PSALM 57 TALK: GREAT IS GOD’S LOVE AND FAITHFULNESS

PSALM 57 TALK: GREAT IS GOD’S LOVE AND FAITHFULNESS

(The contrast between Gods love and faithfulness and mankind’s hate and unfaithfulness)

(How there are two ways to view life one is to seek revenge and justice the other is to find God’s love and faithfulness and promote forgiveness and love.)

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INTRODUCTION           

A coupe of weeks ago I was leading the hymn singing in my church with three other people and we were singing that great old hymn, “Great is Thy Faithfulness” and the words struck me in a strange but powerful way. I went home from church and looked up the story behind the hymn and discovered that a man called Thomas O. Chisholm wrote it in 1923. Chisholm became a minister of a church at the age of thirty-six but had to give it away after one year owing to poor health that he suffered from for most of his life.

Chisholm left full time ministry and took on a job as a lowly insurance agent but always kept up his hobby of writing poetry and the lyrics of hymns. Chisolm wrote the words of “Great is thy faithfulness” inspired by the words of one of his most favored bible passages, Lamentations 3: 19 – 24, which the prophet Jeremiah wrote during the horror and catastrophe of the fall of Jerusalem. Jeremiah looked beyond the horror and terror around him to the infinite love and faithfulness of his God which he knew through the bible and through God’s direct inspiration to him and he wrote,

“I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall.

I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me. Yet this I call to mind
 and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.

I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion; 
 therefore I will wait for him.”

 The first verse of Chisholm great hymn reads:

“Great is thy faithfulness, O God my Father,

There is no shadow of turning with thee;

Thou changest not, Thy compassions they fail not;

As thou hast been, Thou forever wilt be.

Great is they faithfulness

Great is they faithfulness

Morning by morning new mercies I see

All I have needed Thy hand hath provided

Great is thy faithfulness, Lord unto me.

 Chisholm, although he suffered from ill health most of his life lived to the ripe old age of ninety- four and late in his life he was asked why he wrote, “Great is thy Faithfulness”?

And this is what he said,

“My income has not been large at any time due to impaired health in the earlier years which has followed me on until now.  Although I must not fail to record here the unfailing faithfulness of a covenant-keeping God and that He has given me many wonderful displays of His providing care, for which I am filled with astonishing gratefulness.”


I wrote to a close relative recently who was complaining bitterly about a recent injustice in her life and I said, “There are two ways at looking at life, one is the glass half empty and the other is the glass is half filled”. Thomas A. Chisolm and the Old Testament King, poet and song- writer David were two men who looked at the glass half filled.

What was their secret?

Psalm 57 gives us the answer and you will be very surprised by what it has to say.

Psalm 56 and 57 are very similar in many ways but also very different. Psalm 56 and 57 open with the same words, “have mercy on me”, they both describe the nature and intent of David’s enemies, they both feature the use of a refrain and they were both written by David when he was on the run from King Saul.

However they differ in that they were written from a different event in David’s life, Psalm 57, the Hebrew heading says it was written when David had fled from Saul into the cave and Psalm 56 was written when David was seized by the Philistines in Gath, they feature a different tune to be sung by, (Psalm 57, to the tune of “Do not Destroy” and Psalm 56, “The silent dove of distant places”) and Psalm 57 actually has a clear refrain and what I call another form of a refrain that points to the main idea of the Psalm.

I would like to focus now on the last of these two differences to explain the teaching theme and structure of my Psalm talk for Psalm 57.

The two refrains are:

  1. Verse’s 5 and 11, (the obvious refrain)

“Be exalted, O God, above the heavens; let your glory be over the earth”

  1. Verses 3b and 10, the other form of refrain that points to the main idea of the Psalm,

(3b) “God sends his love and his faithfulness”

and (10)

“For great is your love, reaching to the heavens; your faithfulness reaches to the skies”.

The concept of “The Love and faithfulness” of God” is a theme that runs through the entire Psalm.

What purpose then is the obvious refrain in verses 5 and 11 if it is not the central idea of the Psalm?

This refrain is in fact the same words applied to two different people, namely, the ungodly or non- believer in verses 4 and 6 and the true believer in verses 1 to 3 and verses 7 – 10.

I will argue that David uses the first refrain in verse 5 as part of his description of his enemies he is speaking about in verses 3a and verses 4 – 6.

David then uses these same words as his praise for the God who he knows as a God of love and faithfulness.

What then was the occasion for this Psalm?

