Check out “cavemen” on your favourite internet search engine and it turns out that despite all the media depictions of such people, most of the evidence seems to suggest that generally they didn’t actually live in caves! They certainly used caves at times, but much the same way peoples in many cultures have used them. For example, as temporary shelters from weather or danger of some kind. In other words, a place of refuge.
And that is what David did. The title at the beginning of Psalm 57 says:
For the director of music. To the tune of “Do Not Destroy.” Of David. A miktam. When he had fled from Saul into the cave.
In fact, David also wrote Psalm 142, “When he was in a cave” (see title).
But the actual recorded event seems to be the one mentioned in 1 Samuel 24 when David and some of his followers were hiding in a cave from Saul and his army who were searching for David in order to kill him.
Considering where it originated, it is a remarkable prayer. But then, it is often in the most darkest times in our lives that our prayers are the deepest and most meaningful. And so be begins:
1 Have mercy on me, my God, have mercy on me,
for in you I take refuge.
I will take refuge in the shadow of your wings
until the disaster has passed.
2 I cry out to God Most High,
to God, who vindicates me.
3 He sends from heaven and saves me,
rebuking those who hotly pursue me—
God sends forth his love and his faithfulness.
4 I am in the midst of lions;
I am forced to dwell among ravenous beasts—
men whose teeth are spears and arrows,
whose tongues are sharp swords.
David may be hiding in a dark, damp, musty cave but he sees way beyond this to his loving God. He may be a fugitive from a powerful hate-filled foe, but he recognizes One who is with him and is all-powerful and compassionate. One to whom he can say I will take refuge in the shadow of your wings.
This beautiful phrase is used several times in scripture and the NIV Study Bible notes comment: “shadow. A conventional Hebrew metaphor for protection against oppression – as shade protects from the oppressive heat of the hot desert sun…so, the Lord is the protective ‘shade’ of his people…wings. Metaphor for the protective outreach of God’s power.”
Jesus also used this phrase concerning the city of David when he said, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing.” (Matthew 23:37)
Are you willing to find refuge in Jesus as he offers here?
David certainly was. In fact, he prayed for God to intervene in his life in this caring, compassionate way. His confidence was in the One of whom he says, God sends forth his love and his faithfulness.
Wilcock comments that these “first three verses of our psalm give reasons for his, and our confidence. If what has happened has been a total disaster (and for David it has), there is no point in pretending otherwise; but under God, he knows that one day he will be able to say that it has passed. Furthermore, he knows that God is a God of action, who fulfils; as in Psalm 52:9, the verb is absolute, stressing not what he does, but the fact that he does do things. And David’s escape from…Saul…shows that God’s covenant love and faithfulness are looking after him.” (# 5)
So, Father this day, whatever my circumstances help me, like David, to find refuge in you and,
you have done I will always praise you
in the presence of your faithful people.
And I will hope in your name,
for your name is good. (Psalm 52:9) Amen.