(This is the second of four transcripts of homilies on Psalm 57.)
“I cry out to God Most High, to God who fulfills his purpose for me. He will send from heaven and save me; he will put to shame him who tramples on me. Selah God will send out his steadfast love and his faithfulness! ” ~Ps. 57:2-3
One sure mark of Christian maturity is the ability to see in the dark. But this spiritual sight comes, not through the eyes of flesh, but through the eye of faith. And such people usually see better with their eyes closed.
Consider our father Abraham. God covered him with darkness and cut a covenant with him. Abraham walked through dusty deserts for decades and all he saw was promises. Every burning grain of sand that found its way between his blistered toes reminded him of the promise of his potential posterity. When the desert gave him sand, he saw sons.
See him lying on his back after yet another hard day’s journey. He’s a man of considerable means and immeasurable wealth. Yet, he has no real place to lay his head. He has no home. He seems to be just another nomad; another wilderness wanderer. But he’s seeking there no continuing city, he’s waiting on the one to come. He’s looking for a city which has foundations whose builder and maker is God. And he looks up at the star-strewn sky and he and Sarah laugh themselves to sleep trying to count them. The darkness gave him stars but he saw sons. He was a man who learned to see promises in the dark.
Consider that blameless man Joseph. God taught him to see in the dark too. His whole life was characterized by dreams. God gave him special dreams that revealed his destiny. Through those dreams he learned to see God’s purposes.
But soon his special dreams became shattered dreams as his brothers plotted against him and sold him into slavery in Egypt. But at every turn you find a single refrain during Joseph’s Egyptian nightmare, “And the Lord blessed him there.” Soon those shattered dreams gave way to sweet dreams as he is exalted from the pit to the palace. When his brothers finally knelt before him just as the Lord had said that they would he told them, “You sold me but God sent me. What you meant for evil, God meant for God to save a multitude of people alive.” He was a man who learned to see purposes in the dark.
And now we come to David. Huddled in a hole far from hearth and home, the young shepherd-king learns to see in the dark.
This is not the road which he would’ve chosen for himself. He was quite content watching his father’s flock. That would have been a quiet and fairly comfortable life. He had no visions of palaces, only pastures. This is not the path he would have chosen.
But God called him up from Jesse’s field to come tend the flock of God. David was to be Israel’s pastoral prince, their shepherd-king who would guard them and guide them along the path of righteousness. That’s the path which God had chosen for him. And that path is paved with difficulty.
Later David would write, “He leads me in the path of righteousness for his name’s sake.” The righteous path is a rocky path. It is a rough path. It is a path that is tight and narrow. It’s a path that brings us to caves and even to crosses before we reach the crown.
But why would God lead us down such a treacherous road? David would tell you that He does it “for His name’s sake.”
He doesn’t do it to make you stronger; He doesn’t it to make you trust in His strength. He does it so that His name might be praised and hallowed and sanctified in all the earth.
He does it so that we might be able to go down into the depths of darkness and still sing the victor’s song, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil. For You with me. Your rod and your staff they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup runs over…”
I knew an old saint who had faithfully walked with God for over 70 years. I said to him on one occasion, “Brother, what’s your secret? How does a man walk with God for nearly 8 decades?” He said, “He does it on his hands and knees. It’s too rough a road to walk standing upright. If the wind doesn’t knock you down the stones of opposition will. A man will faithfully walk with God only when he remembers that the next step will be made just like the last one—one knee in front of the other.”
David learned to see and walk that path even in the dark.
Last week I told you that this Psalm may be divided neatly into two halves. In verses 1-6 we see David’s Prayer and in verses 7-11 we see David’s Praise. In the first half of the Psalm David is deep in the darkness at the back of the cave. In the second half he steps out of the mouth of the cave and into the sunlight. But I hope that you notice that even in David’s prayer you find the seeds of praise taking root. His praise began in the back of the cave—a long time before he ever stepped out into the sunshine.
Last Lord’s Day we began looking at David’s prayer and we focused on verse 1 where the emphasis is on HIS CRY. “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 until the storms of destruction pass by.”
We noted his two-fold cry found in that first verse: Lord, Help Me and Lord Hide Me.
Now as we come to verses 2 and following we learn that the shadow of death no longer hold any terrors for him because he is resting under the shadow of the Almighty.
It seems that he has come a long way since Psalm 55. Two chapters previous he says, “Oh, that I had wings like a dove! I would fly away and be at rest…I would hurry to find a shelter from the raging wind and tempest.” But now in this great darkness his sight has improved to the point where he says, “In the shadow of your wings I will take refuge till the storms of destruction pass by.” David still wants wings just a different set of wings! He doesn’t need his own wings to fly away and be at rest, he finds rest underneath the wings of his God.
Under His wings I am safely abiding,
Though the night deepens and tempests are wild,
Still I can trust Him; I know He will keep me,
He has redeemed me, and I am His child.
Under His wings, what a refuge in sorrow!
How the heart yearningly turns to His rest!
Often when earth has no balm for my healing,
There I find comfort, and there I am blessed.
But considering his situation how can this be?
