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Lord Have Mercy

David Playing Harp

LORD HAVE MERCY

By James L. Thornton

Psalm 57:1. Be merciful unto me, O God, be merciful unto me: for my soul trusteth in thee: yea, in the shadow of thy wings will I make my refuge, until these calamities be overpast.                                                

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Preface~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The 57th Psalm is about David’s life in a cave. Many of us can relate to this Psalm that David wrote while living in this cave. The bottom seems to have fallen out of everything. We also may have been enjoying life, with good health, good job, great family relationship, enjoying friends and the fellowship of the Church family.

Suddenly the tide turns and the waves seem to overflow our castle. Relationships deteriorate, our job has vanished, sickness brings endless suffering, then loss of a spouse, and you are being persecuted without cause for doing good. In these, and many other ways, life can instantly become something other than what we expected.

Our lives frequently start out with great expectation only to be followed by long seasons of suffering and trial. It seems as though you are fleeing for your spiritual or physical life from an enemy. Then questions arise, “is God really there?” “Is He really hiding me under the hollow of His hand?” That’s when we enter our cave.

I can remember my mother exclaiming “Lord Have Mercy,” when some unexpected misfortune or adversity arose. This was her way of dealing with any emergency. And it seems to be the way David dealt with the calamities of his life. He supports himself with faith and hope in God, and prayer to him in Psalm 57.

Seeing himself surrounded with enemies, he looks up to God with that suitable prayer: “Be merciful to me, O God!” 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 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 at all in 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.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Contents~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

1. The Heading Of Psalms 57
2. Life In The Cave

3. David Anointed King

4. Upward, Downward Mobility

5. From The King’s Palace To A Cave

6. Your Trial Is The Mark Of God’s Mercy

7. The Bible Meaning Of Mercy

8. People In Distress

9. Dark Caves Bring Inspiring Revelations

10. The Son Of God Was Born In A Cave

11. We Need These Silent Retrears

12. I Know In Whom I Put My Trust

13. Many Times The Cave Follows A Great Victory, Or Blessing

14.The Pearl Of Great Price

15. God’s Love For Us Transcends All Grief

16. David Is Moved To Praise God

17. Conclusion:
 Let Us Sing And Make Melody In Our Hearts To God
18. Prayer

 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

1. THE HEADING OF PSALM 57:

To the chief Musician, Al-tas-chith, Mich-tam of David, when he fled from Saul in the cave.

In most Bibles the title of this Psalm is at the heading of it. The heading contains a word which appears for the first time and we would like to call your attention to it. The word is “Altaschith,” and it means “Destroy Not” or “Destroy Him Not(1 Samuel 26:9). And it seems to be the Title that David gave to this Psalm.

To get the proper setting for this Psalm we must understand that it was written when David was running for his life, and while hiding in a wilderness cave. He was being pursued by King Saul who hated him and who had three-thousand warriors to hunt him down. Then the temptation to sin came as Saul sought shelter in the same cave where David and his men were hiding. David, or one of his men, could have taken this opportunity to kill Saul.

“Altaschith,” David said, “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 gladly have done so. No, says David, “destroy him not,” (1 Samuel 24:4, 6) (1 Samuel 26:9).

Or, rather another interpretation, God would not let David be destroyed by Saul; he suffered him to persecute David, but still under this limitation, Destroy him not; as he permitted Satan to afflict Job, Only save his life. David must not be destroyed.

I favor the latter interpretation.

God allowed some of His greatest Saints to go through great hardships and in some cases great suffering, and many recorded their thoughts and prayers for our benefit.

John Bunyan wrote Pilgrim’s Progress during the years (1678-1684) he spent in Bedford (England) Prison. The Apostle Paul wrote some of the greatest thoughts ever put in writing while bound with chains in one prison after another.

When David was in the cave, in imminent peril, he tells us what the workings of his heart towards God were; and happy are those that have such good thoughts as these in their minds when they are in danger! Here in Psalms 57 David records his prayers, his praises, and his resolve.My heart is fixed, O God, My heart is fixed (v: 7).

2. LIFE IN THE CAVE:

It might have been about this time that David could have looked at his life and said, “I have been the cause of the cruel death of the priests who helped me” (1 Samuel 22:16-19); My wife has been given to another man (1 Samuel 25:44); “I have had to hide my family in a foreign land” (1 Samuel 22:1-3); I am continually fleeing for my life” and “Now here I am hiding in this cave. How did this happen?”

Humanly speaking, David’s life seemed hopeless and his situation desperate.

