When I Am Afraid
Psalm 56:1-13 October 18 2009
It seems by this, and many other psalms, that even in times of the greatest trouble and distress David never hung his harp upon the willow-trees, never unstrung it or laid it by; but that when his dangers and fears were greatest he was still in tune for singing God’s praises. He was in imminent peril when he penned this psalm, at least when he meditated it; yet even then his meditation of God was sweet. He complains of the malice of his enemies, and begs mercy for himself and justice against them (Ps 56: 1, 2, 5-7). He confides in God, being assured that he took his part, comforting himself with this, that therefore he was safe and should be victorious, and that while he lived he should praise God (Ps 56: 3, 4, 8-13). How pleasantly may a good Christian, in singing this psalm, rejoice in God, and praise him for what he will do, as well as for what he has done.
To the chief musician upon Jonath-elem-rechokim, Michtam of David, when the Philistines took him in Gath.
(Psalms 56:1-7) David seeks mercy from God, amidst the malice of his enemies.
Ps. 56:1 Be merciful to me, O God, for men hotly pursue me; all day long they press their attack. 2 My slanderers pursue me all day long; many are attacking me in their pride. 3 When I am afraid, I will trust in you. 4 In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I will not be afraid. What can mortal man do to me? 5 All day long they twist my words; they are always plotting to harm me. 6 They conspire, they lurk, they watch my steps, eager to take my life. 7 On no account let them escape; in your anger, O God, bring down the nations.
Be merciful unto me, O God. This petition includes all the good for which we come to throne of grace. If we obtain mercy there, we need no more to make us happy. It implies likewise our best plea, not our merit, but God’s mercy, his free, rich mercy. We may flee to, and trust the mercy of God, when surrounded on all sides by difficulties and dangers. His enemies were too hard for him, if God did not help him. He resolves to make God’s promises the matter of his praises, and so we have reason to make them. As we must not trust an arm of flesh when engaged for us, so we must not be afraid of an arm of flesh when stretched out against us. The sin of sinners will never be their security. Who knows the power of God’s anger; how high it can reach, how forcibly it can strike?
(Psalms 56:8-13) He rests his faith on God’s promises, and declares his obligation to praise him for mercies.
Ps. 56:8 Record my lament; list my tears on your scroll — are they not in your record? Then my enemies will turn back when I call for help. By this I will 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 will not be afraid. What can man do to me? 12 I am under vows to you, O God; I will present my thank offerings to you. 13 For you have delivered me from death and my feet from stumbling, that I may walk before God in the light of life.
The heavy and continued trials through which many of the Lord’s people have passed, should teach us to be silent and patient under lighter crosses. Yet we are often tempted to repine and despond under small sorrows. For this we should check ourselves. David comforts himself, in his distress and fear, that God noticed all his grievances and all his griefs. God has a bottle and a book for his people’s tears, both the tears for their sins, and those for their afflictions. He observes them with tender concern. Every true believer may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and then I will not fear what man shall do unto me; for man has no power but what is given him from above. Thy vows are upon me, O Lord; not as a burden, but as that by which I am known to be thy servant; as a bridle that restrains me from what would be hurtful, and directs me in the way of my duty. And vows of thankfulness properly accompany prayers for mercy. If God deliver us from sin, either from doing it, or by his pardoning mercy, he has delivered our souls from death, which is the wages of sin. Where the Lord has begun a good work he will carry it on and perfect it. David hopes that God would keep him even from the appearance of sin. We should aim in all our desires and expectations of deliverance, both from sin and trouble, that we may do the better service to the Lord; that we may serve him without fear. If his grace has delivered our souls from the death of sin, he will bring us to heaven, to walk before him for ever in light.
A prayer for help when the psalmist is attacked by enemies and his very life is threatened. It is marked by consoling trust in the face of unsettling fear. Structurally, the prayer is framed by an urgent appeal to God (Ps 56:1-2) and a word of confident assurance (Ps 56:12-13). An inner frame, (Ps 56: 3-4) and (Ps 56:10-11), confesses a sure trust in God in a form that is almost a refrain. The prayer itself is developed in the intervening verses (Ps 56: 5-9). (56:1-2) Initial appeal for God’s help. (Ps. 56:2) my slanderers. The enemies’ chief weapon is the tongue (Ps 56:5:9). Their Pride. Confident in their position of strength, they take no account of David’s God (Ps 3:2; 5:9; 10:11). (Ps. 56:3) (56:3-4) (Ps 56:10-11); confession of trust in the face of fear. (Ps. 56:4 ) WORD. God’s reassuring promise that he will be the God of his people and will come to their aid when they appeal to him (Ps 50:15; 91:15; 119:74,81; 130:5). Mortal man. Lit. “flesh ”—i.e., man’s feebleness compared with God’s power (Ps 10:18). (Ps 56:5-7) Accusation and call for redress (Ps 5:9-10). (Ps 56:5) Twist my words. (Ps 56: 2.7; Ps 5:10). Anger. (Ps 2:5).
God Bless My Friend
Robert G O’Haver