David’s run from the evil intent of Saul led him to two caves, the first in a place called Adullam in 1 Samuel 22: 1 -2 and the second a few years later recorded in 1 Samuel 24 where David is hiding in a cave in the desert area of “En Gedi” and Saul enters to go to the toilet. Here David spares the life of Saul and cuts off a small piece of his clothing.

The first cave story fits well with Psalm 56 because it is the event that follows the event that inspired Psalm 56. The second story fits better because it could help explain the name of David’s tune called, “Do not destroy”. It is in the cave in the desert of “En Gadi” that David decides not to kill his enemy, Saul, which could easily be described by the words, “Do not destroy”.

I am not convinced on either but lean towards the second because it also helps explain some aspects of the teaching of the Psalm namely, “The Love and faithfulness of God”.

The other answer is David left the explanation of the situation vague enough so we can think of both situations when he and other people are singing the Psalm and when people like us are studying it.

My layout of this Psalm is then:

 

  1. THE LOVE AND FAITHFULNESS OF GOD (1 – 3)
  1. THE HATRED AND UNFAITHFULNESS OF MANKIND (3B AND 4 – 6)
  1. THE RIGHT WAY TO RESPOND TO THE LOVE AND FAITHFULNESS OF GOD (7 – 11)

 

  1. THE LOVE AND FAITHFULNESS OF GOD (1 – 3)

I have also realized from my study of this Psalm that each section answers 3 important questions about God’s love and faithfulness. This first section answers the question:

Why is our God a God of love and faithfulness?

The answer to this question is threefold:

  1. God shows us his mercy (or love) in saving us (1a and 3)
  2. God helps us and protects us as he promises to (1b)
  3. God hears our prayers and cries for help as he promises to (2)

 

  1. God shows us his mercy (or love) in saving us (1a and 3)

The opening words of this Psalm read like a desperate cry for help,

“Have mercy on me, O God have mercy on me for in you my soul takes refuge” (verse 1a)

Many commentators point out that the Hebrew word for “Mercy” here is the Hebrew word, “hanan” which means something like to show favor or for God to be gracious to David in his desperate situation. David knew he did not deserve God’s love and mercy but he knew his God was a God of mercy and love, as Spurgeon aptly points our,

God is the God of mercy, and the father of mercies, it is most fit therefore that in distress he (David) should seek mercy from him in whom it dwells”

Was David in the bowls of the cave at Adullam or “En Gedi” when he spoke these words in prayer to God?

We are not told but when David was in both caves recorded in 1 Samuel he was in great mortal danger. In the cave of Adullam he had just narrowly escaped a possible trap in the Philistine city of Gath and Saul was still hot on his trail. In the cave in En Gedi deseet his deadly enemy had entered the very cave he was hiding in. Saul was not entering the cave to look for David but to relieve himself however it would not take much for David to be discovered in the back of the cave with his men.

David needed God’s saving power and help and even though he often did not deserve it all through his life God saved David out of some very difficult situations.

David recognizes this in the next part of verse one when he writes,

‘For in you my soul takes refuge”

The sad reality of life is we all need God’s saving power in our lives but most people do not realize it. I remember sitting around with other Christian’s planning evangelistic campaign’s and someone always seemed to say,

“What we need first of all is the ability to make people realize they need to be saved”

The reality is people think they do not need God or any help outside of themselves and in fact they want to be in control of their lives, which is something we will look more closely at in the next section of the Psalm.

I know of many people who have come to the Lord because life’s circumstances have meant they could not turn to anyone else to help them.

In a recent Psalm talk I spoke of the saying:

“There are no atheists in foxholes or no atheists in the trenches of war”.

I said this was not a completely true saying as I’m sure many of the men and women in battle zones over the century’s remained true to their original conviction about if there is a God or not. However I’m sure that many men in battle have turned to God in prayer as they faced what seemed at the time certain death. They might have asked God to save them but once they got through the battle they showed no signs of true faith in God.

However there has been those who had heard the Christian Gospel message at some stage of their lives and in the heat of the foxhole or trench have finally surrendered there lives to the Lordship of Christ.

David went into the cave a believer in the love and faithfulness of his God and he walked out of that cave with a stronger experiential knowledge of that great truth. When we come through a trial in life trusting in God our faith will always get stronger.

He makes this clear by what he says in verse 3,

“He sends from heaven and saves me, rebuking those who hotly pursue me: God sends his love and his faithfulness”.