You’ll begin to feel real comfort in this Psalm (57) and all the Psalms when you see David’s experience mirrored in your life. Have you ever been in such depths of despair and sorrow the only prayer you could moan was, “Be merciful to me O God. Be merciful to me.” God answers, “Altaschith,” “You will not be destroyed.”

LORD HAVE MERCY. Have you discovered in yourself such dependency and need that all you could do was plead for mercy?

David knew about this kind of suffering and the Holy Spirit inspired him to write about it so that you and I would have hope. The Apostle Paul tells us that is the reason these things were written.

Romans 15:4 “For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.”

David’s suffering had a purpose in his life and it also has a purpose in ours. Our suffering isn’t something that we have to get through the best way we can. Our suffering, like David’s, has a greater meaning or purpose.

3. DAVID ANOINTED KING:

David Anointed King

David’s life was a simple life as a youth while keeping his father’s sheep on the hills around Bethlehem, singing and playing his harp, composing some of the Psalms which would later be penned for our benefit. But the simple life changed abruptly.

1 Samuel 16:1 “And the LORD said unto Samuel, How long wilt thou mourn for Saul, seeing I have rejected him from reigning over Israel? Fill thine horn with oil, and go, I will send thee to Jesse the Bethlehemite: for I have provided me a king among his sons.
2 And Samuel said, How can I go? if Saul hear it, he will kill me. And the LORD said, Take an heifer with thee, and say, I am come to sacrifice to the LORD.
3 And call Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will shew thee what thou shalt do: and thou shalt anoint unto me him whom I name unto thee.

Samuel went accordingly to Bethlehem, not in pomp, or with any retinue, but with only a servant to lead the heifer which he was to sacrifice. He had a particular regard to Jesse and his sons, for with them his private business lay, with which, it is likely, he acquainted only Jesse at his first coming, and took up his lodging at his house. He sanctified Jesse and his sons by praying with them and instructing them.

If the son’s of Jesse were told that Samuel had a special anointing for one of them, we may well suppose they all made the best appearance they could, and each hoped he should be the man; but here we are told how all the elder sons, who stood fairest for the preferment, were passed by. Eliab, the eldest, was privately presented first to Samuel, probably none being present but Jesse only, and Samuel thought he must be the man: “Surely this is the Lord’s anointed,” but God rejected him.

One by one Jesse presented his sons and one by one they were rejected. David at length was sent for. He was the youngest of all the sons of Jesse; his name signifies beloved, for he was a type of the Only Beloved Son. He was in the fields, keeping the sheep (1 Samuel 16:11), and was left there, though there was a sacrifice and a feast at his father’s house. It seems David was least though of all the sons of Jesse; either they did not discern or did not duly value the excellent spirit that was in him.

David had not been called to the feast and was left to keep the sheep, but Samuel would not eat until he was called, and immediately God informed him that this was the future King of Israel.

1 Samuel 16:13 “Then Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him in the midst of his brethren (though I’m sure they did not know the real reason for the anointing): and the spirit of the LORD came upon David from that day forward.”

4. UPWARD, DOWNWARD MOBILITY: FROM SHEPHERD TO THE KING’S PALACE, FROM THE KING’S PALACE TO A CAVE AT ADULLUM:

Not that he was at present invested with the Royal power, but it was bestowed upon him, to come to him in due time. Possibly at this time Samuel did not specifically tell him the purpose of the anointing. David was most likely about 12 to 16 years old when this took place but the kingship lay 15 or more years in the future, so David returned to the pasture to keep the sheep.

David Playing Harp

Life changed rapidly for this shepherd boy. He was shortly called to play his harp for King Saul when he became oppressed because of the loss of the Spirit of God. Then David fought Goliath and was afterwards taken into the household of Saul. Saul’s son, Jonathan, soon became David’s best friend. What more could one ask?

It wasn’t long until David was known by the women of Israel as a great warrior, becoming the subject of their songs. “David has killed his ten thousands.” Saul gave his daughter to be his wife. How could his life get any better? In all this David remained humble and loyal, looking for opportunities to help King Saul.

But things began to change as Saul became jealous of David, and his heart grew hard toward David, and Saul looked upon him with hatred and suspicion and envy. David’s position in the kingdom began to go downhill. Twice Saul tried to pin him to the wall with his spear.

5. FROM THE KING’S PALACE TO A CAVE:

Saul Trying To Kill David

Saul banished him from his presence and sought a way to do away with him. David’s life was changing and not for the better. Conflicts within the palace escalated to the point that Jonathan advised David to flee for his life. And thus began a drawn-out and desperate season of terror, hiding, and heartache as David barely survived, no longer as the king’s favorite but now as a hunted fugitive. That’s how David began to live in a cave.

