Dear radio friends,
Psalm 56:3, 4: “What time I am afraid, I will trust in thee. In God I will praise his word, in God I have put my trust; I will not fear what flesh can do unto me.”
May God give each one of us to say that today in all of its power, beauty, and simplicity. Psalm 56 is a psalm written by David — inspired by God, but written through David. He says, “What time Iam afraid.” David was a man of courageous faith. We remember him for the boldness of his faith — he killed the lion and the bear, he fought the giant, he seemed born for the battle. Yet, he knew fear — crippling fear, fear making him desperate and hopeless.
All of us must confess, as children of God, to times of fear. It is not for nothing that Jesus said, “Fear not, little flock.” He knew we would fear. We fear surgery, cancer. What will happen? Will I live? Will I be able to care for my family and for my children? We fear for the health of our children. We have experienced the Lord’s power, but we ask, “Will they experience that power if the Lord touches them in sickness?” As children we fear. We fear bad things happening in our family. We fear whether we are going to be liked.
Not only is there the crushing burden that parents have for wayward children, but there is also the fear that parents have, concerning these children, of what is going to happen to them under, sometimes, the severe chastening of God. We have personal fears — fears of past sin, fears of the consequences of our sins, fears whether we are going to be able to provide, fears of the past, fears of the future, fears of something today.
Perhaps I have not mentioned your fear, or even come close to it. Then, you take a moment to bow before God and to express your fear and say to Him, “Lord, Thou knowest all things; Thou knowest that there are many times I am afraid.”
“What time I am afraid,” says David, “I will trust in Thee.” Trust is part of true faith in Jesus Christ. It is that gift of God whereby our faith is a hearty confidence in God. It becomes a depending upon, a relying upon, a resting upon the character and the word of our God. We are to trust and not fear.
It is very important that we understand, a little bit, the setting of Psalm 56. It was written at a time when David fought back panic. He had become desperate. The history is recorded for us in I Samuel 21. It occurred early in his life, when he fled from King Saul, who was seeking to kill him. He had been driven from every hiding place in Israel that previously had given him safety. At last he fled to a city of Philistia, a city called Gath, which was fortified — and the Philistines seized him.
King Saul hated David as the Lord’s anointed. He thought to kill him. David was on the run. Panic seemed to threaten and overwhelm him. He had gone first to Nob, to Ahimelech the priest. He sought food, and also some type of weapon, and when Ahimelech said that the sword of Goliath was there, David had responded: “Give it to me. There is none like that!”
His options were very few. So he found himself at last in Gath, one of the major cities of the Philistines, in the belief that Saul could not get to him there, only then to have his presence reported to the king, Achish. And he is apprehended. The Philistines believed, then, that David has some sinister purpose for coming into their city. And David plans his escape by pretending to be a lunatic, to be insane. We read in I Samuel 21:13, “And he (David) changed his behaviour before them, and feigned himself mad in their hands, and scrabbled on the doors of the gate, and let his spittle fall down upon his beard.” He thought that he was compelled to use a cunning device, to play-act insanity, to save his life. He lowered his dignity in the eyes of the world.
There was, then, at this time in his life, a tremendous contest between faith and fear. He was alone. No one was with him. He had no resources. He was in a heathen city. There was none who could go with him. There is none who can go with you either, in the human sense, into surgery or into the personal distress of your own soul.
David was desperate. Gath, you remember, was the home of the giant Goliath. Goliath had come from Gath. Goliath was the one whom David had killed. Goliath was the local hero, the pride of Gath. His sword would be remembered in Gath. There is some holy irony there. When David went to Ahimelech the priest, he asked for a weapon. He was looking for something to provide him some safety. The priest said, “We have the sword of Goliath.” So he grabbed that sword and he thought that that sword would provide him some safety in his fear. But now that sword, as he walks into the city of Gath, has become a major liability. I could imagine that David shoved that sword in the first garbage can he found.
The Lord is teaching us that the means by which we choose to defend ourselves often become worse than useless. They only make the situation more critical.
