PSALM 56: TRUST IN THE GOD OF THE BIBLE

PSALM 56: TRUST IN THE GOD OF THE BIBLE

(How we can have confidence in God as long as we are trusting in the God of the bible and no one else.)

A talk that discuses how just having faith in a God is not enough to save or help us. Rather our faith must be anchored in the one true God of heaven and earth who we can only discover in the bible)

THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide”.

INTRODUCTION

I am writing up my thoughts and insights to this Psalm in the matter of days after Islamic terrorism first visited my home city of Sydney. Certainly the mad man who killed two innocent hostages does not seem to have been officially connected to a terrorist organization. However in his mad mind he believed he was connected to the God of the Koran known to Muslim’s as Allah. We read almost every day in our newspapers about how Muslim terrorist kill innocent people in many countries of the world as a result of their faith and trust in their understanding of God. These Terrorist believe God is on their side so they have confidence that even if they die they will go to paradise and be rewarded there for their faith and martyrdom for their God on earth.

This raises the question in many people’s minds: Are these terrorist connected to God?

The sad answer is that they aggressively deny most of what we know the bible says about God and how he wants us to live the life of faith in him. In Psalm 56 David makes it clear who he trusted in and in this Psalm or song he composed a chorus that declares who that is. Verse 4 of the Psalm reads,

“In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I will not be afraid, what can mortal man do to me?”

David declares during the hopeless and dangerous capture in Gath, a major town of his enemy the Philistines that he was trusting in the God of the bible. In this study we will see that sincere faith is not enough as we can be sincerely wrong. We must have our faith connected to the true God of the bible or our faith is useless and in the case of the Muslim terrorist dangerous. Psalm 34 and 56 are described by the Hebrew headings as being written by David when he was in Gath. It seems likely that David wrote Psalm 34 after he escaped from the king of Gath called by the Hebrew heading of Psalm 34 as Abimelech.

Psalm 56 was written during David’s stay in Gath. The Hebrew heading also speaks of how the psalm should be sung to the tune of “A Dove on Distant Oaks” or better translated as “the silent dove of distant places”. Interestingly Psalm 55: 6 speaks of David feeling like he wanted to flee from trouble like a dove. In Gath we will see that David was trapped like a caged bird in a foreign or distant place. Maybe the experience of Gath not only inspired David to write two great Psalms or songs but a tune as well that reminded him of his desperate plight God saved him from like the release of a cage dove in a distant land.

My breakdown of this Psalm represents two factors, the first that this is a song with a chorus repeated twice and the fact that chorus gives us the central message of the Psalm, namely trusting in the God of the bible.

1. THE DESPERATE PLIGHT (1 – 3)

2. TRUST IN THE GOD OF THE BIBLE (4)

3. THE DESPERATE PLIGHT CONTINUES (5 – 9)

4. TRUST IN THE GOD OF THE BIBLE (10 – 11)

5. THE CELEBRATION OF DELIVERANCE (12 – 13)

1. THE DESPARATE PLIGHT (1 – 3)

The first three verses and verses 5 – 9 describe really well David’s desperate plight in Gath and how he would have been feeling there and how David responded to it. I would like to focus on three things in this first section:

1. The background to David’s disastrous stay in Gath

2. What his enemies did to him there

3. How David responded to this

1. The background to David’s disastrous stay in Gath

David is in the early days of his flight from Saul and had just passed through Nob where he was given food and a sword by the head priest of Nob named Ahimelech. The sword Ahimelech gave him was the sword of Goliath the giant soldier David had killed a few years earlier. David obviously felt so threatened by Saul he chose to get out of Israel and flee to his old enemies territory of the Philistines. To make things worse he chose Gath, the very town Goliath came from. So David rides into Gath carrying the old sword of his great enemy Goliath and he expected the King there named Achish also known as Abimelech to give him protection and shelter. It has been suggested that Abimelech was a traditional Philistine name or title for their kings like Cesar became the name of the kings of ancient Rome.

Gath turned out to be a nightmare choice for David as very quickly the people of Gath particularly the kings servants remind the king who David is and how dangerous he was to the people of Gath and the Philistine nation. Why did David choose Gath of all places to find protection and shelter in? The ridiculous nature of David’s choice is partly answered by how David is thinking the second time he flees to Gath in Philistine in 1 Samuel 27: 1,

“But David thought to himself, ‘One of these days I will be destroyed by the hand of Saul. The best thing I can do is escape to the land of the Philistines, then Saul will give up searching for me anywhere in Israel, and I will slip out of his hand”.

David was successful in fleeing to Gath the second time and exactly what he was hoping to achieve by doing this is recorded in 1 Samuel 27: 4,

“When Saul was told David had fled to Gath, he no longer searched for him”.

But why Gath the town Goliath came from?

The only possible answer to this is what David felt the king thought of David if he went there. The fact that after a difficult first visit to Gath is later followed by a successful one suggests David knew he had a chance of successfully escaping in Gath. Mathew Henry makes this interesting comment on why Gath was chosen by David when he writes,

“It should seem that as, though the Israelites loved him, yet the king of Israel had a personal enmity to him, which obliged him to leave his own country, so, though the Philistines hated him, yet the king of Gath had a personal kindness for him, valuing his merit, and perhaps the more for his killing Goliath of Gath”.

For whatever reason why David chose Gath in Philistine territory it certainly became clear that David got into trouble there on his first visit as 1 Samuel 21: 10 – 15 reveals. 2. What his enemies did to him there So with this context in mind we read David’s first description of the desperate plight he found himself in. The first verse says,

“Be merciful to me, O God, for men hotly pursue me; all day long they press their attack”.

David starts this song with a desperate plea to God for help because very quickly after arriving in Gath things went very wrong for him. David is calling on the key nature of the God of the bible he believed in namely God’s grace and mercy. David believes God is like this from three sources:

1. What the first five books of the bible says about God

2. What God had actually done for Israel in the past

3. What God had done for David already.

The idea that God is a God of mercy and love is unique to the Jewish/ Christian religion as most religions present God as a fearsome judge. Interestingly the God of the bible is a judge to be feared but also the bible presents him as a great God of love that provides a way for us to be saved from judgment. The great verse of the New Testament that sums up that God is a God of love is John 3: 16,

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life”

It is to this great God of love David calls out to for mercy and help. But now David spells out just how much of a desperate plight he is in Gath. He speaks of how,

“Men hotly pursue me”

1 Samuel 21: 11 tells us that quickly Achish’s servants reminded him of just how dangerous this David was,

“But the servants of Achish said to him, ‘Isn’t this David, the king of the land? Isn’t he the one they sing about in their dances; ‘Saul has slain his thousands, and David his tens of thousands”.

These words are indeed a hot pursuit for the death of David who they see as the great enemy of the Philistines. The song they refer to was widely song in Israel after David killed the great champion of Gath and led to many Philistines being killed in battle. Maybe many soldiers of Gath besides Goliath never returned home from that great Philistine defeat. The servants of the king along with probably many other people in Gath did not give up on David as the verse says,

“All day long they press their attack”

Leopold says this about these words,

“They are like curs (mongrel dogs) that keep snapping at a man”.

The next verse spells this out even more when it says,

“My slanderers pursue me all day long: many are attacking me in their pride”.

That they speak slander is simply illustrated in the fact that in 1 Samuel 21:11 they call David,

“The king of the land”

David was not yet King and I wonder why they would say such a thing?

Maybe they too had heard that the prophet Samuel had told Saul he would lose the crown and David had been chosen to take over. However Saul was certainly still the king and his rejection of David as a traitor made it clear that David was far from being, King of the land of Israel.

As I have spoken about right throughout my Psalm talks so far in books 1 and 2 this great opposition to David outside and within Israel was predicted by God in Psalm 2: 2,

“The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather together against his Anointed One”.

This opposition and the difficulty it produced for David forms and underlining theme of the Psalms of book 1 and 2. David was not yet the king of Israel in the context of Gath when David wrote Psalms 34 and 56 but he was anointed by Samuel already and maybe this is what the enemies in Gath knew as well. Jesus Christ for fills this prophecy of Psalm 2: 2 even more as the great “Anointed One” and he faced constant attacks from his enemies during his ministry on earth that ultimately led to his death on the cross.

This opposition was predicted for all who identify and seek to follow Christ in verses like John 15: 20,

“Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master. If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also”.

Christians today as they always have face great opposition from non believers in this world. Christians living in the Middle East face massive opposition from many of their Muslim neighbors and are killed and harassed for their identification with the Lord Jesus Christ.

Why do people oppose, “God’s Anointed One”?