DAVID WAS WHERE GOD WANTED HIM TO BE: I’m fairly certain that David didn’t enjoy hiding out in a cave, running for his life. But the truth was that he was exactly where God wanted him, securely in God’s protecting embrace.

Even though David was where God wanted him, like most people, he probably didn’t enjoy running for his life, and having to beg for mercy. And that’s our feeling also. I’d much rather have what I imagine the life of the King’s favorite would be, sitting on a couch strumming my harp in a palace. Doesn’t God want me to avoid caves? Surely He wouldn’t be sending me into a cave, would He?

6. YOUR TRIAL IS THE MARK OF GOD’S MERCY:

God is at work in your circumstance. In the same way that God was preparing David to rule his kingdom and to foreshadow the rule of one whose kingdom will have no end, the Lord is preparing your heart to reflect the wonders of His Son.

Life in the cave gives us the one good gift we really need; a correct self-appraisal to remove the errors and mistakes from our life.

Because of our sinful nature, without God’s mercy in our lives, we all belong in caves and holes in the ground, not in fine palaces. It’s surely His mercy that we find ourselves, from time to time, in hardships and pain, that’s where we find the beauty of His merciful character. It’s because He loves us that we find ourselves in the cave.

Life in the cave opens our eyes to our helplessness. Think about David’s experience. There was no way that David could save himself. His enemies surrounded him, and he had no strength or wisdom or goodness that could change his circumstances.

For a man as handsome, capable, and brave as David was, this was a needful lesson. Like all of us, he needed to see himself as unworthy of demanding anything from the Lord, and in such great peril and emptiness that he didn’t have anything to offer. All he could do was plead for mercy.

Let us look at the sudden rise to fame and popularity that David had experienced. Most, or all, of this could be attributed to his own physical strength, personality and abilities. This could easily lead him to assume that it was mainly through his own endowments that he had come so far so fast. Then God allowed him to lose all this celebrity and hidden in a cave let him reflect on the real strength behind his success.

The Apostle Paul experienced great wonders and accomplishments in his ministry, but God sent him “A thorn in the flesh, lest he be exalted above measure” “Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (2 Corinthians 12:7; 9b).

When driven into the cave David realized how much his life depended upon the Lord and his cry arose from the cave, “Be merciful unto me, O God, be merciful unto me.”

7. THE BIBLE MEANING FOR MERCY:

Let’s think for a moment about what it means to plead for mercy. What does the word mean to you? In the Bible mercy means “compassion to one in need or helpless, in distress, or in debt and without claim to favorable treatment.” Let us look at that definition again.

1. Compassion to one in need.
2. Compassion to one in helpless distress.
3. Compassion to one in debt.
4. Compassion to one without claim to favorable treatment.

Do we see ourselves as a person in need?
How needy are you?
We think of ourselves as independent, “I take care of myself.”
Remember the song, “I did it my way.”

The problem with that way of thinking is that it is a hindrance to our receiving what we desperately need: God’s compassion.

We need to see ourselves as helpless in distress. In the trials we’ve been facing, there is nothing that we can do to make them better. God allows us to become helpless because that’s when we realize we need mercy. We learn about God’s strength when we are weak and helpless.

Are you in debt? Most all of us are, or sometimes get in debt. Some have huge financial debts hanging over their heads. But that’s not the debt God is primarily concerned with. God wants us to see the great debt we owe to Him. We owe Him debts of obedience, love, and the ultimate debt that, although we deserve judgment, He’s given us mercy and forgiveness.

Just in the same way that there is no way that we can pay the huge national debt of our country, we need to see the greater debt we owe, we need to see the great debt we owe Him for the death of His Son who paid that debt for us. The thousands and thousands we owed our creditors is nothing in comparison with what we owed Him, and that debt has been paid at Calvary. THAT’S MERCY.

We’re without claim to favorable treatment. We don’t have any right to ask Him for anything except mercy. We don’t deserve favorable treatment. We deserve the scourging, the nails, the crown of thorns, the cross, the separation from God that Jesus endured. When we consider our account before Him, we don’t have a justifiable support for asking for anything except mercy.

All I can do is ask for Him not to give me what I deserve, that is judgment, but rather give what I don’t deserve; mercy.

8. PEOPLE IN DISTRESS:

Let us look at the people who had gathered themselves around David.