David was afraid. He was sore afraid. He had no one to help him. He had resorted to his own cunning. He was desperate.
Do you feel afraid? Do you feel alone? Do you feel desperate today? You have nowhere to go with this problem. You are at the end of your rope. Then, today, you need to read Psalm 56, for the Lord knows you and He knows your way. And He has already written to you about you and your way.
This is a psalm about trusting and not fearing. It is about faith, which gives the victory in such circumstances. Let us learn, then, how realistic the Bible is. Holy Scripture does indeed know our frame.
We say to each other, “Trust, don’t be afraid.” And we respond to that, “I am afraid. And denying it doesn’t make it go away.” Let us learn. Let us learn that the presence of fear does not mean that we do not have faith. Faith is not the absence of fear. Faith is the resisting of fear. Faith is the victory whereby fear does not gain the ascendancy. David’s trust in God was that he fought against being paralyzed by his fear. We must not have this plastic view of the Christian faith and hold this up before each other as the standard of orthodoxy that we can never express any type of fear. We can never express any type of sorrow or tears lest we be considered to be unbelieving. No, frankly we confess that there are many times that we have fear. Fear is all around us. But what time we are afraid, we are to trust in God.
Notice that David felt as if he was going to be swallowed up. “Daily” he says in verse 2, “I am being oppressed, I feel as if I am going to be overwhelmed. I feel myself encircled. The Philistines are around me. I can’t go back to Israel. No matter what direction I turn, they are all after me, they are all hounding me. There is no place of escape.” Fear was all around him and threatening to swallow him up.
And in that situation, the Scriptures say, “What time I am afraid, I will trust in thee.” There is something very touching and profoundly comforting in the simplicity of this statement. God speaks in simple, powerful words. Very plainly, this is the theme of the whole psalm. Repeatedly it comes back: Not fear, but trust! Trust in God. With a true and living faith, depend only upon Him. Cry out to Him. Bring your fears to Him.
That solves it all. Whatever that fear may be for you, whether that is surgery or your child’s health or your daughter’s soul or your son’s married life or your personal fear — here is the simple, the conquering, the never-failing answer: Trust in God. “What time I am afraid, I will trust in thee. In God I will praise his word; in God have I put my trust.” There is the answer. Put your trust in God. God here is commanding us to an activity. He works faith in our hearts and He commands that which He works into action. He says, “I have given to you a heavenly grace of trust. Not something that proceeded from your will but something that proceeded from Me. Something that is now implanted in a new heart and in a new will within you. And I call you, by My grace, to be active in that trust.”
The word “trust” refers to confidence, to certainty, to something that is reliable. It is the certainty of someone that is enduring and true and firm, or of something that will never fail me, so that I may depend upon it, I may know it for sure. Come what may, when I trust, I know that this one or this thing shall not fail me. I may rest everything upon Him.
“In God I will praise his word, in God I have put my trust.” Did you hear that? God and His word are trustworthy! Nothing else. Young people, did you hear that? Nothing is firm. Nothing can hold you up. Not the esteem of the world, not money, not pleasures, not good times, not a boyfriend, not a girlfriend. They cannot make you fulfilled. Not sports. God and His word. They alone are trustworthy.
This is our confession of faith: 1) I will trust in God — in God I will put my trust. The word God here is Elohim, the God of glorious perfections, the majesty and the splendor of God as being all-sufficient and complete in Himself. It is a name that shouts His character: He is God Almighty, eternal, faithful, gracious, who as the glorious God has willed in Himself to show His glory in the face of Jesus Christ and to draw His children out of sin into His own bosom. The only God, the fixed, the sure, the steadfast, the immovable One, the absolutely dependable One, the One who is faithful to His purposes. The God who has proved His faithfulness in giving His own Son upon the cross, who gave us the greatest of all gifts — our salvation. Will not He also now take care of you? Will He not also stand by you? He is God. Trust in God is never in vain. Listen to the Scriptures: Cast thy burden upon the Lord and He shall sustain thee; He will never suffer the righteous to fail. But my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus. Trust in God!
