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  • Writer's picturePastor Mike

May 20 2023

Today, Saturday May 20

Fear or Faith

Psalm 56:1-4

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. My enemies would hound me all day, For there are many who fight against me, O Most High. Whenever I am afraid, I will trust in You. In God (I will praise His word), In God I have put my trust; I will not fear. What can flesh do to me?”

As we begin our study and meditations on Psalm 56 we again need to remember that the Psalms are not in the historical order in which they took place. David wrote Psalm 55 later in life, after he had been king of Israel for some time. He was fleeing for his life because his son Absalom was leading a revolt against him (2 Samuel 15-16). The title of Psalm 56 informs us that it was written by David years earlier as a young soldier when he had been captured by the Philistines in Gath.

1 Samuel 21 gives us the history and story of this desperate time in his life. King Saul in his great jealousy had already attempt to personally kill David on several occasions. When fleeing from him this time, David went alone to Nob to Ahimelech the priest to get some food and get the sword of Goliath. For some reason he had in his mind that he would be safer with the Philistines at Gath where Saul would be afraid to come. Maybe he thought the sword of Goliath would scare the Philistines reminding them of his victory over Goliath a few years earlier.

Whenever we come under great duress and pressure, we don’t always think very clearly! Our faith can turn to fear and we make some terrible decisions. That is what happened when David went to Achish, the king of the Philistines at Gath. Remember Gath is the hometown of Goliath (1 Samuel 17), and he still has four living brothers who no doubt hated David (2 Samuel 21:18-21). You have to wonder what David was thinking, because just the opposite happened. At Gath they did remember, and they wanted revenge. They capture David and probably throw him into some kind of jail, or tie in up in the middle of the city. They want to publicly humiliate him, mock him and deride him, and probably are taking time to decide how they are going to kill him.

The words and prayer of this Psalm must have formed in the mind of David as he is in this time of total despair, in fear of his life. This Psalm reveals that his life was in great danger, and history tells us that he had to pretend to be insane in order to escape (1 Sam. 21:10-22:1). The musical inscription is translated variously: "the silent dove among those far away," "the silent dove among the strangers," "the dove on the distant oaks (or terebinths)." David feels totally helpless like a dove and all alone.

Psalm 34 also came out of this experience in Gath and was probably written after his escape from the Philistines. Psalm 34:6-7: “This poor man cried out, and the LORD heard him, And saved him out of all his troubles. The angel of the LORD encamps all around those who fear Him, And delivers them.” In the midst of peril and fear (vv. 3, 4, 11), David cries out to the LORD!

Interestingly, Psalm 56 stands shoulder to shoulder with Psalm 55, where the troubles were caused by David's family and friend; here they are caused by David's foes. There he was depressed; here he is optimistic. Trouble is trouble, but where it comes from can make a big difference.

David remembers God’s Word and His promises and encourages himself in the mercy, mindfulness, and might of God. That is a great way to face a hopeless situation. Life is full of situations far beyond our limited powers to control: situations at work and at home, with our families, in the fellowship, in matters of finance, and in matters of our future.

Fear and despair can overwhelm us but, like David, we can remember the promises of God in His Word and then let our fear drive us to return to faith. “Whenever I am afraid, I will trust in You. In God (I will praise His word), In God I have put my trust; I will not fear. What can flesh do to me?” (v. 4). “In God (I will praise His word), In the LORD (I will praise His word), In God I have put my trust; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me? (vv. 10-11).

God bless!

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