Weds 23 November - Psalm 56
1 Be merciful to me, my God,
for my enemies are in hot pursuit;
all day long they press their attack.
2 My adversaries pursue me all day long;
in their pride many are attacking me.
3 When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.
4 In God, whose word I praise—
in God I trust and am not afraid.
What can mere mortals do to me?
5 All day long they twist my words;
all their schemes are for my ruin.
6 They conspire, they lurk,
they watch my steps,
hoping to take my life.
7 Because of their wickedness do notc]">[c] let them escape;
in your anger, God, bring the nations down.
8 Record my misery;
list my tears on your scrolld]">[d]—
are they not in your record?
9 Then my enemies will turn back
when I call for help.
By this I will know that God is for me.
10 In God, whose word I praise,
in the Lord, whose word I praise—
11 in God I trust and am not afraid.
What can man do to me?
12 I am under vows to you, my God;
I will present my thank offerings to you.
13 For you have delivered me from death
and my feet from stumbling,
that I may walk before God
in the light of life.
- - -
Meditation on Psalm 56
I came across this Country and Western gospel song by Tracy Dartt many years ago and it resonated with me, as it as done since then and especially over these past few weeks.
And, as I read through Psalm 56 this song seems to speak into David’s situation. One commentator has described the psalm as ‘consoling trust in the face of unsettling fear. ‘
Life is easy, when you're up on the mountain
And you've got peace of mind, like you've never known
But when things change and you're down in the valley
Don't lose faith, for you're never alone
We talk of faith when we're up on the mountain
But talk comes so easy when life's at its best
But in the valley of trials and temptations
That's when faith is really put to the test
And the God on the mountain is still God in the valley
When things go wrong, He'll make them right
And the God of the good times is still God in the bad times
The God of the day is still God in the night
The God of the day, is still God in the night.
Reading through this psalm the first time, we are aware of the contrasts.
Firstly, there are the enemies. The psalmist describes them and their activities as:
- those that are in hot pursuit
- those who press their attack
- those who pursue me
- those who attack me
- those who twist my words
- those who conspire
- those who lurk
- those who watch me closely
- those who want to take my life
It’s little wonder that the psalmist cries out ‘when I am afraid…’
The context of this psalm takes us back to the time when David was being pursued by King Saul.
Read 1 Samuel 1:10-15.
David was on the run from Saul when he went to Gath and then on to Adullam where his father, mother and others joined him – according to 1 Samuel 23:13 he now had a group of about 600 men. But when he was in Gath he was on his own.
David Guzic, in his commentary says, ‘David was alone, desperate, afraid – and not thinking too clearly.’
Such experiences are real. Jesus was very clear when He spoke with His disciples. He said, ‘in this world you will have trouble.’ John 16:33
The other contrast in this psalm is ‘But God…’ and the psalmist is very clear as to where he turned – who he turned to – when life was tough.
- ‘my God…’
- I trust God
- God’s word is trustworthy
- God, in whom I trust
- I will thank God
- I can walk with God
Whatever he was going through – afraid of the Philistines and Saul – he came to God.
- GOD HELP ME Verses 1-2
He longs for the mercy of God to be poured on him as he faces relentless opposition.
This pressure is ‘all day long’.
Humanly speaking the odds are against the psalmist – ‘many are attacking me’.
Where else could he go? Who else who could he turn to?
James Coats wrote a song which was made famous by Elvis Presley.
Living below in this old sinful world,
hardly a comfort can afford;
striving alone to face temptation sore,
where could I go but to the Lord?
Where could I go, oh where could I go?
seeking a refuge for my soul?
Needing a friend to save me in the end,
Where could I go but to the Lord?
That’s exactly what the psalmist did.
That’s exactly what we can do because we have access to the very throne of God as we come to Him through the door that Jesus has opened for us.
Sometimes we may be going through a really tough time and we struggle to come to the Lord. The great thing about the family of God is that we can pray for others even when they can’t pray for themselves. Believe me, I know from personal experience.
There’s no need to panic because even though we struggle to talk to God, He is still there. He hasn’t done a runner.
- I AM AFRAID BUT I AM NOT AFRAID Verses 3-4
Being afraid is not a lack of faith – it’s being human when we are faced with those who would attack us.
Come back to David’s experiences when he killed the lion and the bear, followed by Goliath. He didn’t deny that there were times when he was afraid.
But in those moments of being afraid, he knew he could turn to God as one who is trustworthy and is always there.
Spurgeon says, ‘he feared but that fear did not fill the whole area of his mind, for he adds, ‘I will trust in you’. It is possible, then for fear and faith to occupy the mind at the same moment.’
He faces his fears but, as he trusts in God, he recognises the importance of the Word of God. He remembers how God’s promises down the centuries had been fulfilled, both in the lives of individuals as well as nations.
David only had a very small part of ‘God’s word’ and he was so thankful.
We have the complete Word of God – not to be reduced or added to – for which we give thanks. Each Sunday morning, following the reading, we respond to the phrase, ‘This is the word of the Lord’, by saying, ‘Thanks be to God.’
In effect we are saying what David is saying, ‘In God, whose word I praise.’
- O GOD, PLEASE STOP THIS Verses 5-7
The psalmist is getting desperate because the attacks are continuous. They are painful. There seems only one conclusion and that is the death of the psalmist.
The psalmist is accusing his enemies of a wide range of things…
- 24/7 attacks
- out to ruin me
- wherever I go, they follow
- they want my death
We think of those who are part of what has become known as ‘The persecuted church’. We continue to pray for our brothers and sisters who perhaps feel alone and desperate, who feel trapped. Many of them have lost their lives because of their faith.
It seems as if the psalmist is pleading with God to zap these enemies when he prays, ‘In your anger, God, bring the nations down.’
Perhaps we struggle with this attitude in prayer. This is not the first, nor will it be the last time, we hear the psalmist seemingly praying for revenge. Psalm 5:10 is a similar cry.
We need to remember that God is holy and righteous and His judgments are true and fair. In these psalms – known as imprecatory psalms – the psalmists knew that it was not for them to avenge but to leave that to God who said, “It is mine to avenge. I will repay.” Deuteronomy 32:35
- GOD IS ON MY SIDE Verses 8-9
- God knows my troubles
- God records what I am going through – one translation says, ‘put my tears in your wineskin.’ This was an ancient custom among Greeks and Romans of putting tears shed in grief in a wineskin and offering this on the tomb of the deceased. Not that David is thinking of following this practice but, rather, referring to it as illustration.
- God is for me. What a wonderful assurance for David and for us today. As Paul reminds the Romans in his letter, ‘if God is for us, who can be against us.’
- KEEP WALKING WITH GOD Verses 10-13
When all is said and done, what a change has come over David as he grapples with his ongoing situation.
The word of God – which, as David reminds us, is the word of Yahweh – is the bedrock of his faith.
His faith and trust is in God and, therefore, he is able to cope with what ‘man’ does to him.
Because of God’s faithfulness, David fulfils his vows to God as he gives Him thanks for what he has done and he prays for that ongoing walk with God.
‘in the light of life’ brings us forward to Jesus who, as John records in John 8:12, says “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but have the light of life.”
As Lidie H Edmonds says in her song:
My faith has found a resting place
Not in device nor creed
I trust the Ever-living One
His wounds for me shall plead
I need no other argument
I need no other plea
It is enough that Jesus died
And that He died for me(Roger Purdom)