The Book of Psalms

Friday: “What Can Man Do to Me?”


Theme: New Life in Christ
In this week’s lessons we learn from the life of David that when we are afflicted by the attacks of others, we can have confidence in the Lord, whose word never fails.
Scripture: Psalm 56:1-13
So let me ask, Do you trust God? If you are a Christian, you have trusted him in the matter of your salvation. That is the greatest thing. God has saved you from sin, hell and the devil. If you are a Christian, you believe he has done that. But if he has done that, can you not also trust him in lesser things like loneliness or even those sometimes dangerous circumstances that cause fear and desperation? The Bible teaches that God will take care of you if you belong to him and are following after Jesus Christ. David wrote in an earlier psalm, “I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread” (Ps. 37:25). The psalm immediately before this one argued, “Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you” (Ps. 55:22). The Apostle Paul wrote to the Philippians, “My God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:19).
Confidence in the Word of God. There is another aspect to David’s confidence in God, and that is that it is also based upon the Word of God. Certainly you have noticed in the words of this repeated chorus that the phrase “whose word I praise” occurs three times. This is very important, because apart from the Word of God we do not know what God is like, and we certainly do not know what he has promised to do for us. What is this “word of God” to which David refers? Clearly it is the entire self-revelation of God in Scripture given up to that time. In other words, it is the Pentateuch (the first five books) and possibly Joshua and Judges. That is only a portion of our Bibles, but it was enough to make God’s character and desires for his people known. In the chorus of Psalm 56 David therefore praises God for his Word, recognizing it as one of the greatest of all God’s good gifts to men and women.
However, it may also be the case that David is thinking specifically of the words of God that were brought to him by the prophet Samuel, assuring him that he would be king over Israel (cf. 1 Sam. 16:1-13). That must have seemed a long way off when David was in Gath or hiding in the cave of Adullam. But no matter. It was the word of God, and though the fulfillment of that word might be long delayed it was nevertheless absolutely certain. Therefore, it was not only in God but also in the specific words of God that David trusted.
You and I do not have individualized revelations from God delivered to us today by God’s prophets. We have the Bible. But the Bible we have is more extensive than David’s. It contains all we need to know about spiritual things. Equally important, we have the Holy Spirit to give us understanding of what has been written as well as the ability to apply it to specific areas of our lives.
The last two verses of Psalm 56, verses 12 and 13, are like the ending of Psalm 54, in which David vows to present a thanksgiving offering to God when he is delivered. So certain is he that God will deliver him in time: “I am under vows to you, O God; I will present my thank offerings to you. For you have delivered my soul from death and my feet from stumbling, that I may walk before God in the light of life.”
This is a great vow of confidence, like the confidence of Psalm 34 which is also based on the incident at Gath. David got this confidence by praying, and so can we. Confidence comes to the person who prays and trusts God.
But I want you to see one thing more before I end this study. The fact that Jesus seems to have used the last words of verse 13 in John 8:12 makes us think of verse 13 in light of the deliverance Jesus brings to those who trust him and the “life” as his gift of salvation by the Holy Spirit. That is the ultimate fulfillment of the psalm, of course. As Alexander Maclaren says, “The really living are they who live in Jesus, and the real light of the living is the sunshine that streams on those who thus live, because they live in him.”3 So I end this way. If you really want to move out of your fear, despair and loneliness, and bask in God’s sunshine, live looking upward always into the face of Jesus Christ. Then will you find yourself saying firmly, “In God I trust; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?”
Study Questions:

From this study, what do we learn from other portions of Scripture about our need to trust God and what he promises to do for us?
Why is it necessary for God to reveal himself to us through the Bible?
How does Jesus use the last part of Psalm 56:13?

Reflection: Do you trust God as David did?
For Further Study: One of the necessary ways that our trust in the Lord is increased is through prayer. To learn more about this important blessing, download and listen for free to James Boice’s message from 1 John, “Confidence in Prayer.” (Discount will be applied at checkout.)
3Alexander Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture, vol. 3, The Psalms, Isaiah 1-48 (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1959), part 2, p. 46.

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