1 Samuel 22:2 “And every one that was in distress, and every one that was in debt, and every one that was discontented, gathered themselves unto him (David); and he became a captain over them: and there were with him about four hundred men.”

“Every one that was in distress, in debt, discontented,” that’s us. We’re in distress, in debt, and discontented. Those are the kinds of people God loves to gather to Himself, and to pour out mercy on.

Mercy is such an essential part of God’s character that it is even one of His Names. He’s the Father of Mercies. Paul describes Him: “Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God. (2 Corinthians 1:3-4).

Is the God of all comfort comforting you?
Do you appreciate His mercy?
Do you see His hand in the trials you are going through?
Can you sing praises to Him from your cave?

9. DARK CAVES, BRING INSPIRING REVELATIONS:

In contradiction to our society’s beliefs, the Bible teaches us that our hearts are not formed by our circumstances or environment. Instead it teaches that our environment merely reveals what already fills our hearts. This is what Jesus meant when He said that it wasn’t what was outside a man that defiled him but rather what came from within him.

Mark 7: 18 “And he saith unto them, Are ye so without understanding also? Do ye not perceive, that whatsoever thing from without entereth into the man, it cannot defile him;
19 Because it entereth not into his heart, but into the belly, and goeth out into the draught, purging all meats?
20 And he said, That which cometh out of the man, that defileth the man.
21 For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders,
22 Thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness:
23 All these evil things come from within, and defile the man.

When God places us in the cave let us turn our thoughts towards Him in prayer and praise and search our hearts for anything that shouldn’t be there. We could ask ourselves, “What do the caves in our life tell us about our heart?” The things that come out of us, our words, our deeds, even our thoughts towards those who may have wronged us, all these things lay our hearts open to reveal what is in it.

What benefits are awaiting us as God faithfully and lovingly afflicts and humbles us. He’s making us the sort of person He delights in. As He afflicts us we see the things in our heart that shouldn’t be there. As we see these things, we’re crushed and abased, and we recognize our need for Him, and we cry out for mercy. It’s then He revives, encourages, loves, comforts, changes, and fellowships with us.

When David wrote this Psalm, he was probably in the cave of Adullum. As he was sitting there in the dark, both literally and figuratively, I’m sure he didn’t know what would happen in his future. His sling and harp and good looks could not deliver him. He didn’t have any guarantee that he’d even make it out of that cave. I can imagine that it probably seems the same way to many of us. Is this cave going to be my final resting place?

I think of John the beloved disciple, cast on the Isle of Patmos, away from friends and those he loved, a prisoner, a slave, lonely, and without human help. He was the one who was so close to the Lord, leaning on His breast at the last supper. Yet it was in the cave, so to speak, of Patmos that John received the Revelation of Jesus Christ. It was there that he saw heaven in all of its glory. So it is with us, it’s in the dark cave that Jesus reveals Himself to us.

John was one of “the son’s of thunder,” wanting to call fire down on a city that rejected Jesus. But after his “cave” experience at Patmos he wrote 1st 2nd and 3rd John and his main topic was, “Little children love one another” 1 John 3:11. What a change the “caves” of life’s experiences have wrought in our own lives.

Although David didn’t know whether he’d make it out of this cave or not, we know the end of the story. In actually, the cave of Adullum is only about two miles south of Gilboa, the place where God brought Saul to his death. Think of that. The very place that seemed like it might end up being his grave was so near the place of his exaltation. He just was not aware of it… and God didn’t reveal it to him at the time.

The same way, we don’t know what’s just ahead of us because God isn’t revealing that to us either, so that we will remain humble and contrite and close to Him.

10. THE SON OF GOD WAS BORN IN A CAVE:

The cave of Adullum is only thirteen miles west of Bethlehem, where our ultimate victory and triumph was assured. In a stall in a cave “the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of His nature” was born. In a “cave” at Bethlehem, in ignominy and obscurity the Son of God was brought into the world as a helpless baby. And only a few miles away, the King would put in motion a plan to kill Him.

The one through whom God’s mercy would flow to you and me experienced all the temptation and trial that we do, and ever so much more, and was yet without sin, He was “despised and rejected, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.”

Today you and I can beg God for mercy and rest confident that He hears us because His Son was cruelly punished for our helplessness, our debt, our discontent.

Why not take time right now to thank God for His mercy to you.

