Psalm 56:1–13comment (0)
October 15, 2009
By Douglas Wilson
Related Scripture: Psalm 56:1–13
Explore the Bible
Associate Professor of Christian Studies, School of Christian Studies, University of Mobile
WHEN I AM AFRAID
The superscription to this psalm indicates that David wrote the lyrics after being captured by the Philistines in Goliath’s hometown (see 1 Sam. 21:10–15). Saul, the Israelites’ king, had sworn to kill David, seeing him as a political threat. A song about Saul killing thousands and David killing tens of thousands became so popular that the Philistines heard about it. Now they had this young man from Bethlehem in their grasp. What would King Achish do with David? What could David do to avoid death at the hands of the Philistines and Israelites alike? When captured by the Philistines, he drooled all over himself, pretending to be insane in order to save his life. Even the Philistines had compassion for the mentally ill. But David feared for his life.
Some reading this know what it is to fear for their lives. They have served the Lord overseas in hostile areas. Others have served in the military, facing opposition from those who hate our nation. Some are cancer survivors or are facing a life-threatening prognosis. God has a word for you: He has everything under control. David found real peace through his relationship with the Lord. You can, too.
Admit Your Fears (1–7)
Whether the adversaries David mentioned were fellow Israelites or the Philistines, he faced an upward battle. They trampled him, fought arrogantly against him, twisted his words, stirred up strife, stalked him and planned his death. His response was to admit his fear. He gave no hypothetical “if I ever fear” but said, “when I am afraid.” The refrain for this song is given in verse 4: “In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I will not fear. What can man do to me?”
What makes you afraid? Do you fear losing your job? Are you avoiding a visit to the doctor because you are afraid of what he or she will find? Are you concerned that your children are going to make foolish decisions or maybe even follow your bad choices? Do you fear how you will take care of your aging parents? Are you wondering how soon before the bottom drops out of your finances? Before we can find hope, we must admit our fears.
Make God Your Focus (8–9)
Imagery in these verses indicates the Master’s intimate awareness of David’s circumstances and emotions. Rather than assuming that God was unconcerned about his situation, David was confident He was keeping track of everything. “Recorded my wanderings,” “my tears in Your bottle” and “in Your records” demonstrate that young David trusted God to take care of him. May I suggest you lay your fears before God and focus upon Him? Do not focus on His hands, thinking that He is obligated to give you something. Instead focus upon the face of God, finding peace in His presence in the midst of your storm. “This I know: God is for me.” Perhaps the apostle Paul had this verse on his mind when he wrote in Romans 8:31, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” Here Paul presented one of the greatest inspired soliloquies in all of Scripture. Our Creator, our Redeemer, our Comforter is for us; no one can stand against God.
Follow up With Praise (10–13)
Note the refrain, the words from earlier in the song, repeated here. This time, the refrain is expanded: “In God (Elohim), whose word I praise, in the Lord (Yahweh), whose word I praise.” It is not a generic supernatural being who is acknowledged, but specifically the covenant Lord of Israel is the One worthy of praise. As it turned out, David spent some time with the Philistines. He showed himself reliable, so much so that Achish considered taking him into battle against the Israelites. The commanders reminded the king about the Saul and David song. So David was quietly released without any further threat or antipathy from Achish (1 Sam. 29). David discovered praising God, regardless of his circumstances, was the proper response to paralyzing fear. He demonstrated that the Lord is worthy of praise in the midst of adversaries, foreign or domestic. In facing our greatest fears — whether cancer, divorce, bankruptcy, imprisonment or death itself — worshiping God and giving Him glory is our best response.