I referred earlier to Perowne’s comment that Psalm 56 is about "the victory rather than the struggle of faith." But that did not mean that fear is missing from the psalm. On the contrary, the fear described in 1 Samuel 21:12 is evident in the opening verses (vv. 1, 2) and also in David’s second, longer elaboration of the danger (vv. 5-9). There are two emphases.

With this background of David’s flight to Gath in mind, we now read the central verses of the psalm: “When I am afraid, I will trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I will not be afraid. What can mortal man do to me” (vv. 3, 4)?

There are three things worth noting about David’s time in Gath, when this psalm was written.

David was alone. He had fled from Saul without any soldiers, in fact, even without food or weapons. We think of him having at least his four hundred valiant men with him when he was in the wilderness. We think of him having hearty companionship and at least some protection. But according to 1 Samuel 22, the gathering of his army occurred after the time in Gath. So David was entirely alone at this time. There was no one with him.

What can man do to me? We know the answer to that, and we do not have to think about it very much. The answer is: A lot! And to prove it all we have to do is read the morning's newspaper. The week I wrote this study, on just one day, I read these stories.

The alternating structure of the psalm continues in verses 20 and 21, where David casts a final glance at the friend who has betrayed him. But the tone has changed, hasn't it? Earlier David was deeply pained by the betrayal. Here, having laid the matter before God and having assured himself that God is his Savior and that he will surely deliver him from such evil, David steps away from his own feelings and reflects on the wrongdoing itself. The real problem is that the man is a covenant breaker, and the reason he breaks covenant is that he is a hypocrite. He pretends one thing but plots another. He speaks peace, but actually he is devising war.