Psalm 59:17 (ESV) … “O my Strength, I will sing praises to you, for you, O God, are my fortress, the God who shows me steadfast love.”
David was still with Saul in those days. But it was the time following David’s victory over Goliath, and the women of Israel had been singing, “Saul has slain his thousands, and David his tens of thousands” (1 Sam. 18:7). Saul was jealous. Twice he became so distraught that he threw his spear at David (1 Sam. 18:10–11; 19:9–10), but each time David escaped. After the second attempt on his life David thought it would be wise to leave Saul and his court and go to his own home, but that night the king sent soldiers to surround David’s house, watch it, and kill him in the morning. David was married to Saul’s daughter Michal at this time. She loved David and warned him, “If you don’t run for your life tonight, tomorrow you’ll be killed” (1 Sam. 19:11). Michal seems to have known her father well, just as her brother Jonathan, David’s friend, also did. So that night Michal let David down through a window of the house, presumably outside the city’s walls or into a back alley, and he escaped.
The same situation that caused David to cry out to God in verses 1–2 is still there. But here at the end he is not only testifying that God is his “Strength” and “fortress.” He is actually singing praises to God in the very midst of the danger. In fact, the singing begins even before this, in verse 16.
What has brought him to a point of vigorous jubilation? The answer is in the slight variation I noted earlier between verses 9 and 17. In verse 9 he is waiting on God, watching for his eventual deliverance. It is because he has been waiting and because God has provided encouragement, though not yet the expected deliverance, that David can sing. In the Hebrew the words watch and sing are identical except for one letter, which is a way of saying, I suppose, that keeping one’s eyes on God is only a stroke away from singing his praises and otherwise rejoicing in him.
Do you lack joy? Is it hard for you to sing God’s praises? If so, it is probably because you are not watching for God, are not looking to him. Remember Habakkuk, who was waiting on his watchtower to see what God would say to him. Nothing changed outwardly for him, either. He was as much in danger and as much perplexed at the end of his prophecy as at the beginning. But Habakkuk was changed as a result of waiting upon God, and for that reason his short book ends with what we can only regard as singing.
Though the fig tree does not bud
and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
and no cattle in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
I will be joyful in God my Savior.
The Sovereign Lord is my strength;
he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,
he enables me to go on the heights (Hab. 3:17–19).
Those are the words of one who has learned to wait on God and to trust him completely. They are words any Christian should be able to say.
Alexander Maclaren says, “Trust [God] as what he is, and trust him because of what he is, and see to it that your faith lays hold on the living God himself and on nothing besides.” If you do that, regardless of the circumstances that surround you, even if you are surrounded by “dogs” who seek your life, you will end up singing.