“Saul has slain his thousands and David his tens of thousands.”
This mantra, which rose to fame after David’s victorious encounter with Goliath, drove King Saul so mad that he devoted his energy and resources to killing David, God’s newly anointed king. Though David clung to God’s promise to make him ruler of Israel, he had no choice but to flee from the maniacal Saul. At one point, he landed in Goliath’s hometown of Gath and made the narrowest of escapes by feigning insanity. From there, he took refuge in the cave of Adullam, where he was joined by his family (probably a great encouragement) and a group of 400 men described as “desperate, in debt, or discontented” (probably not as encouraging). I believe it was during this time in the cave that David wrote Psalm 57.1
In this psalm David uses stark images to convey his terrifying circumstances, referring to his enemies as “lions,” their teeth as “spears and arrows,” and their tongues as “sharp swords” (vv. 4-5). He also tells of their attempts to entrap and snare him, efforts that apparently backfired (v. 6). From the darkness of this cave, with the enemies lurking outside, the future king of Israel fixed his heart on truth and chose to praise his God:
My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast;
I will sing, yes, I will sing praises!
Awake, my glory!
Awake, harp and lyre!
I will awaken the dawn. (Psa 57:7-8)
Instead of giving in to the night, David chose to awaken the dawn. He chose to declare truth about God to his benighted soul in order to usher in a new day of hope and truth.
God’s Steadfast, Covenant-Keeping Love (vv. 3, 10)
David first focuses on God’s hesed—a word for which translators have struggled to find an English equivalent. Some versions use mercy; others, lovingkindness; still other translations have landed on faithful or steadfast love. In fact, the Hebrew word covers all of those. Hesed refers to the covenant love of God, the love that, despite Israel’s persistent spiritual adultery, remains true to the covenant He made with her. Yahweh, the God of Covenant, refuses to give up on His people. He goes to such lengths to keep His bond with her that He sends His only begotten Son to fulfill the Law on behalf of Israel (and the whole world!). God’s hesed love fuels the promise of Romans 8:38-39:
For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Rom 8:38-39)
David had been anointed as king, yet no crown sat on his head. Years would elapse before he would finally rule his promised kingdom. However, he believed that because of His faithful, steadfast love, Yahweh would keep His promise no matter how impossible it seemed in the moment.
Reader, are you in a cave or stuck in what feels like perpetual darkness? Speak truth to your weary heart today and awaken the dawn by dwelling on God’s unfailing love. Here are some promises to get you started:
All the paths of the LORD are steadfast love and faithfulness, for those who keep his covenant and his testimonies. (Psa 25:10)
I will rejoice and be glad in your steadfast love, because you have seen my affliction; you have known the distress of my soul, (Psa 31:7)
As for you, O LORD, you will not restrain your mercy from me; your steadfast love and your faithfulness will ever preserve me! (Psa 40:11)
For great is your steadfast love toward me; you have delivered my soul from the depths of Sheol. (Psa 86:13)
The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. (Lam 3:22-23)
God’s Enduring Faithfulness (vv. 3, 10)
The steadfast love of God would be no more powerful than a Lamborghini without an engine were it not for God’s enduring faithfulness. David pairs these together in Psalm 57:10:
For your steadfast love is great to the heavens, your faithfulness to the clouds. (Psa 57:10)
We live in a world of constant change and flux. From the vagaries of the weather, to an unexpected tragedy, a joyfully anticipated wedding day, financial catastrophe, or unforeseen windfall, life can turn on a dime. Just when we feel secure and safe in our routine of life, another wave of change comes barreling through.
While our lives are full of change, we often try to fight against it. Our hearts love safety, consistency, and certainty; and they’ll do all kinds of things to achieve it (or an illusion of it). Likewise, our hearts often lash out in sinful anger when change comes upon us unexpectedly. These two responses are sure signs of idolatry. We must put to death the idol of security or control and instead worship the source of true security: our faithful heavenly Father.
In the midst of the chaos, calamity, and change, Yahweh remains the same, yesterday, today, and forever, never forsaking His promises or His people. He has never, for one millisecond in all of eternity, been anything but absolutely true to His character. As consistent as the sunrise on the eastern horizon, God our Rock faithfully endures from eternity past to eternity future.
What change has blindsided you recently? Have you struggled in the dark to praise God’s consistent, enduring faithfulness? Awaken the dawn by rejoicing in the infinite faithfulness of your Father.
God’s Unmitigated Supremacy (vv. 5, 11)
I don’t know what lies Satan whispered in the ear of David while he was on the run from Saul, but they probably all began with the adversary’s four favorite words: “Did God really say. . .?” (Gen. 3:1). Whether tempting Eve in the Garden, Jesus in the wilderness, or me in the kitchen, Satan loves to plant seeds of doubt regarding God’s supremacy. He sells the lie that He need not be king; I can be instead!
Had I been in David’s shoes in that cave, I probably would have been having some pretty serious doubts:
“Maybe Samuel got it wrong. I was never supposed to be king. . . .”
“Maybe God changed His mind, and Jonathan is actually supposed to reign. . . “
“Maybe the whole anointing thing was just a sham. . .”
David outright refused these lies and rejoiced in the absolute sovereignty of God. The kingdom that David looked forward to had little to do with his own regime. For David, the supremacy of God trumped everything else:
Be exalted, O God, above the heavens! Let your glory be over all the earth! (Psa 57:11 ESV)
In the darkness of a cave of adversity or the black midnight of trial, we hear the whispers of doubt planted by the father of lies. If we want to awaken the dawn in the face of trouble, we must fasten ourselves to the unshakeable sovereignty of God.
No circumstance takes Him by surprise.
No despot can steal His throne.
No law can thwart His plans.
No court ruling can steal His glory.
He is exalted above the heavens! His glory resounds from every corner of the globe!
May we join with young David and his band of ruffians in the cave as we declare the unfailing, abiding covenant-love of Yahweh; the sure and steady faithfulness of our Heavenly Father; and the absolute, unmitigated supremacy of the King of Kings.
Awake, my glory!
Awake, O harp and lyre!
I will awaken the dawn!
 The superscription of the psalm tells us it was written in a cave while David was fleeing from Saul. This happened on a couple of occasions, the other being 1 Sam. 24:1-4. Because of the similarity to Psalm 56, which was written in connection to David’s escape from Gath, I believe the Cave of Adullam (1 Sam. 22:1-2) is the cave in question.