THE STEADFAST HEART
Psalms 57–63 “One thing God has spoken, two things have I heard: that You, O God, are strong, and that You, O Lord, are loving” (Ps. 62:11–12).These psalms of David trace the secret of his commitment to the Lord to an exalted vision of who God is.
Drawing from experience, David expressed his commitment to the Lord (Ps. 57). That commitment was rooted in his clear vision of God as Judge (Ps. 58), as fortress (Ps. 59), as his help (Ps. 60), shelter (Ps. 61), salvation (Ps. 62), and as his personal God (Ps. 63).
Understanding the Text
Psalm 57: The Steadfast Heart. David refused an opportunity to kill Saul, choosing instead to trust God to fulfill His purpose in David’s life. “When he had fled from Saul into the cave” Ps. 57 superscription. David was hiding in a cave when Saul entered that same cave to relieve himself. David’s men saw it as a God-given opportunity for David to rid himself of an enemy and claim the throne God had promised to David (1 Sam. 24). But David refused to touch Saul, whom God had anointed king over Israel. Rather than an opportunity to kill Saul, David saw a God-given opportunity to do what was godly and right. This psalm conveys David’s spiritual secret—the secret of his freedom to do what he knew was right. “Be exalted, O God” Ps. 57:1–5. What does it mean to take refuge in the Lord? David shows us. It means to pray in the confidence that the Lord will fulfill “His purpose” for us, and that He will send “from heaven” and save us. David chose to wait for God to act, sure that God would accomplish His purpose in David’s life. David did not have to do wrong, for God would bring him to the Lord’s intended goal. This was David’s spiritual secret. He knew there was no need to do wrong, however great the pressure, for God would surely bless David and bring him to the throne in God’s own time. You and I too can have this kind of confidence in God. When pressures tempt us to seek relief by doing wrong, we can pray to a God who will never let His purpose in our lives fail. “My heart is steadfast” Ps. 57:6–10. Despite David’s many enemies, his heart was steadfast. David meant here that he maintained an unshakable trust in God. It was many years after the event celebrated in this psalm that God did at last fulfill His purpose and place David on Israel’s throne. Through all those years David maintained a steadfast trust in God’s love, and in God’s faithfulness. That steadfast trust enabled David to sing praises even during the years of waiting and uncertainty. “Be exalted, O God” Ps. 57:11. What a reminder. You and I exalt God, lifting Him up and displaying His beauty for all to see, by steadfast hearts. Psalm 58: God Who Judges. David’s heart was steadfast because he was convinced that “there is a God who judges the earth.” “Break the teeth in their mouths, O God” Ps. 58:1–11. In biblical imagery the teeth represent power to tear and to destroy. David was fully aware that this world is filled with wicked men who “devise injustice” and “mete out violence.” Yet he knew that there is a God who judges the earth. The day is coming when the wicked will be swept away. Then “the righteous will be glad when they are avenged.” Psalm 59: God My Strength. His life threatened, David cried to God and found strength in the image of God as his fortress. “When Saul sent men . . . to kill him” Ps. 59 superscription. Saul acted openly against his son-in-law David by sending men to kill him in his own house (1 Sam. 19). David fled, weaponless and alone. Yet David found God a source of strength, and God’s love a fortress in which he could take refuge. A wonderful expression of David’s faith is repeated twice. It is found after his vivid description of his enemies (v. 9), and after his confident prayer asking God to deal with those enemies for him (v. 17). What wonderful verses to memorize and bring to mind when you feel endangered by the actions of others. O my Strength, I watch for You; You, O God, are my fortress, my loving God (vv. 9–10). and O my Strength, I sing praise to You; You, O God, are my fortress, my loving God (v. 17). In this powerful psalm David envisioned his enemies as snarling scavenger dogs, prowling about and eager to devour him. Dogs were not pets in Old Testament times, and frequently represent the bestial aspect of wicked men (cf. Pss. 22:16; 68:23; Isa. 56:10–11; Jer. 15:3; Rev. 22:15). Psalm 60: God My Help. David experienced God as his ally and his help. “When he fought” Ps. 60 superscription. This is a victory psalm, sung after the war had been fought and won (cf. 1 Chron. 