 "When God wants to drill a man:
And thrill a man:
And skill a man:

When God wants to mold a man
To play the noblest part;

When He yearns with all His heart
To create so great and bold a man
That all the world shall be amazed:

Watch His methods, watch His ways!
How He ruthlessly perfects
Whom He royally elects!
How He hammers him and hurts him,

And with mighty blows converts him
Into trial shapes of clay which

Only God understands;
While his tortured heart is crying
And he lifts beseeching hands!

How He bends but never breaks
When his good He undertakes;
How He uses whom He chooses:
And with every purpose fuses him;

But every act induces him
To try His splendor out -
God knows what He's about!" (Author Unknown)

Now we can see that although not all things are good, God can use those circumstances to our advantage. God did not tell us that, all things would be good. He told us He makes “all things work together for good to those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.”

David was soon breathing the free air of the desert, and looked back with a shudder of horror, but with an overwhelming sense of thankfulness (Psalms 57:3). Some of us can take up these words in their literal sense. You remember when the icy breath of death seemed to chill your blood; the gate of death seemed just ready to roll back on its noiseless hinges, and shut behind you. But God locked it fast.

The good Shepherd led you through the dark cave, out into the sunshine. You are living, to praise him. Others have no such special experience. But what is life but a series of escapes? What is health but the perpetual warding off of death; safety, but hourly deliverance?

Psychologists say that the most stressful events in our lives are the deaths of loved ones, job loss, injury, illness, financial problems, and separation, and when a friend hurts you.

11. WE NEED THESE SILENT RETREATS:

From what I have read, a silent retreat also would follow the example of some of the Bible’s greatest spiritual seekers. In the Old Testament, Samuel became quiet so he could hear God. Elijah climbed a mountain to listen for God’s gentle whisper. Habakkuk stood guard at his lonely post to wait for the Lord’s instructions.

The Scriptures tell us that after his conversion the apostle Paul went alone into the desert of Arabia. And of course, the Bible reminds us that Jesus often stepped away from crowds of followers to spend time alone with his heavenly Father.

Digging, I thought, is hard work. “Dig,” he said suddenly, “Read the Scriptures, and be patient. Let the Word soak into your life.” (Words from my old Pastor)

I needed to persevere and keep digging. I needed to read my Bible not just when I was discouraged or sad but every day. I needed to continue my prayers of thanksgiving and praise, not just grumble about my problems and wants.

It’s sometimes necessary to fight for faith, the way soldiers grapple on a battlefield, trusting God for the victory when it takes all we’ve got to get through a single day.

I’ve found this to be true. We may be called to walk through difficult seasons that feel as if they’ll never end. We can nearly succumb to exhaustion or depression. Other people may turn out to be the source of our problems, or we may find that we’ve brought them on ourselves through our own poor decisions and wrong choices.

In the end, the only thing that really matters is that we plant our feet firmly on the ground of faith. Don’t be afraid, the Bible says, but hold fast “and stand still, and see the salvation of the LORD, which he will shew to you to day: . . . The Lord shall fight for you” (Exodus 14:13–14). When God does the fighting, he will take the field and win the day.

Life is filled with mystery, and it always will be, and we have to learn to trust him, to take the bitter with the sweet and believe that both came from his hand.

We’re not guaranteed the resolution to every earthly problem, but I can live in the tension because I’m persuaded of one perfect, powerful, unwavering thing: God loves us. He gave his only Son to make sure we know it, and he promises eternal life to those who accept and believe in him. John 3:16.

Paul, writing to the church at Ephesus, added, “It’s in Christ that we find out who we are and what we are living for. Long before we first heard of Christ and got our hopes up, he had his eye on us, had designs on us for glorious living, part of the overall purpose he is working out in everything and everyone” (Ephesians 1:11–12 MSG).

We won’t always understand why certain things happen, but we can live with not knowing, confident that God is in control.

12. I KNOW IN WHOM I PUT MY TRUST:

Psalm 57:1. Be merciful unto me, O God, be merciful unto me: for my soul trusteth in thee: yea, in the shadow of thy wings will I make my refuge, until these calamities be overpast.                                               

In the second part of this verse David is telling God that the hope of his innermost being (my soul) is clinging to Him. The body may be tired, weary, helpless, forlorn, distressed, and heartbroken, but my innermost being (my soul) has not lost faith in You. “I will take refuge in Thee until all this is over with.”

“In the shadow of thy wings will I make my refuge.” This analogy is used in the Bible many times denoting God’s protection of those who are His own (Ruth 2:12; Psalms 17:8; 91:4; Matthew 23:37; Luke 13:34).

