“Let Your Glory Be Over All The Earth”


September 27, 2015

Readings: Psalm 57; 1 Samuel 22:1-2 * Download this sermon (PDF)

Dear Congregation of Christ: Before David became king over all Israel, he was a caveman. This was because Saul hunted him because of jealousy and insecurity. David was the one who killed the giant Philistine, and was also anointed by the prophet Samuel as the next king. So David fled from place to place as a fugitive for about four years. And two of these places were caves. One was the cave at Abdullam, a place between the cities of Gath and Bethlehem. The other cave was at Engedi, on the western shores of the Dead Sea. David wrote about his time of distress in the Engedi cave in Psalm 142. He was to remain a fugitive until King Saul died in battle in Gilboa.

Caves of Abdullam
The Caves of Abdullam

At first, David had only 400 men, who were described in our reading in 1 Samuel 22 as outcasts of Israel, “everyone who was in distress, and everyone who was in debt, and everyone who was bitter in soul.” Later, his ragtag army increased to 600 men. Even while Saul was determined to kill him, David did not kill Saul when he had opportunities to do so. He did not want to harm Saul out of his respect for God’s anointed king.

It is possible that many of the psalms of lament that David wrote were written when he was in these caves. We know that our text, Psalm 57, was written while he was in the cave at Abdullam or Engedi from the title, “A miktam of David, when he fled from Saul, in the cave.” This psalm has two distinct parts. It starts out in verses 1-5 as a psalm of lament, a plea for God’s mercy. Then in verses 6-11, David’s lament turns into confidence in and praise for God’s steadfast love. These two parts both end in a refrain in verses 5 and 11, “Be exalted, O God, above the heavens! Let your glory be over all the earth!”

So we meditate on the theme “Let Your Glory Be Over All the Earth” under two headings: (1) “For in You My Soul Takes Refuge”; (2) “For Your Steadfast Love is Great to the Heavens.”

“For in You My Soul Takes Refuge”

The psalmist opens with a humble request, “O God, be merciful to me.” Why? He is being attacked by powerful enemies. They trample on him (v 3). They are lions and fiery beasts (v 4). They try to capture him with a net and a pit (v 6).

In these verses, he remembers his troubles as a fugitive. In Psalm 56:1, he also pleads, “Be gracious to me, O God, for man tramples on me; all day long an attacker oppresses me.” In this instance, he was seized by the Philistines as he was fleeing Saul. In Psalm 56:6, he prays to the Lord, “tear out the fangs of the young lions.” They are like lions who wait in ambush to tear his soul apart (Psa 7:2; 10:9; 17:12; 22:13; 22:21; 35:17). This reminds us of Daniel cast into the lion’s den as he refuses to bow down to the king’s statue. The fiery beasts are his enemies “whose teeth are spears and arrows, whose tongues are sharp swords.”

He is fighting a physical war against his enemies using spears, arrows and swords. He remembers that Saul at one point threw a spear at him. His war is not only physical, but also a battle of words. In Psalm 55:21, he says his enemies’ words were “softer than oil, yet they were drawn swords.” Jeremiah 9:8 says that ungodly people are deceitful, “with his mouth each speaks peace to his neighbor, but in his heart he plans an ambush for him.” How many times did King Saul deceive him to kill him? David says that his troubles seemed like being thrown into “the pit of destruction” from where there is no escape (Psa 40:2). The prophet Jeremiah was himself cast into a muddy pit by his king for preaching judgment and repentance.

Like David, all Christians today are attacked and oppressed by their enemies. In this country, we don’t see and hear a lot of violence against Christians, although 9/11 was a religious and political attack against what they perceive as a “Christian” nation. But we are attacked from all sides and angles. We are considered intolerant when we say that Jesus Christ is only one way to heaven; that there is only one Word of truth, the Bible; that there is no salvation except by faith alone in Christ alone; that any religion is a way to heaven, as long as there are good works; that we do not need to go to church. Even the Pope says that atheists will go to heaven if they are good people. We are ridiculed as obsolete and old-fashioned when we say that marriage is only between a man and a woman; that life starts from conception, and that life is to be sanctified and protected.

As Reformed Christians, our beliefs are attacked by other evangelicals as “demonic,” because they want to glorify man’s free will more than God’s sovereignty. They ridicule our worship service as fit for a funeral service because there is no entertaining, happy-clappy atmosphere. They hate our sermons when we preach on man’s sin and depravity, Christ’s sacrifice on the cross for sin, and salvation from God’s coming wrath and judgment. They do not want to hear about unrepentant sinners being destined for eternal hell. They are offended when we do warn unbelievers not to partake of the Lord’s Supper.

And then we hear of heinous crimes against our Christian brothers and sisters in the Middle East and Africa by the enemies of God and Christ. All the while saying that Islam is a “religion of peace,” their followers pillage, plunder, behead, rape, and raze homes and churches to the ground. Their weapons are bombs, guns, knives and fire, as well as lies, deceit and treachery. All in the name of their god, their prophet, and their violent teachings.

But even in these dire circumstances, David is confident that the God of heaven will deliver him from all his troubles.

“For Your Steadfast Love is Great to the Heavens”

Verses 1 and 7 are a great contrast. Verse 1 is a humble plea, “Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me.” But there is a change in outlook in verse 7, “My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast!” How did this transformation come about?

