When Lions Gather
(H) For the director of the choir, set to “Do not Destroy,” of David, a Miktam, when he fled from Saul into the cave. (1) Be gracious to me, God. Be gracious to me, for in you my soul seeks refuge. In the shadow of your wings I seek refuge until the destruction passes by. (2) I cry out to God Most High, to God who fulfills (his purpose) for me. (3) He will send from heaven and deliver me. He reproaches the one who would crush me. (Selah) God sends forth his steadfast love and faithfulness. (4) My soul (is) in the midst of lions. I lie down with those who breathe out fire, even the sons of men whose teeth are spears and arrows, whose tongue is a sharp sword. (5) Be exalted above the heavens, God! (Let) your glory (be) over all the earth!
Two repetitions mark the opening verse of this psalm: the twofold invocation, “be gracious to me” and the twice-used verb, “seek refuge” (vs. 1). These immediately convey to us David’s sense of urgency as he cries out to God for protection from enemies who are portrayed as fierce predators. Their fiery breath, sharp teeth, and equally sharp tongue are all lethal weapons (vs. 4).
In the middle of this segment we find another repetition, the verb “to send,” used both in the first and third sentences of the verse (vs. 3). David takes comfort in knowing that God will assuredly send him help, namely his steadfast love and faithfulness. A final repetition, “heaven/heavens” (vss. 3 & 5), specifies the source from which the psalmist expects to receive help as well as the place where God’s glory will be manifested.
I. I seek refuge in my gracious God to shelter me. (1 & 2)
II. I trust in my faithful God to deliver me. (3 & 4)
III. I praise my glorious God who is exalted over all. (5)
When in desperate straits, surrounded by our enemies, we take refuge in God, trusting him to deliver us and praising him for his protection.
The expression, “It’s a jungle out there,” effectively conveys the dangers we face in the fallen world that surrounds us. David gives us good reason to use such a phrase by describing his enemies as vicious beasts who were ready to pounce and destroy him (vs. 4). Instead of panicking at the prospect of facing such dangers on his own, David turns to God for help and protection.
A worship song recorded by Phillips, Craig, and Dean effectively captures the message of this opening segment of Psalm 57. No matter what dangers we may have to face, our sovereign God can be trusted to protect us if we simply rely on him. Note how the words of the song move from a focus on what God is NOT to concentrate on who God IS and how this can encourage us when we are in danger: “You are not a God created by human hands. / You are not a God dependent on any mortal man. / You are not a God in need of anything we can give. / By your plan that’s just the way it is. // You’re the only God whose power none can contend. / You’re the only God whose name and praise will never end. / You’re the only God who’s worthy of everything we can give. / You are God. That’s just the way it is. // You are God alone, from before time began. / You are on your throne, you are God alone. / And right now, in the good times and bad, / you are on your throne, you are God alone.” This worship song closes in triumph: “Unchangeable, unshakable, unstoppable, that’s what you are!”