Psalm 57 – “God who fulfills his purpose for me”

David the shepherd boy was called by God and annointed by the prophet Samuel to be ancient Israel’s king, BUT the way to the fulfilment of his calling was not easy. Saul, the current king, was extremely jealous of David’s popularity. On many occasions he attempted to murder him, and now the exiled David is hiding in a mountain cave.

Psalm 57 describes David’s response to the experience of such great danger

“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.” (verse 1).

Even in the darkness of these hours, humanly speaking not knowing whether he would be alive in the morning, David commits his future to God. Just as if he were a young bird hiding from a storm under its mother’s protective feathers he says, “In the shadow of your wings I will take refuge”. He trusts his safety to the Almighty. And more, with an immense leap of faith he adds, “… till the storms of destruction pass by.”

The next verse, though is the one especially on my mind this evening.

“I cry out to God Most High, to God who fulfills his purpose for me.”

David had the confidence to say that he knew God had a purpose for his future. He could not know in detail what that might be, but he was sure that the God who had protected him so far would carry him through, even if there were difficulties along the way.

One thing that God never promises us is an easy life. In fact the Bible makes it clear that in this broken world we must expect many trials.

Last week I was with an international group of Christian students in Brussels. After one of my talks a young lady from Italy came to me saying she was about to start her final year at university studying marketing. Recently, though, she’d begun to have uneasy flutters in her conscience. So many of the jobs available were in luxury goods. As a Christian, she asked, how could she feel comfortable spending her days trying to persuade people to spend money on things they didn’t really need?

I was impressed at the seriousness of her question, and the depth of her thought. After several minutes of conversation I encouraged her always to take notice of her conscience, and to pray that God would somehow show her whether this was something that she should use as a guideline in choosing her future career. I added the caution, “But if you do this you need to be aware that it might not give you an easy life; it could be difficult.” Her response was remarkable: “Jesus didn’t have an easy life so, if I’m one of his followers, why should I?”

Turning back to the Old Testament, many centuries after King David, in Jeremiah’s time God’s people were about to go through a difficult period. They were about to have their city ransacked and the cream of their young people taken away captive to Babylon. Against this background God speaks through the prophet to reassure them:

“I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11)

In the short term you’re going to go through tough times and, he adds at length, you’ve brought it upon yourselves but I am not turning back from my long-term plan for you. Whatever it might look like at the present moment you do have a future; there is hope.

A friend of mine recently said, “God has not lost control,” and I was reminded of the little chorus we used to sing in Sunday School more than fifty years ago, “God is still on the throne.”

At which point I’m brought back to the Psalms. In Psalm 66 the poet writes,

“We went through fire and through water; yet you have brought us out to a place of abundance.” (verse 12)

Yes they’d been through the trials and tribulations but now they’re out on the other side. Many years ago I went for a walk on the island of Madeira, and did something very stupid. I went into one of the levada tunnels unaccompanied and without a strong torch. I can clearly remember the centre portion of that walk in the dark. Pitch blackness apart from my feeble little light. On and on, it seemed to be never ending. Rocks jutting from the tunnel roof, against which I grazed my head more than once. Then suddenly a round patch of brightness far ahead, and ten minutes later I was out in the daylight looking at the most magnifient view.

Life is often like that, isn’t it. We go through dark patches, sometimes (if we’re honest) brought upon ourselves, other times not, but whatever the situation we can put our hands into the hand of the Good Shepherd, the God who wants to be our Guide. We can know that our future is in His good hand, and say with the psalmist even in the blackest hours:

“I cry out to God Most High, to God who fulfills his purpose for me.”

[Further reading: Philippians 1:6]
[Note: Quotations in this article are from the English Standard Version of the Bible]

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