The answer to this lies deep in the problem every person has, namely sin which Paul, particularly presents as rebellion to God. The last part of Psalm 56: 2 says,

“Many are attacking me in their pride”

The word “pride” in this verse gives us the clue here, that these men of Gath act like all people of all ages and races, they are full of themselves and not God. In fact they fit the picture of rebellion Paul sets down in passages like Romans 1: 18 – 23,

“The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse. For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles”.

3. How David responded to this

David’s response to the great and desperate plight he found himself in is expressed in verse 3,

“When I am afraid, I will trust in you”

In my talk on Psalm 34 written with the plight and escape from Gath looked at the theme of “Giving a great testimony” and David’s testimony is that God answered his desperate prayers while in Gath as Psalm 34: 4 – 6,

“I sought the Lord, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears. Those who look to him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame. This poor man called, and the Lord heard him; he saved him out of all his troubles”.

So when David says,

“When I am afraid, I will trust in you”

He is speaking about turning to God in prayer confident that God hears his prayers and will answer him. Paul taught teaches us this in Philippians 4: 6, to turn our anxieties and problems into prayers, he writes,

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God”.

So when we are afraid we should immediately turn those fears into prayers and Paul says that if we do we will have God’s amazing peace, Philippians 4: 7,

“And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus”.

2. TRUST IN THE GOD OF THE BIBLE (4)

David then breaks into an amazing Chorus which he repeats again in verses 10 and 11. As a poet and a writer of lyrics of songs I know that a chorus or refrain’s seeks to present the central idea of my poem or song. It is a poetic summarily of what I am seeking to say through this poem or song. So David presents his central idea of his song in verse 4, with theses words,

“In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I will not be afraid. What can mortal man do to me”.

In verse 3 David said he trusted in God when he was afraid in the heat of the opposition in Gath and he now makes it clear who he believed this actually is. He is the God who has made himself known by his word.

“In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I will not be afraid”,

David lived at a time when God’s word was less than a third of what we now have. However even in David’s day much about God that we can appreciate too was known. David had the full “Torah” or “Law” recorded in the first five books of the bible compiled under the leadership of Moses. He had the book of Joshua who led Israel after Moses and the story of the Judges the period of Israel’s history just before his time. He had the inspired words of the great prophet Samuel which were probably already started to be written down and he had revelations from God that he himself had been given by the Holy Spirit. These words were written about David and spoken by David at the end of his life in 2 Samuel 23: 1 – 3,

“These are the last words of David: “The inspired utterance of David son of Jesse, the utterance of the man exalted by the Most High, the man anointed by the God of Jacob, Israel’s singer of songs: “The Spirit of the Lord spoke through me; his word was on my tongue. The God of Israel spoke, the Rock of Israel said to me: ‘When one rules over people in righteousness, when he rules in the fear of God, he is like the light of the morning at sunrise on a cloudless morning, like the brightness after rain that brings the grass from the earth ”.

David makes it clear in his chorus of Psalm 56 who he trusted in, who he prayed to and who eventually saved him from Gath. Of course people like the extreme, radical Muslin terrorist’s claim they too are inspired by God in their Holy Scriptures found in the Koran. However those same scriptures deny the truth about Jesus Christ as being the divine Son of God. The Jesus of the Koran is nothing like the one clearly presented in the New Testament Gospels.

Paul had to face the presentation of another or different Jesus Christ in his day and writes of this in 2 Corinthians 11: 3 – 4,

“But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ. For if someone comes to you and preaches a Jesus other than the Jesus we preached, or if you receive a different spirit from the Spirit you received, or a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it easily enough”.

The word of God or bible as we know it was completed by the end of the first century. The early church had to determine which books or writings were the actual inspired word of God and many strict conditions were laid down to determine this. The main rule was that the Gospel message and teachings of Jesus, God’s word become flesh (John 1: 1) was the final word of God to this world. The Gospels that contain Jesus life story and teachings had to be written by eyewitnesses of Jesus or someone like Luke who was in direct contact with eyewitnesses. Many so called Gospels written in the second century were rejected because of this strict rule. The writings of Apostles like, John, James, Peter and Paul are not additional teachings of Jesus but are Jesus teaching particularly concerning the Gospel message explained and applied to church matters and Christian life.

The last accepted book of the New Testament is the book called, “Revelation”, written by John towards the end of his life on the island or Patmos. John writes these fitting words at the end of his book in Revelation 22: 18 – 21,

“I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to that person the plagues described in this book. And if anyone takes words away from this book of prophecy, God will take away from that person any share in the tree of life and in the Holy City, which are described in this book. He who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus. The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God’s people. Amen”.

These words, written we believe in the early AD. 90’s by the last living disciple of Christ, John, form a fitting end to the bible. The bible then is God’s inspired words to mankind before Christ returns to earth to bring history to a close, conduct final judgment for everyone and bring about the joys of heaven forever for those who have put their trust or faith in Christ and what he did for us on the cross of Calvary.

Many have sought throughout history since the end of the Apostle age and the writing of the New Testament to add to the words of the bible and all of these so called inspired works have one way or another denied the divinity of Christ and presented a different Gospel or message of Salvation to the one Christ himself both gave and made for us. These extra books of the bible fits the warning of Paul in Galatians 1: 8,

“But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a Gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned”.

David trusted in the God of the Bible as he knew him, a God of love and mercy who had saved him and his people in the past and would now save him from the terrible plight he found himself in Gath. He also says in his chorus,

“I will not be afraid”

And he says why he will not be afraid in the last part of his chorus,

“What can mortal man do to me.”

So trust in God and his word drives fears away as Paul says in Philippians 4: 6 we are to turn our anxieties or fears into prayers and this is what David did according to Psalm 34: 4 – 6,

“I sought the Lord, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears. Those who look to him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame. This poor man called, and the Lord heard him; he saved him out of all his troubles”.

These words were written by David when he was seemingly trapped in Gath. David speaks of not being afraid of what mortal man can do to you similar to what Jesus said in Matthew 10: 28,

“Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell”.

David in a sense is putting his life in the hands of God and is saying that even if he dies in Gath to the hands of the Philistines he is still in the safe hands of God. These words of David are quoted in another Psalm, Psalm 118: 6 and the next verse in that Psalm says,

“The Lord is with me; he is my helper. I will look in triumph on my enemies.”

David was not killed by the Philistines in Gath as we will see in the last two verses of this Psalm but even as he faced the prospect of death in Gath he was confident that the God of the bible that he trusted in would save him from the hands of mortal men. Christians today face death daily at the hands of those who oppose the true nature and person of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ and they too put their lives in the hands of the God of the bible. I have read of amazing stories of persecuted Christians being rescued from the hands of their enemies but even if they have been killed at the hands of their enemies they are not defeated because they have gone to be with God in heaven.

3. THE DESPERATE PLIGHT CONTINUES (5 – 9)

Even though David put his life in the hands of God while in Gath his ordeal there did not end quickly as the next five verses present. I will look at three issues raised by David’s plight:

1. The war of words (vs. 5 and 6)

2. The prayer for Judgement (vs. 7 and 9)

3. The record of tears (vs. 8)

1. The war of words (vs. 5 and 6)

He speaks again of his desperate plight in Gath in verse 5,

“All day long they twist my words”

David often spoke about the war of words he often faced like we find in Psalm 12 and words like we find in verses 3 and 4 of that Psalm,

“May the Lord cut off flattering lips and every boastful tongue, that says, ‘We will triumph with our tongues; we own our lips – who is our master?”

Here in Gath his words are twisted or turned around on him so that no matter what he says he is being presented as a dangerous enemy who needs to be done away with. David speaks of the words of their plotting to kill him in the second part of the verse,

“They are always plotting to harm me”

We read in 1 Samuel 21: 12 of how David reacted to this barrage of words aimed at him when we read,

“David took these words to heart and was very much afraid of Achish king of Gath”.

We often face the war of words aimed at our faith in Christ and this too is no different than the conflict caused by the war of words Jesus faced in his life and ministry. As we read in Luke 11: 53 – 54,

“When Jesus went outside, the Pharisees and the teachers of the law began to oppose him fiercely and to besiege him with questions, waiting to catch him in something he might say”.

We need to trust in Jesus when this happens to us and his promise of giving us the Holy Spirit who will help us to say what he wants us to say, John 14: 25 – 27,

“All this I have spoken while still with you. But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid”.

These words of Jesus were particularly important to the disciples spoken by Jesus on the night before he died on the cross. Soon they would face the war of words and require the power of the Holy Spirit to inspire them and remind them of what Jesus said and taught. Many of them would go on to write down what Jesus did and said in the New Testament and this to would be helped by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. For us these words are true as well and when we face the war of words in this life we too can rely on the Holy Spirit to remind us of what those Disciples of Christ wrote down as the words of our Lord and Saviour.

