Why Jesus is My Hero #38 of 52
I’m not always great at having quiet times, and sometimes when I’m struggling to muster enthusiasm I like to try and dip into one of the Psalms as something slightly gentler. This morning I was reading Psalm 57, which I found really encouraging.
Psalm 57 is described in the headline as “A Miktam of David, when he fled from Saul, in the cave.” In the rest of the Bible it’s generally worth mostly ignoring the section headers, since they’re added in later by editors who are trying to be helpful but are often simply misleading. But in the Psalms those introductory sentences are genuine originals, and often give important contextual information. In this case, it’s a Psalm written by David – the one who would go on to be one of Israel’s greatest kings – but it was written before he was crowned, whilst his predecessor King Saul was still on the throne. Saul was a jealous man who viewed David as a threat to his power, and he spent much of his latter years chasing down David and trying to have him killed. The fact that this Psalm was written in the midst of that, whilst hiding from Saul in a cave, gives real poignancy to David’s words. This was no idealistic daydreaming from someone who fancied himself a bit of a poet. This is the outpouring of a heart right in the thick of it.
So it’s amazing how utterly God-focused it all is. If I were hiding in a dingy cave from a murderous tyrant I’d be full of talk like “what are you doing God?! Get me out of here, now!!” Instead, David’s longing remains firmly fixed on seeing God’s name glorified: “Be exalted, O God, above the heavens! Let your glory be over all the earth!” (v5)
David is utterly confident that he can trust himself to God and that God will do what’s best. “God will send out his steadfast love and his faithfulness!” (v3) God’s love and his care are utterly unwavering – and he has the sovereign power to back up his good intentions to. Hence the note of confidence behind David’s prayers: “I cry out to God Most High, to God who fulfils his purpose for me.” (v2) Whatever the outcome, David knows it will be for the best. It won’t necessarily be comfortable and straightforward. It certainly doesn’t mean that Saul gets struck down dead in an instant so that David is safe again – it took many years before Saul’s rule came to an end. But it does mean that David could trust God to care for and provide for him.
And ultimately, David’s heart is not about his own safety, but about God’s glory. He knew that God’s motive in caring for him and protecting him was not first and foremost so that David would feel better. God’s primary motive in acting on his behalf was so that David would have cause to praise Him – so that God would get the glory. David so loved God that he longed to see God’s name exalted – for his glory to be over all the Earth. He longed to have a better reason to praise God’s name – to have yet another story to tell around the camp fire of God’s grace and provision at work in his life. A right concern for God’s glory gave him the strength to persevere through suffering in the present without descending into grumbling and despair.
Yet as you read Psalm 57 you can’t help but feel echoes of another king in David’s line who was also pursued to death by his enemies – the Lord Jesus.
“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 fulfils 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. ” (v1-4)
As Jesus hung on the cross, surrounded by those who hated him, despised and mocked by all and sundry, he was able to entrust his soul to his almighty Father. He endured the cross because ultimately he valued God’s glory above his own comfort. His desire was not to be spared pain, not to be immediately rescued, but to see God’s name exalted above the heavens. That might seem like a cold and dispassionate concept, except that God’s glory is bound up in our good – God is glorified as we have cause to praise him. And three days later, as Jesus was resurrected from the dead, he had some pretty serious reasons to praise God!
I found myself really challenged in the way that I think about my life, and about prayer. How much do I really value God’s glory above my own ease and comfort? How confident am I that God will work all things for my ultimate good, even if it hurts in the short term? I pray that my heart will be changed, and that as someone who is united to Jesus I’d be able to pray with that same sense of confidence: “I cry out to God Most High, to God who fulfils his purpose for me.”
Be exalted, O God, above the heavens! Let your glory be over all the earth!