Fear and Faith
Psalm 56:3-4
What time I am afraid, I will trust in you.…

It is not given to many men to add new words to the vocabulary of religious emotion. But so far as an examination of the Old Testament avails, I find that David was the first that ever employed the word that is here translated, "I will trust," with a religious meaning. And it is a favourite word of his. I find it occurs constantly in his psalms; twice as often, or nearly so, in the psalms attributed to David as in all the rest of the psalter put together; and it is in itself a most significant and poetic word. But, first of all, I ask you to notice how beautifully there comes out here the occasion of trust. "What time I am afraid, I will put my trust in Thee." This psalm is one of those belonging to the Sauline persecution. If we adopt the allocation in the superscription, it was written at one of the very lowest points of his fortunes. And there seem to be one or two of its phrases which acquire new force, if we regard the psalm as drawn forth by the perils of his wandering, hunted life. For instance — "Thou tellest my wanderings," is no mere expression of the feelings with which he regarded the changes of this earthly pilgrimage, but is the confidence of the fugitive that in the doublings and windings of his flight God's eye marked him. "What time I am afraid," I will trust. That is no trust which is only fair weather trust, nor the product of outward circumstances, but of his own fixed resolves. I will put my trust in Thee. True faith, by a mighty effort of the will, fixes its gaze on the Divine helper, and there finds it possible and wise to lose its fears. Then, still further, these words, or rather one portion of them, give us a bright light and a beautiful thought as to the essence and inmost centre of this faith or trust. Scholars tell us that the word here translated "trust " signifies literally to cling to or hold fast anything, expressing thus both the notion of a good tight grip and of intimate union. Now, is not that metaphor vivid and full of teaching as well as of impulse? "I will trust in Thee." "And he exhorted them all that with purpose of heart they should cleave unto the Lord." We may follow out the metaphor of the word in varied illustrations. For instance, here is a strong prop, and here is the trailing, lithe feebleness of the vine. Gather up the leaves that are creeping all along the ground, and coil them around that support, and up they go straight towards the heavens. Here is a limpet in some pond or other, left by the tide, and it has relaxed its grasp a little. Touch it with your finger and it grips fast to the rock, and you will want a hammer before you can dislodge it. Or, take that story in the Acts of the Apostles, about the lame man healed by Peter and John. All his life long he had been lame, and when at last healing comes, one can fancy with what a tight grasp "the lame man held Peter and John." That is faith, cleaving to Christ, twining round Him with all the tendrils of our heart, as the vine does round its pole; holding to Him by His hand, as a tottering man does by the strong hand that upholds. And then one word more. These two clauses that I have put together give us not only the occasion of faith in fear, and the essence of faith in this clinging, but they also give us very beautifully the victory of faith. You see with what poetic art — if we may use such words about the breathings of such a soul — he repeats the two main words of the former verse in the latter, only in inverted order — "What time I am afraid, I will trust in Thee." He is possessed by the lower emotion, and resolves to escape from its sway into the light and liberty of faith. And then the next words still keep up the contrast of faith and fear, only that now he is possessed by the more blessed mood, and determines that he will not fall back into the bondage and darkness of the baser. "In God I have put my trust; I will not fear." He has confidence, and in the strength of that he resolves that he will not yield to fear. There are plenty of reasons for dread in the dark possibilities and not less dark certainties of life. Disasters, losses, partings, disappointments, sicknesses, death, may any of them come at any moment, and some of them will certainly come sooner or later. Temptations lurk around us like serpents in the grass, they beset us in open ferocity like lions in our path. Is it not wise to fear unless our faith has hold of that great promise, "Thou shall tread upon the lion and adder; there shall no evil befall thee"?

(A. Maclaren, D. D.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: What time I am afraid, I will trust in thee.

WEB: When I am afraid, I will put my trust in you.

Faith Conquering Fear
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