David faced vicious and venomous verbal attacks in Gath illustrated yet again by his words in verse 6,

“They conspire, they lurk, they watch my steps, eager to take my life”

I will let Spurgeon explain the plight David was facing in Gath expressed in these words,

“No mixture of good will tone down their malice. Whether they viewed him as a king, a psalmist, a man, a father, a warrior, a sufferer, it was all the same, they saw through coloured glass, and could not think a generous thought towards him. Even those actions of his which were an undoubted blessing to the commonwealth, they endeavoured to undervalue. Oh, foul spring, from which never a drop of pure water can come.”

David was really under both the microscope and blow torch in Gath as his enemies there lurked around watching David’s every step seeking to find fault and bring him down. I remember an experience like this when I was a young Christian when I moved into a new office replacing an active and outspoken Christian and when I indicated I too was a Christian I coped the microscope / blowtorch treatment my fellow non believing office workers. I know I grew stronger in my faith as a result of that difficult time proving the truth of the words of Peter in 1 Peter 1: 6 – 7,

“In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed”.

2. The prayer for Judgement (vs. 7 and 9)

David in the midst of his desperate plight of Gath launches in another imprecation, which is a prayer or request to God to call down God’s judgment on his enemies. We saw this in the last Psalm talk on Psalm 55 and many of David’s Psalms so far in books 1 and 2 of the Psalms. Again this type of prayer is not recommended by our Lord as he taught that we should love our enemies and pray for them, Matthew 5: 44. This is a major difference between the Muslim and Christian faiths although, sadly in the days of the crusades many centuries ago Christians engaged in hate and vengeance like many Muslims do today, in the name of their God against their enemies.

So when I read one of David’s imprecation prayers I am reminded of the truth that one day God will judge this world and then the opportunity for non believers to turn in faith to the Lord Jesus Christ will be over. David’s prayer of imprecation in verse 7 reads,

“On no account let them escape; in your anger, O God, bring down the nations”.

David did not seek however while in Gath to actually strike out against his enemies but in the future his prayer would be answered and he and his troops would be involved in this when the Philistines sought to attack David and his people soon after he became King of Israel with disastrous results , 2 Samuel 5: 17 – 25,

“When the Philistines heard that David had been anointed king over Israel, they went up in full force to search for him, but David heard about it and went down to the stronghold. Now the Philistines had come and spread out in the Valley of Rephaim; so David inquired of the Lord, “Shall I go and attack the Philistines? Will you deliver them into my hands?” The Lord answered him, “Go, for I will surely deliver the Philistines into your hands.” So David went to Baal Perazim, and there he defeated them. He said, “As waters break out, the Lord has broken out against my enemies before me.” So that place was called Baal Perazim The Philistines abandoned their idols there, and David and his men carried them off. Once more the Philistines came up and spread out in the Valley of Rephaim; so David inquired of the Lord, and he answered, “Do not go straight up, but circle around behind them and attack them in front of the poplar trees. As soon as you hear the sound of marching in the tops of the poplar trees, move quickly, because that will mean the Lord has gone out in front of you to strike the Philistine army.” So David did as the Lord commanded him, and he struck down the Philistines all the way from Gibeon to Gezer”.

Many of David’s tormentors would have been caught up in this disastrous Philistine campaign. Again in verse 9 David prays,

“Then my enemies will turn back when I call for help. By this I will know that God is for me”.

Leopold writes, with an eye towards what we just read in 2 Samuel 5, these words,

“Verse 9 quite confidently asserts the final outcome: “Then shall my enemies retreat when I call; this I know, for God is for me”. One must have a thoroughly good conscience to be able to speak thus”.

Finally as followers of the Lord Jesus Christ we must leave the judgment of our enemies to God and by showing love to them now we might have such a powerful impact on them that they will turn themselves to the Lord as Peter hints at in 1 Peter 2: 12,

“Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us”.

3. The record of tears (vs. 8)

We come now to a fascinating yet controversial verse as commentators are divided on how this verse should be translated. Two translations of this verse will illustrate the two ways of translating it, first the NIV translation,

“Record my lament; list my tears in your scroll – are they not in your record”.

Then the New American Standard version,

“You have taken account of my wanderings; Put my tears in your bottle. Are they not in your book?”

The bottle in ancient Israel is explained well by these words of Gordon Churchyard,

“The bottle would be of animal skin”.

It seems that David used literally the Hebrew word here for this animal skin bottle and Churchyard goes on to explain what this verse means then with this in mind,

“Every time David cried, he asked God to put his tears into a bottle. He asked God to count them all, and write them down in his book. David wants God to see and remember all the bad things that happen to him”.

This verse also shows the pain and difficulty David experienced in his desperate plight in Gath. He wept many tears and he wants God to take careful note of these and of course we know from the teaching of Christ that God knows us in finite detail as he says in Matthew 10: 30,

“But the very hairs of your head are all numbered”.

Then Jesus gives us a promise in the next verse,

“So do not fear; you are more valuable than many sparrows”.

Jesus had spoken before in verse 30 of God’s knowledge and care of sparrows and now declares how much more God values us. David wanted God to record his tears in his bottle or book and we know from John’s teaching in the book of Revelation that God has a book or record of every person and on the final day all these books will be opened in the final judgement, Revelation 20: 11 – 12,

“Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat upon it, from whose presence earth and heaven fled away, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds”.

This is a scary concept but for those who put their trust or faith in Christ there is nothing to fear, not because they do not have a book that speaks volumes of their virtues but rather their book is wiped clean by the blood of the Lamb, the death of Jesus Christ on the cross as John writes in Revelation 7: 13 – 17,

“Then one of the elders answered, saying to me, “These who are clothed in the white robes, who are they, and where have they come from?” said to him, “My lord, you know.” And he said to me, “These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. For this reason, they are before the throne of God; and they serve Him day and night in His temple; and He who sits on the throne will spread His tabernacle over them. They will hunger no longer, nor thirst anymore; nor will the sun beat down on them, nor any heat; for the Lamb in the centre of the throne will be their shepherd, and will guide them to springs of the water of life; and God will wipe every tear from their eyes.”

4. TRUST IN THE GOD OF THE BIBLE (10 – 11)

David then slips in his chorus again in verses 10 and 11 with some minor changes,

“In God, whose word I praise, in the Lord, whose word I praise – In God I Trust; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?”

David speaks again about who he is trusting in, in this very desperate and difficult place he was in on his first visit to the Philistine city of Gath. He trusted in God, not just any God but the God of the word or as we call it the bible. It is not that the Philistines did not have faith or belief in God or God’s. In fact their chief God was called Dagon who was a God of fertility and crops. Dagon was not David’s God but rather he names his God in first part of verse 10, Eliom that could be translated,

“the most high God”.

David changes the name of his God in the second time he speaks of who he is trusting in to the covenant name for God

Yahweh”.

This is a name rich in meaning and significants and one which comes to David out of the word of God, starting with Moses encounter with God at the burning bush in book of Exodus. I like John Pipers 10 meanings for “Yahweh” and quote them here,

“1. He never had a beginning. Every child asks, “Who made God?” And every wise parent says, “Nobody made God. God simply is. And always was. No beginning.”

2. God will never end. If he did not come into being he cannot go out of being, because he is being.

3. God is absolute reality. There is no reality before him. There is no reality outside of him unless he wills it and makes it. He is all that was eternally. No space, no universe, no emptiness. Only God.

4. God is utterly independent. He depends on nothing to bring him into being or support him or counsel him or make him what he is.

5. Everything that is not God depends totally on God. The entire universe is utterly secondary. It came into being by God and stays in being moment by moment on God’s decision to keep it in being.

6. All the universe is by comparison to God as nothing. Contingent, dependent reality is to absolute, independent reality as a shadow to substance. All that we are amazed by in the world and in the galaxies, is, compared to God, as nothing.

7. God is constant. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. He cannot be improved. He is not becoming anything. He is who he is.

8. God is the absolute standard of truth and goodness and beauty. There is no law-book to which he looks to know what is right. No almanac to establish facts. No guild to determine what is excellent or beautiful. He himself is the standard of what is right, what is true, what is beautiful.

9. God does whatever he pleases and it is always right and always beautiful and always in accord with truth. All reality that is outside of him he created and designed and governs as the absolute reality. So he is utterly free from any constraints that don’t originate from the counsel of his own will.

10. God is the most important and most valuable reality and person in the universe. He is more worthy of interest and attention and admiration and enjoyment than all other realities, including the entire universe”.

