For You have delivered my soul from death. Have You not kept my feet from falling, That I may walk before God In the light of the living? Psalm 56:13
A Prayer of Trust
Fear and trust wage a fierce battle within as David faces enemies who conspire against him. Trust wins out, as David remains confident that God is for him.
This poem of David has the same setting as Ps. 34 – the flight of David to Achish at Gath. In Ps. 34, Achish is referred to as “Abimelech,” his royal designation. The fact that two of David’s psalms are tied to this one event demonstrates how devastating the experience was to David. Cut off from all he had known, David tried to find refuge among the Philistines. When they turned on him, he nearly lost his life. He escaped by pretending to be insane (1 Sam. 21:10-15). This psalm was sung in corporate worship, for it is addressed to the “Chief Musician” and is set to the tune “The Silent Dove in Distant Lands.”
Superscription. Fear drove David into Philistine territory where he was recognized and had to pretend madness to escape (1 Sam. 21). The experience taught David lessons he shares here.
Fear as an emotion. Fear is anticipation that something terrible may happen to use. Fear is a positive thing when it helps us avoid dangerous situations. It’s good to teach a child to be afraid to run out into the street. But fear is negative when it keeps us from doing something we know is right, or moves us to do something that we know is wrong. Everyone will feel fear. How we handle it is what counts.
The psalm gives us helpful guidance. (1) David felt fear, (2) turned to God to express trust, (3) recalled God’s self-revelation in Scripture, and (4) determined not to expect evil, because God was with him.
56:3-4. It’s not a matter of “if” we feel fear, but “when.” Yet when fear comes, it need not victimize us. See fear as a fresh opportunity to trust God.
56:8-11 You number my wanderings: The psalmist is confident that God has a particular interest in his every pain, even his every tear. He also knows the great truth that comes from the meaning of God’s name, that the Lord is for us. See 118:6 for a further development of this idea. I will praise His word: The double insert of this shout of praise shows the psalmist’s great enthusiasm for the praise of God. In God: The poet repeats the words of v. 4 as a refrain of confidence.
You number my wanderings; Put my tears into Your bottle; Are they not in Your book? 9 When I cry out to You, Then my enemies will turn back; This I know, because God is for me. 10 In God (I will praise His word), In the Lord (I will praise His word), 11 In God I have put my trust; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?
** Fear and Trust. These are two choices. But we don’t need to worry if we feel fearful. David teaches us what to do when we feel fear. We can move from fear to trust when we pray. King David even wrote the words of prayer for us.
56 1 To the Chief Musician. Set to ‘The Silent Dove in Distant Lands.’ A Michtam of David when the Philistines captured him in Gath. Be merciful to me, O God, for man would swallow me up; Fighting all day he oppresses me. 2 My enemies would hound me all day, For there are many who fight against me, O Most High. 3 Whenever I am afraid, I will trust in You. 4 In God (I will praise His word), In God I have put my trust; I will not fear. What can flesh do to me? 5 All day they twist my words; All their thoughts are against me for evil. 6 They gather together, They hide, they mark my steps, When they lie in wait for my life. 7 Shall they escape by iniquity? In anger cast down the peoples, O God!
8 You number my wanderings; Put my tears into Your bottle; Are they not in Your book? 9 When I cry out to You, Then my enemies will turn back; This I know, because God is for me. 10 In God (I will praise His word), In the Lord (I will praise His word), 11 In God I have put my trust; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me? 12 Vows made to You are binding upon me, O God; I will render praises to You, 13 For You have delivered my soul from death. Have You not kept my feet from falling, That I may walk before God In the light of the living?