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Matthew Henry's Commentary – Verses 1–6
Verses 1–6

The title of this psalm has one word new in it, Al-taschith—Destroy not. Some make it to be only some known tune to which this psalm was set; others apply it to the occasion and matter of the psalm. Destroy not; that is, David would not let Saul be destroyed, when now in the cave there was a fair opportunity of killing him, and his servants would fain have done so. No, says David, destroy him not, 1 Sam. 24:4, 6. Or, rather, God would not let David be destroyed by Saul; he suffered him to persecute David, but still under this limitation, Destroy him hot; as he permitted Satan to afflict Job, Only save his life. David must not be destroyed, for a blessing is in him (Isa. 65:8), even Christ, the best of blessings. When David was in the cave, in imminent peril, he here tells us what were the workings of his heart towards God; and happy are those that have such good thoughts as these in their minds when they are in danger!

I. He supports himself with faith and hope in God, and prayer to him, Ps. 57:1, 2. Seeing himself surrounded with enemies, he looks up to God with that suitable prayer: Be merciful to me, O Lord! which he again repeats, and it is no vain repetition: Be merciful unto me. It was the publican’s prayer, Luke 18:13. It is a pity that any should use it slightly and profanely, should cry, God be merciful to us, or, Lord, have mercy upon us, when they mean only to express their wonder, or surprise, or vexation, but God and his mercy are not in all their thoughts. It is with much devout affection that David here prays, “Be merciful unto me, O Lord! look with compassion upon me, and in thy love and pity redeem me.” To recommend himself to God’s mercy, he here professes,

1. That all his dependence is upon God: My soul trusteth in thee, Ps. 57:1. He did not only profess to trust in God, but his soul did indeed rely on God only, with a sincere devotion and self-dedication, and an entire complacency and satisfaction. He goes to God, and, at the footstool of the throne of his grace, humbly professes his confidence in him: In the shadow of thy wings will I make my refuge, as the chickens take shelter under the wings of the hen when the birds of prey are ready to strike at them, until these calamities be over-past. (1.) He was confident his troubles would end well, in due time; these calamities will be over-past; the storm will blow over. Non si male nunc et olim sic erit—Though now distressed, I shall not always be so. Our Lord Jesus comforted himself with this in his sufferings, Luke 22:37. The things concerning me have an end. (2.) He was very easy under the divine protection in the mean time. [1.] He comforted himself in the goodness of God’s nature, by which he is inclined to succour and protect his people, as the hen is by instinct to shelter her young ones. God comes upon the wing to the help of his people, which denotes a speedy deliverance (Ps. 18:10); and he takes them under his wing, which denotes warmth and refreshment, even when the calamities are upon them; see Matt. 23:37. [2.] In the promise of his word and the covenant of his grace; for it may refer to the out-stretched wings of the cherubim, between which God is said to dwell (Ps. 80:1) and whence he gave his oracles. “To God, as the God of grace, will I fly, and his promise shall be my refuge, and a sure passport it will be through all these danger.” God, by his promise, offers himself to us, to be trusted; we by our faith must accept of him, and put our trust in him.

2. That all his desire is towards God (Ps. 57:2): “I will cry unto God most high, for succour and relief; to him that is most high will I lift up my soul, and pray earnestly, even unto God that performs all things for me.” Note, (1.) In every thing that befalls us we ought to see and own the hand of God; whatever is done is of his performing; in it his counsel is accomplished and the scripture is fulfilled. (2.) Whatever God performs concerning his people, it will appear, in the issue, to have been performed for them and for their benefit. Though God be high, most high, yet he condescends so low as to take care that all things be made to work for good to them. (3.) This is a good reason why we should, in all our straits and difficulties, cry unto him, not only pray, but pray earnestly.

3. That all his expectation is from God (Ps. 57:3): He shall send from heaven, and save me. Those that make God their only refuge, and fly to him by faith and prayer, may be sure of salvation, in his way and time. Observe here, (1.) Whence he expects the salvation—from heaven. Look which way he will, in this earth, refuge fails, no help appears; but he looks for it from heaven. Those that lift up their hearts to things above may thence expect all good. (2.) What the salvation is that he expects. He trusts that God will save him from the reproach of those that would swallow him up, that aimed to ruin him, and, in the mean time, did all they could to vex him. Some read it, He shall send from heaven and save me, for he has put to shame him that would swallow me up; he has disappointed their designs against me hitherto, and therefore he will perfect my deliverance. (3.) What he will ascribe his salvation to: God shall send forth his mercy and truth. God is good in himself and faithful to every word that he has spoken, and so he makes it appear when he works deliverance for his people. We need no more to make us happy than to have the benefit of the mercy and truth of God, Ps. 25:10.

II. He represents the power and malice of his enemies (Ps. 57:4): My soul is among lions. So fierce and furious was Saul, and those about him, against David, that he might have been as safe in a den of lions as among such men, who were continually roaring against him and ready to make a prey of him. They are set on fire, and breathe nothing but flame; they set on fire the course of nature, inflaming one another against David, and they were themselves set on fire of hell, Jas. 3:6. They were sons of men, from whom one might have expected something of the reason and compassion of a man; but they were beasts of prey in the shape of men; their teeth, which they gnashed upon him, and with which they hoped to tear him to pieces and to eat him up, were spears and arrows fitted for mischiefs and murders; and their tongue, with which they cursed him and wounded his reputation, was as a sharp sword to cut and kill; see Ps. 42:10. A spiteful tongue is a dangerous weapon, wherewith Satan’s instruments fight against God’s people. He describes their malicious projects against him (Ps. 57:6) and shows the issue of them: “They have prepared a net for my steps, in which to take me, that I might not again escape out of their hands; they have digged a pit before me, that I might, ere I was aware, run headlong into it.” See the policies of the church’s enemies; see the pains they take to do mischief. But let us see what comes of it. 1. It is indeed some disturbance to David: My soul is bowed down. It made him droop, and hang the head, to think that there should be those that bore him so much ill-will. But, 2. It was destruction to themselves; they dug a pit for David, into the midst whereof they have fallen. The mischief they designed against David returned upon themselves, and they were embarrassed in their counsels; then when Saul was pursuing David the Philistines were invading him; nay, in the cave, when Saul thought David should fall into his hands, he fell into the hands of David, and lay at his mercy.

III. He prays to God to glorify himself and his own great name (Ps. 57:5): “Whatever becomes of me and my interest, be thou exalted, O God! above the heavens, be thou praised by the holy angels, those glorious inhabitants of the upper world; and let thy glory be above or over all the earth; let all the inhabitants of this earth be brought to know and praise thee.” Thus God’s glory should lie hearer our hearts, and we should be more concerned for it, than for any particular interests of our own. When David was in the greatest distress and disgrace he did not pray, Lord, exalt me, but, Lord, exalt thy own name. Thus the Son of David, when his soul was troubled, and he prayed, Father, save me from this hour, immediately withdrew that petition, and presented this in the room of it, For this cause came I to this hour; Father, glorify thy name, John 12:27, 28. Or it may be taken as a plea to enforce his petition for deliverance: “Lord, send from heaven to save me, and thereby thou wilt glorify thyself as the God both of heaven and earth.” Our best encouragement in prayer is taken from the glory of God, and to that therefore, more than our own comfort, we should have an eye in all our petitions for particular mercies; for this is made the first petition in the Lord’s prayer, as that which regulates and directs all the rest, Father in heaven, hallowed by thy name.