This rich name for God then shows us that the object of David’s faith was big and it has been said that to have a big faith in God you need to have a big view of God. David had this and he again, as a result of this faith in such a big God says,

“I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?”

5. THE CELEBRATION OF DELIVERANCE (12 – 13)

We come then to David’s conclusion to his Psalm, which we know as Psalm 56. Are these words a prediction of deliverance or a statement of deliverance from his desperate plight in Gath? I favour the theory that Psalm 56 was written while David was in Gath while Psalm 34 was written after he got out of Gath safe and sound. Psalm 34 is the more complex acrostic Psalm which would have taken more time to write while Psalm 56 seems to be a simple outpouring of emotion and prayer in the fiery belly of Gath. These two final verses can be broken into two parts:

1. The promise of celebration when delivered (vs. 12)

2. The declaration of the deliverance to come (vs. 13)

1. The promise of celebration when delivered (vs. 12)

A number of times David speaks of celebrating with sacrifice his deliverance by God before that deliverance has happened. Another example of this is in Psalm 54: 6 and 7,

“I will sacrifice a freewill offering to you; I will praise your name, O Lord, for it is good. For he has delivered me from all my troubles, and my eyes have looked in triumph on my foes”.

David is both true to his word and true to the word of God. He makes a vow and he keeps it and he worships God in the way God’s word lays down. The Westminster shorter Catechism written in 1646 and 1647 sets down a teaching guideline to the more involved Westminster Confession. The first question of the catechism asks:

What is the chief end of man?

The answer is simple yet profound:

“Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever”.

So we were made to worship God and enjoy him forever and when we come to Christ we are now able to do this. We therefore all must vow to worship God or glorify God in everything we do because God has done so much for us in Christ. As Paul told the Corinthians to do in 1 Corinthians 10: 31,

“So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God”.

2. The declaration of the deliverance to come (vs. 13)

David has vowed to thank God for his deliverance from his terrible plight in Gath with what was the acceptable worship of his time, a thank offering. In the final verse he actually verbally expresses his thanks for that deliverance to come with these words:

“For you have delivered me from death and my feet from stumbling”

David looks forward with his eye of faith to his deliverance from Gath. A deliverance he attributed to God answering his prayer in Psalm 34: 4- 6. I would like to quote again those amazing words in Psalm 34 as they act as a perfect commentary to the last verse of this Psalm,

“ I sought the Lord, and he answered me he delivered me from my fears. Those who look to him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame. This poor man called, and the Lord heard him; he saved him out of all his troubles”.

As we saw in my Psalm 34 talk this was David’s great testimony of how God saved or delivered him from the dark and dangerous situation he found himself in Gath. We too have a powerful testimony for in a greater way we have been delivered from death as Paul points out in Romans 4: 25.

“He (Christ) was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification”.

Paul points out here how Jesus was delivered over to death so that our sins might be forgiven and we can be made right with God, justification or treated by God as just as if we had never sinned. All of us before we came to Christ were people who were continually stumbling as David puts it in the last verse of this Psalm. However this stumbling towards eternal damnation was stopped by the deliverance of God through the Jesus Christ our Lord. As Paul writes in his introduction in Galatians 1: 3 and 4,

“Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, 4 who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father”.

CONCLUSION

So we have seen throughout this Psalm the faith of David when he faced desperate situations like his plight in Gath. Humanly speaking he should have been killed by the Philistines in Gath as this was the very place his previously invincible opponent, Goliath came from. Also David would have been known by the people of Gath as a man who had led the army of Israel in battle against the Philistines. However from this Psalm and Psalm 34 we know that David prayed to the God of the bible and he heard his prayer and delivered him out of the deadly trap of Gath. This Psalm should help us realise three great truths about living the Christian life:

1. Trouble and difficulty can and does come to those who trust in the God of the bible.

2. God hears the prayers of those who trust in his word and delivers them from the problems and difficulties they face in this life.

3. Our right response should be to seek to glorify the God of the bible who has saved us from our sins through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and has given us new life which extends into eternity.

I close with a poem and a prayer.

TRUSTING IN THE WORD OF GOD (Based on Psalm 56)

Be merciful to me O God Help me to face life’s trial

My enemies seek to bring me down with words that are so vile.

You’re with me lord through thick and thin you give me power to win.

And so I turn to you O Lord for forgiveness of my sin.

Chorus:

I trust in your word O Lord For there I find your love

You sent your son to die for us So we can rise above.

I trust in your word O Lord For there I find your power

You answer all the prayers I pray

You’re with me every hour.

 

I face the war of words each day they aim to bring God down

Godless people seek to find fault that makes me sometimes frown.

Even as sinners you love us O Help us Lord to trust.

For your word declares your love and faith is now a must.

Chorus:

Remember all my tears O Lord place them in the book of life

Turn the tide of this evil world and free your people’s strife.

I call for help O Lord above O save me with your love.

Help me in my trials Lord to trust in your great love.

Chorus:

I seek to worship you O Lord I promise to love you

I praise your saving word to us you died to make us new.

You rose to give new life to all who turn to you and call.

You raise us up in victory from the depths of sins great fall.

Chorus:

I trust in your word O Lord For there I find your love

You sent your son to die for us so we can rise above.

I trust in your word O Lord for there I find your power

You answer all the prayers I pray

You’re with me every day.

By: Jim Wenman

PRAYER:

Father in heaven I thank you for your word that you have given to us so that we can know you. Thank you for sending Jesus to our world who is the word become flesh and thank you that he died for our sin on the cross. I ask you Lord to help me in the day-to-day battles with this world and I pray that as you promised through your Son you will help me to remember your word as I speak with others about you. In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

PSALM 55 TALK: CAST YOU CARES ON THE LORD

PSALM 55 TALK: CAST YOUR CARES ON THE LORD

(Knowing that God is with us in both good and bad times to help and bless us

A talk that discuses what all Christian believers have in this life that non believers do not have without faith in God

THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973,

1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved

worldwide”

INTRODUCTION

I recently was reminded of the story behind the well known Hymn, “Abide with me”.

Abide with me was written by Henry Francis Lyte in 1847 at the end of his life.

Lyte was the Anglican minister of a little fishing village in Devonshire England and for most of his life struggled with ill health. Only a few weeks before he died of Tuberculosis at the age of 54 he preached his final sermon at the church he had worked at for 23 years. That afternoon after taking a short walk along a lonely beach near his home he went into his study and within a couple of hours wrote the first draft of his famous hymn, Abide with me.

Lyte then went on a holiday in France to try and recover from his debilitating illness and within three weeks there he passed away. Lyte’s inspired hymn now serves as a comfort to all Christians especially those who feel weak and frail because of illness. The first verse reads:

Abide with me; fast falls the eventide;

The darkness deepens; Lord with me abide.

When other helper’s fail and comforts flee,

Help of the helpless, O abide with me.

In Psalm 55, David speaks again of the great conflict and difficulty he faced and how he was able to cast all his cares on God to find the help and blessing that only God can give us. It seems that this Psalm fits well in the time of the rebellion of his son Absalom and David’s trusted companion, friend and adviser, Ahithophel who turned on David and supported Absalom rebellion which is spoken about in verses 13 – 14 and verses 20 – 21.

I have pointed out in many of my Psalm talks of the Psalms in the first and second book of Psalms that the historical context that inspired them was predicted by God in Psalm 2: 2.

“The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather against the Lord and against his anointed one”.

 This is a prediction that presents the idea that because David was appointed by God to be his special king or leader all those who oppose God will oppose him.

This is true of The Lord Jesus Christ, God’s great-appointed King of the universe and because people oppose Jesus they will oppose his faithful followers as well.

This opposition to God and David caused lots of conflict and difficulty for David that came from both outside Israel and within Israel as well. You then might ask:

If God promises conflict and difficulty for his followers what is the value in being a follower?

David presented over and over again the answer to this important question, which is that only a true believer or follower can turn to God for help and blessing in their lives. David teaches that despite the problems and difficulties he faced he had a mighty loving God to turn to who never let him down and helped him through every problem and difficulty he faced.

The New Testament presents the same message and more to us, if we have faith or trust in God. Paul, who faced far more difficulty and problems in his life then we will ever face says to the Philippians 4: 6 and 7,

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus”.

