by Jeffrey W. Hamilton
Text: Psalms 56
I. It is far too easy to read the stories in the Bible and not think about the feelings of the people involved.
A. Joshua was chosen to follow Moses as leader of Israel, but he must have been very nervous - Joshua 1:2,9
B. We think of the boldness of David
1. He killed a lion and a bear when he was just a boy - I Samuel 17:34-35
2. He volunteered to fight Goliath - I Samuel 17:36-37
3. He won amazing battles over the Philistines - I Samuel 18:5-7
C. Eventually, he became king over all of Israel
D. But we forget how difficult David’s life was reaching that point
II. Let’s look at some events in David’s life
A. King Saul had once again disobeyed the Lord and as a result, he was told he would lose his kingdom to another person - I Samuel 15:26-29
1. It was not all that long until a mere youth, David, kills Goliath
2. Saul sets him up as a commander and David is successful - I Samuel 18:5
3. But David was too successful - I Samuel 18:6-9
B. Saul tries to kill David
1. Twice directly - I Samuel 18:10-15
2. Then he tried to use the Philistines to kill David - I Samuel 18:17,25
3. But again David succeeds - I Samuel 18:27-29
1. Saul tried to kill David again - I Samuel 19:8-10
2. David’s wife (and Saul’s daughter), Michal, helps David escape - I Samuel 19:11-12
3. Saul chases David but God intervenes - I Samuel 19:19-24
4. Jonathan couldn’t believe his father would treat his best friend in such a manner, but learned the depths of his father’s hatred of David - I Samuel 20:30-34
D. Thus, David is on the run. Nowhere in Israel is safe for him, so he goes into Philistine territory
1. It is the place Saul was least likely to look for him
2. But David has been waging war on the Philistines, if they recognize him, he is a dead man
3. Worse, David is carrying the sword of their hero that David had killed - I Samuel 21:8-9
4. And David is captured by the Philistines - I Samuel 21:10-12
III. Psalm 56 is about David’s capture by the Philistines.
A. The comments at the start tells us that the Psalm was to be sung to the tune “The Silent Dove in Distant Lands” and meaningful allegory for David being imprisoned in an enemy country
B. Looking at the structure of the poem gives clues to how to understand it
1. The structure tells us where the emphasis was placed
Be gracious to me, O God,
for man has trampled upon me;
fighting all day long he oppresses me.
My foes have trampled upon me all day long,
for they are many who fight proudly against me.
When I am afraid,
I will put my trust in You.
In God, whose word I praise,
In God, I have put my trust;
I shall not be afraid.
What can man do to me?
All day long they distort my words;
All their thoughts are against me for evil.
they watch my steps,
As they have waited to take my life,
Because of wickedness, cast them forth,
In anger put down the peoples, O God!
You have taken account of my wanderings;
Put my tears in Your bottle,
Are they not in Your book?
Then my enemies will turn back
In the day when I call;
This I know, that God is for me
In God, whose word I praise,
In the Lord, whose word I praise,
In God I have put my trust
I shall not be afraid.
What can man do to me?
Your vows are binding upon me, O God;
I will render thank offerings to You.
For You have delivered my soul from death,
indeed my feet from stumbling,
so that I may walk before God
in the light of the living.
C. David begins with a request for an unmerited gift from God.
D. He then launches into the problems he faces
1. Notice the repeating words: trampled, fighting, all day long
2. The allusion is to a battle that seems to never end and the enemy has the better position
3. David is worn out and he is afraid he will be overwhelmed
4. “Proudly” literally says “on high” in Hebrew. Some suggest that this should be translated literally as a reference to the kings Saul and Achish who are hunting him down.
E. As we go into the chiasm, we see David working through his fear
1. His fear does exist and for good reason
2. But that is just the time David decides to put his trust in God
3. You can be afraid and still trust God at the same time
4. Because God’s word always comes true (Key point)
a. God had said that David would become king - I Samuel 16:12-13
b. It seems impossible at this point in David’s life, but God’s word is sure - Hebrews 6:17-19
F. As we leave the chiasm, we see the result of David’s understanding
1. He does trust God
2. He won’t be afraid
3. After all, what can men do to David?
G. But that doesn’t mean David’s fears are totally conquered.
1. Men are constantly twisting what David says, most likely putting David in a bad light.
2. Every thought seems to be to do harm to him
3. The battle is now more political, though it is no less tiring and fearful
4. But notice that the complaint has gotten shorter.
a. It isn’t that men have gotten better
b. David is growing stronger in his faith in God
H. David lists out three things that his enemies are doing to him:
1. They are attacking him
2. They are lurking, looking for opportunities to attack when David is not on guard
3. They are watching him, just waiting for him to make a mistake
4. These are tense times.
a. You feel you need to do everything perfectly because one slip will lead to attacks.
b. No wonder David feels worn-out and afraid
I. As his enemies wait for an opportunity to kill David
1. David asks God to reject them because of their wickedness
2. And God’s response is a righteous fury that will lead to the evil men’s death
3. What David’s enemies sought to do to David comes back on them
a. But notice that the vengeance is from God and not David - Romans 12:19
b. It is an act of justice and not simply because David didn’t like them
J. David then lists out three things that God is doing for David
1. God numbered David’s wanderings
a. Making an ordered list of where David has gone.
b. David was constantly on the move trying to escape Saul, yet God has kept constant track of him during these hard times.
2. Put My Tears into Your Bottle
a. There was an ancient practice of putting tears shed at a funeral into a small bottle as a memory of someone’s grief.
b. David is saying that God has kept track of all his sorrows and remembers them - II Kings 20:5
3. Are They Not in Thy Book
a. This is an allusion to the Book of Life - Revelation 20:12
b. David is saying that God has also kept a record of everything he has done - Malachi 3:16
4. David's point is that God cares.
a. He knows what is going on and He hasn't forgotten His children or lost track of what has happened to them - Psalms 8:4
b. God is near to His people - Psalms 145:18-20
c. David’s enemies were watching, but God remembers
K. Those enemies? They have all fled
1. Why? Because David has called to God for help, knowing that God is on his side.
2. Why? Because David loves God’s word.
a. Notice it is the key point, repeated twice for emphasis
b. How? God’s Word has the power to calm our fears
(1) Strengthened - Psalms 119:28
(2) Given life - Psalms 119:107
(3) Given hope - Psalms 119:114, 147
(4) Awesome - Psalms 119:161
3. And the result is a further strengthening of David’s faith
a. He trusts in God
b. He is not afraid
4. After all, what can men do to me? - Psalms 118:5-14
L. David’s response is to then remember God
1. The promises God has made to David are binding on David
a. They restrict his choices but not in a bad way
b. Just God’s promise of salvation and heaven bind us to do God’s will
2. David responds with free-will offerings of thanks to God
IV. David asked for a gift from God and he received it in abundance
A. He started out fear the men of this world, but the result was David learning to lean on God’s Word, which resulted in his salvation
1. Notice the use of the past tense. David is confident that God will deliver him
2. David accepts God’s Word and acts on it, even when the current situation doesn't match what he would expect
B. Fear could have caused David to stumble, but God held him up.
C. David can now walk on his own before God
D. He feared the darkness of death, but now he is in the light of the living.
V. God’s Word is our source of confidence
A. It helps us know that God is with us and for us - John 16:33
B. And if God is for us, who is against us? - Romans 8:31
C. This isn’t just about David - Hebrews 10:23
D. We have overcome the world - I John 5:4