I have seen this many times as I was growing up in the country. My mother always had chickens and an old milk cow for milk, and a hog to raise. In the spring the hens would raise little chicks, and at any sign of danger she would begin clucking vigorously and the little chicks would immediately run to her and she would spread her wings and they gathered under her wings which she would close up around them. There she would hover over them to shield them from the danger.

When the storm came and the rain poured down the mother hen would hunker down and the little chicks would weather the storm under her wings. Every once in a while you could see a small head pop out through the feathers only to be pulled back into the shelter. The mother hen would risk her life for her baby chicks. She never ran off and left them no matter what came but would shelter them under her wings. This is what David referred to in this verse.

13. MANY TIMES THE CAVE  FOLLOWS A GREAT VICTORY, OR  BLESSING:

You may have noticed that sometimes the greatest trial comes immediately after God has given us a great spiritual blessing, or allowed us prosperity. I have mentioned that David’s “cave” experience came shortly after he had gained great exaltation and ennoblement in the house of King Saul.

ELIJAH’S CAVE EXPERIENCE:

Elijah won a great victory over the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel, God sent rain to the drought stricken land at his request in prayer then outran the chariot of Ahab all the way to Jezreel. This was Elijah’s greatest moment in the eyes of the people (1 Kings 18).

Can we imagine Elijah’s feelings when he lay down somewhere along the wall outside Jezreel? Things can’t get any better than this. This has been a great day. Then out of the darkness a messenger arrives with a message from Jezebel, which stated she would have his head before morning.

Feelings change so suddenly, from exaltation and rejoicing to fear and trembling in an instant. Elijah ran, he ran all the way out of the promise land. Exhausted and hungry he sat down under a juniper tree and requested that the Lord would let him die. The Lord was gentle to him and sent an angel to feed and to strengthen him.

Then Elijah ran on to Mount Horeb and there he entered into a cave (1 Kings 19:9).

While in the cave a great storm arose and rent the Mountain with violent winds which broke off rocks and hurled them off the cliffs, then an earthquake shook the mountain and Elijah just hunkered down, after all that, a fire broke out on the Mountain and the smoke and heat and the roar of the blaze only caused Elijah to withdraw a litle further back into the cave. (1 Kings 19:11-12)

Then Elijah heard “a still small voice.” “When Elijah heard it he wrapped his face in his mantle, and went out, and stood in the entering in of the cave.” That’s when God spoke to him and re-commissioned him to His service. In all this we see the gentleness of the Lord toward his servants while they are in the “cave mode.”

14. THE PEARL OF GREAT PRICE: Formed under great stress.

The word “Pearl” has become a metaphor for something very rare, very fine, very admirable, and very valuable. Natural pearls form under a set of accidental conditions when a microscopic intruder (like a grain of sand), or parasite enters inside the shell of a mollusk (shell fish, oyster, or clam) and settles there.

The shell-fish, being irritated, secretes calcium carbonate and other elements to cover the irritant. This process is repeated many times, layer upon layer. Sometimes over many years. Quality natural pearls are very rare jewels. Some valued in the millions of dollars. Giant pearls from clams have been found that weighed 14 pounds.

God may allow an irritant to come into our lives.
How do we handle the situation?
Do we use prayer and praise to cover the thing that irritates us?
God wants to form a pearl.
Yield to Him and let the process take place in your life.

In contradiction to most of what we read about in Christian self-help books, we don’t get the results of a pearl-like faith without the process of pearl making. What you are experiencing is this precious process that James spoke of to his suffering readers.

James 1:2 “My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations;
3 Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience (steadfastness).
4 But let patience (steadfastness) have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire (complete), wanting nothing.

The trying of your faith produces steadfastness. We all want a faith that is mature, complete and whole. We sincerely desire a faith that stands strong in the storm, a faith that tells of the great value in knowing and loving God. But that kind of faith cannot be bought at the local store. That kind of faith grows only in the environment of trial. That’s what James is saying to us.

Trials, in themselves, are not joyous; they’re joyous only because they are effective. God in His kindness knows exactly how much sand to slip into the shell of your heart. Perhaps that sand is other people God brings us into contact with that become an irritant like Saul was to David (Psalms 57:3-4). Or maybe it will come to you as a loss of job, of home, of health, of loved one, or one of many circumstances.

God knows the exact amount, and composition, of sand you need, and He knows how long it will take to form that one great pearl of great price both of you are looking for. God is testing your faith, and that testing will produce steadfastness and will cause your faith to be mature, complete, and whole.

Paul’s encouragement to his beloved Corinthian Christians as they faced trials and afflictions was to be, “be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 15:58).

