Preached by Dr. Gene Scott on May 24, 1981
In God I will praise his word . . . I will not fear
what flesh can do unto me.
For thou hast delivered my soul from death,
mine eyes from tears, and my feet from falling.
THE MESSAGE OF GOD THROUGHOUT HIS BOOK always has the touch of eternity on it. Matthew 6 declares, “Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness. . .” God is the plumb line, and everything else is measured by Him. Then “all these things shall be added unto you,” that is, they will find their place when you get your priorities right.
Now the devil takes God’s message and twists it to change the focus. The devil will tell you that God exists for you, and that He does not care if you look out for “me first.” That is humanism, where man and his needs come first, starting with “me and mine.” That is why the true servant of God who speaks with God’s voice is hated instantly. John 15 says, “If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.” You will be hated without a cause. But Jesus says, “Take heart: as they hated Me, so will they hate you.”
I want us to return once again to Psalm 56 and preach on David, a man who would not find acceptance in most of today’s church world. The historical background of this psalm is recorded in 1 Samuel 21-22. David fled in fear from Saul because Saul wanted to kill him. When David came to Nob and Ahimelech the priest asked him why he was there alone, he told a bald-faced lie, saying, “Saul sent me on a special mission and told me to not tell anybody what I was doing.” Then David fled to Achish, the king of Gath. Gath is where Goliath came from! David fled to the very camp of the enemy. Here is David, God’s anointed. He went to the last place in the world he should have gone. By analogy, imagine if your pastor fled to the worst bar in town. Can you imagine the whispers and the gossip? Now I am not approving of what David did; I am just reporting it honestly, like the Bible does. And when Achish’s servants began to mock him, David changed his behavior before them and scrabbled on the doors and dribbled saliva all over his beard.
David then escaped to the cave Adullam in the wilderness, where he became the captain over a motely bunch of outcasts. The Bible says, “And every one that was in distress, and every one that was in debt, and every one that was discontented, gathered themselves unto him.” They were crooks and scoundrels, snaggle-toothed and ugly, sweaty and smelly. I can imagine David’s critics saying, “He doesn’t even know how to build a proper church: he has a congregation of outcasts!” I am sure that David would never be invited to be a speaker at any Christian convention. Can you see why Jesus said, “You have made void the word of God by your traditions?” Yet here in this cave, surrounded by this motely band, David penned as many as four psalms.
One of those is Psalm 34. It begins, “I will bless the LORD at all times: his praise shall continually be in my mouth.” David had fled in fear, barely escaping from the camp of the Philistines. He was sitting on a rock in a cave, having lied to the priest and having feigned madness. Put flesh and blood on this! Do you know why we don’t hear the passion of truth when some of today’s preachers preach? Because they hypocritically tell us how to live, when they have not really lived life themselves. They do not minister to us.
Why do you think Paul ministers to us? In prison with his feet in stocks and blood running down his back, he sang praises to God at midnight. He did not have the knowledge that we have, that before he finished singing, an earthquake would release him from the prison. Years later from another prison, he wrote the Philippian letter, which is a song of joy in prose, but no earthquake came to release him from that prison. And when he wrote his last letter to Timothy, knowing that the end had come, he said, “The time of my departure is at hand,” using a word in the Greek language that described a ship getting ready to sail on its journey. Paul speaks to us because he lived where we live.
Why do you think David ministers to us? There is no one else in the Old Testament who blesses the entire history of God’s people like David. He does not bless us because he lied; he blesses us because in his humanness he finally got it together: he finally stopped focusing on his circumstance and he turned his eyes toward God. Does that mean we should not listen to David until after he changed? No, he speaks to us in the midst of his problems, and we live with him through his deliverance.
Psalm 56 is another psalm that David wrote in the cave Adullam. In verse 3, David said, “What time I am afraid, I will trust in thee.” There are many Hebrew words for “trust.” As we pointed out in a previous message, David is the first man in the Old Testament to use this particular word as an expression of faith in God. It was a common word in David’s day. Years later, In Hezekiah’s day, Sennacherib king of Assyria had conquered all of the northern tribes and surrounded the city of Jerusalem. Rabshakeh, Sennacherib’s representative, mocked God’s people as they sat on the walls of the city. He mouthed obscenities in the Jewish language, and Hezekiah’s representatives beseeched him and said, “Talk to us in your own language; you don’t have to shame everyone on the wall.” But Rabshakeh continued to mock them. He suspected that some of them might try to form an alliance with Egypt, so he said, “If you trust in Egypt, it would be like leaning on a staff that would break and splinter and pierce your hand.” Though he was a heathen Assyrian, he knew the word for “trust” that was a common word in that day.
David applied that same word for “trust” to God. In essence, David said that in a time of fear, he would lean on God the Staff. Now when I previously preached on this, I highlighted this verse: “What time I am afraid, I will trust in thee.” David did not say, “I have to first get rid of my fears, and when I finally get rid of my fears and get enough courage that would make anyone admire me, I will then offer my courage in partnership with God’s ability.” That is not what he said. Instead, he made his fear the catalyst to trust in God.