18–19). Against the background of the centuries of defeat that fractured Israel during the times of the Judges (vv. 1–3), David now celebrated what God had done to save and deliver a people who, under David, once again honored the Lord (vv. 4–8). The psalm ends with explicit recognition that future victories also depended on the Lord. “Give us aid against the enemy, for the help of man is worthless. With God we will gain the victory, and He will trample down our enemies” (vv. 9–12). Psalm 61: God My Shelter. This brief psalm of praise was written after David received the throne. “The rock that is higher than I” Ps. 61:1–2. David never lost the simple faith he had as a young shepherd. Despite the fact that he was now exalted as king over Israel, he never became proud. He remained a humble believer looking up to God and expressing his dependence on the Lord in prayer. “You” Ps. 61:3–5. David knew and addressed God in personal terms. The im- ages in these verses suggest how David felt about the Lord. David saw God as a refuge and strong tower: as One to whom he could flee in troubled times and find security. David saw God as a host: he was a vistor in God’s tent. In the ancient East this meant he was under divine protection, with all his needs sure to be met by his gracious Host. And David saw God as sheltering wings: he was a baby chick, nestling for protection against its mother, and finding there not only security but also warmth. It’s fascinating to note the transition of the images. Each speaks of security. Yet God is first seen as a strong but impersonal power; then as welcoming Host; finally in utmost intimacy as a warm and protective parent. This transition may mirror our own experience with God. The better we come to know Him, the warmer and more personal the sense of our relationship with Him. Psalm 62: God, My Salvation. Knowing God as Saviour enabled David to find rest. (See DEVOTIONAL.) Psalm 63: God, My God. David’s heart was steadfast, not simply because he knew who God is, but because he knew this God as his God. “When he was in the desert” Ps. 63 superscription.The setting again is a time of trouble, as David with a small band of followers lived an outlaw’s life in Judah’s desert regions. “O God, you are my God” Ps. 63:1–11. Awareness that God is “my God” is the foundation of a living faith. But to experience the full benefits of our faith we need to move beyond awareness to intimacy. It is this that set David apart. He thirsted for God; he sought opportunities to worship at God’s sanctuary (v. 2) and when alone (v. 6). His sense of God’s love (v. 3) stimulated David to praise the Lord constantly (vv. 4–5, 7, 11). If you and I wish to experience God in a deeply personal way as “my God,” we need to follow David’s lead. By taking every opportunity to turn our thoughts to Him and to praise Him, that same sense of God’s living presence which sustained David will sustain you and me.
Stressful, Restful Living (Ps. 62)
David lived a stress-filled life. His relationship with Saul was stormy, resulting in years of living as an outlaw in the land God had promised he would one day rule. As king, David knew constant warfare with surrounding nations. He was forced to invent and organize a national system of government. He knew great pressures at home, as his sons feuded with one another and one ultimately led half the nation in rebellion. Yet these years of stress were spiritually productive. David wrote many psalms, reorganized the Levites and priests to support strengthened national worship, and began planning for a temple to be built by his son, Solomon. Today the shelves of our bookstores feature many books on stress. It seems that, in a fast-paced world which makes so many demands on our time, stress is a major concern. People are wound tight, emotionally and physically drained by the pressures of modern life. This makes Psalm 62 especially important for our times. In it David tells us the secret of stressful, restful living. The secret is expressed in verse 1, and developed in the rest of the psalm. “My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from Him.” In the Old Testament “salvation” indicates deliverance from earthly dangers or enemies. The word portrays God as One who acts on behalf of those who trust in Him. It was David’s conviction that deliverance does come from God—that God can and will act in the material universe to save him—which brought his soul rest. How powerful that conviction! No matter what the challenge, no matter how great the pressure, David was sure that God could and would perform some saving act. With this conviction David could not be shaken by events (vv. 2, 6). With this conviction, David was emotionally at rest no matter how great a force external pressures seemed to exert. You and I too can find rest despite the stressful pace or pressures of our life. How? By following David’s example, to “trust in Him at all times” and “pour out your hearts” to Him. This, with the conviction that “You, O God, are strong, and that You, O Lord, are loving,” will give us rest.
Expect God to act in your life, and find rest in Him.