Psalm 56
Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
Taking this psalm as David's, we may use it to illustrate two great truths.

I. "THE FEAR OF MAN BRINGETH A SNARE." (Proverbs 29:25.) The best of men are but men at the best. David was a man of splendid courage and generosity; but there were times when he grievously erred (1 Samuel 21:10-15). It was said by Dr. Arnold, "The fear of God makes no man do anything mean or dishonourable, but the fear of man does lead to all sorts of weakness and baseness." We may see here how the fear of man leads to failure in truth. When the thought of self is uppermost, we are apt to resort to our own devices. God's ways are too slow, so we turn to our own way. Children, through fear, will tell lies. We pity them and forgive. But, alas! we do not ourselves wholly put away childish things. Abraham prevaricated. David practised deceit. Peter denied his Lord. The fear of man also leads to the sacrifice of independence. Imagination working through fear exaggerates our danger. We become restless and impatient. Instead of bravely facing our foes, we shrink from the path of duty.

"He is a slave who will not be In the truth, with two or three." But, worse still, the fear of man may lead to failure in justice and generosity. We are apt to put ourselves first. To save our miserable lives is the chief thing. Rather than that we should suffer, we would let others suffer. Rather than that we should be put to shame, we would have our opponents "cast down." This is the mean, selfish spirit which Satan recognized as so strong in human nature, when he said, "All that a man hath will he give for his life."

II. GOD DELIVERETH HIS SERVANTS THAT TRUST IN HIM. (Daniel 3:28.) How naturally David turned to God in trouble! Circumstances moved him, but there was more - love constrained him. His heart went forth in clinging trust to God. Faith is the true antidote to fear. It lifts us out of the dust. It places us by the side of God. It fills our soul with peace and hope. Through trust we gain courage to face the foe (ver. 6). Further, we obtain resolution to continue the conflict (vers. 7-9). Taking hold of God's strength, we wax strong. All that is deepest and truest in our hearts calls upon us to be brave, and to quit ourselves like men. We are in the way of duty, and are able to say, like the king in the story, "Come on, come all; this rock shall fly from its firm base as soon as I." The experience of the past and the sure word of promise raise our hopes. We look to the future with confidence. In all our wanderings God watches over us. In all our weaknesses and sorrows God stands by us with tender compassion for our weaknesses, and with loving consolations for our sorrows. The victory will be with the right (vers. 10-13). If God has begun a good work in us, he will carry it on to the end. He who has been our Refuge in the past will not fail us in the future. Therefore let us go forward bravely in the path of duty, not counting our lives dear unto ourselves, so that we may be found faithful to him who hath called us, and finish our course with joy. - W.F.

The contents of this psalm may be summed up as the struggle and the victory of faith.

I. THE STRUGGLE OF FAITH. He is in great fear and danger on account of the plots and wickedness of his enemies. They fight against him with the most dangerous weapons they can command. He does not seek to defend himself with counter plots such as they employed. What are his weapons? The one mighty weapon of trust in God.

1. In the merciful protection of the Almighty One. (Ver. 1.) In the power of God as contrasted with the weakness of man.

2. In the word of God's eternal promise. "When I am encompassed with fear, then do I trust and praise his faithful word" (vers. 3 and 4).

3. In God's retributive justice. (Ver. 7.) That he will overturn and punish all evil doers.

4. In the tenderness and strength of the Divine sympathy. God counts his sighs, put his tears in his bottle, and records them in his book of remembrance.


1. And will put his enemies to flight when he calls upon him. (Ver. 9.) Of this he is triumphantly assured, even against all present appearances.

2. He knows that God is on his side. (Ver. 9.) God always on the side of the righteous, to protect them from all real harm. "If God be for us, who can be against us?"

3. He sees his salvation as an already accomplished fact. (Ver. 13.) Faith sees the future in the present, and the distant in the near (Hebrews 11:1).

4. He is thus filled with the spirit of praise and fidelity. (Ver. 12.) Will perform his vows and render thanks. "This is the victory that overcometh the world, even your faith." - S.

The first time we read of vows in the Bible is in Genesis 28:20, where it is said, "And Jacob vowed a vow." Sometimes vows were made at special times and for special purposes; but, in the deepest sense, God's people felt that to them life was a vow; at every moment and through all changes they were under the law of consecration to God. The words of the psalmist may be held as appropriate to the period of entering upon a new year. This is a fitting time -

I. FOR THANKFUL ACKNOWLEDGMENT OF GOD'S MERCIES. The eye is upon the past, and as the memory calls up God's deeds of love, the heart glows with gratitude. "I will render praises unto thee." How just and reasonable! - "For thou hast delivered my soul from death."

II. EARNEST PRAYER TO GOD FOR SPIRITUAL HELP. The future has its dangers. The biographies of good men, our own experiences, and the circumstances of our lot, warn us that we are liable to fall. In our weakness and fear we cry to God, "Wilt not thou deliver my feet from falling?" Fails are hurtful to ourselves and to others. Therefore our cry should be the more urgent to him who is "able to keep us from falling" (Jude 1:24). The deliverances of the past are a strong plea for deliverance in the future. As Cowper has said of gifts, we may say of deliverances -

"The best return for one like me, So wretched and so poor, Is from his gifts to draw a plea, And ask him still for more."

III. RENEWAL OF OUR COVENANT ENGAGEMENTS. "Thy vows." It is well for us to consecrate ourselves afresh to God.

1. To walk before God.

2. In the light of the living.

Christ is the Living One (Revelation 1:18). The saints are the living (1 Thessalonians 5:10). It is in the light of Christ, and in fellowship with his people, that we can best fulfil our course here, and best prepare for the services of eternity. How sweet the light instead of the darkness! and how blessed life instead of death! - W.F.

The Pulpit Commentary, Electronic Database.
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