And His word. “In God I will praise his word.” To praise here is to boast or to glory in. David boasts about God and He boasts about God’s word. He found God’s word perfect. When everything seemed as if God had forsaken him, it was the power of God’s word and promise that kept him. He trusted in God’s word. The word of God, the Bible, reveals God to us. It is the means whereby God speaks to us. God’s word is, therefore, not like anything else. God’s word partakes of God’s attributes of faithfulness and trustworthiness. God’s word is trustworthy, faithful, and true.
That is why we decry all that is in the church world that denies the inspiration, the inerrancy, and the infallibility of God’s word. That is why we say, “No, absolutely not! False,” when Genesis 1-11 is questioned as not being reality but being a myth; when the miracles of the Bible are called into question; and when large portions of Holy Scripture are set aside as being unscientific or unreliable according to historical thought. You understand that the defense and the confession of the sole trustworthiness and absolute truth of God’s word is not an intellectual, abstract theological dispute. It has everything to do with me and my fears. It has to do with the reality of my many fears and trusting in God. May I depend on God’s word as true or not? Is it true in all of its parts or is it not? And if it is not true in all of its parts, which parts are not true? Now I need to have some theologian tell me, “Well, this portion of the Bible you can rely upon but, over here, we’re not sure about that, or we used to think that that was true but not any more.”
Beloved, God’s word is true, word for word. We boast in God’s word. God’s word is true in its history. It is true in its promises. It is true in its doctrine. It is true in everything. It is the word of God, who cannot lie. We praise God for giving us the blessing of the Scriptures. “What time I am afraid, I will trust in God; in God I will praise his word.” I will do that.
Notice that David says that repeatedly. I will trust in God. I will praise His word. The power of grace is that when we are made aware of our fears, which threaten to swallow us, we also trust in God and His word and we say, “I know God will be true, true to me. I know His word will be found to be faithful.”
Let us take that vow upon us today. “In God I will trust; I will praise His word.” We know that we are indeed so prone to fear and to doubt. We know that, when God leads us in a dark and difficult way and makes our hope uncertain and does not show us how things will turn out, we will immediately question whether He is present with us. Trust in God, who does not always tell you the reason for His actions but does always show you the end of glory and always reveals to you His heart in Jesus Christ.
There are times when we have prayed and it seems that our requests go unanswered, and we begin to be tempted to murmur and we say, “What good does it do?” Trust in God. He does answer you. His answer is: Trust in Me and in My word and be still.
There are times when we become desperate and believe that trust in God will not do us any good. Then God says, “You have misjudged. Do not fear what flesh can do to you.” There the issue, after all, stands naked, does it not? God or the flesh? Do we rate the flesh, do we rate men, do we rate this world over God? All of our fears arise from the flesh, from the earthly. Are they greater than God? No. God holds them in His hands and they only serve His purpose. I will trust in God.
God creates the situations that make us fear. He rides in sovereignty upon the stormy sea. In His providence He led David to a dead end, and then restored David in a living hope.
So God will work with us. He will bring us to moments of fear. Why? To teach us to trust. We do not learn to trust in God without fear. Trust in God can only be learned through fear. But trust in God gives us peace. Can you find more peace than this? What time I am afraid, I will trust in Thee. This glorifies God. Nothing so glorifies God and nothing declares who God is as our trust. The grace of trust proclaims God as God — adequate, good, true, and faithful.
Trust in God is the most beautiful testimony of who your God is — of who your God is as you stand before the world. Trust in God is the loud declaration from the church that God is God. The most beautiful testimony of God is not a sermon, it is not a poem, it is not eloquent prose. But it is this: that you trust in God. In this God is glorified. Trust in Him and do not fear.
Father, we thank Thee for Thy word. We pray that Thou wilt write it upon our hearts. We pray, in Jesus’ name, Amen.