Tribute in Times of Trouble - Psalm 57

August 16, 2015 Speaker: Randy Loveless Series: Summer Psalms 2015

Topic: Old Testament Passage: Psalm 57:1–57:11

Tribute in Times of Trouble from Damascus Road Church on Vimeo.

INTRODUCTION

The title of today’s sermon is Tribute in Times of Trouble, and the text is Psalm 57.

The bible is absolutely clear that there is a great war that wages around us. Paul talks about this in Ephesians 6 when he says,

Ephesians 6:10-12 ESV Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. (11) Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. (12) For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.

This is the present reality. Whether you believe it or not, whether you see it or not, whether you acknowledge it or not – the battle that wages against the spiritual forces of evil is all around us.

The reason why I selected this Psalm – and the reason why I named it Tribute in Times of Trouble – is because I know that many of you in this room are at places in your life where this battle that Paul talks about in Ephesians 6 bursts onto the scene of your life in a way that you cannot escape. Trouble, trial, sickness, fear, tragedy… or whatever bad circumstance in life you can think of… are all being experienced by people in this room. Today. For some of you, I know what that thing is – for some of you I have no idea.

But God knows. And God has given you and me some tools to use when we are in that place of desperation – when it seems there is no way out, when the walls are closing in around you, when darkness and fear take over. Psalm 57 is one of those tools – I pray we would all learn something about how to use that tool here this morning.

Psalms 57:1-11 ESV To the choirmaster: according to Do Not Destroy. A Miktam of David, when he fled from Saul, in the cave.
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.
(2) I cry out to God Most High, to God who fulfills his purpose for me. (3) 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!
(4) My soul is in the midst of lions; I lie down amid fiery beasts— the children of man, whose teeth are spears and arrows, whose tongues are sharp swords.
(5) Be exalted, O God, above the heavens! Let your glory be over all the earth!
(6) They set a net for my steps; my soul was bowed down. They dug a pit in my way, but they have fallen into it themselves. Selah.
(7) My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast! I will sing and make melody! (8) Awake, my glory! Awake, O harp and lyre! I will awake the dawn!
(9) I will give thanks to you, O Lord, among the peoples; I will sing praises to you among the nations. (10) For your steadfast love is great to the heavens, your faithfulness to the clouds.
(11) Be exalted, O God, above the heavens! Let your glory be over all the earth!

THE PLAN
My plan for us this morning is to answer the question – why is David hiding in a cave? – then look at FOUR of the attributes of God that explode out of this Psalm – and then we will close it up with a quick look at the Thanksgiving portion of the Psalm, v6-11.

BACKGROUND – DAVID AND SAUL… Why is he hiding in a cave?
As I’ve said already, we do know what was going on when David wrote this Psalm. Verse 1 says…
A Miktam of David, when he fled from Saul, in the cave.

For the back-story here you’d need to read 1Samuel 17-22. Most of us are familiar with the story of David and Goliath, right? A shepherd boy takes out the giant with a small rock and a sling – boldly stepping out to fight him in defense of God’s honor when nobody else would, denying the protection offered by armor.

After this legendary encounter, David becomes well known for his military prowess. All starts to sour with him and Saul – the king of Israel – when David returns home after a time of battle. Saul becomes angry when he notices David is getting higher praise from the women singing songs than he is… 1Samuel 18 says that Saul eyed David from that time on… and he kept trying to kill him from that time on. Multiple times dodging spears, being sent out in battle in hopes he’d be killed, Saul even offered his daughter’s hand to David in marriage if he brought him 100 Philistine foreskins, thinking he’d be killed in the process of getting them (David returned with 200).

But scripture is explicit that David had been chosen by God, 1Samuel 18 ends by saying, “Then the commanders of the Philistines came out to battle, and as often as they came out David had more success than all the servants of Saul, so that his name was highly esteemed.” Saul’s plan backfires… the intensity of Saul’s maniacal pursuit of David grows.

David ends up escaping to the Caves of Adullam in 1Samuel 22. It seems most likely that this is where David was when he wrote Psalm 57. From what I could tell in reviewing some timelines, the conflict between David and Saul was an extended one – likely Saul had been trying to kill David off and on for 2-5 years by the point he was hiding out in the cave.

1 Samuel 22:1-2 ESV David departed from there and escaped to the cave of Adullam. And when his brothers and all his father's house heard it, they went down there to him. (2) And everyone who was in distress, and everyone who was in debt, and everyone who was bitter in soul, gathered to him. And he became commander over them. And there were with him about four hundred men.
We should have no doubt – that as David hid out in this cave he was fearful for his life… and not very happy.

ATTRIBUTES OF GOD
Now we will look at FOUR attributes of God. Namely, God is MERCIFUL, God is a REFUGE, God is SOVEREIGN, and God is RESPONSIVE. And we look at these attributes because it helps us, when we are in times of trouble to pray to God in view of who we know him to be.