David knew his God was a God of love and faithfulness because in the past his God had intervened in history to save his people or nation and throughout his life he had experienced God’s intervention in salvation of his life and the life of his nation as well.

God to him was certainly a saving God who saved not because he deserved that salvation but simply because his God is a,

God (who) sends his love and faithfulness”.

Even though David’s salvation by God in the context of Psalm 57 background was a physical salvation the same point can be applied to our spiritual salvation in Christ.

We know that our God is God of Love and faithfulness in that we are saved from death to life by the cross of Christ. As Paul wrote in Romans 5: 8,

“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners Christ died for us”.

Paul goes on to make it clear he is talking about our salvation in the next two verses,

“Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him!

For if, when we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life”.

  1. God helps us and protects us as he promises to (1b)

The next way this first section reveals why our God is a God of love and faithfulness is in the words of David in the second part of verse 1,

“I will take refuge in the shadow of your wings until the disaster has passed”.

David has already indicated he had taken refuge in God when he was in the cave and facing what seemed certain death. He makes it clear in the second part of this verse that God not only saved him from death when he was in the cave but also God gave him constant protection and help through his love and faithfulness.
God is faithful is the theme of Thomas A. Chisholm great hymn, Great is your Faithfulness and his refrain says,

“Morning by morning new mercies I see

All I have needed Thy hand hath provided

Great is thy faithfulness, Lord unto me”.

 David knew he could rely on God’s protection because he believed that God had chosen his nation to be his special people that they would always know the love and protection of their God if they were faithful to their God. As Moses declared in Deuteronomy 7: 9,

“Know therefore that the Lord your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commandments”.

Over and over again David speaks of his God being his refuge, rock, fortress and deliverer as he declares for instance in Psalm 18: 2,

 

“The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer: my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge. He is my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold”.

David says things like this because of his experience of his faith in the God of the bible that he trusted in when he faced difficult situations in his life as the next verse of Psalm 18 says,

 

“I call to the Lord, who is worthy of praise, and I am saved from my enemies.”

 

David uses the concept or image of a bird again to make his point. Interestingly we have seen the use of the image of a bird in recent Psalms.

 

Like Psalm 55: 6,

 

“I said, ‘Oh, that I had the wings of a dove! I would fly away and stay in the desert”

Now David is not the bird but God is the bird who David takes refuge in the shadow of his wings. The image is of a little chick pulling close to its mother and being covered by the warm protection of the mother’s wings.

 

I refer to my Psalm talk on Psalm 11 for a more detailed look at the image of God being like a mother bird protecting his people like a bird protecting his young.

 

In that talk I also refer to the amazing words of Isaiah 40: 28 – 31 where the image of God’s wings is used in another way to show how he guides and protects us,

 

 

“Do you not know? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint”.

This concept of stepping out in faith and soaring for God in his service could be the sort of thing David has in mind when he says,

‘Until the disaster has passed”

David found protection and help from God but this did not mean he sought to be constantly wrapped in cotton wool but once God had saved him from the difficult situation he wanted to continue stepping out in faith in his everyday life.

Some commentators also refer to Jesus words about Jerusalem in Matthew 23: 37,

“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing”.

Here Jesus is saying if we would only be faithful to God we would know his love and protection like a chick under the wings of its mother.

The third verse of Thomas A. Chisholm hymn “Great is thy Faithfulness says,

“Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth,

Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide,

Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow

Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside”.

 

So we know our God as a God of love and faithfulness because of his promise of his protection and help in our daily lives. I leave the words on this to Paul in 2 Thessalonians 2: 2 – 3,

“And pray that we may be delivered from wicked and evil people, for not everyone has faith. But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen you and protect you from the evil one”.

  1. God hears our prayers and cries for help as he promises to (2)

The third reason why David believed his God was a God of love and faithfulness is in verse 2,

“I cry out to God Most High, to God, who fulfills his purpose for me;”

When David was in the hole in the ground or the cave he could only but trust in God as he humanly speaking was at the mercy of Saul and his far superior forces. This is especially true if this Psalm was written with the cave in the desert area of “En Gedi” is in mind for here David was trapped in the back of the cave with his men and Saul was near the entrance with his. Of course Saul had no idea David was at the back of the cave and David and his men certainly kept quiet as Saul entered the cave.

The story goes in 1 Samuel 24 like this in verses 3 – 7,

 “He came to the sheep pens along the way; a cave was there, and Saul went in to relieve himself. David and his men were far back in the cave. The men said, “This is the day the Lord spoke of when he said to you, ‘I will give your enemy into your hands for you to deal with as you wish.’”