Do you believe that the toil God is calling you to is “not in vain?” As you join with all the other suffering saints who have ever lived, you can pray that God will make your back stronger, that He will grant you the grace to be steadfast, immovable, and always overflowing in your work for the Lord. Remember that although your faith in the storm might seem meaningless, it’s not. What we do for Him, how we suffer in faith, is never senseless.

It always has a purpose, even though you and I might not know what that purpose is right then. You can remember that this affliction, which seems to draw your attention to it so frequently, is a pearl in the making.

Few have suffered more for the Gospel of Jesus Christ that the Apostle Paul, and here is how he described it,

2 Corinthians 4:16 “For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day.
17 For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory;
18 While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.

Hebrews 11:32-34 speaks of people who were more than conquerors by their faith, yet verses 35-39 speaks of those who arrived at the gate full of scars.

Amy Carmichael, Christian missionary in India for 56 years without furlough, rescued more that a thousand children from neglect and abuse. The world in which she lived was often dangerous and stressful. Amy spoke of dark days “when the sky turned black for me because of what I heard and knew was true. Sometimes it was as if I saw the Lord Jesus Christ kneeling alone, as He knelt long ago under the olive trees. And the only thing that one who cared could do was to go kneel down beside Him, so that He would not be alone in His sorrow over the events in this world.”

Because Amy Carmichael’s life was one of Christ-centered suffering, she was able to write,

“Hast thou no scar?
No hidden scar on foot, or side, or hand?
I hear thee sung as mighty in the land,
I hear them hail thy bright ascending star,

Hast thou no scar?
Hast thou no wound?

Yet I was wounded by the archers, spent,
Leaned Me against a tree to die; and rent
By ravening beasts that compassed Me, I swooned:
Hast thou no wound?
No wound, no scar?

Yet, as the Master shall the servant be,
And, pierced are the feet that follow Me;
But thine are whole: Can he have followed far
Who has no wounds, nor scar?”

15. GOD’S LOVE FOR US TRANSCENDS ALL GRIEF:

Psalms 57:1b “My soul trusteth in thee: yea, in the shadow of thy wings will I make my refuge, until these calamities be overpast.”

As we draw near to the Lord and find refuge and protection under the shadow of His wings, we will find ourselves immersed in His love. We know that love is not just an attribute of God; it is rather, who He is, and what He is. God Is Love (1 John 4:8, 16). It’s His nature to love you.

One of the most important word describing God’s love found in the Old Testament is ‘hesed,’ a word that’s used 240 times and speaks primarily of God’s lovingkindness. The English Standard Version usually translates this word as “steadfast love,” while the King James Version uses “mercy” or “kindness.” Other definitions of ‘hersed’ include grace, faithfulness, goodness, and devotion. This is one of those words that doesn’t have a one-to-one translations into English.

TAKE REFUGE IN THE STRENGTH OF GOD’S LOVE:

Romans 8:35 “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?
36 As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.
37 Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.
38 For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come,
39 Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

No one is able to pry His hand open or keep you from His love. You will persevere because of His invincible love. You don’t have to depend on your ability to hold on, keep a good confession, or have steadfast faith. He’s got you, you’re safe, and nothing, no earthly affliction, supernatural beings, distances, or anything else in all His creation is stronger than His love.

Will His near presence be enough for you and me? I’m confident that it will. It will because He has promised us His powerful and faithful lovingkindness.  He’ll keep us safe until the storms of destruction pass by (Psalms 57:1). And pass us by they will. That is the hope of all believers. When we suffer, we don’t suffer like the world, for we have hope that even if this affliction never leaves us here on this earth, we won’t be here, forever.

This isn’t all there is. We have His assurance that a day will come when all the suffering and anguish we’ve known here will be transformed into joy, and the shadows that terrified us here are shown to be what they were all along: merely the shadow of His wings.

Can you think of a time when God surprised you with His presence? What comfort or consolation did He bring to you? Who are the people in your life God has put there to comfort you? How are you going to seek to be comforted by Him through them in the future?

If you have not been going to church because it’s too painful, make that the first act of faith. Fellowship with believers isn’t just for the strong, its meant specifically for the suffering. (Romans 15:5-6)

“Comfort us and grant us trusting hearts, oh, Lord,” we pray, “We take refuge in the shadow of Your wings.”

16. DAVID IS MOVED TO PRAISE GOD:

Throughout the first six verses of Psalms 57 we see a mixture of fear and begging God for mercy, intermingled with a confidence that God will see him through this cave experience. Then his mood changes to one of praise. Let us listen to the sound that echoes from out of the cave.