We see this right in verse 1, “for in you my soul takes refuge; in the shadow of your wings I will take refuge, till the storms of destruction pass by.” As in many other psalms, David says that God is his refuge. Caves were a good refuge from the weather, but God gives not only protection from the elements, but also comfort and nourishment for his soul. God is his refuge, strength and help in the midst of sufferings. The Lord is like a bird with its wings hovering over its young for protection from the wind, and from predators. The “shadow of God’s wings” reminds him of the Spirit of God hovering over his people in the wilderness as protecting pillars of cloud and fire.

In verses 2-3, when David cries out to “God Most High,” he knows that his salvation will come from the highest heavens, from the Lord who is sovereign over all things, who is Almighty and All-Knowing. David knows that God has anointed him king, and he will “fulfill his purpose” for him. God will send from heaven his steadfast love and faithfulness. Whatever God has promised in his covenant with his people, he will fulfill, because he is faithful to his Word. He will accomplish all that he says and all that he decrees from beginning to end. He sends rain and drought, heat and cold to the earth. He brings up kings, and he brings them down.

All of these things he does for the sake of his covenant people. So David is confident that God will shame his enemies. Those who trample him will themselves be thrown into the winepress of God’s wrath to be treaded down to destruction. All the rebellious kings and rulers of the world who hate Christ and his people will be destroyed by the sword of Christ, which is his Word (Rev 19:15). The lions out to devour his people will be consumed by Jesus the Lion of Judah. In verse 6, he says that those who have dug a pit to capture him “have fallen into it themselves” (Psa 7:15).In the end, all of God’s unrighteous enemies will be cast into eternal judgment in hell. “Neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Cor 6:9-10). They will all be like dogs outside the heavenly city (Rev 22:15). Then, God’s promise, “Vengeance is mine!” will be completed.

So in verse 7, David exclaims, “My heart is steadfast, O God!” Because he is confident of God’s salvation and deliverance, his heart is firm. His faith in the Lord is strong and cannot be shaken. This steadfastness of his heart is different from the steadfast love that God has for us.

Because of this knowledge of God’s unchanging love and salvation, David cannot but sing his praises to God in worship among the people. Even before dawn, he will wake up and sing and make music of praises and thanksgiving to the Lord. Because the Lord’s steadfast love and faithfulness is greater and higher than the heavens.

Do you get up daily from your bed with a song of praise and thanksgiving to God in your heart for a new day, new strength, for daily provisions, and for daily watching over your body and soul? Do you thank him in all your circumstances? Do you thank him for comfort and joy even in your sufferings and afflictions, knowing that he will fulfill his promises in his Word? And when you go out into the world for work, study, market, or your daily chores, do you tell your friends and neighbors about God’s great love and salvation to those who believe in Christ and repent of their sins?

And on the Lord’s Day, when you join God’s people in worship, are you excited to tell others of God’s steadfast love in song, prayer and fellowship? Every fourth Sunday like today, we share a fellowship meal. In your table talk, do you tell your brothers and sisters of your joy in the Lord that he has blessed you and kept you and gave you his peace in your situations?

This is what David means when he says in verse 9, “I will give thanks to you, O Lord, among the peoples; I will sing praises to you among the nations.”

Finally, dear friends, David’s song has a refrain so that he will give all the glory and honor to the Lord, “Be exalted, O God, above the heavens! Let your glory be over all the earth!” (see also Psa 113:4; 138:6)

We do not yet see all the earth giving glory to God. Yet people from all the nations are glorifying God today. David’s prayer is being fulfilled daily. How is God fulfilling this prayer?

He first sent his Son to suffer and die at the hands of his enemies. In Psalm 22, David writes a song about his sufferings, not knowing that he was writing about the sufferings of Christ. In verse 1, Jesus suffered so much from his enemies that he cried out like his father David, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” In verses 6-7, he felt as a worm scorned, despised and mocked by mankind. In verse 16, all his life, dogs and evildoers encircled him.

They always set a trap for him, but they stumbled on their own traps and fell on their faces. Jesus’ enemies “sent to him some of the Pharisees and some of the Herodians, to trap him in his talk.” But their mouths were shut with his wisdom, “and they marveled at him” (Mark 12:13, 17). David says that Christ’s enemies “open wide their mouths at me, like a ravening and roaring lion” (Psa 22:13, 21). They accused him with all kinds of lies and crucified him, not knowing that his death was for the forgiveness of the sins of all who will believe in him.

But because of his perfect life and once-for-all sacrifice on the cross, God rewarded him with a people for his own inheritance, “he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand” (Isa 53:10). “Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name” (Phil 2:9).

And from the day of his glorious resurrection two thousand years ago, the good news of salvation in Christ has been preached to the ends of the earth. So in Psalm 22:27, David prophesies, “All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the LORD, and all the families of the nations shall worship before you.” So David says again in Psalm 57, “Be exalted, O God, above the heavens! Let your glory be over all the earth!”

David’s prophecy for himself, for Christ, and for the whole universal church in all the nations is this: in eternity, “the kings of the earth swill bring their glory into it… They will bring into it the glory and the honor of the nations” (Rev 21:24, 26). May we as believers and as a church always bring praise, honor and glory to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in word, deed and thought.