by Peter G. Feenstra
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. (Ps. 56:1–2)
1 Samuel 21:10–15
David writes Psalm 56 after enduring one of the most harrowing experiences in his life. While fleeing from the murderous intentions of Saul, he ran into the arms of the hostile Philistines. Earlier David had been anointed by Samuel to be Israel’s next king. At first it seemed the transition would go smoothly. Saul is pleased with David’s skills and gives him a high position in his court and army. Jonathan, Saul’s son, becomes a close friend. To top it off the king gives his daughter Michal in marriage to David. But jealousy takes hold of Saul’s heart. As a result, David is forced to leave the palace and the country, thus losing contact with his wife and his best friend. The possibility of ascending the throne seems further away than ever before.
One day David makes a very thoughtless and foolish move by going to the land of the Philistines. David's course of action is wrong, and he pays the price for his foolishness. He thinks he is fleeing from his problems, but instead he gets himself into deeper trouble. The Philistines recognize him as the man about whom they sang, “Saul has killed his thousands but David his ten thousands.” Standing before king Achish, David fears the worst. His life is in danger once more and it terrifies him to think about what might happen.
By fleeing to the land of the Philistines, David not only brought his own life into danger but he neglected his responsibility as the bearer of the messianic promises. He jeopardizes what God wants to do through him. Seeking help from heathen neighbours causes him more harm than good.
While in the land of the Philistines, David sees the error of his ways. What he experiences makes him realize that, even though he thinks he is clever, he is a fool. If the Lord does not come to his aid, he is still a lost man. Deliverance has to come from the Lord alone. In his trouble David composes Psalm 56, crying out to God for mercy.
There are times in our lives that we try to fix our problems with our own man-made solutions, only to find out that we are digging a deeper hole of grief and trouble. Pray that the Lord keep our eyes open to our own folly. May He bring us to our knees in humble confession of our own misery and recognition of our need for the mercy He provides in Christ alone.For further information about this resource, click here.