1 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. Be merciful to me, O God, for men hotly pursue me; all day long they press their attack. 2 My slanderers pursue me all day long; many are attacking me in their pride.
3 When I am afraid, I will trust in you.
4 In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust;
I will not be afraid. What can mortal man do to me?
5 All day long they twist my words; they are always plotting to harm me. 6 They conspire, they lurk, they watch my steps, eager to take my life. 7 On no account let them escape; in your anger, O God, bring down the nations. 8 Record my lament; 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;
I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?
12 I am under vows to you, O 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.
Fear of man? Trust in God!
(Verses 1-2) The cause of David writing Psalm 56 was when the Philistines ‘seized him in Gath’. 1 Samuel 21:10-15 tells of David fleeing from Saul to Gath. They ‘seized’ him there. His feigned madness fooled them, so they freed this ‘madman’. David asks God for mercy to escape his proud and many pursuers. They slander and attack him ‘all day long.’ When you pray for help be specific in your requests.
(Verses 3-4) David feels fear as we all do. But he is not giving in to it. He determines ‘When I am afraid, I will trust in You.’ He praises God for His word, and as he trusts in God, his determination strengthens: ‘In God I trust; I will not be afraid.’ He then logically asks ‘What can mortal man do to me?’ Eternal God is on His side. The worst man can do is to usher him into Heaven sooner than expected. God cares for those who trust in Him for all eternity. Just think, eternal God became a man in the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ. He was both fully man and fully God. He went to that cross at Calvary to bear our sins and in our place suffer an eternity of punishment for them, contracted to three hours of suffering in the unexpected mid-day darkness. At that time God the Father punished Jesus, God the Son, for our sins. Now, because Jesus rose again from the dead, any sinner who is sorry for his sins and turns from them to trust in Christ, need not fear death and Hell. He receives eternal life and awaits a home in Heaven. If that describes you, you also can pray, as David did years before, ‘Be merciful to me, O God’, ‘I will trust in You’, and ‘in God I trust, I will not be afraid. What can mortal man do to me?’
(Verses 5-11) David tells God how his enemies twist his words. They conspire to plot against him. They wait in ambush and note where he goes. They want to kill him. David commits his foes to God, who will deal with them. That is better than taking action himself. He asks God to note his sadness. He knows God can turn his foes back as he asks Him to help. Aware that God is on his side, he confidently prays again as before, trusting and praising God.
(Verses 12-13) David will sacrifice a thank offering to God. He is grateful for His delivering him from death and stumbling. Now he can ‘walk before God in the light of life.’ So can you, if your faith is in Jesus.