Then David crept up unnoticed and cut off a corner of Saul’s robe.

Afterward, David was conscience-stricken for having cut off a corner of his robe. He said to his men, “The Lord forbid that I should do such a thing to my master, the Lord’s anointed, or lay my hand on him; for he is the anointed of the Lord.” With these words David sharply rebuked his men and did not allow them to attack Saul. And Saul left the cave and went his way”.

From Psalm 57 then we realize that as David and his men were in that cave he was praying a desperate prayer for God’s mercy to save him from the hands of Saul. Then as Saul enters the cave and David goes unnoticed David’s men realize that God had delivered David’s enemy into his hands. This is why David says,

“He sends from heaven and saves me, rebuking those who hotly pursue me”.

David’s desperate prayer had been answered and the tables seemed tuned and now David could so easily have rid himself of his enemy who was so set on killing him. Yet even as David cuts a small piece of cloth from Saul’s robe he becomes conscience – stricken for doing such a dishonorable thing to the one he called “The Lords anointed”.

David goes on to pray for justice to come upon his enemies but this justice he clearly sees must not come from his hands but from the hand of God.

Some might say that all the narrow escapes David had from Saul on his eight to nine years of being on the run from him were a matter of good luck. However David would not have seen it that way. He sees all his narrow escapes as God intervening on his behalf and as an answer to his prayers and cries for help.

In verse 2 he uses another strange expression namely,

“Who fulfills his purpose for me”.

It would seem that David realized even when he was on the run that God had a clear plan and purpose for him. Yes, at the time of David being in that cave, Saul was the Lords anointed King and must be respected and obeyed but David also realized that Saul’s days as king were numbered and his destiny was to become the Lord’s Anointed king of Israel.

The concept that God has a plan for our lives is a teaching that runs right through the bible and the best example of this teaching for us as Christians can be found in Romans 8: 28 – 30,

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified”.

We too can have confidence in prayer if we are praying according to the expressed will of God namely his plan and purpose for our lives. This is what the apostle John wrote about in 1 John 5: 14 – 15,

 

“This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him”.

So we can see that every time we like David see a answer to our prayers that this is yet another proof that,

“God sends (us) his love and his faithfulness”

The second verse of Thomas A. Chisholm hymn “Great is thy Faithfulness says,

“Summer and winter, and springtime and harvest,

Sun, moon, and stars in their courses above,

Join with all nature in manifold witness

To Thy great faithfulness, mercy, and love.

2.THE HATRED AND UNFAITHFULNESS OF MANKIND (3B AND 4 – 6)

I believe the second section of this Psalm answers the question:

Why is mankind so full of hate and unfaithfulness?

I was reminded recently of the sinful bias of mankind when I heard of the senseless deaths of 100 Pakistanis in an army school in Pakistan at the hands of a band of mad Taliban terrorists. Most of the people killed in the school were innocent children who were simply at school. The reason given for these senseless deaths were simply revenge as the Taliban terrorist was reacting to deaths in their village at the hands of the Pakistani army.

We in the west cannot simply throw rocks at terrorists seeking revenge when our hearts are motivated by the same hateful unfaithfulness. This became clear to me when I thought about a recent highly rating T.V. show called “Revenge”. The whole show is apparently set around the fictional character called Amanda Clarke and Wikipedia says,

“The show focuses on Amanda’s plot to destroy every individual who played a role in her father’s imprisonment”.

Apparently her father was falsely imprisoned for treason and killed in prison by the people who framed him. My question simply is,

Would people watch a show called “Forgiveness”?

I doubt it as so many T.V shows, movies and the nightly news reports tell the story of the hateful revenge of people who would consider forgiveness as the week and morally bankrupt choice in life.

David sets down in the middle section a description of his enemies, who in the case of Psalm 57 is King Saul and his men. This section has three parts:

  1. Mankind’s hearts are sinful and rebellious (vs. 4)
  2. The God you oppose is the Lord of heaven and earth (vs. 5)
  3. Mankind is set on brining down God and his followers (vs. 6)

 

  1. Mankind’s hearts are sinful and rebellious (vs.4)

David now describes his enemies with these words in verse 4A,

“I am in the midst of lions; I lie among ravenous beasts –

This description of his enemies is in complete contrast to the description of God in the last section as a God of love and faithfulness.

David’s enemies are described as being like untamed wild animals, “Lions” and “Ravenous beasts”. Spurgeon makes the point that the cave David found himself trapped in probably reminded him of being in a lions den. Maybe the reference to lying among ravenous beasts is inspired by David lying at the back of the cave when Saul was in the front of it relieving himself.

