This I know, that God is for me…

 

by I Gordon

 

Introduction

 

I spoke recently in a church from a passage in one of King David’s psalms… Psalm 56 to be exact. I knew very little about the church or its members but I felt that God wanted me to speak on a theme that it is found in Psalm 56:9 – ‘This I know, that God is for me.’ Now that, I’m sure you will agree (well, I hope you will agree anyway…) is a fantastic thought. That the almighty, eternal creator of the universe is linked to ‘me’ - He is linked to self-centred, munted little worms like me (not to mention you!) Great thought! But not only that, but the text tells us that He is linked to us by the words ‘is for’. He is not only linked to us, God is for us.

 

Now, you may be imagining David skipping through the fields, sun in his face, birds chirping in his ears, thinking ‘Oh how God has blessed me – He is so for me! I think I’ll write a psalm.’ You may be thinking of him strumming on his harp in the presence of a great feast, while friends and companions abound, singing ‘this I know, that God is for me.’ If you were thinking something along those lines, you would, of course, be wrong. You see, in investigating the events that lead to psalm 56, I found the exact opposite to be true. David wrote this psalm while everything around him, and within him, was turning to custard… so to speak.

 

So in this study then, we are going to do three things – Firstly, we’ll look at the circumstances that David found himself in. Secondly, we’ll look at Psalm 56 itself, which was written in the midst of the difficulties. And lastly, we’ll look briefly at Psalm 34[1] because this psalm was written with the same events in mind… but with the wisdom of hindsight.

 

Background to David’s life.

 

Ok, I lied. We are going to do one more thing. Before all of the things mentioned above, we need to look at some of the early ‘highlights’ of David’s life. Can you think of any? Please read the footnote for a quick and nasty recap because it is important to see how dramatically things changed for David.[2] You see, things have a habit of changing in this world and one day for David it came in the form of a spear. Jealousy had risen in King Saul’s heart to the point where he attempted to kill David. Saul thought he could do it by pinning David to the wall with his spear! And from that moment, everything for David changed. Everything. All he could do is run… and hide. Gone are the great feasts, friends, and support. For a while he lived in caves and in the wilderness. But things soon got so bad that he couldn’t even remain in Israel for fear of his life. And that is where we now pick up the story…

 

David the dribbler.

 

1 Sam 21:10-14 That day David fled from Saul and went to Achish king of Gath.  But the servants of Achish said to him, “Isn’t this David, the king of the land? Isn’t he the one they sing about in their dances: “‘Saul has slain his thousands, and David his tens of thousands’?” David took these words to heart and was very much afraid of Achish king of Gath.  So he pretended to be insane in their presence; and while he was in their hands he acted like a madman, making marks on the doors of the gate and letting saliva run down his beard. Achish said to his servants, “Look at the man! He is insane! Why bring him to me?  Am I so short of madmen that you have to bring this fellow here to carry on like this in front of me? Must this man come into my house?”

 

Now, personally, I don’t know if it gets any worse than this! Here is David, who through fear of Saul, escapes down into the Philistine territory of Gath, carrying Goliaths old sword. This, you may recall, was the home town of Goliath so you wouldn’t think that David would be exactly popular down there now would you? But what could he do? With his faith shattered[3], and the promises of God seeming so far from reality, what was left? Well, not much it seems because through a new fear of the king of Gath, he sinks to the very bottom and starts dribbling down his beard in a desperate attempt to stop being recognised![4] This is David, the ‘man after God’s own heart’ at his very lowest.

 

The Psalm in the midst of doubt

 

Now, I don’t know about your situation and there is a slim possibility that you haven’t had to resort to acting like a madman to wriggle yourself out of a desperate predicament. But whether you are going through something right now, or whether you can remember a past difficult time, I’m sure you can relate to this psalm. You see, in the midst of all the uncertainty going on in David’s life, he wrote Psalm 56.

 

Psalm 56:1-2 Be merciful to me, O God, for men hotly pursue me; all day long they press their attack. My slanderers pursue me all day long; many are attacking me in their pride.

 

Ever been pounded by a wave while you are in the ocean, and as you struggle to catch your breath, you get pounded by the next wave again? Well, that’s what this psalm is like as David wavers between fear and faith. In verses 1-2 above we see the first wave. As David contemplates the situation and the people that desire to take his life, fear begins to rise and a cloud of uncertainty circles his head.

 

3-4 When I am afraid, I will trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I will not be afraid. What can mortal man do to me?  

 

Like coming up for air after the wave has hit, David again remembers the Lord and his position of security in Him. And in doing so, faith rises in his heart. Notice also that fear and faith exist together in the above verse. That is the way it generally is in real life. It all depends where you are looking.

 

5-7 All day long they twist my words; they are always plotting to harm me. They conspire, they lurk, they watch my steps, eager to take my life. On no account let them escape; in your anger, O God, bring down the nations.

