Psalm 56

Psalm 56: a silent dove in a distant place

Psalm 56
For the director of music. To the tune of "A Dove on Distant Oaks." 
Of David. A miktam.
When the Philistines had seized him in Gath.
(1) Be merciful to me, my God, for my enemies are in hot pursuit; all day long they press their attack.
(2) My adversaries pursue me all day long; in their pride many are attacking me.
(3) When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.
(4) In God, whose word I praise- in God I trust and am not afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?
(5) All day long they twist my words; all their schemes are for my ruin.
(6) They conspire, they lurk, they watch my steps, hoping to take my life.
(7) Because of their wickedness do not let them escape; in your anger, God, bring the nations down.
(8) Record my misery; list my tears on your scroll- are they not in your record?
(9) 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 and am not afraid. What can man do to me?
(12) I am under vows to you, my 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.

To the director of music, a song in remembrance of hard times. Sung to a specific tune: A Dove on Distant Oaks (NIV), The Silent Dove in Distant Lands (NKJV), The Dove on Far-off Terebinths (ESV). The Terebinths is a cashew like tree.

A miktam or michtam is another musical term, some believe means “golden” others say may be a word that means “to cover,” like something in secret. Like a “golden secret” secret.

Read 1 Samuel 21:10-15 for the story of David in Gath.

If you remember this time in history, David had received help from the priest in Nob; food and a weapon. The priests and their families were later murdered by Doeg the Edomite who was trying to impress Saul.

To those Bible history buffs, here’s a fun fact: the sword that the priest in Nob gave David to defend himself with was none other than the sword he had taken from the giant Philistine named Goliath. David had used that sword to cut off Goliath’s head, actually. When David was refreshed and had the weapon at his side, he continued to flee from Saul.

And where did he carry that sword to you may ask? To Gath, one of the royal cities of the Philistines. In fact, Gath was Goliath’s hometown. Huh, oops . . .

Did he forget that? Probably not. That event would be a highlight in David’s list of great battles.

Maybe did he feel that was the best place to hide? Was he hiding near Gath because it was the last place that Saul would look for him? Only to be found by Philistine soldiers- carrying the weapon that defeated their great warrior, Goliath?

Whatever exactly happened, Gath was probably the scariest place to be.

Psalm 34 was written after David escaped from Gath. Psalm 56 was written to God while he was still captive.

O God, have mercy on me, for people are hounding me.
My foes attack me all day long.
I am constantly hounded by those who slander me, and many are boldly attacking me.
But when I am afraid, I will put my trust in you.
I praise God for what he has promised.
I trust in God, so why should I be afraid?
What can mere mortals do to me?
Psalm 56:1-4 NLT

David is alone, afraid, and in enemy hands. But he puts that aside and trusts in the Lord.

“When I am afraid, I will trust you. I praise you because you have promised to always watch over me. I trust you, God.”

What a beautiful reminder for us that when this life is hard, lean into the promises and faithfulness of God. We have nothing to be afraid of because we are children of the One True King.

In God, whose word I praise- in God I trust and am not afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?
Psalm 56:4

These words are repeated throughout the Bible, in David’s Psalms, but also in the New Testament.

So we say with confidence, "The Lord is my helper, I will not be afraid. 
What can mere mortals do to me?" 
Hebrews 13:6
What, then, shall we say in response to these things? 
If God is for us, who can be against us?
Romans 8:31

The truth is, as believers, the whole world can be against us. We could find ourselves in enemy territory carrying the sword of the enemy on our hip. “Mere mortals” can hurt us. The whole world can be against us. What can mere mortals do? A lot actually.

In his commentary on this Psalm, Charles Spurgeon points out the idea that we often, as believers, live in a sort of “twilight” where light and dark exist at the same time. We can be afraid but trusting God at the same time. We can be full of fear and still praise God.

Whether the fear arise from without or within, from past, present, or future, from temporals or spirituals, from devils or men, let us maintain faith, and we shall soon recover courage.

Charles Spurgeon, English preacher, 1834-1892

David says, “when I am afraid, I will trust in God.” Then he says, “I trust in God, so why should I be afraid?”

Even a great warrior, God’s chosen king over Israel, a “man after My Own heart,” was afraid sometimes. David took that fear to the Lord, and the Lord always gave him back courage.

Has God done that for you? Keep calling on Him, and He will.

They are always twisting what I say: they spend their days plotting to harm me.
They come together to spy on me- watching my every step, eager to kill me.
Don't let them get away with their wickedness; in your anger, O God, bring them down.
You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle.
You have recorded each one in your book.
Psalm 56:5-8 NLT

David is in physical distress. But he is also under constant stress, pressure, and worry. He cannot escape this worry and stress, but God is David’s best friend, who he turns to when he’s had enough.

Whatever is happening to David in the hands of the Philistines is not a vacation. It’s physical violence and emotional strain.

But God is David’s defender, and David knows that God will come to his aid. God is faithful and God will defend His children. David prays for God to “bring them down.”

While God does rescue David from the Philistines, He doesn’t “bring them down” during this time. However, He does later, when David is king.

You have taken account of my miseries; put my tears in your bottle.
Are they not in your records?
Psalm 56:8 NASB

God doesn’t need a bottle to store our tears in or a book to write important stuff down in. He is God. But this verse isn’t the only one that shows that God cares about us that much that He does keep track. He does know our tears. He does know our wanderings and our miseries and our sorrows.

Jesus said,

Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father's care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don't be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. 
Matthew 10:29-31
And when he had taken it, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of God's people.
Revelation 5:8

We perhaps are so confused by a long course of trouble, that we hardly know where we have or where we have not been; but the omniscient and considerate Father of our spirits remembers all in detail; for he has counted them over as men count their gold, for even the trial of our faith is precious in his sight.

Charles Spurgeon, English preacher, 1834-1892
My enemies will retreat when I call to you for help.
This I know: God is on my side!
I praise God for what he has promised; yes, I praise the LORD for what he has promised.
I trust in God, so why should I be afraid?
What can mere mortals do to me?
Psalm 56:9-11 NLT

How does David have such confidence in the Lord? How does he know that God is on his side?

Two reasons: because God says so in His Word and because God has been faithful to him before.

You and I can stand upon that same faith that God is on our side because it says so in His Word. God has promised to defend His children; He has promised that evil will not remain forever; He has promised to love us and be there for us, and He has promised that we will be with Him some day in heaven.

So truly, as children of the Most High, we have nothing to be afraid of.

I will fulfill my vows to you, O God, and will offer a sacrifice of thanks for your help. 
For you have rescued me from death; you have kept my feet from slipping. 
So now I can walk in your presence, O God, in your life-giving light.
Psalm 56:12-13 NLT

David writes in certainty of his deliverance.

God turned David’s fear and trials into strength and trust, and David was already sure of his salvation and planning his sacrifice to the Lord in thanksgiving.

Be sure of your salvation, my friend. Thank and praise God for it.

So now I can walk in your presence, O God, in your life-giving light.

Thus in this short Psalm, we have climbed from the ravenous jaws of the enemy into the light of Jehovah’s presence, a path that only faith can tread.

Charles Spurgeon, English preacher, 1834-1892
When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said,
"I am the light of the world. 
Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness,
but will have the light of life."
John 8:12

Father in heaven, thank you for your word. Thank you for being our salvation. Thank you for being faithful throughout time, now, and forever. You are a good Father, and you walk with us during trials; in good times and bad, you are by our side. Thank you for that promise. Thank you that you know our tears. Thank you for Jesus. Help us to walk with you all the days of our lives. Amen.

Heidi xoxo

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