 The structure or non- structure that some commentators speak of in Psalm 55 seems to be a problem. However looking closely at the first 9 verses seems to suggest to me that this was written in Jerusalem when David was being bombarded by the treacherous words and deeds of his son Absalom and his followers before the actual rebellion. Then from verse 9 onwards David seems to be speaking as though he is not in Jerusalem and is now caught up in the actual rebellion of Absalom. Maybe then verses 9 – 23 were written when David was out in the wilderness on the run from Absalom and his forces when he first heard the news of Ahithophel’s treachery (2 Samuel 15: 32 – 36) turning on David and supporting Absalom. Ahithophel had been a close friend and adviser of David and his painful treachery is a major part on the second half of this Psalm.

Finally verses 22 and 23 seem to be a good conclusion to what David learnt from his experience of Absalom rebellion. So maybe these last two verses of the Psalm were a reflection David wrote after he had written verses 9 – 21.

This breakdown of the Psalm and the theme of “casting our cares on the Lord”, form the basis of my suggested structure of this Psalm:

       1. FACING THE DIFFICULTIES OF LIFE (1- 8)

       2. DEALING WITH THE TREACHERY OF THE DEVIL AND HIS FOLLOWERS   (9 – 2)

       3. CASTING OUR CARES ON GOD (22 – 23)

1.  FACING THE DIFFICULTIES OF LIFE (1- 8)

Chapters 15 – 18 of the second book of Samuel form the backdrop of this Psalm. In 2 Samuel 15: 1 – 12 we read of the growing conspiracy Absalom ran against his father in Israel and its capital Jerusalem and the first 8 verses of this Psalm capture well what David would have been thinking and feeling as the Absalom conspiracy developed and affected him.

 I have broken this section down into two parts

         1. (1 – 5) The strain and stress of life’s difficulties

         2. (6 – 8) Learning to trust God and not run away

          1. (1 – 5) The strain and stress of life’s difficulties

 We read of a painful and vicious campaign of treachery by David’s son Absalom in 2 Samuel 15: 1 – 12 and David must have known what his son was doing and saying against him. David, by his silence seems powerless to stop his son’s sinful ways. The text tells us in verse 7 that Absalom conducted this evil and destructive campaign of disestablishing his father’s rule for four years. Verses 1 – 8 graphically capture how David would have been thinking and feeling during this time and also when he was on the run from his son who sought to destroy him.

He starts with a desperate plea to God for help,

“Listen to my prayer, O God, do not ignore my plea; hear me and answer me,

(Verses 1 and 2a)

 Note first of all David does not take God’s listening and answering his prayers for granted. This is something David has shown us before, for instance, Psalm 28: 1 David says,

“To you I call, O Lord my Rock; do not turn a deaf ear to me. For if you remain silent, I will be like those who have gone down to the pit”.

 Why David prays like this and in fact why he is so inactive in the face of his son’s rebellion could be because he realised that this rebellion of Absalom was a result of his sins years before when he committed adultery and murder in the Bathsheba affair. This rebellion cause by his terrible sins is predicted by the prophet Nathan in 2 Samuel 12: 11a,

“This is what the Lord says: ‘Out of your own household I am going to bring calamity upon you”.

 However David knew that God had not deserted him because of his many sins but rather because he had repented of his sins and thrown himself on the mercy of God, God had forgiven him. Therefore David would face a terrible fall out owing to his sins but he could still pray confidently to God for help and assistance. David reveals this confidence in God’s help in passages like Psalm 27: 1 – 2,

“The Lord is my light and my salvation – whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life – of whom shall I be afraid? When evil men advance against me to devour my flesh, when my enemies and my foes attack me, they will stumble and fall”.

 The example of David should give us courage and hope when we face problems and difficulties in our lives even when those problems and difficulties are a result of our sins. We to, if we have repented of our sins and cast ourselves upon the love and mercy of God can have confidence that he will answer our prayers and help us in our problems and difficulties.

Even though Jesus did not sin he did face the same kind of temptations we face that leads to sin and he also faced great human suffering and therefore he understands and can identify with us when we pray to him.

This is what the writer to the Hebrews speaks of when he encourages us to pray with confidence to the Lord Jesus Christ in Hebrews 4: 14 – 16

“Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need”.

 So David faced the difficulties of his life with prayer, which we will see throughout this Psalm as casting our cares on God.

Next I want you to note the pain and anguish that David felt that led him to pray.

Calvin captures David’s state of mind well with these words,

“From the language with which the Psalm opens, we may conclude that David at this time was labouring under heavy distress. It could be no ordinary amount of it which produced such an overwhelming effect upon a saint of his distinguished courage”.

 In verses 2b he speaks of his thoughts,

“My thoughts trouble me and I am distraught”.

 Revealing that our greatest pain in life is often coming from our minds and the thoughts our minds produce.

David could not have not heard the divisive words and actions of his Son Absalom and his growing number of followers and the thoughts such actions would have brought David would have been very painful indeed.

David tells us that he certainly had heard the voices of dissent his Son and his followers were speaking when he goes on to say in verse 3,

“At the voice of the enemy at the stares of the wicked; for they bring down suffering upon me and revile me in their anger”.

Jesus suffered as a result of the many vicious enemies he constantly faced throughout his ministry. Even on the cross this kind of suffering continued for Jesus and even intensified. Listen to Matthews’s summary of the many voices of suffering Jesus would have heard as he hung on the cross, Mathew 27: 39 – 44,

“Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads and saying, “You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself! Come down from the cross, if you are the Son of God!” In the same way the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders mocked him. He saved others,” they said, “but he can’t save himself! He’s the king of Israel! Let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. He trusts in God. Let God rescue him now if he wants him, for he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’”  In the same way the rebels who were crucified with him also heaped insults on him”.

 All of the disciples and early Christians had to endure voices of suffering as well and this is recorded throughout the book of Acts and is commented upon by people like Paul and Peter in their letters to some of the early churches. I like Peters advice and encouragement on this in 1 Peter 3: 14 – 16,

“But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil. Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear their threats; do not be frightened.”But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behaviour in Christ may be ashamed of their slander”.

 David had the added burden as I mentioned before of suffering the voices of dissent because of his great sins a number of years before.

In verses 4 and 5 David spells out a bit more the trouble and anguish he felt during the Rebellion of his son Absalom, he writes,

“My heart is in anguish within me; the terrors of death assail me. Fear and trembling have beset me; horror has overwhelmed me.

 Spurgeon captures well what is going on in the heart and mind of David during the Absalom rebellion with these comments on verses 4 and 5,

“Like house breakers these robbers were entering his soul. Like one who feels a fainting fit coming over him, so the oppressed suppliant was falling into a state of terror. His fear was so great as to make him tremble. He did not know what would happen next or how soon the worst should come”.

 Soon Absalom would strike and the worst of David’s fears would materialise and he would have to make a desperate flee for safety out of the city of Jerusalem.

  2.  (6 – 8) Learning to trust God and not run away

I can relate to what David proposes next in verses 6 – 8 because I hate facing conflict and would rather turn and run and hide then face the painful consequences of conflict especially physical conflict.

David shows us how human he was when he writes,

“I said, “Oh that I had the wings of a dove! I would fly away and be at rest – I would flee far away and stay in the desert; I would hurry to my place of shelter, far from the tempest and storm”.

 David, like most of us would rather flee than fight and there are only two choices anyone has when they face any form of human conflict. You can either run away or fight. Even those who do not run away from conflict still feel in their hearts and minds a sense of flight from the danger and difficulties they face.

David wrote earlier of this sense of wanting to fly away from danger in Psalm 11: 1 when he was probably writing about his all most certain fleeing from the wrath of King Saul who sort to kill him as well, he writes,

“In the Lord I take refuge. How then can you say to me: ‘Flee like a bird to your mountain”.

 David wanted to stay and fight on trusting in his God when he wrote those words but the danger of Saul’s threats over took him and he had to turn and run or ride for his life into the desert area’s of Israel.

Again 2 Samuel 15: 13ff. and the following two chapters will record how David had to run or ride for his life. This time David had to take hundreds of his family and friends. But we will see in this Psalm and in Psalms like Psalms 3 and 4, also written in the context of this flight from Absalom that even if we have to run from certain death, God is still with us to help and save us.

In Psalm 3: 1 – 4, David speaks of this when he writes,

“O Lord how many are my foes! How many rise up against me! Many are saying of me ‘God will not deliver him’.

But you are a shield around me, O Lord; you bestow glory on me and lift my head. To you the Lord I cry aloud, and he answers me from his holy hill.”

 What application can this have for us?

I like Kidner’s answer to this when he writes,

“It is some comfort to us to know there are spiritual giants who have had these urges whether they have succumbed to it like Elijah (1 Kings 19: 3ff) or withstood it like Jeremiah 9: 2 and 10: 19”.

David initially resists the urge to run away but as I have already said after four years of treacherous speech and action from Absalom he has to flee to the desert area’s to save not only his life but also the lives of his family and close friends.

