1 Have mercy on me, Lord; to you my soul holds fast. Your cov’ring wings will shelter me until the danger’s past.
2 I cry to God Most High, to God who answers me, For he fulfils his purposes for me most perfectly.
3 He sends his help from heaven and saves me from above, Rebuking those who seek my life; God sends his truth and love.
4 I live with savage beasts, I dwell with lions strong— With men who speak with piercing words; a sharp sword is their tongue.
5 Above the highest heavens, O God, exalted be! And over all the earth below display your majesty.
6 My soul was overwhelmed; they spread a net for me. But they themselves fell in the pit which they dug secretly.
7 My heart is steadfast, Lord; with music I will sing. 8 Awake, my soul! Wake, harp and lyre! My song the dawn will bring.
9 Among the nations, Lord, to you I will give praise. Among the peoples of the earth my songs of you I’ll raise.
10 Great is your steadfast love, which reaches to the sky. Your constant faithfulness, O Lord, extends to heaven high.
11 Above the highest heavens, O God, exalted be! And over all the earth below display your majesty.
You can hear a Free Church of Scotland congregation sing this to the tune Denis here.
You can hear another contemporary version of this Psalm to the tune How Deep the Father’s Love for us here – it’s rather impressive.
Psalm 57 has Saul and David seriously at odds – ‘I live with savage beasts’. David escapes to a cave and we learn of what comes to his spiritual rescue: ‘with music I will sing.’ Having once calmed Saul by playing the lyre, in his own distress, David now makes melody. And his sense of God’s steadfast love is re-kindled: ‘my song the dawn will bring.’
Not all life’s difficulties are about failed relationships, but most of us pass through shadowlands and need ways to cope with them. Maybe music works for you. One of my own ‘go to’ pieces is the slow movement from Mahler’s Third Symphony. Its seering melody, occasional brass climaxes, and lingering spaciousness unfailingly restore me. As a Youtube commentator has it, ‘When I am dying, I would listen to this music.’
Other things can also take us back to God, like a gym workout, or a riverside ramble, even going to church. I used to visit a devout church member whose world was being re-shaped by advanced dementia; all she ever said was ‘no light’. It was harrowing. With David, she seemed to be trapped in a net, beyond communication. So we sang hymns she knew off by heart, like ‘How sweet the name of Jesus sounds.’ In her eyes, it was as if her steadfastness of old, for that moment renewed her grasp upon God’s steadfastness ‘my song the dawn will bring’. It was deeply touching.
Amidst life’s trials, let Psalm 57 take you to a cave not just to escape what’s wrong, but also in song or something else to encounter afresh the one whose constant faithfulness, so exquisitely shown in Christ, extends to heaven high.
God, whose love is an enduring melody of passion and peace, whether our songs be of candid lament or gentle gratitude, may they nourish our faith and exalt your name, through Jesus Christ. Amen
The Revd Nigel Uden, a URC minister in Cambridge and Moderator of the General Assembly
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