In the previous article, we considered how David confronted some of the ‘caves’ of his life, either in physical or mental peril and anguish. We continue this theme, considering more of David’s experiences. As a man after God’s own heart, he can help illuminate the darkness we may experience from time to time.

3) Trust

In Psalm 57:1 David proclaims with confidence, “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”. David trusted God with all his heart, soul and mind. He entrusted his entire life to God’s hands and believed God was by his side even during the direst of circumstances. Though he wandered for years in “dens and caves of the earth”, wondering what God had in store for him, he still saw the Father as a source of direction, stability, and confidence: “He only is my rock and my salvation; He is my defence; I shall not be greatly moved. … Trust in him at all times; ye people … God is a refuge for us” (Psa 62:2,8).

‘Trust’ and ‘refuge’ are often translated from the same Hebrew word ‘chasah’, meaning to flee for protec­tion or to confide in (eg Psa 57:1). Both cave psalms emphasize David’s trust in God as a place of refuge to which he could flee for help. Though “there was no man that would know me: refuge failed me; and no man cared for my soul” (Psa 142:4), David found in God a reliable confidant and sympathetic source of relief: “Thou art my refuge and my portion in the land of the living” (Psa 142:5).

When we are experiencing troubles in our life, we are tempted to place trust in a multitude of superficial solutions. The temptation grows stronger when it ap­pears that those around us are indifferent to our distress and we cannot rely on their support. Prolonged trials can also test our resolve and erode our fortress of trust. After Joseph was thrown into a pit, transported to Egypt, placed in a prison and ‘forgotten’ for two years after saving the butler, his trust in God must have been severely challenged (Gen 40:23; 41:1).

We must take heart and remind ourselves of the immoveable ‘rock’ in which we can place complete trust. Joseph learned to trust that “the LORD was with him and that which he did, the LORD made to prosper” (Gen 39:23). Likewise, David could confidently proclaim from the cave, “My heart is fixed, O God, my heart is fixed [steadfast]” (Psa 57:7) and “they that know thy name will put their trust in thee: for thou, LORD, hast not forsaken them that seek thee” (Psa 9:10).

Trust, however, requires action. ‘The cave’ may be dark, and the pit may be deep, but at some point we must awake early in the morning (Psa 57:8), rise from our bed of sorrow and proactively seek our Father’s direction. When we do, we will find, like David, that God’s “mercy is great unto the heavens, and thy truth unto the clouds” (Psa 57:10).

At the beginning of Psalm 57, David alludes to a bird covering its young with its wings to protect it when a bird of prey is near: “in the shadow of thy wings will I make my refuge, until these calamities be overpast” (Psa 57:1). It reminds us of Ruth and Naomi, who, like their descendant, David, demonstrated their trust through action. They left the famine, loss and distress of Moab and fled to the God of Israel “under whose wings” they had also come to trust (Ruth 2:12).

4) Past Assurance

When consumed with current calamity, we can find it difficult to stop and reflect on similar experiences we survived in the past. Typically, we are absorbed with the troubles directly in front of us and cannot see beyond them.

David approached his troubles from a different perspective. He affirms: “I will cry unto God most high; unto God that performeth all things for me” (Psa 57:2). To clarify what David is saying, it is helpful to under­stand that the Hebrew word translated ‘performeth’ means to end or to complete. The ESV translates this phrase, “to God who fulfills his purpose for me”. In short, David is stating that it is the character of God to complete, perfect, and bring to a happy end all His plans. David could confidently declare this because he had already experienced the perfecting of God’s plan many times in the past.

Past assurances also enabled David to deal with his emotional turmoil while in the cave. He expresses a similar mindset in Psalm 143. Amidst circumstances that appear to mirror those of the cave in Psalm 142, he proclaims, “I remember the days of old; I meditate on all thy works; I muse on the work of thy hands” (Psa 143:5). Evidently, David found great solace in memory, meditation and musing on happier days, which are here highlighted as therapy for the depressed mind. Beyond our natural inclinations, however, David is not recalling the past as a means of bemoaning the present. Instead, he remembers the happy days of joy and thanksgiving.

Surely David drew strength by musing (ponder­ing) on the help God provided to Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Rahab, Joseph, Joshua or even Gideon, Barak and Samson – all of whom are commended for their faith in Hebrews 11. Doubtless, he was also inspired by meditating on events from his own life. There were numerous times when, with God’s help, he “stopped the mouths of li­ons” (Heb 11:33; cf 1 Sam 17:34–35) and “turned to flight the armies of the aliens” (Heb 11:34). Several miles from the cave of Adullam lay the Valley of Elah where David slew the giant Goliath with a small stone and turned the Philistines on their heels (1 Sam 17:2). “Out of weak­ness”, he was “made strong”: God guided him from being a lowly shepherd boy to a mighty warrior “who waxed valiant in fight” (Heb 11:34; cf 1 Sam 18:7).

