Theme: Into Death’s Jaws
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
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.
An account of an attack on Serbian, Bulgarian, Romanian and Vietnamese refugees in Germany by neo-Nazis, while German police looked on. To their credit the refugees fought back and injured ten of their attackers.
A United Nations vote to look into reports of war crimes by the Serbian government against Muslims in Bosnia. The Serbs seem to be murdering thousands of Muslims in an offensive they call “ethnic cleansing.”
The trial of a man who sold an unsuspecting family a home with a defective gas heater, knowing it was dangerous. It emitted carbon monoxide, and the night it was first turned on three in the family, including an infant, were killed.
The murder of a manager of a fast food restaurant and the wounding of a co-worker by two young punks who wanted to rob them.
The sentencing of two men for insurance fraud.
Several cases of sexual abuse.
Sometimes I count the number of murders on a weekend in Philadelphia. Often there are up to half a dozen. But these are only the tip of the iceberg of evil in one city, a small, partial proof of what the nineteenth century poet William Wordsworth once aptly called “man’s inhumanity to man.”
What can man do to me? Man can oppress, slander, hurt, hate, maim and murder me, for starters. But, of course, that is not the answer David is giving us in Psalm 56. His answer is: Nothing! Not if God is for me and stands against the opposition.
I suppose the immediate reaction to a statement like that is along the lines: “Well, that was easy for David to say. He was a king. He commanded an army. He lived in a fortified city. None of us is so lucky.” I want you to see that this was not the situation in which David wrote the psalm. The title sets us straight on that. It tells us that it was “when the Philistines had seized him in Gath.”
Here is the story. When we were studying Psalm 52 we saw that early in his life David had been forced to escape Jerusalem because Saul, the king who was reigning in Jerusalem, was trying to kill him. David went to Nob, one of the towns of the priests, where Ahimelech, the head priest, assisted him by giving him food and a weapon. Unfortunately, Doeg the Edomite was present when David arrived in Nob, and Doeg later reported this to Saul which lead to the king’s demand that Ahimelech be killed. Doeg obliged Saul by killing Ahimelech. In fact, Doeg killed all the priests of Nob, eighty-five in all, together with their entire families.
There was a lapse of time between David’s visit to Nob and the report of his visit to Saul by Doeg. In fact, when we look this up in 1 Samuel 21 and 22, where the story is told, we find that two incidents filled this interval. The first is David’s flight to the fortified Philistine city of Gath where he imagined he might be safe from Saul. The second is that, when he found he was not safe in Gath, he escaped into the wilderness, to the cave at Adullam, where his brothers and other discontented people began to gather around him. At the end of this period David had collected about four hundred valiant men who eventually became the core of his army. Psalm 56 was written about David’s time in Gath, so it is important to have this incident in full view in order to understand what is going on in the psalm.
Give a brief overview of David’s life at the time this psalm was written.
What harmful things have other people done to you? What is the proper way to look at these things when you know God is faithful to you?
Application: Knowing how people have hurt you in the past, ask the Lord for grace to enable you to treat others the way you would want them to treat you.