  1. DEALING WITH THE TREACHERY OF THE DEVIL AND HIS FOLLOWERS (9 – 21)

How David speaks in this next section seems to indicate he is no longer in Jerusalem as he speaks of “strife in the city” verse 9, “prowling on its (Jerusalem) walls” vs. 10, “destructive forces are at work in the city” vs. 11 and former “fellowship as we walked with the throng at the house of God” in verse 13.

This means to me that David is writing part two of Psalm 55 outside of Jerusalem when he was probably on the run from Absalom and his dangerous forces.

The way he felt in his heart and mind when he was in the city hearing the treacherous words of Absalom and his followers would now be the same but probably would have been even more intense. In this section he also has the added pain of dealing with the treachery of a formally close and devoted friend.

I have broken this section down into three pa

       1. (9 – 11) The extent of the anarchy

       2. (12 – 15 and 20 – 21) The depth of betrayal 

       3. (16 – 19) The God who hears our prayers

 

  1.  (9 – 11) The extent of the anarchy

David now prays a prayer that he often prays in his Psalms, namely an imprecation, which is a prayer or request to God to call down God’s judgment on our enemies. I commented on this in my last Psalm talk on Psalm 54 and have also commented on this in many other Psalm talks.

Basically as followers of Christ we are called to a higher demand of how we should deal with our enemies. This way of Christ is to love and pray for our enemies. Christians who use their faith or the bible as a reason to wage war on their enemies are not following Christ.

Jesus made it clear by his actions and words at the time of his suffering for our sins how he wants all of his true followers to act. Here are just two passages that illustrate this:

Matthew 26: 47 – 52

“While he was still speaking, Judas, one of the Twelve, arrived. With him was a large crowd armed with swords and clubs, sent from the chief priests and the elders of the people. Now the betrayer had arranged a signal with them: “The one I kiss is the man; arrest him.” Going at once to Jesus, Judas said, “Greetings, Rabbi!” and kissed him. Jesus replied, “Friend, do what you came for.” Then the men stepped forward, seized Jesus and arrested him. With that, one of Jesus’ companions reached for his sword, drew it out and struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his ear.”Put your sword back in its place,” Jesus said to him, “for all who draw the sword will die by the sword”.

And

Luke 23: 33 – 34,

“When they came to the place called the Skull, there they crucified him, along with the criminals–one on his right, the other on his left. Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” And they divided up his clothes by casting lots”.

So David prays out in the wilds of the desert area of Israel for God’s judgment to come on his enemies who are now secularly in charge of Jerusalem, he prays in verses 9 – 11,

“Confuse the wicked, O Lord, confound their speech, for I see violence and strife in the city. Day and night they prowl about on its walls; Destructive forces are at work in the city; threats and lies never leave the streets”.

If the people in Israel thought they would get a better deal in life from Absalom than David they were sadly very wrong. David has just escaped from the clutches of his smooth talking son and havoc and violence reigns down on the streets of the capital. Absalom is so much like many political leaders today, they promise much to gain power but when they get it they deliver little. In Absalom case he delivered tyranny and pain.

David must have quickly got a report of what was happening back in Jerusalem and it’s not pretty. The activities of Absalom and his followers is best summed up by the words in verse 11,

“Destructive forces are at work in the city”.

What does David actually ask God then to do to Absalom and his followers?

The words of verse 9 is the answer to this,

“Confuse the wicked, O Lord, confound their speech”.

This seems to be an echo of what happened to the people of the ancient city of Babel who are spoken about in Genesis 11. These people said this in Genesis 11: 4,

“Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves and not be scattered over the face of the whole earth.”

 It is though they are putting their fists up at God and saying we don’t need you any more because we can make a name for ourselves without your help.

This kind of speech got a swift reaction from God and the next four verses tell us what God did to the people of Babel,

“But the LORD came down to see the city and the tower that the men were building. The LORD said, “If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.” So the LORD scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city. That is why it was called Babel–because there the LORD confused the language of the whole world. From there the LORD scattered them over the face of the whole earth”.

 What did Absalom do to David?

Absalom used his smooth talking treacherous speech to bring down the Lord’s anointed King. It was as though he like the people of Babel said I don’t need you God as I want to rule this land of Israel now and will stop at nothing to do it. David wanted the speech of Absalom and his followers to suffer the same fate that the people of Babel suffered, namely confusion.

       2.  (12 – 15 and 20 – 21) The depth of betrayal

David, out in the wilds of the desert area with over 600 desperate people also gets a report of the depth of the betrayal. Verses 12 – 14 speak of a close and trusted friend who has joined the rebellion. The news of this cuts even deeper into David’s heart, so he writes, verse 12,

“If an enemy were insulting me, I could endure it; if a foe were raising himself against me I could hide from him”.

David faced many enemies and as I said he was warned by God in Psalm 2:2 that this would be his destiny. However his reaction to a close friend turning viciously on him reveals a painful depth of betrayal for David, he writes in verse’s 13 and 14,

“But it is you, a man like myself, my companion, my close friend, with whom I once enjoyed sweet fellowship as we walked with the throng at the house of God”.

Who is the man David is referring to here?

There are only three possible candidates for who this person is.

The first is King Saul who David loved and served faithfully in the early part of his life. We know from the book of Samuel that Saul turned on the young David and acted treacherously  towards him and this would have caused David great pain as verses 12 – 14 and verse 20 of Psalm 55 records. However verse 14 speaks of David going to the house or sanctuary of God with this person, which is in Jerusalem and this, was not set up during the time of King Saul.

The second candidate is Absalom who certainly is, “a man like myself” or David’s equal being David’s son and next in line to the throne. However as much as Absalom would have cause great pain and difficulty for David the expressions in verse 13, “my companion” and “Close friend” seems a doubtful way of David to speak about his son and definitely fits someone close but not his son.

The third candidate, and the one I prefer is the man named Ahithophel who is spoken about in 2 Samuel 15 and 16 as a major player in the Absalom rebellion. Ahithophel is part of the wider family of David, being his favoured wife, Bathsheba’s grandfather according to 2 Samuel 23:34, which speaks of Ahithophel as the father of Eliam and Eliam is the father of Bathsheba. In 2 Samuel 16: 23 we read this about Ahithphel

“Now in those days the advice Ahithophel gave was like that of one who inquires of God. That was how both David and Absalom regarded all of Ahithophel’s advice”.

So Ahithophel fits best the three requirements of Psalm 55: 13 and 14,

“But it is you, a man like myself, my companion, my close friend, with whom I once enjoyed sweet fellowship as we walked with the throng at the house of God.”

  1. Man like myself – Ahithophel was part of the royal family being Bathsheba’s father.
  2. My Companion – As the chief advisor of David as 2 Samuel 16: 23 tells us Ahithophel would have been a close friend and companion
  3. Of whom I enjoyed sweet fellowship – 2 Samuel 16: 23 suggests Ahithophel’s advise for both David and later his rebellious son Absalom were according to 2 Samuel 16: 23, “like of one who inquires of God”, meaning that the relationship between David and Ahithophel was of a spiritual or religious nature. We could well imagine both these men going to the Sanctuary in Jerusalem together and as they did they enjoyed sweet fellowship.

Ahithophel’s switch of allegiance form David to Absalom, which we read in 2 Samuel 15 and 16 was a major factor in the initial success of Absalom’ rebellion. It seems he was well thought of not only by David and Absalom but by the people of Israel as well.

David states clearly the depth of betrayal he felt by his former friend’s actions in verse 12,

“If an enemy were insulting me, I could endure it; if a foe were raising himself against me I could endure it”.

He speaks of it again in verses 20 and 21,

“My companion attacks his friends, he violates his covenant, His speech is smooth as butter, yet war is in his heart; his words are more soothing than oil, yet they are drawn swords”.

Ahithophel really did turn on David as we can see in his first piece of advice Ahithophel  gave to Absalom in 2 Samuel 16: 20 – 22,

Ahithophel answered, “Lie with your father’s concubines whom he left to take care of the palace. Then all Israel will hear that you have made yourself a stench in your father’s nostrils, and the hands of everyone with you will be strengthened.” So they pitched a tent for Absalom on the roof, and he lay with his father’s concubines in the sight of all Israel”.

His second and final piece of advice is for Absalom to strike David down while he still on the run and not yet ready to fight. This is sound advice but this is counted by David’s double agent Hushai who had wormed his way back into the Absalom camp and advised him to wait so that he could really be ready to strike with an even greater force. This is the advice Absalom takes and Ahithophel realises the rebellion is lost and goes home to commit suicide by hanging himself.