The image of his enemies being like wild beasts is a sad but true picture of not only King Saul madly seeking to kill the innocent and even faithful David but also an apt picture of mankind in general.

In the early chapters of Romans Paul sets down the nature and results of sin in the human heart and this is described as rebellion. Paul speaks of this rebellion to the rule of God in Romans 1: 18 – 21,

“The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.

For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened”.

Paul goes on to say that God gave mankind over to their rebellion and mankind has suffered the tragic consequences of that as he spells out in Romans 1: 28 –32,

“Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy. Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them”.

It as though people have become like wild animals no long living as God designed us to but living like wild animals showing little love and faithfulness in our dealings with others in our lives.

David faced the fallout of Saul’s fall from God, Saul’s rebellion of the rule of God in his life and that led to Saul becoming like a wild and irrational animal intent on devouring David if he could lay his hands on him.

Spurgeon also makes an interesting comment on David’s words,

“Men whose teeth are spears and arrows, whose tongues are sharp swords”. (4b)

“Even the sons of men, whose teeth are spears and arrows, and their tongue a sharp sword. Malicious men carry a whole armory in their mouths; they have not harmless mouths, whose teeth grind their food in a mill, but their jaws are as mischievous as if every tooth were a javelin or an arrow”.

The description then of David’s enemies is in such contrast to the beautiful description of God in the previous section.

God’s nature is to love while mankind’s nature is to hate and kill. God offers mercy while mankind offers revenge. God is faithful and can be relied upon while mankind is unfaithful only seeks to devour and destroy.

As Christians we need to keep this in mind when living in this world and be careful to act and speak like the God we say we believe in and not like the prevailing Godless actions and speech of those who do not know God and who refuse to believe in him. As Peter tells his readers to do in 1 Peter 1: 13 – 19,

“Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming. As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.”

Since you call on a Father who judges each person’s work impartially, live out your time as foreigners here in reverent fear. For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect”.

  1. The God you oppose is the Lord of heaven and earth (vs. 5)

I come then to my controversial interpretation of verse 5 which I see not as the end of the first section of this Psalm but part of a middle section, which deals with a description of the enemies of God.

The words of the refrain verses are used twice in this Psalm, here as a description of the God the Godless men are rebelling against and in verse 11 as an expression of David’s praise of that same God he sought to serve.

It is as though David is saying you ravenous wild animals who seek my life need to consider who you are dealing with when you act this way. So David describes whom they are rebelling against with the words of verse 5. David sets down his description of his God as a short and beautiful word of praise.

“Be exalted, O God, above the heavens; let your glory be over all the earth”.

Coffman writes,

“The thought here is not that God might do something whereby he would become exalted, but that God already deserves to be exalted for what he has already done”.

Saul had turned away from obeying God because he thought he knew better than God and once he knew he was wrong he sought to cover it up with a smoke screen of reliance on God by calling the prophet Samuel in to legitimize his actions.

We read of King Saul’s rebellion in 1 Samuel 13. This initial turning away from God led Saul into the depths of rebellion against God and it was this rebellion that led Saul to his jealous and wild rage against David who God chose to replace him.

This God who Saul was now in conflict with was non other than the God who sits above the heavens and whose glory covers the earth. He is the Lord of Lords and King of Kings and if he is not praised like David is doing in his refrain then there are serious consequences. As the writer to the Hebrews says in Hebrews 10: 31,

“It is a dreadful (or fearful) thing to fall into the hands of the living God”.           

David is saying here you cannot appose the God of Heaven and earth and if you seek to oppose him there will be serious consequences, as the next verse will spell out.

The story of Saul’s fall from God’s service should serve as a warning to all as Saul’s impatience that led to his disobedience described in 1 Samuel 13 seems like a mistake we often make in our Christian lives today. What seems to be missing from Saul’s reaction to his sin’s revealed by the prophet Samuel is repentance and faith. Interesting when we compare David’s reaction to the revelation of the prophet Nathan of his great sins we see David responding in the right way with true repentance and faith.

We can have confidence that we will find forgiveness with God when we do sin by the words of the Apostle John in 1 John 1: 9 – 10,

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us”.

  1. Mankind is set on brining down God and his followers (vs. 6)

After David reminds his enemies whom they are rebelling against he continues to speak to describe his enemies this time by speaking of what they are seeking to do to him.

