from victim to victor
Psalm 57 (CSB)
Psalm 57:1 [For the choir director: “Do Not Destroy.” A Miktam of David. When he fled before Saul into the cave.] Be gracious to me, God, be gracious to me, for I take refuge in you. I will seek refuge in the shadow of your wings until danger passes.
Psalm 57:2 I call to God Most High, to God who fulfills his purpose for me.
Psalm 57:3 He reaches down from heaven and saves me, challenging the one who tramples me. Selah
God sends his faithful love and truth.
Psalm 57:4 I am surrounded by lions; I lie down among devouring lions– people whose teeth are spears and arrows, whose tongues are sharp swords.
Psalm 57:5 God, be exalted above the heavens; let your glory be over the whole earth.
Psalm 57:6 They prepared a net for my steps; I was despondent. They dug a pit ahead of me, but they fell into it! Selah
Psalm 57:7 My heart is confident, God, my heart is confident. I will sing; I will sing praises.
Psalm 57:8 Wake up, my soul! Wake up, harp and lyre! I will wake up the dawn.
Psalm 57:9 I will praise you, Lord, among the peoples; I will sing praises to you among the nations.
Psalm 57:10 For your faithful love is as high as the heavens; your faithfulness reaches the clouds.
Psalm 57:11 God, be exalted above the heavens; let your glory be over the whole earth.
We have been spending some time with the Psalms – particularly those psalms that emphasize God’s mission for us to reach the nations for him.
Today’s passage qualifies. Notice the chorus in the psalm – verses five and eleven. “God, be exalted above the heavens; let your glory be over the whole earth.”
It’s not immediately clear to every reader why an individual lament like this turns into a missions psalm. I pray the Lord gives me the ability to explain that.
David wrote this psalm about a time when he was a victim. That’s where we want to start when we examine the words.
How does it feel to be a victim?
If I stopped right now and asked some of you that question, I imagine some of your answers would scare me. All of us at some point in our lives feel this way.
Here’s how David described it. He talked about danger passing by, and needing to take refuge (1). I can remember being on top of a mountain and a storm coming, and having to rush down the mountain to take refuge in a shelter.
He talked about being trampled (3). I came close to being trampled by a panicking crowd on a ferry boat. When you are in the middle of a crisis, you feel your own fear and everybody else’s fear.
He talked about being surrounded (4). He mentioned being surrounded by lions. In his experience, the lions were not literal lions. But another Israelite was thrown into a lion’s den centuries later. I imagine Daniel sang this psalm a lot when he was down in that den.
He felt despondent (6). The word in Hebrew means to bow down. You know what it feels like to be brought down. Somebody says something and your heart deflates.
When you feel like a victim, it is okay to admit it. But God wants us to respond appropriately. David responded appropriately.
What can you do about being a victim?
David took refuge in the shadow of God’s wings (1). Psalm 46 says “God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble.” Isaiah told the Israelites that they had forgotten the God of their salvation and have not remembered the rock of their refuge (17:10). We have a God who is stable enough to deal with our times of instability.
David remembered God’s deliverance in his past (6). Some scholars treat this as a transition in the psalm where David now begins to celebrate his victory. I don’t think so. I think what David is doing is remembering a former event where he was a victim, and God gave him victory.
When we face periods of depression and challenges to our faith, we can gain strength by remembering former times when God brought us through.
David decided to praise God (7-9). Notice the words “I will.”
I will sing
I will sing praises
I will wake up the dawn
I will praise you, Lord, among the peoples
I will sing praises to you among the nations
Praise is not just a means of celebrating victory. Praise is a means of shifting from victim to victor.
A nation of former slaves getting ready for battle at Jericho. What do they do? They praise God by blowing trumpets, and he shows up there with them and knocks down the city walls.
Paul and Silas in prison, shackled and beaten. What do they do? They sing some praise songs to God, and he comes and sets them free.
When God hears our praises, he hurries our deliverance.
Why does God allow us to be victims?
By being a victim David learned that God can provide refuge (1). This is a lesson we can learn as well, but it won’t happen if we never face the ordeal of being a victim.
By being a victim, David fulfilled God’s purpose for his life (2). God wanted him to defeat Goliath. But God wanted him to lean on him to defeat this challenge. When he leaded on God for refuge, God got the glory.
By being a victim, David gave God the opportunity to reach down and save him (3). Sometimes God allows us to get in deep, because he wants to manifest his power over the stormy sea. He may appear to be sleeping in the boat, but he’s just waiting for us to cry out to him for rescue.
By being a victim, David glorified God (5,11). Let’s go back to that chorus:
God, be exalted above the heavens; let your glory be over the whole earth.
God allowed David to go through his period of being a victim because he knew that David would seek refuge in him. That negative experience was turned into positive praise, and resulted in his global glory. That is what God is doing in our lives as well. He’s turning our problems into praise. And he is using our bad experiences to reach the nations for him.
You see, everyone everywhere goes through tough times. We are all victims of something. But when we seek refuge in God, and trust him through the tough times, the world takes notice. They are looking for a God who can rescue them. They want a God who can reach down and pull them out of their depression and fear. Our God is the only God who can do that.
One day we are going to get together – a great multitude which no one can count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, and palm branches in our hands; and we will cry out with a loud voice, saying, deliverance has come from our God who sits on the throne, and from the Lamb (Revelation 7:9-11).
You and I have the opportunity to do that now. We can look around for victims – there are plenty of them – and we can share our stories with them of how God restored us. We can share how he saved us from sin, how he healed our bodies, and rescued our marriages and helped us to clean up our communities.
God has a purpose for every bad thing that happens, and he causes all things to ultimately work together for good. He is for us, and even the things that we think are against us have to give way to his will.
You and I are going to be victims, but we can also be victors. That is what God wants.
Lord, by your grace, we choose to see all the bad things that we experience as opportunities to display your power to the nations.