56:0Saul was trying to kill David. David was a servant of Saul. David ran away to Gath. Gath was the town where Goliath had lived. Gath was one of the Philistine towns. The Philistines were enemies of Saul and David and their people. To us it seems crazy for David to go to Gath. When he got there, David thought it was crazy too! So he pretended to be crazy. This was because in times past people did not kill anyone that was crazy. But David was afraid. He told God about it in this psalm. You will find the story in 1 Samuel 21:10 to 22:2.
The Silent Dove Among Strangers (or Do Not be Afraid)
This is for the music leader.
Use the music that we call The Silent Dove Among Strangers.
It is a miktam for David, when the Philistines caught him at Gath.
56:0In the Hebrew Bible, the title is part of the psalm. It tells us the name of the music that the music leader must use. The Silent Dove is David. He is silent. That means that he does not say anything to the Philistines. He is a dove. That means that he does not fight the Philistines while he is in Gath. He is among strangers. That means foreign people like the Philistines. In the psalm David speaks to God, he does not speak to the Philistines. He asks God to destroy the Philistines, he does not try to do it himself.
The psalm is also a miktam. Bible students think that this means ‘hidden meaning’ or ‘special teaching.’ It teaches us something. It teaches us what to do when bad people are everywhere. We must be like David and pray to God.
1 God, be gracious to me, because people are fighting me.
All day long they are attacking me.
56:1In verse 1 gracious is the adjective from grace. We put adjectives before words to describe the words. ‘A gracious God’ is a God that has grace. ‘Grace’ means ‘not punishing people when you ought to punish them.’ It means that God is kind to people. Instead of sending people to hell when they die, God gives them the chance to go to heaven. But they must ask him for that chance! Some people use an old prayer of the Church: ‘kyrie eleison.’ This means the same: ‘God (or Lord) be gracious.’ Another way to say ‘be gracious’ is ‘have mercy.’ Again, mercy means ‘be kind when you do not have to be kind.’ The people that are fighting and attacking David in verses 1 and 2 are the Philistines.
2 All day long my enemies are fighting me.
Many people are attacking me!
3 Most High God, when I am afraid I will trust in you.
4 By God's help I will praise his word.
By God's help I will trust in him. I will not be afraid.
What can men on earth do to me?
56:4In verse 4 (and verse 11) people are called ‘men (on earth)’ and ‘human beings.’ David is saying the same as Jesus said in Matthew 10:28. This is at the top of this psalm. Both the Hebrew words mean that what men do to each other is here on earth. What we really must be afraid of is what God can do to us after we die. If we trust God, we do not have to be afraid of him!
5 All day long they make my words mean something else
that I did not mean.
All their thoughts about me are bad thoughts against me.
6 They meet together and hide themselves.
They watch where I go and hope to kill me.
7 Do not let them get away with this!
God, destroy these people, because you are angry with them.
56:7In verse 7 ‘do not let them get away with this!’ is very difficult to translate into English. This translation makes it mean ‘punish them!’ Some Christians and Jews think that it means ‘they are so bad that nobody will punish them.’ In either translation, David then asks God to destroy them.
8 You count the times when I cry because I am not happy.
Put all my tears in your bottle.
Make sure that they are all in your book.
56:8In verse 8 the bottle would be of animal skin. Every time David cried, he asked God to put his tears into a bottle. He asked God to count them all, and write them down in his book. David wants God to see and remember all the bad things that happen to him.
9 Then my enemies will turn back, on the day when I cry to you.
Then I will know that God is on my side.
10 By God's help I will praise his word.
By the help of the Lord I will praise his word.
11 By God's help I will trust in him.
I will not be afraid of what human beings can do to me.
56:11Verses 10 and 11 are almost the same as verses 3 and 4. But there is one big difference. In verse 10 David calls God ‘Lord.’ This is the name that God's servants and friends use. This is the turning point in the psalm. A turning point is the place where things change. In verses 1-7 David is praying for help. Now, in verses 8-13, he believes that God is going to give him help. God has:
– Counted David's tears (verse 8) and so will
– Turn back his enemies (verse 9).
In verse 10 the Hebrew does not have ‘his word’ but ‘a word.’ Some Bible students think that this means a promise that God made to David. Perhaps it was a promise to give David help. It was ‘a word of promise.’ So David made a special promise to God and in verse 12 David says that he will do it. We call these ‘special promises’ by the name ‘vows.’ In a vow, you give something to God as well as promise to do something.
12 I have made special promises to you, God.
I am ready to give you thanks and praise.
13 This is because you have saved my life from death.
Keep my feet from falling so that I may walk before God and stay alive.
56:13In verse 13 ‘stay alive’ is ‘in the light of life’ in Hebrew. This was their way to say that:
– If you were dead, you were in a dark place called Sheol
– If you were alive, you could see the light of the sun.