If I’ve prayed with you when you’re sick or struggling, you’ve probably heard me appeal to God’s goodness. That’s because the solution is not in us, it’s in HIM. So, we appeal to his goodness instead of our deservedness.

GOD IS MERCIFUL
The Psalm begins with a repetitive, “Be merciful to me, oh God, be merciful to me…”

David is appealing to God’s mercy. We have to then ask ourselves – what does it mean that God is merciful, and how is that helpful to David in his situation? Similarly, how is that helpful for me in my situation?

It’s clear David is in dire straits - (4) My soul is in the midst of lions; I lie down amid fiery beasts – the children of man, whose teeth are spears and arrows, whose tongues are sharp swords. He in a place of great anguish and vulnerability.

We know also know from verse 6 that he was in a place of fear – (6) They set a net for my steps; my soul was bowed down. Or as we might say today – “my heart sank.”

If you search the bible for phrases like “Be merciful” or “have mercy” you will find that it is always being said by or to someone who is in a state of distress. Sometimes it’s a direct result of their sin, and other times it is those who are crippled or lame.

Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology has a helpful way of explaining God’s mercy as one of three ways God expresses his goodness. He says,

1. God’s mercy means God’s goodness toward those in misery and distress.
2. God’s grace means God’s goodness toward those who deserve only punishment.
3. God’s patience means God’s goodness in withholding of punishment toward those who sin over a period of time.

The common definition of mercy today has to do with one’s guiltiness – to have mercy is to be in a position to punish the guilty but refrain – the Latin root of mercy actually means ‘price paid.’ Meaning, there was a price, but it’s been paid. But in biblical terms – particularly in the Old Testament, God is merciful when he soothes pain, relieves distress, or rescues from harm.

This is why the Psalmist cries out to God in an appeal for mercy. He knows God to be merciful. More than 50% of Old Testament references to God’s mercy occur in the Psalms. That is significant – God wants us to call out for his mercy in times of trouble.

2 Corinthians 1:3-4 ESV (3) Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, (4) who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.

Hebrews 4:16 ESV Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

GOD IS A REFUGE
Another Attribute we see of God’s in this Psalm is that he is a REFUGE.

(v1) 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.

Let me tell you why I – especially as a man – love this. We need refuge when we are in danger of something that we cannot protect ourselves from. We live in a society that teaches men that we should be a refuge unto ourselves. The reality is that we are in constant need of a refuge. If we fully understood the reality of the war that rages in the spiritual realm, we would incessantly cry out to God in this way, seeking refuge.

In verse 4, David says (4) My soul is in the midst of lions; I lie down amid fiery beasts— the children of man, whose teeth are spears and arrows, whose tongues are sharp swords.

David is feeling exposed and vulnerable. Can you imagine lying down in a pen of lions? I was once working as a land surveyor many years ago and we were making a topographic map for a future housing development that was to be built over some farm land. As part of our work, I had to spend the better part of a day inside a pen with about 50 emus. Emus are like small ostriches, but they’re still as tall as me. While I was in their pen, they would circle around me. Slowly, the circle would grow tighter and tighter. What’s worse is that when if I looked up at them they would all stop – as if I couldn’t see them if they weren’t moving. Eventually, the circle would get small enough that I was really scared. Several times, I’d chase them off – screaming and waving my arms. I’m sure I looked like a fool!

I was that afraid of emus; imagine it being a pen full of lions! I would surely be praying, “Be merciful to me, oh God!”

But we do face an adversary who is as ruthless and dangerous as a lion. That’s how Peter describes Satan in 1Peter 5. Like a roaring lion prowling around seeking someone to devour. Even with that in mind, God is our refuge and strength as we remember that He who is in us is greater than he who is in the world.

GOD IS SOVEREIGN
We also see God’s sovereignty on display in Psalm 57. David writes,
(2) I cry out to God Most High, to God who fulfills his purpose for me.

God fulfills his purpose for me… what an interesting thing to say in a time of distress. We are generally okay with God being in control of the things that are exciting or good. I hear people speak of God sovereignly working in how they met their spouse, the details of buying a home, having a baby, finding a great parking spot, landing a great job, etc.

We like the idea of God’s sovereign reign, when it means that he is showering down blessings – but what about when things aren’t going great. When the marriage is falling apart, when a house burns down, when a child is sick, when someone steals that great parking spot from you, when you lose your job, etc… how do we deal with those things?

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about Job. If you don’t know about Job, his story is told in the Old Testament in a book called Job (right before Psalms). He is a very wealthy guy who loses EVERYTHING… at least everything that is of this world. There is a verse in Job chapter 2 that I have been wrestling with lately.

Job 2:8-10b Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?" In all this Job did not sin with his lips.

