Summary: From the real life lessons of David on the run, we discover ways to cope with danger, difficulty, and the demands of living a life of faith in a godless world.
Psalm 56 was written when David escaped from Saul to Gath, a city of the Philistines (1 Samuel 21). He also wrote Psalm 22 at the same time. Last week we talked about how Saul wanted to kill David and so chased him around the countryside. One of those escapes was to Nob, where David had retrieved the Sword of Goliath, a Philistine giant he had killed. It seems a little odd to me that David would take that particular sword, which must have been awfully difficult to hide, and ride into a city of the Philistines—but such was his desire to get out of Israel.
While in Gath the Philistines recognized David as a warrior and their enemy. He actually had to feign madness to keep them from killing him. While Psalm 22 is a plea to God to not forsake him, and describes David’s terror at those who surrounded them, Psalm 56 is a much more faithful psalm about trust in the Lord for his deliverance.
1 – 4
David is probably describing the servants of Gath’s King who surrounded him and said he was an Israeli warrior who had killed “tens of thousands” of Philistines. It says after this David became “very afraid”. I wonder if they started shoving him and might have killed him on the spot had he not employed those lessons he learned in drama school J to act like a crazy man.
He “scribbled on the doors … and let saliva drip down his beard.” He probably acted like a person with bipolar disorder.
But notice here that David right away says these most incredible words: “When I am afraid I will trust in You.” Fear seems to create in us a fight or flight response. But to someone who belongs to Yahweh, fear can give birth to trust and tranquility in God. And notice too the last words of verse 4 (which will be repeated later in a responsive format) “…in God I trust, I will not fear. What can man do to me?”
This is someone who is so secure in his relationship with God that he knows if man kills him, God will still have him.
Jesus echoed this idea:
Matthew 10:28-31 Don't fear those who kill the body but are not able to kill the soul; rather, fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. 29 Aren't two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them falls to the ground without your Father's consent. 30 But even the hairs of your head have all been counted. 31 Don't be afraid therefore; you are worth more than many sparrows.
5 – 7
Not only was David in danger but his words were being twisted. The word “twist” comes from a Hebrew root word that means “to carve.” The idea is that they fashioned words for David out of whole cloth—creating lies. Not only that but their thoughts are always desiring to do him harm. They are watching for a time to kill David.
David is not just worried about the Philistines, but about Saul’s men who are also chasing him. David knows this is sinful and desires for God to bring about retribution.
Now he turns to asking God to remember where he has gone in running from Saul and the anguish of heart it has caused it.