 

‘What can mortal man do to me’ was David’s declaration at the end of verse 4. But in verses 5-7 we see the next wave of doubt break over him as he again focuses ‘on the things that are seen’. Something believers are specifically told not to do! (2 Cor 4:18) Now, you are probably not being chased by a spear throwing mad king at the moment, but are there some circumstances that you have been fearful or worried about? If so, read on and see the discovery that David made at such a trying time.

 

8-9 You have taken account of my wanderings; Put my tears in your bottle. Are they not in Your book? Then my enemies will turn back in the day when I call; This I know, that God is for me. (NASB)[5]

 

In the midst of doubt, in the midst of uncertainty, David bought himself to the place where he could say ‘this I know, that God is for me!’ There would have been a thousand and one things that David didn’t know. If you had asked him how he would get out of his present troubles, he would have replied, ‘I do not know.’ If you had asked him how or when he would become king, he would have replied ‘I do not know.’ ‘But this I do know’, David would have added, ‘I know that God is for me, and if God is for me, then He will make a way and that is all I need to know!’

 

This then is the ultimate question. Can you say that God is for you right here, right now?[6] Do you know this very thing? And not just in your head, but can you also stand on it when it doesn’t seem (from outward circumstances) to be true? ‘I may not know much more’ David would have said, ‘but I do know that He is for me. And I will rest in that!’  I hope you can say that same for it was the turning point of this psalm, and in this part of David’s life.

 

Vs 10-13 In God, whose word I praise, in the LORD, whose word I praise— in God I trust; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me? I am under vows to you, O God; I will present my thank offerings to you. For you have delivered me from death and my feet from stumbling, that I may walk before God in the light of life. 

 

There is no more going ‘down’ for David now! Once again he remembers the word of God… the promises of God[7]… the faithfulness of God. No more pleading of God to intervene… no, now David would rather give something back to God. It is one of the few things we can give God which He truly desires – an offering of ‘thanks’! And remember that David got to this point in the midst of his difficulties. It is easy to sing in the day, when everything is going sweet, but this is a song of praise in the night – based on little more than faith and trust in the character of God. But it is enough. It is a very acceptable sacrifice in the sight of God.

 

Psalm 34 – Oh taste and see!

 

Finally, and quickly, I just want to mention Psalm 34, for it was written at the same stage of David’s life, but after his deliverance from the King of Gath. I call this Psalm, ‘my Psalm’ because it was the given to me by God in the midst of very trying circumstances. It’s ‘my precious!’ to quote Gollum from Lord of the Rings. Please read the whole Psalm. I’m just going to pick a couple of verses, but it has some wonderful promises in it which should be held onto.

 

Psalm 34:4-8  I sought the LORD, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears… This poor man called, and the LORD heard him; he saved him out of all his troubles. The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him, and he delivers them. Oh taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in him.  

 

We always need to remember, as David testifies to here, that as surely as things can change for the worse in this life, so with God can they also change for good. In the midst of ‘all his troubles’ David cried out to the Lord and was heard and delivered! Fantastic thought. David’s testimony to all of us now is to ‘taste and see that the Lord is good!’ It should be kept in mind however, that normally the ‘tasting’ of the goodness of God[8] comes through some stretching experience as David found here. It is then that we truly ‘taste’ of His goodness. But let us not forget one of the other wonderful promises in this psalm...

 

Psalm 34:19 ‘Many are the afflictions of the righteous: but the LORD delivers him out of them all.’

 

Conclusion

 

Let us never think that trying times are reserved just for those that are rebelling against God or are outside of His will. As both Abraham and Isaac found out, there are sometimes famines while you are right in the Promised Land. (Gen 26:1) David also, as we have seen here, faced tremendous difficulties which were not of his making. Yet, in the midst of uncertainly, David could say ‘this I know, that God is for me!’ It was the pivotal point as he wavered between fear and faith. It changed everything in David’s outlook. Christian, God is for you. He may not act as quickly at times as we would like Him to, but do not doubt His goodness. Can you say that ‘God is for me’ right now? I hope so. Believe again and let your offering of thanks rise to the throne of God once again.

 

Now I know that the LORD saves his anointed;

he answers him from his holy heaven

with the saving power of his right hand.

Some trust in chariots and some in horses,

but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.

They are brought to their knees and fall,

but we rise up and stand firm.  (Psalm 20:6-8)

 

 



[1]  You will notice that the heading for Psalm 56 says ‘When the Philistines had seized him in Gath.’ And the heading for Psalm 34 says ‘A Psalm of David. When he pretended to be insane before Abimelech, who drove him away, and he left.’ Both of these Psalms relate to the incident that we shall read in 1 Sam 21.

