It’s always darkest before the dawn, we’ve heard many times. It’s a promise that better days await if we can just get through our current troubles. The writer of Psalm 57 knows about this. While a lament, the psalm appears to be written after the dawn has broken through. The writer goes back and forth between complaint and confident trust in God in the first six verses, then breaks into a joyous hymn of thanksgiving.
The psalm starts with a common plea, “Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me, for in you my soul takes refuge.” (1a) Like Psalm 56 it is the appeal of a good person to God for deliverance from his enemies. The writer takes refuge in the shadow of God’s wings, a statement of confidence in God’s protection, “in the shadow of your wings I will take refuge, till the storms of destruction pass by.” (1b) He continues in his trust that God will prevail, “I cry 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 those who trample upon me. God will send forth his steadfast love and his faithfulness.” (2-3)
He then states the direness of his situation. He is being devoured by his enemies, like a lion chews on his prey, “I lie in the midst of lions that greedily devour the sons of men; their teeth are spears and arrows, their tongues sharp swords.” (4) His detractors are tearing him apart with their words. After this gruesome image of being gnawed upon by lions, the writer shifts focus once again to God’s goodness, “Be exalted, O God, above the heavens! Let your glory be over all the earth!” (5)
Then back to his complaint. His enemies have set a trap for him, it looks hopeless, “They set a net for my steps; my soul was bowed down. They dug a pit on my way.” Then the surprise denouement, “but they have fallen into it themselves.” The dawn breaks forth. Somehow God caught his enemies in their own trap! It’s the story line of many great movies as the bad guys are tripped up and the cavalry arrives in the nick of time.
The last five verses comprise a hymn of joyful thanksgiving, with good reason. “I will sing and make melody!” (7b) the writer proclaims. “I will awake the dawn!” (8a) The dawn has come. Out of darkness, comes light.
Have you ever found yourself in a situation where it appeared hopeless, you were beset upon on all sides with no way out, only to miraculously find your name cleared and your detractors under arrest? Chances are you haven’t experienced anything quite that dramatic. However, you may have been unjustly treated, perhaps maligned, and felt you had no way to defend yourself.
In those situations it can be helpful to remember that your enemies will get what they deserve. They may find themselves caught up in their own web of lies. Like many, I have been the victim of gossip, yet I remind myself that most will see the gossip for what it is. If I maintain the high ground rather than sink to their level, it will all come out in the end.
Paul tells us, “We know that all things work for good for those who love God.” (Romans 8:28) It may not be how we expect it to happen, for judgment belongs to God and only God knows the heart of our detractors; yet our psalm reminds us that if we remain faithful, our God who is steadfast in his love and mercy will be faithful to us. “My heart is steadfast, O God . . . For your steadfast love is great to the heavens, your faithfulness to the clouds.” (7a, 10)
Have you ever been in a situation where those who were working against you fell into their own trap?