Blog / Book of the Month / Mercy in The Shadow - Psalm 57 Sermon July Prayer Service

Mercy in The Shadow - Psalm 57 Sermon July Prayer Service

Mercy in The Shadow - Psalm 57 Sermon July Prayer Service

Prayer Service July 6th Season of Pentecost - 2016. Pr. Ted Giese, Mount Olive Lutheran Church, Regina SK. Psalm 56 - Mercy in The Shadow

          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.

          I cry out to God Most High,

                   to God who fulfills His purpose for me.

          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!

          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.

          Be exalted, O God, above the heavens!

                   Let Your glory be over all the earth!

          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.


          My heart is steadfast, O God,

                   my heart is steadfast!

          I will sing and make melody!

                   Awake, my glory!

          Awake, O harp and lyre!

                   I will awake the dawn!

          I will give thanks to You, O Lord, among the peoples;

                   I will sing praises to You among the nations.

          For Your steadfast love is great to the heavens,

                   Your faithfulness to the clouds.

          Be exalted, O God, above the heavens!

                   Let Your glory be over all the earth!


Let us pray: May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in Your sight O Lord. Amen.

Grace peace and mercy to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Good Christian Friends. It was just a piece of cloth really, he'd cut it off of the man's robe as the man had stood there urinating against the wall of the cave. Standing in the shadow of the cave he looked down and in his one hand was the piece of cloth and in his other was the knife he'd cut the cloth with. Looking at the knife, he thought, 'I could have slipped this between his ribs and he'd be laying dead at my feet,' but he hadn't done that no instead he'd cut that bit of cloth away from the robe. This man that he could have killed was the king.

He'd been so quiet as he crept up. He'd been so quiet as he cut. His knife was so sharp, so silent; so silent as he went back to sit with the other men in the innermost part of the cave, they thought that he'd come back with more than a piece of cloth, but he said to them, “The LORD forbid that I should do this thing to my lord, the LORD's anointed, to put out my hand against him, seeing he is the LORD's anointed,” with the piece of cloth still in his hand he persuaded them not to spring an attack on the king ... and when the king had finished his business and walked out of the cave, David's opportunity had passed by and so had his moment of temptation.  

You see his men had said to him, “Here is the day of which the LORD said to you, ‘Behold, I will give your enemy into your hand, and you shall do to him as it shall seem good to you,’” but then in the moment when David had stood there quietly behind the king, knife in hand - sword at his side, David found that he couldn't harm him, David's heart had struck him, his conscious played hard against him and to the surprise of those with him David had not killed king Saul, Saul who pursued David's life, Saul the fiery beast, the lion amidst the lions, Saul with his spears and arrows, with his tongue like a sharp sword; yes David had not killed king Saul as Saul stood there unprotected in the cave, David had only just cut off that piece of cloth from Saul's robe, yet he'd dared not even do that, and yet he had. In the shadow of the cave David had not killed the one who sought to murder him even though it was expected that given the chance David would have, that given the chance any reasonable person would have.   

Years and years latter David's son the wise king Solomon in his book of Proverbs, a book of teachings for his sons - for David's grandsons, says, "Whoever digs a pit will fall into it, and a stone will come back on him who starts it rolling."[1] This is similar to the modern adage, "What comes around goes around." Of course Solomon's father David learned this lesson first hand, and in Psalm 57 we hear David say of his enemies, "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."

Saul had brought with him 3,000 men of war in order to hunt down and kill David. Word of David's whereabouts had come to Saul from the Ziphites, men who were cousins to David, men who ought to have protected his life and the life of David's men, the 600 or so men who had been gathering themselves to David after David had narrowly departed, by God's Grace, from king Achish and the Philistine city of Gath. His treacherous cousins the Ziphites had tipped Saul off and the event at the cave happened after another narrow escape, by the Grace of God, when Saul's army was called away to deal with marauding Philistines bandits. With the Philistines under control Saul had once more sought out David's life, this time in the area around the Dead Sea, and after hearing that David was laying low there in the wilderness of Engedi Saul brought his army with him to finish David off.

The cave at Engedi was part of a sheepfold, think of it like a natural barn situated in the hillside, and it was there that King Saul had entered alone into the cool of the cave to relive himself. Saul who was seeking David's life inadvertently put his own life directly into David's hands. "Whoever digs a pit will fall into it, and a stone will come back on him who starts it rolling," ... "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," ... "What comes around goes around." Saul didn't even know it as he walked alone into the cave, he didn't know that there were some 600 men sitting in that caves innermost parts, he didn't know how close he was to his own death as he relived himself in the cave, or how "lucky" he'd been as he walked alive out of that cave. Saul should have been dead, and would have been had it not have been for David, David who - as it turned out - was the only thing standing between Saul and these 600 or so men who Scripture tells us were men who were in distress, men who were in debt, men who were bitter in soul,[2] the kind of men who would have killed Saul had they had the chance. 

At the heart and centre of Psalm 57 is this phrase, "Be exalted, O God, above the heavens! Let Your glory be over all the earth!" Psalm 57 is a prayer of thanksgiving. Again David finds mercy in the eyes of God, David trusted in the Lord and didn't take it upon himself to take vengeance on the one who pursued him; by refraining from killing Saul when the opportunity presented itself David had put Saul into the hands of God but the encounter doesn't end with David's act of mercy towards Saul. David turns around and puts himself into the hands of the Lord too in a rather unexpected way.