Ahithophel’s betrayal mirrors that of Judus in the New Testament who turned over the Lord Jesus Christ for 30 pieces of silver and when he realised he had made the wrong decision suffered the same fate as Ahithophet.

David’ prayer in verse 15 is another example of an imprecation, which is a prayer or request to God to call down God’s judgment on our enemies.

“Let death take my enemies by surprise; let them go down alive to the grave, for evil finds lodging among them”.

Leupold sees a parallel to the story in Numbers 16 where we read of the result of the treachery to Moses of the Korahites who God caused the ground to open up at their feet to fall to their deaths and graves in Number 16: 32.

When a close friend or member of our family turns against us it can prove to be a devastating experience but it is even worse when that friend or family does this owing to our commitment to The Lord Jesus Christ.

However such is the depth of opposition to Jesus and God in the great spiritual battle we are all caught up in Jesus warned us that it would come owing to who he is and what he has done. We read in Matthew 10: 34 – 40,

“Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn

“‘A man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law—a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.

“Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.

“Anyone who welcomes you welcomes me, and anyone who welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me”.

In David’s case a grandfather in law against his grandson.

We cannot avoid the possibility of this kind of conflict happening to us and like David the best thing we can do when it comes is turn to God in prayer and as we will see from the key verse of this Psalm, verse 22,

“Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous fall”.

As I said before David’s prayer is for judgment to suddenly come upon his enemies.

However I think Jesus would want us to pray for our enemies both inside our family and outside of it. I wonder how the early Christians prayed for Saul or Paul as he became known when he became a Christian. Paul is recorded in Acts 9: 1 as,

“Still breathing our murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples”.

Yet as Paul rode his horse to Damascus to put Christians in jail there Jesus met Paul in a great light and the great enemy and persecutor of the faith became one of its greatest missionaries who also wrote a large portion of the New Testament scriptures.

3.(16 – 19) The God who hears our prayers

My theory that prayer and casting our cares or problems on the Lord is the major lesson David learnt from the Absalom affair can be seen in David’s words in this next section. He writes in verse 16,

“But I call to God and he saves me”

So David at the very point of acknowledging the pain and problems caused by deep horrible betrayal speaks of doing just one thing, “Calling on God” or as we see in verse 22, “Casting his cares on the Lord”. David is confident his prayers are not just a waste of breath but he confident says, “He (God) saves me”.

David now teaches us three things about praying or casting our cares on the Lord,

     1.  How often we should pray (vs. 17)

     2. The effectiveness prayer (vs.18)

     3. The mighty power of the God he prays to (vs.19)

 

  1. How often we should pray (vs. 17)

David speaks about how often he prayed in verse 17,

“Evening, morning and noon I cry out in distress, and he hears me”.

Some commentators believe that David is speaking about his daily practice of praying regularly three times a day, like it seems it was Daniels practice in Daniel 6: 10, 13. However I think David is using the Evening, morning and noon terms as a way of saying he prayed to God at any time of the day particularly at a time like the Absalom rebellion when he would have been in great danger and distress.

What he is saying here is similar to Paul’s advice to the Thessalonians in 1 Thessalonians 5: 16 – 18,

 “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus”.

Formal set times of prayer might help many people but they can turn into a slavish cold formal practice that lack sincerity and intent. I try to at least find a time in the morning to pray committing my day to the Lord. However this should and does not replace sending quick prayers to God during the day when things come up that I believe I need to commit to the Lord.

David did not practice a slavish set form of prayer but rather prayed to God as he needed to as we saw from Psalms 3 and 4 written early in David’s flight from Absalom. Psalm 4 recording David’s prayer as he went to bed on the first night on the run from Absalom and Psalm 3, David’s prayer the next morning.

Note finally David’s confidence in his words, “and he (The Lord) hears my voice” David did have to endure a number of weeks of further pain and difficulty when he was on the run from his son Absalom. However if you read carefully the story of this rebellion in 2 Samuel 15 – 18 you can see the hand of God answering step by step the prayers of David.

David’s distress does not immediately end with the death of his son as David almost disintegrates into deep mourning at the news of his son’s demise.

We too can have confidence that God hears our voice in prayer with New Testament verses like 1 John 5: 14,

“This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us”.

 

       2. The effectiveness of prayer (vs.18)

To add to the confident words of David at the end of verse 17 David writes in verse 18,

“He ransoms me unharmed from the battle waged against me, even though many oppose me”.

David claims, by faith, God’s victory over his enemies even before that victory has been won. Spurgeon writes,

“Faith sees as well as foresees; to her foresight is sight. He is not only safe but serene, delivered in peace – peace in his inmost soul”.

In Psalm 3: 2, David states,

“Many are saying of me, God will not deliver me”

And immediately David’s rock hard immovable confidence in God can be seen in the next verse, when he writes,

“But you are a shield around me, O Lord; you bestow glory on me and lift up my head”.

David in verse 18 uses the “ransom” word but this is in David’s context could be translated, “delivered” but for us this word, “ransom” means so much more than simple everyday deliverance form our enemies. Through the work of the Lord Jesus Christ for us on the cross, Jesus can say in Mark 10: 45,

 “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

     3. The mighty power of the God he prays to (vs.19)

David knew clearly who his God was and what he was like when he writes in verse 19,

“God, who is enthroned forever, will hear them and afflict them – men who never change their ways and have no fear of God”.

It is very easy for Christians to over emphasize the power of personal faith as though if we could summon up enough courage and conviction then our faith will be powerful. However a closer look at what the bible really says about faith is that it is not the believer who makes the difference but who the believer is seeking to connect to.

Here in verse 19 David sought to connect by faith to a God, who is,

“Enthroned forever”

This God then is mighty and powerful and because it is said he is enthroned forever then it means he reigns forever.

David did not just get this idea of God from his fertile imagination but rather from the revelation of God from the past recorded for David and us in what the Jews came to call, “The Torah” or law, which are the first five books of the bible.

Let me share one great bit of the Torah that David and all his people would have known. It is part of a song Moses wrote after God opened up the red sea for the Nation of Israel to pass through safely while the enemies of Israel, the Egyptians drowned as God closed the waters of the sea over them, Exodus 15: 1 – 11,

“I will sing to the Lord, for he is highly exalted.

Both horse and rider he has hurled into the sea.

“The Lord is my strength and my defence he has become my salvation.

He is my God, and I will praise him, my father’s God, and I will exalt him.

The Lord is a warrior; the Lord is his name.

Pharaoh’s chariots and his army he has hurled into the sea.

The deep waters have covered them; they sank to the depths like a stone.

Your right hand, Lord, was majestic in power.

Your right hand, Lord shattered the enemy.

In the greatness of your majesty you threw down those who opposed you.

You unleased your burning anger; it consumed them like stubble.

By the blast of your nostrils the waters piled up.

The surging waters stood up like a wall;

The deep waters congealed in the heart of the sea.

The enemy boasted, I’m will pursue, I will overtake them.

I will divide the spoils; I will gorge myself on them.

But you blew with your breath, and the sea covered them.

They sank like led in the mighty waters.

Who among the gods is like you, Lord?

Who is like you- majestic in holiness awesome in glory, working wonders?

Moses was inspired by God’s great act of salvation and judgment. Salvation for the Israelites who believed in God and judgment for the Egyptians who refused to believe in him.

So David makes the connection to this God of Salvation and Judgment of God in verse 19 and he says it is judgment for his enemies, who are,

“Men who never change their ways and have no fear of God”

 Today there is a new and growing form of aggressive atheism, which is full of men and women who could be best described by David description of his enemies in verse 19,

“Men (and women) who never change their ways and have no fear of God”

 On a recent “Facebook” discussion about the reality of God many atheists wrote God off as nothing more than a myth; I posted the words of a car bumper sticker that says,

“Eternity is a long time to be wrong”

Sadly many atheists made jokes of my comment and dismissed it as a non – sense. Unfortunately judgment will not be a joking matter and the fear of God these people lack will sadly come with force when they face the God of Heaven and earth on his throne in heaven in judgment.

David still has the deliverance from his enemies in mind that he has just spoken about because he returns in verses 20 and 21 to the theme of Ahithophel’s betrayal, which I commented upon in the first section under the heading of “The depth of betrayal”.

I will simply add that in verse 21 the speech or counsel of Ahithophel, which was a major part of David’s relationship with Ahithophel, had now changed. David here notes that Ahithophel speech has become slippery like butter or oil owing to its current use in his betrayal to the rebellious son Absalom. Verse 21 reads like this,

“His speech is smooth as butter, yet war is in his heart; his words are more soothing than oil, yet they are drawn swords”. 