As we dig a bit further into David’s prayer I want us to take just a few moments to investigate HIS CONFIDENCE. Why was David confident that his cry would be effectual? What was the secret of his confidence then and the source of our confidence now?
Just as his cry was two-fold so is his confidence. First,
I. He was Trusting in the Lofty Name of His God
“Vain is the help of man.” David knew that all too well. He knew that the arm of the flesh would fail. He could not waste his time with futile schemes and faulty plans. He had God-sized problems that required God-sized solutions. He had to lift his eyes to the hills from whence his help would come.
He didn’t need an army, he needed the Almighty! He didn’t need his general, he needed his God! This is how he had gained every victory he had ever known.
He once stood in the valley of death and stared down mighty Goliath, that champion of Gath who was more of a mountain than a man. He roared across the battlefield with a God-endued confidence and said, “You come to me with a spear and a sword but I come to you with the name of the Lord!”
And he left the field of battle that day dragging a sword in one hand and a head in the other.
What’s the secret David? Wherein does your strength lie? He says to us, “Some trust in chariots, some trust in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.”
David, how can you cry to God with any confidence? “Because I am trusting in His name!”
In verse 1 he cries out to Elohim. This is the most common name of God found in the OT. Literally it means, “mighty ones.” It is a plural word denoting uncontainable strength. A strength than runs over. The only way to convey such strength is by making it a plural. A singular noun just can’t carry the freight.
It’s a bit like the little fella who had a big mouth and picked a fight with a man three times his size. His friend who witnessed the fight said every now and then the little fella could be heard shouting, “Ya’ll get off of me!!!” There was much more there than he had bargained for.
When David prays to the God of verse 1, he is crying to the God of unparalleled might; the God of inconceivable power. This God whispers and worlds leap into existence.
In verse 2 he says that he is crying to the “God Most High”. That is the name that you first find in Genesis 14 when Melchizedek meets Abram on the field of victory. Lot has been captured by a hostile confederation of kings and Abram sets out to rescue his nephew and in short order God had delivered his enemies into his hands.
Melchizidek, King of Salem and Priest of El Elyon—God Most High, greets the victor with bread, wine, and a gracious benediction. “Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Possessor of Heaven and earth; and blessed be God Most High, who has delivered your enemies into your hand!”
Elohim speaks of power. Elyon speaks of possession. Possession of what? Ev-ry-thing. He is possessor of heaven and earth. Every ounce and every inch belongs to Him. If you were to ask Paul what it meant to say that God was El Elyon he would say, “For from Him, and through Him, and to Him are all things. To Him be glory forever and ever. Amen.”
David has confidence because he is trusting in the lofty name of His God. The God of unparalleled strength and unrivaled supremacy.
If you were to ask David why he is enduring these battles he would say, “I’m doing it for the sake of His name. That’s why He’s lead me here. When I stood before Goliath I said, This day the LORD will deliver you up into my hands, and I will strike you down and remove your head from you. And I will give the dead bodies of the army of the Philistines this day to the birds of the sky and the wild beasts of the earth, that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel. I do it for the sake of His name.”
If you were to say, “I understand why you do it but how do you do it?” He would say, “I do it through the strength of His name. He is the Mighty God and God Most High. Fighting in His name doesn’t ensure that I won’t be wounded but it does ensure that I will win. I have no cause but His; I have no confidence but Him.”
This is the principle that guided his life. He taught it to his son Solomon. And eventually Solomon taught this same truth to his own son Rehoboam. You can see the aged Solomon pulling his young son upon his knee and saying, “I want to teach you something most important; something that your grandfather taught me when I was just your age. I want you to remember these words all your life. Here is great wisdom. The name of the Lord is a strong tower, the righteous man runs into it and is safe.”
I mentioned that there was a two-fold confidence found in David’s prayer. First, he was trusting in the lofty name of His God. Very quickly, here’s the second:
II. He was Resting in the Loving Nature of His God
When he speaks of God Most High in verse 2, he says that He is the “God who fulfills His purpose for me.” While this translation is ok it really doesn’t convey the sweetness of the statement very well.
The best way to translate verse 2 is this way, “I cry out to God Most High, to God who accomplishes all things for me.” Or even more literally, “the God who finishes things for me.”
David says, “I’m all the time starting something that I can’t finish. But not Him. He finishes all things for me. That’s His nature. When it’s all said and done every promises will be performed, every need supplied, every covenant kept, every enemy vanquished, every wrong righted, every crook straightened, every curse reversed, and every question mark turned into a period. He is the God who finishes all things for me.”
“The work which His goodness began,
The arm of His strength will complete;
His promise is Yea and Amen,
And never was forfeited yet.”
“He will send from heaven and save me…”
Now the Holy Spirit takes us from great David to great David’s greater Son. He takes us from the Cave and He brings to Calvary. There we see the full measure of the loving nature of our God. “He will send from heaven” and save us. God sent out his steadfast love and faithfulness and crowned Golgotha’s brow.
Who is hanging there on yonder cross? “The God who finishes all things for me!”
Lifted up was He to die,
“It is Finished,” was His cry,
Now in heaven, exalted high.
Hallelujah! What a savior!