You see – even though Satan is clearly involved in administering the painful sores that Job had all over his body – Job recognizes God as the one who has determined calamity should beset him. And just to make it perfectly clear – it’s added that Job did not sin in saying this.

God’s sovereignty (over the hard stuff) is less okay with us the more we place ourselves at the focus of life. If what’s driving me is My agenda, My happiness, My health, My paycheck, My workout routine, My body, My perfect family, My honor, My pleasure… I will be miserable and will miss out on God’s best for me.

Romans 5:3-4 ESV (3) Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, (4) and endurance produces character, and character produces hope,

Many of you know that I work here for the church half-time and that I also work half-time for Antioch Adoptions. In January, after much prayer and even some fasting, I decided to leave a safe, secure, stable, well-paying engineering job to jump into ministry work. It was a very exciting time as I saw God bringing about many things (including some really terrible experiences in my engineering work) to work out his plan.

I found out a few weeks ago that after only 7 months, my position is being cut along with some others due to some grant funding being lost. We had a meeting where we found out that several positions were going to be cut but that we’d have to wait to find out who, and I spoke up. I actually had to apologize to some people because I think I got a little too preachy, but I essentially told them – I’m on the bottom of this food chain, I have seven mouths to feed, and 6 months ago I left a successful career of 10 years to be here. And despite all those things – I AM NOT WORRIED BECAUSE I KNOW GOD HAS THIS… God’s sovereignty is not scary when you lean into it.

GOD IS RESPONSIVE
Perhaps one of the most encouraging aspects of this Psalm is that we see our God as a God of action… David knows that God is a God who responds to the cries of his people. We read in verse 3,

(3) He will send from heaven and save me; he will put to shame him who tramples on me. God will send out his steadfast love and his faithfulness!”

David has such great confidence in God’s ability to respond…

We see it plainly that David is confident in that God will respond. Why aren’t we so confident? I know from my own life experiences that I am sometimes afraid to call God to act because I am ultimately afraid I will be let down. We have to be people who have the kind of faith that Jesus talks about when he said,

Matthew 17:20b ESV For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there,' and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.

Or James 5:13-16 ESV Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. (14) Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. (15) And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. (16) Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.

But what about the times when God doesn’t seem to work things out according to our asking? We trust in the words of Romans 8 which assure us that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. We must trust him.

But to be more specific, we should trust JESUS. We live in a broken world full of sickness, and hurt, and brokenness – they are all the result of sin. Romans also says that ALL have sinned and fall short of the glory of God – that means that ALL of us have failed to measure up to the demands of God’s law, and the wages of our sin – our just reward – is death.

Because of this, there will be a day when God judges sin – the maniacal rage of Saul that caused David to cower in a cave is nothing compared to the deserved wrath of God. We all needed someone to act on our behalf – to show us mercy, to be our refuge, to rescue us. Somebody already has, and his name is Jesus Christ… believe in him and you will be saved!! If you do not yet believe in him, consider his wrath that makes your worst nightmare seem like nothing. Believe in him!

THE THANKSGIVING (v6-11)

And so we see that man’s perception of the attributes of God that cause David to cry out to him in his time of need are enriched by the advent, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ!

In light of the gospel, we have the promised Holy Spirit that ministers to our souls, and we have the full revelation of God’s mercy in Jesus Christ and the assurance that one day there will be no more pain, sickness, tears, or fighting.

In light of the gospel, how much more should we have confidence with God being not just our refuge – but our Abba Father! We can approach His throne of grace directly and ask for his rescue and deliverance – as opposed to the Old Testament priests who had to tie ropes around their waists so someone could pull their body out if they didn’t meet God’s standard of holiness.

In light of the gospel, we can see more of God’s sovereign will bringing about triumph through tragedy, beauty from ashes – even through our God and Savior Jesus Christ being brutally beaten and murdered. We know that God will not waste our suffering.

David, who is still hiding in a cave writes these amazing words of Thanksgiving to the Lord – for what he will do. You can almost hear the crescendo building through these words, as David starts with a low note of his soul feeling bowed down and ending with the refrain BE EXALTED, O GOD, ABOVE THE HEAVENS! LET YOUR GLORY BE OVER ALL THE EARTH!

(6) They set a net for my steps; my soul was bowed down. They dug a pit in my way, but they have fallen into it themselves. Selah.
(7) My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast! I will sing and make melody! (8) Awake, my glory! Awake, O harp and lyre! I will awake the dawn!
(9) I will give thanks to you, O Lord, among the peoples; I will sing praises to you among the nations. (10) For your steadfast love is great to the heavens, your faithfulness to the clouds.
(11) Be exalted, O God, above the heavens! Let your glory be over all the earth!

More in Summer Psalms 2015

August 23, 2015

Delivered from Distress - Psalm 107

August 2, 2015

Psalm 50