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Psalm 57

Under the shadow of God’s wings

Assuming we’re our own primary caretakers leaves us stressed when threatened. What if we saw God as our primary caretaker, with our goal as simply moving in sync with him? This psalm points to that reality.

A David psalm. When he fled from Saul into the cave.

Be gracious to me, God, be gracious
for I’ve taken shelter in you
and am hiding in the shadow of your wings
till the hurricane blows past.
I cry out to God Most High
who fulfills his purposes for me.
He’ll dispatch help from heaven and save me
humiliating those who trample on me.
God will send his unfailing love and faithfulness.
I lie down surrounded by man-eating lions.
Their teeth are spears and arrows
their tongues sharpened swords.

Rise up high above the heavens, O God!
Reign in glory over all the earth!

Seeing how downcast I was
they set a trap for my feet.
But though they dug a pit in my path
they’re the ones who fell into it.
My mind is fixed on you, God
my heart is fixed.
I’ll sing and make music.
Wake up, my soul!
Wake up, harp and lyre!
Let’s wake up the dawn!
I’ll celebrate you among the nations, my Lord
and sing your praises to everyone everywhere.
10 For your unfailing love is so vast
it reaches the heavens
and your faithfulness scrapes against the clouds.

11 Rise up high above the heavens, O God!
Reign in glory over all the earth!

Saul’s encounter with David in the cave is slapstick funny. Seeking privacy to relieve himself, Saul enters alone and unprotected, little knowing who’s inside. Unseeing in the dark and extremely vulnerable, he’s so preoccupied with the business at hand he’s oblivious to all danger.

David could have seen the situation as providential—the moment he’s waited for—and killed Saul in cold blood. But only in Saul’s head is he after Saul’s head. That is, in Saul’s paranoid mind. This truly is the moment David’s waited for, when he can demonstrably prove that to be so, as he does moments later.[a]

Before that happens David realizes Saul’s army could easily have starved him out if only they’d known he was there. But David’s position in the cave makes Saul, not David, vulnerable. As David sees that God, not Saul, is in charge, God’s glory lights up the cave.

David knows Saul won’t stop chasing him, but that’s suddenly irrelevant since he knows nothing can prevent God from fulfilling his purposes for him. God will send him help and shelter him under his wings. So, David responds not by sighing resignedly, but by singing so loudly he wakens the dawn—even from the back of a cave.

Lord, I want to be in sync with you, like David in the cave. Open my eyes to see you filling the darkness around me, sheltering me, fulfilling your purposes for me. Your unfailing love and faithfulness fill my world—you reign over all! Help me believe it and live accordingly. Amen.

Pray this prayer in your free moments today:

Rise up high above the heavens, O God!
Reign in glory over all the earth!


[a] The story is that David cuts off the corner of Saul’s robe while he’s preoccupied. Then once Saul has left the cave, David has someone return the cloth to Saul as clear proof that he could have killed him but chose not to (1 Sam. 24).

Why Yahveh?

Every translator of the Psalms must decide how to handle God’s personal name, YHWH, which occurs repeatedly in its Hebrew text. Translators of the King James Version usually translated it “LORD” (all caps) and occasionally transliterated it (badly) as “Jehovah.” Modern translations, likewise, either translate or transliterate it. While translating it aims to make it more accessible to readers, transliterating it is more faithful to the text since it’s not a word at all, but rather God’s uniquely personal name. I’ve chosen to transliterate it to root it more firmly in the biblical story as the name—meaning the “self-existent One”—that God revealed to Moses on Mount Sinai. This name set Israel’s God apart from all the gods of Israel’s neighbors.

Personal names are, well, very personal. Even the sound of a name can evoke strong emotion. One problem with YHWH is that we aren’t sure how it was pronounced since Jews long ago stopped saying it in order better to hallow it. In transliterating it, I follow the advice of my esteemed Hebrew professor, Raymond Dillard. He advocated transliterating it as Yahveh—pronounced yah·vay—arguing that following the modern Hebrew pronunciation of its third consonant makes the name sound more robustly Jewish than Yahweh.
May these psalms be a light to you in dark times. You can read more of Mark Robert Anderson's writings on Christianity, culture, and inter-faith dialogue at Understanding Christianity Today.