Psalms 57:7 “My heart is fixed, O God, my heart is fixed: I will sing and give praise.
8 Awake up, my glory; awake, psaltery and harp: I myself will awake early.
9 I will praise thee, O Lord, among the people: I will sing unto thee among the nations.
10 For thy mercy is great unto the heavens, and thy truth unto the clouds.
11 Be thou exalted, O God, above the heavens: let thy glory be above all the earth.

In Psalms 57 we see David’s progression from pleading to God for mercy, to finding refuge from storms of destruction and treacherous men, and finally on to his confident assertion, “MY HEART IS FIXED, (steadfast) O GOD, MY HEART IS FIXED: I WILL SING AND GIVE PRAISE.” How did David arrive at this new place of safety and refuge?

As the Psalm progresses, the turning point for David seems to be in verse five, “Be thou exalted, O God, above the heavens; let thy glory be above all the earth.”

In verse four, David was praying and lamenting the present conditions of his soul. “My soul is among lions,” he said. Then in verse 6, he speaks in the past tense, “They set a net (a trap) for my steps; my soul is bowed down. They dug a pit in my way, but they have fallen into it themselves.”

That’s the turning point, when David came to the realization that God was watching over him and taking care of him, light exploded in that dark cave and, he exclaimed, “My heart is fixed, O God, my heart is fixed: I will sing and give praise.”

MY WHOLE HEART SINGS!” Can we imagine what was taking place in that dark dismal underground cavern? David surrounded by his loyal followers, all in a somber mood, then suddenly David begins to worship God with all his might. “Get out the music, beat the drums, clap the loud sounding cymbals, wake everybody up, awake, awake, let us sing and give praises to God.” “I will get up early.” “I will awake before dawn, be thou exulted, O God, above the heavens.”

We also have a resource of strength. Let your mind dwell on God’s love, think on His mercy to us. Let praise begin to form in our mind and let it roll out of our mouth, until even those around us are affected by it. Make up your mind to exalt God above the heavens.

None of us have been in the condition of Paul And Silas in the Jail at Philippi, their backs were beaten with many stripes, feet locked in the stocks, not knowing what awaited then on the morrow, yet in the midst of their pain and debasement their hearts were fixed, “They sang praises to God at midnight, and the prisoners heard them.” Someone else heard them and sent an earthquake and shook the jailhouse until all the prisoners were loosed.

You can imagine how out of place such heartfelt worship would have seemed to David’s men, and also to the other prisoners at Philippi? In some ways it must have seemed to them as though they were they were singing praises from the grave.

I’ve heard the sound of praise from hospital rooms, in rest homes, and countless other places, from those who were experiencing the joy of God’s lovingkindness. I will encourage you that David from a cave, Daniel from a lion’s den, Shadrack, Meshach, and Abednego from a fiery furnace, Paul and Silas from a jail-cell, and millions of other believers through the ages have responded to afflictions and suffering with joyful song.

Why? Is it because they are insensible to their circumstances? No, not at all. It’s because they are aware of a more profound truth: God’s steadfast love and faithfulness is great to the heavens. And they are assured that God will hide them in the shadow of His wings until this temporal trial passes by.

17. CONCLUSION:

LET US SING AND MAKE MELODY IN OUR HEARTS TO GOD:

Is it the dead of night for your soul? Do you feel as though your heart’s been beaten with many stripes? Have you been humiliated by the ungodly, accused falsely, or shackled to a dark dank prison wall? Let the wings of your heart take flight as you offer your prayer to the God of the heavens and sing praises to the one who is worthy. Experience the wonderful transformation that occurs when your heart has been lifted to your Father in humble supplication.

Even in the darkest cell, in the deepest pit, His Spirit can warm and transform your heart from cold wintry unbelief to radiant, exuberant faith that breaks out into worshipful song.

As we consider the great mercy and benevolence of our King who has extended the scepter of His grace to us and invited us to come boldly to His throne, our hearts respond with joy unspeakable and full of glory. This isn’t something we have to work up; our hearts are naturally bent to worship and praise. This is something that will flow spontaneously from a heart that’s being prepared for eternal life in heaven.

18. PRAYER:

We thank you, O Heavenly Father, for all the many blessing you give to us. We also thank thee for the trials and tests you allow us to go through, the cave experiences, because we realize you allow these for our benefit. Help us to understand that when they come upon us that you are in there with us shielding us from the enemy. And, Father, when we emerge from the cave, help us to use that experience to glorify thy name. Amen

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By James L. Thornton

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