We read these words in verse 6

“They spread a net for my feet – I was bowed down in distress. They dug a pit in my path”.

The image here is the setting of traps to trip up David so that he would fall flat on his face in defeat. We know from the text of 1 Samuel that Saul continually sought to capture David so that he could kill him and maybe in his mind save the Kingdom of Israel for himself and his descendants. Stories of rivals to the thrones of Kings and Queens are riddled throughout history and are but further evidence to the hatred unfaithfulness of mankind.

However in David’s case he did not actively seek to over throw Saul as king. We see this clearly in the story of David in the cave when Saul entered it to relieve himself. Here David had the perfect opportunity to destroy King Saul and take over his throne but David resisted this and claimed loyalty to the one he called the anointed king of Israel.

The final words of verse 6 read,

“But they have fallen into it themselves”

The story of David in the cave in the desert of “En Gedi” is a great example of how Saul fell into his own trap as he was seeking to close in on David in that desert but instead of capturing David he could have easily been caught by David in a trap himself.

The mad jealous rage that inspired Saul is the same motivation for the great opposition we see even today to God and those who seek to follow him. This expresses itself in a variety of ways and can be subtle or more overt like the whole scale slaughter or imprisonment of Christians as seen today in places like Iraq and North Korea. There are over 50 countries today where Christians are openly and severely persecuted.

Christians represent the truth of God on earth and therefore they are a bad smell in the nostrils of those who like Saul are in rebellion to God or a sweet smell in the nostrils of those who are being saved. Paul speaks of how we are either a good or bad smell in 2 Corinthians 2: 14 – 16,

“But thanks be to God, who always leads us as captives in Christ’s triumphal procession and uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of him everywhere. For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one we are an aroma that brings death; to the other, an aroma that brings life”.

So the hate and unfaithfulness of mankind leads to opposition to those who seek to love and serve their Lord.

The apostle John sums up the role of love and faithfulness for the Christian and its effect on the world in 1 John 3: 11 – 16,

“For this is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another. Do not be like Cain, who belonged to the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own actions were evil and his brother’s were righteous. Do not be surprised, my brothers and sisters, if the world hates you. We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love each other. Anyone who does not love remains in death. Anyone who hates a brother or sister is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life residing in him.

This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters”.

So like David we might face opposition from others because we trust in the God of heaven and earth who is both loving and faithful but even if we do we must realize that love is both the message and power of the Christian Gospel and without it no one is saved from death to life.

Finally what will happen to those who oppose God and his followers?

Words in verse 3 tells us the answer to this question,

“He sends from heaven and saves me; rebuking those who hotly pursue me”.

So God saves his followers but rebukes those who attack them. This is yet another expression of the judgment of God coming sometimes in this life but certainly in the great Day of Judgment to come.

Even before the final Day of Judgment God’s displeasure of those who attack his faithful people is clear. In David’s case the life of his pursuer, King Saul went from bad to worse ending in his violent death at his own hands as he faced certain death at the hands of the Philistines.

So for a time the enemies of Christians might seem victorious over them but eventually God will rebuke those who persecute his faithful followers. Even during persecution or difficult times in our lives we can trust in the love and faithfulness of God to help us come through victorious these times of testing and pain. As Paul makes this clear when speaking about the difficulties caused by temptations in 1 Corinthians 10: 13,

“No temptation has sieved you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so you can stand up under it”.

3.THE RIGHT WAY TO RESPOND TO THE LOVE AND FAITHFULNESS OF GOD (7 – 11)

Having dealt with the hated and unfaithfulness of his enemies David now returns to his original thoughts on the love and faithfulness of His God and he now seeks to answer the question:

 

How does God want us to respond to the love and faithfulness of God?

 

David supplies three responses we should make in answer to God’s love and faithfulness in this section and they are:

 

  1. Be faithful to God (7a)
  2. Worship God (7b – 9)
  3. Recognize God as the Lord of heaven and earth (11)

I will now look at these three responses to God’s great love and faithfulness and then finish with a final look at God’s great love and faithfulness expressed by David in verse 10.

 

  1. Be faithful to God (7a)

 

What God primarily desires from us in response to his great love and faithfulness is simply our heartfelt love and faithfulness to him. This is what David expresses in verse 7a,

 

“My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast”.

David had experienced yet another miraculous escape from the evil clutches of Saul and realized yet again God had treated him with great love and faithfulness and so he now prays a prayer of praise in which he tells God what he intends to now do.