David and his 600 or so men, could have sat quietly in the cave at Engedi and Saul and his men might have move on to look for them somewhere else. It might have been later that night that someone would have seen the piece of cloth cut from Saul's robe and wondered how did that happen ... but that's not what was about to happen. For David and his men staying in the cave would have been the best military move, with a small number of men you could successfully fight a much larger number of men at the mouth of the cave, so when David's 600 or so men see him get up and walk alone out of the mouth of the cave what did they think? David just had Saul in his hand and now it looked like David was putting himself into Saul's hand! Was all about to be lost? Were they fools for having gathered around David? Would they all die because of David? Was their cover blown? What should they do?     

1 Samuel chapter 24 tells us that, after David had arose up and went out of the cave, David "called after Saul, [saying] “My lord the king!” And when Saul looked behind him, David bowed [down] with his face to the earth and paid [Saul] homage. And David said to Saul, “Why do you listen to the words of men who say, ‘Behold, David seeks your harm’? Behold, this day your eyes have seen how the LORD gave you today into my hand in the cave. And some told me to kill you, but I spared you. I said, ‘I will not put out my hand against my lord, for he is the LORD's anointed.’ See, my father, see the corner of your robe in my hand. For by the fact that I cut off the corner of your robe and did not kill you, you may know and see that there is no wrong or treason in my hands. I have not sinned against you, though you hunt my life to take it. May the LORD judge between me and you, may the LORD avenge me against you, but my hand shall not be against you. As the proverb of the ancients says, ‘Out of the wicked comes wickedness.’ But my hand shall not be against you. After whom has the king of Israel come out? After whom do you pursue? After a dead dog! After a flea! May the LORD therefore be judge and give sentence between me and you, and see to it and plead my cause and deliver me from your hand.”

As soon as David had finished speaking these words to Saul, Saul said, “Is this your voice, my son David?” And Saul lifted up his voice and wept. He said to David, “You are more righteous than I, for you have repaid me good, whereas I have repaid you evil. And you have declared this day how you have dealt well with me, in that you did not kill me when the LORD put me into your hands. For if a man finds his enemy, will he let him go away safe? So may the LORD reward you with good for what you have done to me this day. And now, behold, I know that you shall surely be king, and that the kingdom of Israel shall be established in your hand. Swear to me therefore by the LORD that you will not cut off my offspring after me, and that you will not destroy my name out of my father's house.” And David swore this to Saul. Then Saul went home, but David and his men went up to the stronghold."[3]

As David looked back on that day, as he wrote Psalm 57, it became clear to him that it was not the cave that offered him the best shelter from the storm of destruction, the storm of king Saul's hot pursuit of his life; No, the true refuge for David's soul was in the shadow of the wings of God, not in the shadow of the cave at Engedi by the Dead Sea. Later Jesus would look toward Jerusalem - to the place where He Himself would be crucified at the hands of merciless men - and say, "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!"[4] David was willing, and Psalm 57 is a prayer of thanksgiving after having mercifully found shelter and refuge in the Lord. Saul, the lion, with his spears and arrows was put to shame just as the Psalm says, Saul admits as much when Saul says to David, “You are more righteous than I, for you have repaid me good, whereas I have repaid you evil. And you have declared this day how you have dealt well with me, in that you did not kill me when the LORD put me into your hands." 

'I am no David, and I am certainly no Jesus,' you say. 'Even though I have not been tempted to killed anyone, I have acted spitefully when I could have been merciful, I have said the hurtful thing when I could have said the kiond word. If anything I am more like Saul than David!' David is described in the Acts of the Apostles as, "a man after God's own heart,"[5] a man who would "do all the will of God." That day in the cave at Engedi David showed the mercy of God to Saul, and David showed great trust in the mercy of God when it came to his own personal wellbeing. However remember that David, in his sin, was not a perfect man, he was not a man without fault, so in moments like these where David shines with righteousness it is really the righteousness of Christ that shines through David. Just as Christ Jesus is your righteousness. And in the moments where you do show mercy, you do so because of the mercy Jesus has shown to you, and when you have failed to show mercy, where you have sinned and fallen to the temptation to do harm, turn to Jesus and He will forgive you.

Jesus is the merciful one in whom you, like David, can seek refuge and shelter. The shadow of God's mercy is truly and only found under the outstretched arms of Jesus crucified upon the cross on Good Friday. Under those "wings" all humanity is called to find shelter; king Saul, David, you and I, the most horrible murderer, the criminal, everyone. That is the place where Jesus gives to you His steadfast love; there in that place you see the glory of God - Jesus' blood shed in your place -there at the cross Jesus received no mercy so that you would have a cup of mercy that overflows unto eternal life. David prays, "Be exalted, O God, above the heavens! Let Your glory be over all the earth!" David prays in Psalm 57 that the mercy of the Lord would be not just for him but for all peoples, that God's mercy would be over all the earth and in Christ Jesus it is, in Christ Jesus the mercy of God is for all the earth, for all the nations, for all peoples, including you. Amen.    

Let us pray:

Lord have mercy on us, Christ have mercy on us, Lord have mercy on us, “take our minds and think through them, take our lips and speak through them, take our hearts and set them on fire; for the sake of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, Amen.


[1] Proverbs 26:27
[2] 1 Samuel 22:2
[3] 1 Samuel 24
[4] Luke 13:34 
[5] Acts 13:22