Psalm 56 Meditation

Psalm 56

Be gracious to me, O God, for man tramples on me;
all day long an attacker oppresses me;
2 my enemies trample on me all day long,
for many attack me proudly.
3 When I am afraid,
I put my trust in you.
4 In God, whose word I praise,
in God I trust; I shall not be afraid.
What can flesh do to me?

5 All day long they injure my cause;
all their thoughts are against me for evil.
6 They stir up strife, they lurk;
they watch my steps,
as they have waited for my life.
7 For their crime will they escape?
In wrath cast down the peoples, O God!

8 You have kept count of my tossings;
put my tears in your bottle.
Are they not in your book?
9 Then my enemies will turn back
in the day when I call.
This I know, that God is for me.
10 In God, whose word I praise,
in the Lord, whose word I praise,
11 in God I trust; I shall not be afraid.
What can man do to me?

12 I must perform my vows to you, O God;
I will render thank offerings to you.
13 For you have delivered my soul from death,
yes, my feet from falling,
that I may walk before God
in the light of life.

According to the editor’s note at the beginning of this psalm, this psalm reflects upon the time David was seized by the Philistines in Gath. David was still being pursued by King Saul of Israel, and David feigned insanity to avoid being used as a pawn by Achish the king of Gath. The brief story is recorded in 1 Samuel 21:10-15.

Much could be said about this psalm. Indeed, one of scripture’s most appealing facets is that it reflects light on our lives whether we are in gloom or glory. This psalmist strikes the balance well. Is he afraid? He says that he is. But is he overcome by fear? No. Instead of drowning in his troubles, he remembers that God is trustworthy and strong. There is no person who can destroy us as long as the Lord is with us. Paul borrows from this psalm in Romans 8:31 as he rhetorically asks, “If God is for us, who can be against us?”

It’s also interesting to note that the same idea is recorded in Psalm 118:6 where the psalmist says, “The LORD is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me?” It’s interesting because this is the psalm that was being sung as Jesus entered Jerusalem the week of his crucifixion. The echoes of these words would still be ringing through the Judean hills as Jesus went from publicly glorified to crucified within the span of a week. I wonder if Jesus knew the same fear-tinged faith that the writer of Psalm 56 communicates?

We know it, don’t we? We’ve experienced less than perfect relationships and heartbreaks. Or we’ve known the confusion of seeing the wicked prosper around us. But because we’re people of faith, we’re also witnesses to the truth that God does not leave us forsaken. God does take note of our sorrows. He sees our tears, and he will remember his righteousness when he comes again in judgment. So while we wait for God to return and vindicate those who live upright lives, let’s not forget to keep on living. The righteous are not doomed to hiding in the hills forever. David was eventually exalted, and so shall we be. We are called to walk before God in the light of life.

God’s power and grace be with you,

Patrick Barber

To the choirmaster: according to The Dove on Far-off Terebinths. A Miktam of David, when the Philistines seized him in Gath. Be gracious to me, O God, for man tramples on me; all day long an attacker oppresses me; my enemies trample on me all day long, for many attack me proudly. When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can flesh do to me? All day long they injure my cause; all their thoughts are against me for evil. They stir up strife, they lurk; they watch my steps, as they have waited for my life. For their crime will they escape? In wrath cast down the peoples, O God! You have kept count of my tossings; put my tears in your bottle. Are they not in your book? Then my enemies will turn back in the day when I call. This I know, that God is for me. In God, whose word I praise, in the LORD, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can man do to me? I must perform my vows to you, O God; I will render thank offerings to you. For you have delivered my soul from death, yes, my feet from falling, that I may walk before God in the light of life.
(Psalms 56:1-13)
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About PatrickBarber

Preaching Minister East Point Church of Christ Wichita, Kansas
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