Fear is not a sin; fear is normal. What matters is what you do with your fear. God’s word is supposed to help you in times of fear. When God made His word incarnate, the Living Word who was facing God turned from God and struck a tent of human flesh. And just as God’s word moved into ordinary flesh and walked the ordinary streets of this earth, God’s word is supposed to reach you where you live.
The New Testament was written in what is known as Koine Greek. The word koine means “common.” Koine Greek was the language held in common among the people of that day. It was their “street” language. Until the mid-1800’s many scholars thought that there were two kinds of Greek: classical Greek and New Testament Greek. But they began to discover similarities between New Testament Greek and the common language used in personal documents written in that day, such as letters, wills, tax receipts, business contracts and other “non-literary” documents. They discovered that there was no such thing as “New Testament Greek,” and that the New Testament was in fact written in the everyday language understood by the common people.
I do not believe that it is possible to exactly duplicate Koine Greek using modern English street language. Many scholars have attempted this. E.V. Rieu translated the four Gospels from Koine Greek into an earthy, colloquial version of modern-day English. But the point I am making is that God came down to where we live when He chose those who would be the writers of His word. He chose men to write His Gospels in a style that might offend the classical semanticists! And when He was ready to unfold the full pattern of the church, He chose Paul, the apostle trained in Old Testament Scripture who, with God’s inspiration, could unfold its mysteries that had always been hidden therein. The word of God is supposed to come and live where we live.
David said, “What time I am afraid, I will trust in thee.” He could have chosen to lean on things of the flesh, but instead he chose to lean on God. David was sitting in that cave surrounded by outcasts, and he was at the end of his tether. Nothing had changed in his circumstance. Lying did not work, running did not work, scrabbling did not work and madness did not work. But he had one more option that he had not used yet: “What time I am afraid, I will lean on Thee.”
How do you lean on God? God’s word is very practical. Thank God He always gives us a means of deliverance in a way that we can use it. We do not have to strain toward something mysterious, or speak to God in stained-glass tones. Jesus said, “Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out” and “Seek, and ye shall find.” How did David lean on God? Listen to his next words: “In God I will praise his word.”
David put God’s word front and center. He changed the focus of his mind, and in essence, he “brainwashed” himself. The devil has done a good job of making most people afraid of the word “brainwash,” so it normally has negative connotations. But the essence of Christianity is a soul-cleansing and life-changing brainwashing! We had better understand that there is no salvation without it.
In Paul’s letter to the Philippians, he tells them that whatsoever things are true, honest, just, pure, lovely and of good report, to “think on these things.” Today we have a good “detergent” that helps us think on these things: the Holy Spirit who comes into us. The trick of the devil is to make suspect the life-changing conversion by the Spirit. Get off of the defensive! What do you think the word conversion means? It means “change.” Any genuine change comes from the Holy Spirit’s regenerative work because of the faith that seizes hold of God’s word. That opens the door for the Holy Spirit of life to change this damned creation. Our fearful, disbelieving, junk-filled minds need to be washed by God’s word!
I am in the business of converting people, not to my view, but to God’s view according to His word. And no one needs that cleansing more than someone who is so blind that they don’t know they need it. They are referred to in 1 Corinthians 2:14: “But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him.” In Acts 17:6, the Christians are described as those “that have turned the world upside down.” Yet those Christians were the ones who were turning the world right-side up! I am doing my best to turn this foolish world right-side up, and thank God some of you have quit standing on your heads.
The viewpoint of the world, whether it is manifested through the news media or the courts, is that they will only “accept” a religion that they have analyzed and decided that it fits in the list of the things that they approve. And when we tell them they are wrong, we are told to repent and turn around! But we are the ones who walk around upright with our heads in eternity, while the rest of the world is bouncing around on their heads in the mud, calling us foolish. Understand that Christianity involves an inversion, a conversion, a change. It begins with repentance, which means “turning from, to.” Repentance involves a change of the mind before the Spirit can come into us, which makes us a new creature in Christ Jesus, and we are “born again.”
Some people go to church every Sunday to feel good and to socialize. They perform and sing in the choir and plan their bake sales. But you are supposed to go to the Lord’s house to get fed by His word that gives you the ability, when you are afraid, to hang on.
Again, I can imagine David’s critics saying, “David could have made such a contribution to the work of God with his teaching if he had just straightened out. We could have gotten something out of Psalm 56 if that dirty rat had not lied and scrabbled on the wall, and if he had gotten rid of that crowd of outcasts that surrounded him. We could have had a sermon today, but we dare not let anybody hear Psalm 56 because David was such a scoundrel. And if we say there is anything in that psalm for us, it might suggest that we approve of what he did!”
