Monday, 6 January 2014

Psalm 56 - God's word enabling the Righteous One, amid his wanderings, to anticipate final rest.

The reason why fear gains ascendancy in a believing soul on occasions of danger and trouble is sententiously expressed by Augustine: "You see the magnitude of the evil; the power of the physician you do not see.

The faith which penetrates the unseen reaches the case. This Psalm, in verses 1,2, sets forth perils and evils in their magnitude, every day felt, every day repeating their vigorous assaults; but verses 3,4, declare the remedy.

"In the day of my fear, I will trust in you." (v3)

This is nothing less than the voice of the Master, of him who said in John 14:1,27, "Let not your heart be troubled, believe in God;" "Peace I give to you; not as the world gives, I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid."

"God I will extol - his Word." (v4)

I will rest my heart in God; I will praise God (Psalm 44:9, and v10 again); I will praise God with a special reverence to "his Word" - his promises, which are not like those of the world.

  • David might refer to the Lord's special promise to him of the Seed who was to come - a promise that of course implied his preservation in order to his accomplishment.
  • The Son of David has his eye on that same promise in another of its aspects, its implied engagement to supply strength and give victory. 
  • Every believing one, in hours of darkness, reverts to that promise, saying to his soul, "He that spared not his own Son, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?"

It is thus that the Lord "magnifies his Word," making it felt to be the prominent and most attractive to sinful men of all his ways of revealing himself. (Psalm 128:2.)

The world goes on, adding sin to sin. The world goes on seeking daily to overthrow God by overthrowing his people' even as it sought to overthrow God by overthrowing his Son. (v5,6).

But: "Shall they escape by iniquity?" (v7) They have made a covenant with death and hell; shall it stand? No; if they were to escape by their iniquity, by their boldness in defying God, this would be a result wholly unlike the past dealings of God.  "God, in anger, has brought down the nations" (v7) and will do again on that day when their anger is hot against him (Rev 11:18)

On the other hand, He has never failed to take account of the wanderings and tears of his own. Their wandering and his bottle, correspond so far that every tear shed by them in their wanderings is in that bottle of his; as if he had travelled along with them through their wilderness, and never allowed one drop to reach the ground.

His bottle and his book of remembrance have preserved these precious tears; and if so, what good reason have we for exultation (v9-11) and for reiterating: "God I will extol - the Word!" (Fry suggests "God shall be the theme of my praise; He has spoken.)

I will praise the LORD, and why? That Word already referred to, v4, explains all. He has spoken. He has promised. All shall go on well. And then shall come the glorious issue: I shall walk before God in the light of the living. (v13)

Which, while not necessarily confined to the future, yet surely carries us forward to New Jerusalem days, when he who is "Life" and who by being so, is "the Light" of man, shall walk with his redeemed in the kingdom.

He himself is the grand example. His every tear was precious. His every step was marked. The book of remembrance has a record of these so vast, and ample and full, that, were it published here, "I suppose the world itself could not contain the volumes that could be written." 

He arose on the third day, "walking in the light of the living;" no more a prisoner in the darkness of the grave; no more subjected to the gloom of his Father's wrath; no more walking through the dark valley where love was withheld; entering on the endless brightness of divine favour at the right hand.

A believer's course resembles His, ending, too, in this unclouded noon of resurrection glory.

"O come that glorious morning, when the redeemed shall sing eternal praise to the God of salvation, for having delivered their souls from death, and feet from falling, that they might walk before him in the land of the living." (Horne)

One point we have not noticed. The title of this Psalm is peculiar. It is "Michtam" in common with Psalm 16 and many others. But it is also: Upon Jonath-elem-recho-kim. Hengstenberg renders this: The silent dove among strangers. This well expresses the substance of the Psalm, as being the breathing of the One who did not return reviling for being reviled, but groaned his sorrows in the ear of God. Yet we have reason to believe the titles refer to instruments "upon" which the tune was played. No doubt a tune and instrument suited to the subject, used on occasions of melancholy interest such as "Dove among strangers" may suggest.

In either view the title corresponds to what we gather up as the substance of the Psalm, written by inspiration when David had put himself into the hands of the Philistines, and was sore afraid (1 Sam 21:12) namely, God's word enabling the Righteous One, amid his wanderings, to anticipate final rest.

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