Theme: Asking for Mercy
This week’s lessons teach us of the need to rest in the Lord during difficult trials, and to praise him for his faithful care.
Scripture: Psalm 57:1-11
The first of the psalm’s two parts begins with David asking for mercy, even as he takes refuge in God. Since the title of the psalm speaks of the cave in which David was hiding, it is natural to think that the cave suggested the idea of a “refuge.” But we should notice that David does not call the cave his refuge, though it was a refuge in a certain physical sense. Rather it is God whom he calls his refuge. Indeed, to use the image of the second half of verse 1, although David may have been hidden physically in the dark shadows of the vast cave of Adullam, he knows that it is actually under the shadow of the wings of God that he has found safety.
Here is the point to notice how prominent God is in this psalm and thus also in the mind of the young fugitive. In this psalm God is referred to twenty-one times either by name or pronoun, and there are other words and phrases like “refuge” and “shadow of your wings” that refer to him as well. “Shadow of your wings” is a particularly rich image, and Bible students have looked at it generally either in one of two ways.
The wings of the cherubim. The most frequent Old Testament use of the word “wings” is to refer to the wings of the golden cherubim which were upon the lid of the Ark of the Covenant in the Most Holy Place of the temple or tabernacle. They are mentioned first in Exodus 25:17-20:
Make an atonement cover of pure gold—two and a half cubits long and a cubit wide. And make two cherubim out of hammered gold at the ends of the cover. Make one cherub on one end and the second cherub on the other; make the cherubim of one piece with the cover, at the two ends. The cherubim are to have their wings spread upward, overshadowing the cover with them. The cherubim are to face each other, looking toward the cover.
This description occurs again in Exodus 37:9 and 1 Kings 6:27, and there are additional references to the cherubim’s “wings” in 1 Kings 8:6, 7; 1 Chronicles 28:18; 2 Chronicles 3:13 and 5:7, 8. Apparently, Ezekiel in his visions of heaven saw the heavenly beings of which the golden cherubim were but representations, and in that book the word “wings” occurs more than twenty times. There is a similar vision and reference in Revelation 4:8.
The tabernacle and its divinely appointed articles of furniture were so prominent in the religious outlook of the Jewish people that it is easy to suppose that David might have been thinking of the wings of the cherubim here, especially since the wings of the temple cherubim encompassed the space where God was understood to dwell symbolically. If this is what is intended, David would be saying that he is as secure as if he were himself within the Holy of Holies, next to or virtually one with God.
The difficulty, of course, is that Psalm 57:1 does not speak of the wings of the cherubim, however significant they may have been, but of “your wings,” which means the wings of God. It is much more natural therefore to think along the lines of Jesus’ use of the image in Matthew 23, where he said, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing” (v. 37; cf. Luke 13:34).
Study Questions:

What is the first way the expression “shadow of your wings” has been understood? Where else in Scripture is the idea found?
What is the difficulty with this view in light of what Psalm 57 actually says?

Reflection: How does the biblical understanding of mercy differ from how the word is typically used in the broader culture?

Study Questions
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