While in the cave, David knew his soul was once again “among lions” and that he lay “even among them that are set on fire, even the sons of men, whose teeth are spears and arrows and their tongue a sharp sword” (Psa 57:4). But these circumstances were no different than the past and God would surely save him again “from the reproach of him that would swallow me up” (Psa 57:3).

Our personal trials are helped if we, likewise, ap­proach God with a confidence that is deeply rooted in our past experiences with the Father. If we lack those experiences, we can take courage from the myriad of examples in Scripture. God has not brought us through previous trials to let us “die in the wilderness” (Exod 14:11). Instead, God has helped us in the past and this is a solid reason to believe that He will help us emerge from the current ‘cave’.

5) Future Assurance

David declares that “the righteous shall compass me about; for thou shalt deal bountifully with me” (Psa 142:7). Again, he declares with certainty: “He shall send from heaven and save me from the reproach of him that would swallow me up … God shall send forth his mercy and his truth” (Psa 57:3).

Here are the cave psalms:

The Cave Psalms–57 and 142Psalm 116
142:1 “with my voice unto the LORD did I make my supplication”v1 “he hath heard my voice and my supplications”
142:6 “attend unto my cry” (Heb = ‘to prick up the ears’)v2 “he hath inclined his ear unto me”
57:3 “God shall send forth his mercy and his truth”v5 “Gracious is the LORD, and righteous; yea, our God is merciful”
142:6 “I am brought very low”v6 “I was brought low, and he helped me”
142:6 “For they are stronger than I”v6 “The LORD preserveth the simple”
142:7 “thou shalt deal bountifully with me”v7 “the LORD hath dealt bountifully with thee”
57:4,6 “my soul is among lions”, “my soul is bowed down”v8 “thou hast delivered my soul from death”
142:1,6 “I cried unto the LORD”, “attend unto my cry”v8 “thou has delivered ... mine eyes from tears”
57:6 “They have prepared a net for my steps”v8 “thou has delivered ... my feet from falling”
142:5 “thou art my refuge and my portion in the land of the living”v9 “I will walk before the LORD in the land of the living”
142:7 “bring my soul out of prison”v16 “thou hast loosed my bonds”

In each of these psalms, David is assured of God’s help, as evidenced in the words ‘shall’ and ‘shalt’. His present circumstances were daunting but the future was bursting with hope, if he placed his trust in God. Despite the net that been prepared for his steps, the pit that had been “digged” before him, the snare that had been hidden in his path and the sheer strength of his persecutors (Psa 57:6; Psa 142:3, 6), David was wholly confident that God would watch over his journey and at some future point the storms of destruction would pass by (Psa 57:1 ESV). “Thou knewest my path” (Psa 142:3) states David, fully recognizing that God could see his paths, with all their darkness and dangers.

It is interesting to compare Psalm 116 with those written from the cave. This Psalm was written during a far more joyous time in David’s life, when he was able to look back on his pilgrimage and count the numer­ous instances when God responded to his troubles (Psa 142:2).

While in the cave, David was assured God would help him in the future, for looking back, he could see that God had been with him all along. There was no need to doubt the future: “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me” (Psa 23:4 ESV).

These psalms, coupled together, demonstrate the reason why David could conclude Psalm 142 with such a strong expression of faith: “Thou shalt deal bountifully with me” (v7). Psalm 116 also explains why he could speak so confidently of God’s future help: “I believed, therefore have I spoken: I was greatly afflicted” (v10). It was the conviction that God was able to rescue him that filled his mind.

David’s confidence in the future was not limited to God’s ability to respond to his personal troubles. Psalms 110 and 72 are Messianic and serve to illustrate David’s belief that God would establish His kingdom in Zion and send a Saviour to rescue all the needy and rule all the earth in justice and peace. Speaking of Christ, he says, “The LORD shall send the rod of thy strength out of Zion: rule thou in the midst of thine enemies” (Psa 110:2).

How inspired and refreshed David must have been to know that, beyond God’s current help in ‘the cave’, He would ultimately save through the Lord Jesus Christ. It is incredibly difficult to see both the past and the future when we are overwhelmed with the calamity of ‘caves’. Yet, David encourages us to look forward, to place confidence in the future and to trust that God will ultimately “deal bountifully” with us also (Psa 142:7).