Psalm 56 - In God I Trust

For the director of music. To [the tune of] "A Dove on Distant Oaks."

Of David. A miktam. When the Philistines had seized him in Gath.

1Be merciful to me, O God,

for men hotly pursue me;

all day long they press their attack.

2My slanderers pursue me all day long;

many are attacking me in their pride.

3When I am afraid, I will trust in you.

4In God, whose word I praise,

in God I trust; I will not be afraid.

What can mortal man do to me?

5All day long they twist my words;

they are always plotting to harm me.

6They conspire, they lurk,

they watch my steps, eager to take my life.

7On no account let them escape;

in Your anger, O God, bring down the nations.

8Record my lament; list my tears on Your scrolló

are they not in Your record?

9Then my enemies will turn back

when I call for help.

By this I will know that God is for me.

10In God, whose word I praise,

in the Lord, whose word I praiseó

11In God I trust; I will not be afraid.

What can man do to me?

12I am under vows to You, O God;

I will present my thank offerings to You.

13For You have delivered me from death

and my feet from stumbling,

that I may walk before God in the light of life.

The occasion of this psalm was when "the Philistines had seized [David] in Gath." This most likely refers to the episode in I Sam. 21:10ff, when David pretended to be insane in order to escape the king of Gath. David found himself in Gath when he was fleeing from Saul, who was himself trying to kill David. So David found himself facing trial after trial. "When once Godís children are entered on their trials, they meet with new and unexpected difficulties, as David here flying from one enemy, falls into the hands of another" [Dickson, 334].

In this psalm, David picks up where the previous psalm left off. Speaking to the Lord, David ended the previous psalm with: "But as for me, I trust in You" (Ps. 55:23). As we will see, though facing trial after trial in this psalm, David sounds the refrain: "In God I trust."

David begins his call for help with a cry for mercy: "Be merciful to me, O God, for men hotly pursue me; all day long they press their attack. My slanderers pursue me all day long; many are attacking me in their pride" (vss. 1-2). Davidís cry for mercy was both a general and specific cry. In general, David sins, as we all sin, and so he was in need of Godís mercy. Specifically in this situation, David himself unwisely fled to the land of his enemies, and so, David himself was in good part to blame for the trouble he was facing, so he asked for mercy.

David prays to the Almighty God, for help facing mortal men, as he says: "Be merciful to me, O God, for men hotly pursue me." David highlights in his juxtaposition of the words "God" and "men" the great differences in the powers of the two. When one has God on his side, as David points out a little later, "What can mortal man do to me?" (vs. 4). "It is idle to indulge engrossing fears of puny mortals" [Plumer, 591]. Our Lord Jesus Christ Himself taught us not to fear mortal man. He said: "Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul" (Matt. 10:28). "We never act more unwisely than when we succumb to apprehensions arising from manís wisdom or power. Until our foes can cope with the Almighty, can Ďconfront omnipotenceí, or Ďcheck the stream of the divine benignityí, or Ďoppose the artillery of the skiesí, a righteous man, having a righteous cause, has no ground of alarm" [Plumer, 591]. "As we must not trust to an arm of flesh, when it is engaged for us, so we must not be afraid of an arm of flesh, when it is stretched out against us" [Henry, cited in Plumer, 591].

The realization of Godís Almighty power is a great catalyst for faith. David is confident God will come through for him: "When I am afraid, I will trust in You. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I will not be afraid" (vss. 3-4). This, as we have mentioned, is the refrain of the psalm, and in fact, the theme of the psalm: Trust in God to save us from evil, mortal men. For David, fear leads him to God: "When I am afraid, I will trust in You." Davidís confidence in God is based on his knowledge of Godís past deliverances, as documented in the Word of God. So David says, "In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust." In praising Godís word, there is probably a reference also to the prophecy given to David by Samuel that David would accede to the throne (see I Sam. 16). The Philistines could not kill David without nullifying Godís prophecy, and so, David knew that he would escape, for Godís word is true. Davidís trust in God ends up dissolving his fear: "In God I trust; I will not be afraid."

Davidís enemies worked hard at their evil: "All day long they twist my words; they are always plotting to harm me. They conspire, they lurk, they watch my steps, eager to t`ake my life" (vss. 5-6). For their hard-working evil, David wants God to bring them to account: "On no account let them escape; in Your anger, O God, bring down the nations" (vs. 7).

David expresses the pain he feels, hoping Godís empathy will cause Him to act on Davidís behalf: "Record my lament; list my tears on Your scrollóare they not in Your record?" David looks for a sign that his prayer is being answered: "Then my enemies will turn back when I call for help. By this I will know that God is for me" (vs. 9).

David then returns to his refrain of trust in God, with praise, in the midst of his fear: "In God, whose word I praise, in the Lord, whose word I praiseóIn God I trust; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?" (vss. 10-11). "As often as we are tempted, we must again and again profess and confirm our hope and confidence in Jehovah" [Plumer, on vs. 11].

This time, David uses two names of God when praising Him: "God" (or "Elohim" in Hebrew); and "the Lord" (or "Jehovah" in Hebrew). "The first word, Elohim, is a name belonging to God as a judge; the second word, Jehovah, is a name of mercy. I will praise God whether He deal with me in a way of justice or in a way of mercy, when He hath thunder in His voice, as well as when He hath honey under His tongue" [Charnock, cited in Spurgeon on vs. 10].

David finally sees his deliverance from trouble: "I am under vows to You, O God; I will present my thank offerings to You. For You have delivered me from death and my feet from stumbling, that I may walk before God in the light of life" (vss. 12-13). Whether David is seeing here his deliverance by faith before it happens, or whether these words were written in retrospect after his deliverance, we cannot tell here. Whatever the case, David plans to fulfill the obligation of vows he made to God when he was in trouble. In our desperation, we are inclined to make vows to God, saying, "Oh Lord, if you get me out of this, Iíll do such and suchÖ" We must be careful when we make such vows, for we are under a definite obligation to fulfill them. And indeed, we should cheerfully fulfill them, as we enjoy life without our affliction, "walking before God in the light of life."

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