PROTECTED FROM HARM?
Lord, protect me from the evil designs of others.
Read PSALM 56
For the director of music. To the tune of “A Dove on Distant Oaks.” Of David. A miktam.[b] When the Philistines had seized him in Gath.
1 Be merciful to me, my God,
for my enemies are in hot pursuit;
all day long they press their attack.
2 My adversaries pursue me all day long;
in their pride many are attacking me.
3 When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.
4 In God, whose word I praise—
in God I trust and am not afraid.
What can mere mortals do to me?
5 All day long they twist my words;
all their schemes are for my ruin.
6 They conspire, they lurk,
they watch my steps,
hoping to take my life.
7 Because of their wickedness do not[c] let them escape;
in your anger, God, bring the nations down.
8 Record my misery;
list my tears on your scroll[d]—
are they not in your record?
9 Then my enemies will turn back
when I call for help.
By this I will know that God is for me.
10 In God, whose word I praise,
in the Lord, whose word I praise—
11 in God I trust and am not afraid.
What can man do to me?
12 I am under vows to you, my God;
I will present my thank offerings to you.
13 For you have delivered me from death
and my feet from stumbling,
that I may walk before God
in the light of life.
a Psalm 56:1 In Hebrew texts 56:1-13 is numbered 56:2-14.
b Psalm 56:1 Title: Probably a literary or musical term
c Psalm 56:7 Probable reading of the original Hebrew text; Masoretic Text does not have do not.
d Psalm 56:8 Or misery; / put my tears in your wineskin
New International Version (NIV)
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“We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed” (2 Cor. 4:8,9).
“What can mere mortals do to me?” the psalmist asks (4). Many of us would answer, “Quite a lot!” We have all been hurt by others, even if only by their words—and the New Testament has many examples of people hurting Christians: James beheaded, Paul stoned and left for dead. In more modern times, Corrie ten Boom preached in a small African country to villagers who knew they were about to be rounded up and martyred (Tramp for the Lord, 124–127). Within the week, over half of her listeners would be dead. Clearly, “mere mortals” can do quite awful things to one another.
So, why does the psalmist believe that God will protect him from harm? This psalm has traditionally been associated with David’s flight from Saul to the Philistine town of Gath. David’s confidence is rooted in God’s promise that he would one day be king. Clearly, for that to happen he would need to survive!
Does this psalm offer any encouragement to us? Early Christians seemed to think so. The Christians addressed in Hebrews had been “publicly exposed to insult and persecution” (Heb. 10:33), yet the author of the letter quotes to them, “What can human beings do to me?” (Heb. 13:6, quoting Psa. 118:6). After what they had endured, the writer of Hebrews would not have promised them freedom from suffering. He used it, rather, to encourage these Christians not to fear people, since God remains their ever-present helper. God would help them cope with whatever others do to them, for he stands with them all the way. That was the message Corrie ten Boom preached to those African Christians, and it was a message that gave them the strength to face what lay ahead.
What are you afraid of? Talk honestly to God about any fears troubling you. What difference does it make to believe that God will always be there to help you?
Lord, even though I live in a world saturated with wicked people, my hope and trust firmly lie in You for protection.