David was on the run. The king of Israel, Saul, was determined to see him dead. His best friend, Saul’s son, confirmed that Saul would not be deterred. The threat was so severe that David decided to flee into Philistine territory. The Philistines were no friends to Israel, and David had several successes against the Philistines. But perhaps Saul would not pursue him into enemy territory. Unfortunately, David was recognized not only as the noted warrior but also as the future king of Israel. “And the servants of Achish said to him, "Is this not David the king of the land? Did they not sing of him to one another in dances, saying: 'Saul has slain his thousands, And David his ten thousands'?" (I Samuel 21:11). David was terrified. “Now David took these words to heart, and was very much afraid of Achish the king of Gath” (I Samuel 21:12).
David feigned insanity to make Achish believe he was not a threat, but it is likely he spent some time under arrest. It was during this time that David wrote Psalms 56. The header to this psalm says, “To the Chief Musician. Set to "The Silent Dove in Distant Lands." A Michtam of David when the Philistines captured him in Gath.”
You can see the distress David is enduring at this point in his life as he pleads with God:
“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.
whose word I praise,
I have put my trust;
I shall not be afraid.
What can mere 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!” (Psalms 56:1-8).
The style of David’s song is called a chiastic poem. It is a series of nested ideas with the center point being a single point that causes a shift in the ideas leading to the center from ideas leading from the center. I would like to focus on the lines from Psalms 56:2b to 4.
David is surrounded by enemies on all sides. It seems he cannot escape, and he is afraid, as I think any of us would be in such a situation. But even in his terror, David returns to his anchor in the storms of life: “I will put my trust in You.” God is worthy of our trust, no matter what life throws at us, no matter how bleak events look. Our trust must be “In God.” There was something David was given that he has been praising God. God, through Samuel, told him that he would be the next king of Israel (I Samuel 16:12-13). God always keeps His word. God can do nothing less because God cannot lie (Titus 1:2). And David knew that.
God’s promise meant that David would survive these problems. David would just have to put his trust in God, which meant that he did not need to be afraid. After all, what can a mere mortal man do to stop the Eternal Creator of man and the universe beyond? Notice that David’s problems were reduced with this perspective. He was dealing with many who fought proudly against him, but with this perspective, they are but a single man because the might of God was on David’s side.
You and I are probably not living in enemy territory knowing we can’t go home because our government is seeking to kill us. Compared to David, most of our problems are relatively minor. But they are my problems, and they seem major to me. And I don’t have a promise of survival as David did ... or do I?
God has given us a magnificent promise, “for the faith of those chosen of God and the knowledge of the truth which is according to godliness, in the hope of eternal life, which God, who cannot lie, promised long ages ago” (Titus 1:1-2). Heaven is waiting for us. We are going to outlive this old world! It doesn’t matter what happens to us here because we are just passing through – life here is short in the scheme of things. We simply need to hang on to our trust in God, in whose word we can give praise.
“O the depth of riches
and of wisdom
and knowledge of God!
How unsearchable His judgments
And untraceable His ways!
For who has known the mind of the Lord?
Or who became his counselor?
Or who first gave to Him and it shall be recompensed to him?
For of Him
And through Him
And unto Him
Are all things.
To Him be the glory for ever. Amen.” (Romans 11:33-36)