neither can nor does do any thing that is really against the true interest and good of the saints. For what are the works of Providence but the execution of God’s decree and the fulfilling of his Word? … There is nothing but good to the saints in God’s purposes and promises.