by John Lowe
4 In God I will praise his word, in God I have put my trust; I will not fear what flesh can do unto me.
The sense of the clause, “In God I will praise his word” is either (1), I will praise or boast of the Lord’s word, or the Lord for His word. Or (2), with or by the Lord (i.e. by his favor or help) I will praise His word. Or (3), as I humbly envision it: and there are many things to be praised and celebrated pertaining to God, His power and wisdom, etc., but above all, I shall at this time praise Him for His word. And I will praise Him for His promises of protection and deliverance made to His people in all their predicaments, and especially for that promise of the kingdom made to me, for which I will now praise Him, because I am as sure of its accomplishment as if I already had it in my hand. “In God I will praise,” not only His work which He has done, but His word which He has spoken; I will give Him thanks for a promise though it has not yet been accomplished.
“Flesh!” That’s how he sums up all the armed and concentrated might of his foes. “What time I am afraid,” says David (56:3), “I will not fear” (56:4). “I will not fear what flesh can do unto me;” it is only flesh and cannot do much; it can do nothing other than by Divine permission. Just as we must not trust an arm of flesh when it is being used for us, so we must not be afraid of an arm of flesh when it is stretched out against us. Also we should understand David’s fearlessness in the light of our Saviors words: “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28). David brought his fear into the presence of God and saw it dissolve before his eyes. Mortal men on the one side, Almighty God on the other. That was how David saw his current situation. The source of courage is God’s word! Nothing can defeat a man with faith such as this.
Verses 5-11: His enemies had not gone away. They were still there, congregating outside his cell, mocking him, and telling him what they intended to do with him. David encourages himself in God.
Verses 5-7: David carefully weighs his present precarious circumstances against divine certainties. There was no way he could perish in that Philistine prison because God had promised him the throne of Israel, and if he were to die there in Gath God would have broken His Word. Unthinkable!
5 Every day they wrest my words: all their thoughts are against me for evil.
They lied about him and they spied on him. They conspired together to keep the pressure up. If David attempted to defend himself or reason with them, they put words in his mouth to alter what he is really attempting to say. It was a form of persecution which has been brought to a fine art in many countries today. We call it brainwashing—bright lights, no sleep, continual threats, arguments, rants and tirades. Sooner or later most people break down under this treatment (or mistreatment). David simply told the Lord about it.
“Every day they (evil men) wrest my words”; they misconstrue and pervert my most innocent expressions, and turn them into vicious slander, with which they may incense Saul against me.
6 They gather themselves together, they hide themselves, they mark my steps, when they wait for my soul.
After the officers and officials had pondered how to get rid of me, “They gather themselves together,” that is, they met together to share their thoughts on how to deal with me. Though there were many of them, and they had different interests, yet they united and joined forces against David.
My foes are cunning, “they hide themselves,” they cover their intentions, so that they may effectively pursue them. “They hide themselves” like a lion in his den. The foes are described as wild beasts lurking for pray. The image is not uncommon in the Psalter. They spy on me, either to pry into my most private activities, or in order to surprise me and harm me in some way (compare Psalm 10:8; Proverbs 1:11). David literally had to “watch his step” in Gath, because he was a man under suspicion. He had a target on his back and only the Lord could protect him. David chose Gath because he thought it was the last place Saul would expect to find him, but when he made that choice, he was walking by sight and not by faith. Faith is living without scheming. David prayed that God would judge Israel’s enemies.
“They mark my steps,” which is to say, they are always watching me, observing everything I say and do with a critical eye, hoping that they may find something to blame me for, or an opportunity to criticize or entangle and destroy me.
“When they wait for my soul,” to wit, to take it away from me, by killing me.
Satan is a master at wearing us down. Often we collapse because we are physically or psychologically exhausted. The only hope we have is to make sure our anchor rests firmly under the blanket of God’s care and lovingkindness—then we can sing, “My anchor holds.”
7 Shall they escape by iniquity? in thine anger cast down the people, O God.
One translator puts it like this: “Pay them back for their malice! Down with these men of power, O God, in anger!” David invokes the righteous anger of God against those who were breaking the laws of asylum and threatening His own anointed. God is mindful of mine trials, says David.
“Shall they escape by iniquity?”, he asks. They hope to escape God’s judgments (to get away with their evil) in the same way they escape men’s judgements, by violence and fraud, and with the assistance of injustice and treachery; but shall they escape? No, certainly they shall not. The sin of sinners will never be their security, nor will either their impudence or their hypocrisy bring them God’s support; God will in His “anger cast down” and cast out such people— “And thinkest thou this, O man, that judgest them which do such things, and doest the same, that thou shalt escape the judgment of God?” (Romans 2:3). No one is so important, or so powerful that they cannot be brought down by the justice of God both from their dignity and from their confidence. Who knows the power of God’s “anger,” how high it can reach, and how forcibly it can strike?
8 Thou tellest my wanderings: put thou my tears into thy bottle: are they not in thy book?
The path to the throne was not an easy one for David. He was in God’s school and God gives stiff exams. He does not grade on the curve. He puts those He intends to exalt to the sternest of tests. David’s experiences as a fugitive found him often in despair, often in tears. But God remembers his “tears,” God records his fears: “Thou tellest recordest my wanderings; put Thou my tears into Thy bottle3; are they not in Thy book?” “When I cry unto Thee, then shall mine enemies turn back: this I know; for God is for me” (v. 9). The psalmist is confident that God has a particular interest in his every pain, even his every tear.
God has a “book” (in which all things are recorded) and a “bottle” to hold His peoples “tears,” both those shed for their sins and those shed for their afflictions. This intimates that He observes them with compassion and tender concern; he is afflicted by their afflictions and knows their souls and adversities. Just as the blood of His saints, and their deaths are precious in the sight of the Lord, so are their “tears,” not one of them shall fall to the ground; not one of them is unnoticed or forgotten. “I have seen thy tears” (2 Kings 20:5).
Here is an exquisite description of the tender, personalized care of our Lord. He keeps a count of our “wanderings,” of our restless tossing during the night, of our fevered turnings from one side to another. He cares so much about the details of our “tears” of sorrow that He can be asked to keep our “tears” in His “bottle” (“wineskin” is better). This may be an allusion to an ancient custom of mourners, namely, preserving their falling “tears” in a small “bottle,” which was placed in the tomb of deceased friends, as a memorial to the survivors’ affection. In any event, God does keep a record of our “tears” in His “book,” just as Jesus later taught us that He numbers the very hairs of our heads. The point is simply that God is aware of what we feel and how we suffer, and his records are accurate.
In verses 8-9, David reminded the Lord of the sufferings he had endured in exile, and then suggested that these sufferings qualified him to have his prayers answered and his enemies defeated. That would assure David that God is behind his cause (Romans 8:31-39). Sleepless nights and many hours spent in torment and weeping are not endured in vain as far as God is concerned. Suffering, as you might say, is capital invested with God, booked by Him and collected by Him (Weiser).
9 When I cry unto thee, then shall mine enemies turn back: this I know; for God is for me.
What a map God had in Glory, the map of David’s meanderings up and down the promised land, with Saul’s bloodhounds ever baying at his heels! David looked back over the past few years and was amazed. The hunt had gone on so long and so relentlessly it had driven him, in a moment of panic, right into Philistine territory. Not a single step was unmarked on that map.
Let us remember when our circumstances and our spirit seem to tell us that God is watching. When we cannot sleep at night, when we pace the floor agonizing over a lost loved one, a wayward child, a threatened lay-off, God is watching. He is mapping our own footsteps, gathering up our tears.
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