David did not say, “Imitate my behavioral performance.” In essence, he said, “Imitate my focus.” “What time I am afraid, I will trust in thee.” Where do you find the handle to start trusting in God? You immediately go to His word and you hang your body on what He says. You grab hold of His word because you know that God and His word are one. Now that David has placed God’s word front and center, he pushes the fear away. Notice a subtle change in verse 4 as his attitudinal frame of reference changes. He says, “In God I will praise his word, in God I have put my trust; I will not fear what flesh can do unto me.”
There is only one thing that gets God’s attention: faith. And there is only one target of faith: God’s word. Anything else is a sham. You might ask me, “Why do you emphasize this so much?” The same reason Paul did: God’s word is the light in the darkest hour, the lodestar, the one unchanging thing. Heaven and earth will pass away, but “Forever, O LORD, thy word is settled in heaven.” It is the one place where you are secure. There is nothing else as valuable in this world as knowing God’s word.
I know the power of God’s word. There has never been a more natural-born doubter than me. Despite my best efforts to find holes in His word, God has always shown me that He is faithful. In my worst circumstances, when I reach out and grab His word and focus on it, things start to change inside me.
David got his focus right, but the battle was not over yet. He still felt like he was sinking in quicksand. He said, “Every day they wrest my words: all their thoughts are against me for evil…Thou tellest my wanderings: put thou my tears into a bottle.” In the quicksand, he had to make the effort to continue to hang on to God’s word. He praised His word, put his attention on His word, and then he said in verse 11, “In God have I put my trust: I will not be afraid what man can do unto me. Thy vows are upon me, O God.” That means when I hang on to God’s word, He looks out for me. You might ask, “Do you mean that God would help lying, fearful, wall-scrabbling, madness-imitating David?” Yes, he became the beneficiary of what God has promised. As God said to Jeremiah, “I will hasten my word to perform it.” And “God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent: hath he said, and shall he not do it?” When David said, “In God have I put my trust…Thy vows are upon me,” he suddenly became a living illustration of God’s faithfulness to His word.
God demonstrates His faithfulness to His word to those of us who are focused on Him. Someone will accuse, “But you’re a sinner!” But God’s word says, “My grace is sufficient.” Should Jesus delay His return, I am absolutely convinced that we made it through this year. If I keep my grip on His word, God will back His word. There is only one thing that releases God from His faithfulness to His word, and that is if I lose my grip. If I am sinking in quicksand, like Peter sinking in the water, the last thing you will hear me say before I go under is, “Lord, save me!” I know that God will quickly pull me out. That is the way God works.
In the first part of Psalm 56:13, David said, “For thou hast delivered my soul from death.” Then those King James Version translators ruined the next part: “wilt not thou deliver my feet from falling…?” That is not what David said. The words wilt and thou deliver are in italics, which means they were not in the original text and were added by the translators. In the original Hebrew, you will find that both clauses are in the past tense. The first part of this verse is in the past tense, “For thou hast delivered my soul from death.” The next part is also in the past tense: “thou hast delivered my feet from falling, that I may walk before God in the light of the living.”
Now turn to Psalm 116. It is not known who penned this psalm. It quotes from David’s psalms, and it is quoted in the New Testament by Paul. Verse 8 comes right out of Psalm 56: “For thou hast delivered my soul from death.” Then a phrase is added to this verse that David did not say in Psalm 56: “thou hast delivered…mine eyes from tears.” That means the more practice you get at reaching out of your fear to God and His word, and the more you learn of His faithfulness, the less necessity there will be to cry about the quicksand.
One of these days, not only will we be able to sing, “For thou hast delivered my soul from death, and my feet from falling,” but we will also be able to say, “God has delivered mine eyes from tears…I will walk before the LORD in the land of the living.”
The message, short and simple, is this: Let your circumstance be the catalyst that makes you grab hold of God’s word. Hold on to His word, and He will do the rest.
I would like to conclude by linking these two psalms to the cities of refuge in the Old Testament. In the book of Joshua, God commanded His people to appoint six cities of refuge in the Promised Land. We have taught on the meaning of their names. Their names mean “sanctuary,” “shoulder” or “burden-bearer,” “association,” “fortified place,” “high place” and “joy.” As long as you could flee to one of these cities, you would be safe. By analogy, the worst citizen in the kingdom, David, fled to God for refuge, and he had to run speedily to get there. He deserved death, but he cried out, “What time I am afraid, I will flee to the refuge!” He made the effort to get there, and when he got there, it was his safe place.
Christ is our city of refuge. And all we must do to get to the city of refuge is to run to God’s word, and we will be safe. Our fear might drive us in many other directions where we would eventually sink in the quicksand. But when we run to God, grab hold of His word and stay there, we are safe and secure. Glory to God!
Father, in Jesus’ name we pray today, and I pray this prayer for all of us. Whatever the circumstance that presses in on us, help us to grab hold of the rope of Your word and hang on. That is all we have to do: take a fix on Your word and not let go. Your promise is deliverance from falling, even deliverance from tears. I claim it for everybody here today, in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Re-printed with permission from Pastor Melissa Scott
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