3.CASTING OUR CARES ON GOD (22 – 23)

 We come now to David’s great summary verse of this Psalm, which I have, hinted at lays behind much of what David has said already in this Psalm. The verse reads,

“Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you: he will never let the righteous fall”.

 He started the Psalm doing just that, where he pleads with God to listen to his prayer for help in the midst of the threatening speech from his enemies who have joined forces with his rebellious son Absalom to discredit him and overthrow him.

He casts on God the pain he felt when he had learnt that one of his most trusted friends. Ahithophel had turned against him and was now giving council to his son Absalom.

He speaks in verses 16 and 17 how he called on God which is another way of saying cast on God his need for deliverance at every stage of the day during his terrible run for his life from the vengeance of Absalom and his followers.

Finally he looked ahead with the eye of faith on the time when God would deliver him from his enemies, which meant that in this seemingly hopeless situation God would sustain him.

I will answer three questions concerning this summary of what David learnt from the Absalom affair, which will include the final verse as well.

1. What does it mean to cast your cares on the Lord?

       2.What does it mean he will sustain you?

       3. What does it mean to trust in God today?

 1.  What does it mean to cast you cares on the Lord?

This verse has no doubt been a comfort and help to many Christians throughout the ages and has been utilized by many as they face the trials and difficulties of life. However the verse has even more to offer once a better understanding of it is gained.

The major issue to come to terms with is what is David really saying when he speaks of cares?

The problem most commentators raise here is the translation of the Hebrew that comes up with “burdens” or “cares”. Calvin for instance explains the literal meaning of the original Hebrew words and writes,

“The Hebrew verb, “yahab”, signifies to give, so that, “yehobcha”, according to the ordinary rules of grammar, should be rendered thy giving, or thy gift”.

 Kidner clears up what this means to the translation, with these words,

“Burdens or “Cares” here actually means whatever is given you, your appointed lot, your fortunes”.

 David’s appointed lot in the context of Psalm 55 was the rebellion of Absalom and the painful and dangerous consequences of that. All of us will have a different “lot” in life and that “lot” will include both good things and bad things or burdens.

Calvin points out about what we should do when our “lot” is burdensome with these words,

“There is no other method of relieving our anxious souls, but by reposing ourselves upon the providence of the Lord”.

 The real meaning of what, “Casting our cares on the Lord” is best explained by the following words of Peter in 1 Peter 5: 6 and 7,

“Humble yourself, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you”.

 Jesus put it this way, in Matthew 11: 28 – 30,

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light”.

 To cast our cares, or better still, our lot on the Lord is to give God everything and then to rely on the promised providential care and help of God for us.

This is what David has been doing throughout this Psalm even in the face of great pain and difficulty caused by the rebellion of his son Absalom.

2.  What does it mean he will sustain you?

The second half of the verse and the promise is,

“And he will sustain you”

 Again the expert commentators who know Hebrew point out that the original Hebrew word for “Sustain” means literally ‘feed you’. With this translation in mind Spurgeon writes,

“Thy bread shall be given thee, they waters shall be sure. Abundant nourishment shall fit thee to bear thy labours and trials”.

 David in his younger days was shepherd and as a shepherd in his day he knew that the sheep relied solely on the shepherd to provide nourishment and protection. This is what David is referring to in Psalm 23: 1 – 3,

“The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me besides quiet waters, and he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name sake”.

 For God to “sustain” us literally means he will provide whatever we need, not what we want but what we need. This is what Jesus taught in Matthew 6: 33 – 34,

“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own”.

 David needed God’s protection and help as he faced the enormous might and danger of Absalom and his many followers. This is why he puts what being sustained by God meant to him in the words of the final part of verse 22,

“He will never let the righteous fall”

 David again either looked ahead with the eye of faith or looked back after the overthrow of the Absalom rebellion to write these words in the final verse of the Psalm.

“But you, O God, will bring down the wicked into the pit of corruption; bloodthirsty and deceitful men will not live out their lives”.

 This is how David needed to be sustained when he faced the great opposition of his son’s rebellion, the bringing down of the wicked and this is what God did. The Absalom rebellion was over in the matter of weeks not months and he and his key conspirators were overtaken and destroyed at the hands of David’s faithful general Joab. Absalom did not live out the life he could have had owing to his deceit and rebellion and David had the tragic experience of burying his son.

The whole messy and dangerous affair affected David deeply and left him as a sad and grieving father. It took Joab to forcefully snap David out of his emotional meltdown after the death of his son Absalom with these words in 2 Samuel 19: 5 – 7,

“Then Joab went into the house to the king and said, “Today you have humiliated all your men, who have just saved your life and the lives of your sons and daughters and the lives of your wives and concubines. You love those who hate you and hate those who love you. You have made it clear today that the commanders and their men mean nothing to you. I see that you would be pleased if Absalom were alive today and all of us were dead. Now go out and encourage your men. I swear by the Lord that if you don’t go out, not a man will be left with you by nightfall. This will be worse for you than all the calamities that have come on you from your youth till now.”

 David’s lot or what he had to bare was difficult but he had laid this on the Lord, he had cast his lot on the Lord and he was sustained and delivered by the Lord.

We hear today tremendous persecution of Christians who are dying simply because they are determined to stay loyal to the God of the bible.

How can I say that the Lord has sustained them?

Paul faced the same problems persecuted Christians face today and he wrote to Christians who lived in Rome who also faced the same problems and difficulties and this is what he said to them in Romans 8: 31 – 39,

“What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written:

“For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord”.

 

 3.  What does it mean to trust God today?

David quickly pulled himself together after the words of Joab and 2 Samuel 19: 8 tells us:,

 “So the king got up and took his seat in the gateway. When the men were told, “The king is sitting in the gateway, they all came before him”.

David seemed to have lived an emotional roller coaster sort of life but he did what he always did which is expressed so well by the final words of the Psalm,

“But as for me, I trust in you”.

 What does it mean for us to trust in God today?

I think my best answer to this is to point you to David’s wonderful words of verse 22 of this Psalm,

“Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous fall”.

 To trust God is to give God our lot, that is to trust God no matter what life brings us knowing that God promises to work everything for our good as  Romans 8: 28 says,

“And we know in all things God works for good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose”.

 In handing our lives over to God, which is what casting our cares on the Lord really means. This means our lives are in God’s hands and his promise is:

“He will sustain you”

 God will guide and direct us and even if our lot is to live in one of the fifty or so countries in the world today where Christians are persecuted for their faith then even in death God,

“Will never let the righteous fall”

 So the big and central difference between a believer and a non believer in this life is when life’s difficulties come upon the believer they have a great and loving God to turn to and he will help and bless us all the days of our lives.

Some atheists say that we believe in God only because we want a crutch to lean on in life. The truth is that in one way they are correct we do have a crutch to lean on in life but this is not why we believe. We believe because God demonstrated his love for us in sending Jesus to this world to deal with what causes us to need a crutch in life, sin which pays only death and destruction to this world.

We have more than a crutch to lean on we have a God who promises to sustain us and never let us fall.

I close with a poem and a prayer.

CAST ALL YOUR CARES ON THE LORD

(Based on Psalm 55)

 Listen to my prayer O God above

Answer my plea because of your love

I am troubled by those who oppose you

Help me to remain faithful serving you true.

 

Fear and trembling I feel O Lord

Sometimes I want to fly like a bird

Fly from the troubles my enemies cause

Flee and be safe from life’s spiritual wars.

 

Chorus:

God will sustain, God will sustain

God will sustain you when you fall

Cast all your cares on the Lord

And he will sustain you through it all.

 

Day and night Satan seeks to bring down

God’s children who are heaven bound.

I hear of Christians who face death each day

Keep them safe Lord, help them I pray.

 

Sometimes we find our friends let us down

This can sometimes cause us to frown

Those who are close to us can cause us much pain

When they are not faithful to the Lords name.

 

Chorus:

I call on the Lord to always help me out

To help me with trials and sometimes doubt

Jesus has saved me by dying for me

He rose to heaven in great victory.

 

Bring down O Lord those who oppose your word

Help them to see its great reward

As for me I will trust God all my days

Living my life to serve and to praise.

 

Chorus:

God will sustain, God will sustain

God will sustain you when you fall

Cast all your cares on the Lord

And he will sustain you through it all.

 

PRAYER:

 Dear father in heaven we thank you for your great promise to sustain us if we cast our cares on you. Help us Lord to trust in you even when we face persecution or any other form of difficulty. And when we encounter those who oppose you help us to be an effective witness to them so that they can come to know your great love and help in their lives as well. In the name of Jesus our Lord and Saviour we pray. Amen.