Daybreak: Psalms 55:1 through 57:11
“What time I am afraid, I will trust in thee.” (Psalm 56:3)
One evening when my daughter was young, she went to spend the night at her cousin’s house. She told me later that she had a good time until she got into bed and the lights were turned out. When the room went dark, she became afraid. She knew to pray, so she closed her eyes and asked God to help her not to be afraid. When she opened her eyes, the room was still dark, but the words of our focus verse were illuminated on the wall beside the bed: “What time I am afraid, I will trust in thee.” She had not known that her cousin had previously put that verse up on the wall using glow-in-the-dark letters. As soon as my daughter read the verse, she knew that God had heard her prayer and was with her, and she was able to fall asleep in peace. When she came home and told me about the incident, I too felt at peace, because I knew God would be with my daughter when I couldn’t be.
Years later, as a college student, my daughter made plans to spend four months of her junior year in Mexico as an exchange student. Though I knew God would be with her, I had many concerns about her living so far away from home. I prayed and told the Lord my apprehensions that my daughter would be housed with people who were opposed to the Gospel and that she would not have a private place to pray. I was also worried that someone in the household might harm her, or that the house would not be secure from intruders.
My daughter was placed with a single woman who had converted to Christianity three years earlier. She was given her own bedroom and bathroom, and the house she stayed in was surrounded by a high iron gate that was always kept locked.
Another of my concerns was that my daughter would get homesick. I told the Lord that I hoped some of the food would be familiar to her. She called me on her first day and said that for breakfast, her host mom had served oatmeal, fruit, and eggs — exactly what she ate at home each morning!
The Lord specifically answered each of my concerns, because He cares about me. He watched over my daughter, because He cares about her. When we are afraid, our natural inclination toward apprehension can be stilled as we put our trust in God. We can find peace and security in the knowledge that He is able and eager to help us.
Psalm 55 is designated as an instructional song (a Maschil) to be played by the “stringed instruments” (Neginoth). David wrote this psalm of lament during the period of time when his son, Absalom, was attempting to take his throne. His pain was profound as the “terrors of death” closed in around him and he was surrounded by violence and treachery. He had been betrayed by a confidant and fellow-worshiper of God (verses 12-14). This was likely Ahithophel, David’s trusted counselor, who secretly advised Absalom regarding David’s overthrow (see 2 Samuel 15:12). The psalmist asked God to “divide their tongues” (verse 9) or cause confusion in his enemy’s counsels of war. According to 2 Samuel 17:14, God sent Hushai to give opposing advice, and this became Absalom’s undoing.
In spite of his distressing situation, the psalmist concluded the psalm by asserting his confidence in God. In verse 22, the Hebrew word translated burden literally means “portion.” David knew that his portion — the events that had befallen him — had been assigned by God. Just as a well-rooted tree remains stable in spite of being assaulted by the wind, David had confidence that God would never “suffer” (or allow) the righteous to be overcome by circumstances.
According to its superscription, Psalm 56 is the second “golden psalm” of David (the first is Psalm 16, which has a similar content). It is titled, “The silent dove in foreign places” (Jonath-elem-rechokim). This title could refer either to a melody to which the psalm was sung or to the content of the psalm. Psalm 56 was written when David fled from King Saul to the refuge of Achish, the King of Gath, only to find himself also in danger there (1 Samuel 21:10-15).
The psalm divides naturally into two parts. Verses 1-7 describe the psalmist’s trouble. As in many of the psalms of lament, verse 1 is a plea for God’s mercy. David’s complaint that his enemies attempted daily to “swallow me up” alludes to his enemies’ continual oppression. His question in verse 7, “Shall they escape by iniquity?” means “Shall they get away with their evil?”
Verses 8-13 convey the psalmist’s trust in God. In verse 8 he stated that God “tellest” (knows) his “wanderings” — a word which also could be translated as “evidence of grief” or “lamentation.” His request for God to “put thou my tears into thy bottle” was a plea for God to take note of his deep distress. David concluded this psalm with a question that is actually an assertion of reliance: God had previously given deliverance, so David knew he could continue to depend upon Him.
The word “Al-taschith” in the superscription of Psalm 57 instructs to “destroy not,” and possibly alludes to a melody to which the words were sung. This is another “Golden Psalm” (Michtam) and lament of David. The historical note in the title indicates the setting was a time when David took refuge from Saul in a cave. This may refer to the time when David went to the “cave of Adullam” (1 Samuel 22:1), or when David was nearly captured by Saul at the cave of En-gedi on the banks of the western Dead Sea (1 Samuel 24:3-8). The psalm is divided into two parts by a chorus that gives God the highest praise and honor (verses 5 and 11).
In the first half of the psalm, David pleaded for God’s protection from those who desired to “swallow me” up (verse 3), a phrase that could also be translated “trample me.” He compared his enemies to hungry beasts of prey, whose sharp teeth were described as “spears and arrows” and whose tongue was “a sharp sword.”
In the second half of the psalm (which is repeated in Psalm 108:1-5), David expressed his praise to God in spite of continued peril. His statement in verse 6 that his enemies had “prepared a net” and “digged a pit” was an allusion to methods used by hunters to take game.
(Hannah’s Bible Outlines – Used by permission per WORDsearch)
I. Book I (1:1 — 41:13)
II. Book II (42:1 — 72:20)
III. Book III (73:1 — 89:52)
IV. Book IV (90:1 — 106:48)
V. Book V (107:1 — 150:6)
A Closer Look
- In Psalm 57:7-9, what were some of the ways that David worshiped God as he anticipated an answer to prayer?
- Why do you think God delivered David in each situation of danger?
- What can we do to encourage ourselves as we wait for an answer to prayer?
If we turn to God when we are afraid, as David did, we too will be able to testify to God’s faithfulness.