The word “steadfast” is another word for faithful. It is translated by different versions of the bible as, King James version, “Fixed”, New living Translation, “Confident” and International Standard version, “Committed”. So God wants from our hearts our honest and committed faithfulness.

 

Inspired by what God has done for us in his acts of love and faithfulness should lead to an attitude of love and faithfulness in us. In Matthew 22: 36, Jesus was asked by a Jewish expert of the Law, “which is the greatest commandment in the law?”

 

Jesus answer is found in verses 37 – 40,

 

“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with your entire mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

 

This is what Jesus said God wants from us but of course in our sinful fallen state of hatred and unfaithfulness we cannot do it. However the bible teaches that we can only love God because he first loved us.

 

The apostle John taught this in his first letter written to counter heretical teaching of his day. In the passage that followers the one I quoted in the last section, 1 John 3: 16 – 19, he spells out how we can love God,

 

 “And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.

“God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the Day of Judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.

We love because he first loved us”.

So the first response we should have for the love and faithfulness God has for us is our love and faithfulness to him.

 

  1. Worship God (7b – 9)

The second response of David to the love and faithfulness of God which he experienced in his narrow escape from the clutches of his enemy King Saul is resolve to worship God in the best way he knew how to. For David this meant singing and making music as he says in 7b

 

“I will sing and make music”.

 

 

 

There has been many weird and sadly misguided Christians in the past and present times who have been anti – music but these Christians have somehow failed to see the bible teaching on the use of music in the meeting of Christians both to worship God and to edify those who are involved in it. Paul teaches a right use of music in corporate Christian gatherings in Ephesians 5: 18 – 20,

 

 “Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ”.

In the next verse of Psalm 57 David seems to rouse himself to get going in worship using music,

 

“Awake, my soul! Awake, harp and lyre! I will awaken the dawn”.

This seems to be a strange thing to say, speaking to his harp and lyre to wake up like they are living beings. However we must remember David is writing poetry and the image he is seeking to convey is best describe for me by Spurgeon when he writes,

 

Let all the music with which I am familiar be well attuned for the hallowed service of praise. I myself will awake early. I will awake the dawn with my joyous notes. No sleepy verses and weary notes shall be heard from me; I will thoroughly arouse myself for this high employ”.

Sometimes we give God our second best or even worse when we come together in worship of our God. David wanted to give his best and finest music to the Lord in worship of him who loved him so much.

 

Dreary and emotionless worship just does not figure in the mind of David as he wants to wake everyone up with praise and song. I have attended highly emotionally charged worship services and sadly felt let down because the people around me have been shallow in their faith. On the other hand I have attended dead and emotionless worship services as well that equally have left me let down and disappointed. We need to give God our best music, our best thoughts, our best attitudes and our best emotions when we worship him.

 

Paul spoke of the principles of worship of God inspired and directed by the Gospel message in Romans 12: 1 and 2 and wrote,

 

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will”.

So much of our modern worship is dominated by shallow worship practices that fail to plumb the depths of God through his word.

Our music can also lack solid theological thought at the expense of sounding good as the pattern of this world often determines.

David’s worship and praise was in no way shallow as we can see from verse 9 which says,

“I will praise you, O Lord, among the nations; I will sing of you among the peoples”.

David wants the whole world to know about his God and particularly about how his God is a God of love and faithfulness as the next refrain verse expresses so well,

“For great is your love, reaching to the heavens; your faithfulness reaches the skies”.

Leopold points out that David could not be taken literally here as he had no chance in his day of travelling the world and singing God’s praise to every nation. Leopold explains the two things David meant by this,

“1. The praise deserves to be known among the nations.

And 2. Wherever an opportunity presented itself in his contacts with the nations or their representatives David was not slow in attributing his deliverances to the faithful God of Israel”.

For us world wide travel is not hard and is quite affordable and I can say that I have had the opportunity of praising God among many nations of the earth and have even sang his praises to many peoples of the world today and for this I give thanks and praise to God who alone has made this possible.

It has also been a joy to sit or stand with people singing God’s praises in their native tongues and sensing the wonderful bond of cross cultural Christian fellowship and unity.

Our God deserves our praise indeed and we must take every opportunity do join with other like minded believers and put David’s words on world wide worship and praise in to practice. However we must always seek to keep the central message and theme of that praise, namely the love and faithfulness of our God as we see him in his revealed word and through our wonderful experience of him in our every day lives.

