The Story of Psalm 56
Saul 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. See after Psalm 34.
What Psalm 56 means
There are three parts to Psalm 56:
· the words before verse 1; we call this the title
· verses 1 - 7
· verses 8 - 13.
In the Hebrew Bible, this 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.
Verses 1 - 7
In 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.
In 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!
In 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.
Verses 8 - 13
In 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.
Verses 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.
In 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.
Something to do
1. Learn to say verse 11 by heart. ("By heart" means that you do not look at the words.)
2. Read the story of David in Gath in 1 Samuel 21:10 to 22:2.
Everyone in the *synagogue was very angry when they heard Jesus say these things. They got up and took him out of the city. They took him to the top of the hill that they had built their city on. They were going to throw him down. But Jesus just walked away from them and went on his way. (Luke 4:28-30)
(This is) for the music leader.
(He must use the music called) "Do not destroy".
(This is) a *miktam of David, when he ran away from Saul into the *cave.
v1 Be *gracious to me, O God, be *gracious to me.
I have looked for a place to hide in that is near to you.
I will hide under the shadow of your *wings until the danger is past.
v2 I will pray to God, the *Most High God,
to the God who will finish his plan for me.
v3 He will send (a word) from *heaven and he will save me.
He will stop the people that are trying to catch me. *SELAH
God will send me his kind love and his *truth.
v4 There are *lions all round me!
I must lie down near man-eating animals!
They are men and their teeth are *like *spears and *arrows.
Their *tongues are *like sharp *swords.
v5 God, lift yourself up above the skies.
Lift your *glory above all the earth.
v6 (My enemies) put a *net for my feet.
I was very sad because of my trouble.
They dug a hole in front of me, but they fell into it! *SELAH
v7 God, I have decided to be yours always!
I will sing your *praises as well as I can!
v8 Wake up, *harp and *lyre.
I will wake up the dawn!
v9 *LORD, I will thank you in front of all the people.
I will sing your *praises everywhere.
v10 Your kind love is great. It is *higher than the clouds.
Your *truth reaches to the skies.
v11 God, lift yourself up above the skies.
Lift your *glory above all the earth.