In the cave with Dave
Psalm 57:1-2: “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 storms of destruction pass by. I cry out to God Most High, to God who fulfills his purpose for me.”
Throughout Scripture, we find examples of men of faith who are brought through various afflictions, dangers and trouble. David was on the ropes. The jealous king Saul was hunting for his life and a “cave” was the only refuge available.
This was the cave of Adullam, mentioned in 1 Samuel 22:1ff. To make matters worse, David had company — a band of discontent, disgruntled misfits united by adverse circumstances.
That is a bad situation that sucks up all the goodness around them. Four hundred men in cramped conditions seeing their situation was hopeless, everyone is distressed, all rubbing off on each other. But this was a lesson from God for David — having gone from the palace of a king to a cave of misfits.
In God’s providence, David needed to learn that life was hard, that suffering sometimes was unavoidable. The Holy Spirit enabled him to pin down what he was going through emotionally, in his heart recording it here in this psalm.
Spiritual survival skills 101
What is your own cave? A sickroom? Difficult relationship? Death of a loved one? Loss of job? Personal debt?
The events in David’s life shaped him and enabled him to faithfully serve God’s purposes (Acts 13:36). What David does is a remarkable testimony of his humility and faith.
He transforms his cave into a holy of holies. David is stuck between a rock and a hard place: Saul distrusted him, Philistines distrust him (Psalm 56), he’s being hunted, and nowhere to turn. Sometimes God uses severe affliction to bring a person to the end of himself so that he will seek God for deliverance and salvation.
At that moment, Christ and his payment for your sins becomes your refuge. But God also uses these difficult times in a believer’s life like David to refine him.
How did David conquer the battle of affliction God’s way?
1. Pray to God with trust (57:1–3):
He’s not complaining to the Lord, “Why am I in this situation? Saul is the problem here. Why don’t you deal with him, not me?”
Instead he pleads, “Be merciful to me.”
He is at his end depending solely upon God. His confidence is not in the dark cover of canyons and rocky outcrops of caves, but in the Lord who hears his prayers.
He is at his safest when he is in the shadow of the Lord’s wings. He has full confidence that God will act according to “his purpose” for him, a purpose that included sitting on the throne one day.
Three times he repeats “He will … He will … God will” act on my behalf.
2. Focus on God in the trial (57:4-6):
We can get overwhelmed if we focus on the fearful features of the trial. Saul’s soldiers are hunting for him like “lions.” But David’s desire was to see God exalted (v. 5) putting a whole new perspective on the cave experience.
We should call upon God to exalt himself in our circumstance. God can be trusted because he is good. The true battle was not about the cave and the physical situation. It was about the heart, about faith in God, trust in his sovereignty.
3. Worship God all the time (57:7-11):
He transformed the dingy cave into a glorious choir loft. David commanded his heart to sing focusing on the eternal significance.
This is resolute confidence that God was in the midst of the circumstance and in control. God’s steadfast love (vv. 3, 10) will get the praise, not David’s goodness.
Will you let your heart be discontent and hardened in self-pity, or will you respond with faith in God’s promises and power, singing praises to him?
This is why David is a man after God’s own heart.
In memory of Audrey Bennett (2005-2013).
Dan Walsh is a pastor at Church in the Wildwood in Eagle River.