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.

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