Paul both practiced and promoted this fellowship of praise as you can see in his word to the early Corinthian church in 1 Corinthians 1: 4 – 9,

“I always thank my God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus. For in him you have been enriched in every way—with all kinds of speech and with all knowledge— God thus confirming our testimony about Christ among you. Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed. He will also keep you firm to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, who has called you into fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord”.

  1. Recognise God as the Lord of heaven and earth (11)

 

Besides the great message of God’s great love and faithfulness the number one message we should be presenting to the world is the Lordship of God in Christ.

 

David lived 700 years before Christ so his message was simply the Lordship of God as expressed in verse 11, the last verse of the Psalm and the second time this refrain is used in the Psalm.

 

It reads,

 

“Be exalted, O God, above the heavens; let your glory be over the earth”.

In the last use of this refrain I suggested it was aimed at David’s enemies as a description of the God they are rebellion against but here it is an expression of the God he believes in who has saved him from certain death from those enemies.

 

David is telling us in this use of the refrain that his God is the Lord or King of heaven and earth and we can see his glory in all the earth.

 

This is yet another right way of responding to the love and faithfulness of God and in the New Testament the Lordship of Christ is central to being saved by him and therefore in being part of his Kingdom. As Paul states in Romans 10: 9 – 13,

 

“If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. As Scripture says, “Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame. For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

 CONCLUSION – THE GREAT LOVE AND FAITHFULNESS OF GOD

 

So David has seen his God save him out of the cave of Adullam and the cave in the desert of “En Gadi”. David’s escapes from both of these two death traps happened because of God’s great love and faithfulness. David makes this clear twice in this Psalm and the second expression of this is verse 10,

 

“For great is your love, reaching to the heavens; your faithfulness reaches to the skies”.

 This has been David’s inspired theme of this Psalm. A teaching that states truths about God that no other religion has dared to declare. This is a theme seen even clearer and stronger in the New Testament where we learn that God sent his Son into this world to show us his love and faithfulness through his death on the cross.

 

Paul lived and breathed this great message and even as he neared the end of his life and ministry on this earth he wrote to his younger prodigy Timothy and in his last letter to Timothy he wrote these words in 2 Timothy 2: 8 – 13,

 

“Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David. This is my gospel, for which I am suffering even to the point of being chained like a criminal.

But God’s word is not chained. Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect that they too may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory.

 Here is a trustworthy saying:

If we died with him,

We will also live with him;
 if we endure,
we will also reign with him.
If we disown him,
he will also disown us;
if we are faithless,
he remains faithful,

For he cannot disown himself”.

 So I return to my opening thoughts about Thomas O. Chisholm great hymn “Great is thy Faithfulness” which I will quote as a excellent summary of what this Psalm has taught me,

 

Great is Thy faithfulness, oh God my Father;
There is no shadow of turning with Thee;
Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not;
as Thou hast been, Thou forever wilt be.

Great is Thy faithfulness! Great is Thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see.
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided;
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!

Summer and winter and springtime and harvest,
Sun, moon, and stars in their courses above
Join with all nature in manifold witness
to Thy great faithfulness, mercy and love.

Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth
Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide;
Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow,
Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside!

I close with my own poem and a prayer as well.

 

GOD’S LOVE AND FAITHFULNESS

Trust in God’s love and faithfulness

Because of Jesus Christ

Who came to earth to die for us

And rise to give us life.

No matter what life brings us

Be sure to realise

That Christ is right beside us

To help us in our lives.

 

 

Have mercy Lord on all of us

Keep us safe Oh Lord.

For Satan’s forces seek our souls

Remind us of your word.

Help us shelter beneath your wings

When Satan’s forces come.

God has promised love to us

Salvation through his Son.

 

 

 

I cry to God for help from him

I know he hears my prayers

I know he sends his help to us

He always knows and cares

He saved us by his amazing grace

By sending Christ to die

All we have to do is trust

And love will raise us high.

 

 

My heart is steadfast trusting God

Who gives us all his love.

And I will sing of what his done

And raise his name above.

I’ll go into this world and praise

God’s love and faithfulness.

Join the fellowship of praise

Proclaiming God’s the best.

 

 

PRAYER:

 I thank you Heavenly father for your great love and faithfulness that can be clearly seen in the sending of your son to die for us. Thank you that we can always trust in you because of your love and faithfulness for us. Help us to realise that when trouble comes in this life you are with us to help us with your love and faithfulness. Help us to show and tell this world how wonderful your love is and may we sing your praises joining with others who acknowledge you as the Lord of all and the God of love and faithfulness. In Jesus name we pray Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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