 

[2] As a youngster, David was a common shepherd boy who didn’t seem to stand out greatly – not in the eyes of the world anyway. Not until one day when the Priest and Prophet of God, Samuel, anoints him as the future King of Israel. Soon, with all of Israel scared, David goes out alone against the Philistine giant Goliath and through faith in the Lord, defeats Goliath and becomes a national hero overnight. Hooray! There are parades, tambourines, dancing girls… the works. David soon becomes the personal attendant to King Saul, and it isn’t long before he has married the Kings daughter. Everything is going fantastically. Just as God had promised right? I bet that David remembered the words of Samuel and thought that he would become Israel’s king soon. One day though, while David is relaxing, and playing on his harp for King Saul, Saul does something unusual. Something slightly odd that is going to change things for David dramatically…

 

[3] Even a chapter or so before this David had spoken to Jonathon, Saul’s son, saying that ‘there is only a step between me and death’ (1 Sam 20:3) It seems that his faith was practically gone now. It was a bit like Abraham before him who was promised by God that his descendants would be given the land of Canaan, and then only five verses later Abraham is lying to the Egyptians about Sarai his wife in case they kill him! (See Gen 12:7-12) Unfortunately it is so like our fallen natures to forget the promises of God in midst of fearful circumstances.

 

[4] This deceitfulness of David’s shouldn’t be thought of as anything clever. It is the actions of a man left only to his own pitiful resources when total unbelief has set in. And deceit doesn’t pay. I read of a man who grew melons. He didn’t do many things well, but melons were his thing. While inspecting his melons one morning however, he noticed one missing. The next morning it was the same. The third morning another melon had been stolen. He decided that action was necessary and promptly came up with a cunning plan! He put a sign up in front of the melons saying ‘One of these melons has been poisoned.’ It wasn’t true of course, but the thief wasn’t to know and the farmer reckoned the thief wouldn’t take the chance. The next morning, all his melons were still there. Again, the next morning, all his melons were safe. On the third morning however, feeling somewhat pleased with himself, the farmer noticed that someone had altered his sign. The ‘one’ had been crossed out and replaced with a ‘two’. ‘Two of the melons have been poisoned!’ He was trapped by his own plan. I think it was Shakespeare that said, ‘what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive!’

 

[5] I have quoted this from the NASB. I did this because the NIV absolutely butchers this verse! The NIV makes it sound like the psalmist was only going to be sure that God was for him if his enemies truned away… and I know of nothing so faith zapping than basing whether God is for you on outward circumstances! I have looked this verse up in nearly every version, including the Jewish Publication Society to see how they translate this verse from their own Hebrew scriptures. They have it exactly like the NASB quoted above – ‘This I know, that God is for me.’ If you own an NIV then put a note in the margin, (or scribble it out and change it completely!)

 

[6] Because if you are a born again Christian then it is the truth whether you feel it or not! Sometimes we doubt, like David, because of things happening through outward circumstances in our lives. Sometimes it is because of what is going on inwardly. ‘How could God still be for me with those thoughts and desires lurking within?’ we ask. Christian, rest is in a totally different place. It can’t be found through looking at your circumstances. It can’t be found while looking at yourself. Corrie Ten Boom once said something you should memorise. She said ‘Look at the world and you’ll be distressed. Look within and you’ll be depressed. But look at Christ and you’ll be at rest.’ And that is so true!

 

[7] I’ve written about this little part of Pilgrims Progress in other studies, but it is well worth repeating. One of my favourite parts of Pilgrims Progress is where the way becomes hard for Christian and Hopeful and they decide to take an easier path called Bypath Meadow. As night falls they become lost on this ‘easier’ path and fall asleep in the grounds of doubting castle. This castle is owned by Giant Despair and he finds them and throws them in his dungeon. For days they are tormented by Giant Despair. When all hope is gone, and they are due to die the next day, Christian suddenly says to hopeful… ‘what a fool I have been lying in this stinking dungeon when I can freely walk away! I have a key in my bosom called Promise, that will, I am persuaded, open any lock in Doubting Castle…’ And so they were free, escaping the clutches of Giant Despair and went on their way praising God.

I’m sure you understand the story so I won’t insult your intelligence. Only to say that this is where we now find David in verses 10-13 as he once again sees the promises of God, knowing full well that ‘God is for him.’ Praise and thankfulness result!

 

[8] Let’s say that there is a big fat juicy pear on the table. You could examine it and admire its beauty. You could tell all your friends that you’ve got one mighty fine juicy pear! Look at it, feel it, sniff it if you want… what ever you do, it is not until you bite into that pear that you taste it and really find out how good it is! David is telling us that with God the bite is essential. We need to taste of His goodness. It is important to study the word and learn about the character of God, but rest assured that God will want to teach you in practice what you are learning in theory! God must have reality within His people.