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Psalm 56

The God whose word is sure

A David psalm. When the Philistines seized him in Gath. 

1 Be gracious to me, O God
for people are attacking me
tearing me down all day long!
They trample me underfoot
so many people boldly attacking me.
O Most High, 3 when I’m afraid
I turn in faith to you.
I trust in God, whose word I praise.
Trusting in him, I’m not afraid—
what can mere mortals do to me?
Obsessed with hurting me
they twist every word I say.
They join together, lurk and spy
watching my every move
determined to take my life.
Don’t let them get away with their crimes!
In your anger, strike the nations down, God!

You’ve tracked my tossing and turning
and collected all my tears in your bottle
entering each in your ledger.
My enemies will turn back
when I cry to you for help.
This I know because God is for me.
10-11 I trust in God, whose word I praise.
I trust in Yahveh, whose word I praise.
I’m not afraid—
what can mere mortals do to me?
12 I will yet fulfill my vows to you, O God
and offer sacrifices to thank you for your help.
13 For you’ve rescued me from death
and kept my foot from stumbling
so I can walk before you, God
in the light of life.

Tired of being the mouse in Saul’s cat-and-mouse game, David flees to Gath, in a move both desperate and daring. Then as now, political refugees sometimes ran into the arms of an enemy, hoping to find a welcome due to their having a common foe—in this case, King Saul. But David is sheltered by the very Philistines he’d defeated and shamed, decapitating their champion, Goliath. Doubtless still smouldering over that, they surveil David and drag him before their king, determined to cast doubt on his trustworthiness and strip him of the king’s protection.[a]

David knows the king’s word will mean nothing—that he’ll cave under pressure—that only God’s promised protection is rock-solid sure and beyond reproach. So he turns to his true protector, putting his trust in him. He takes comfort in God’s character. Far from being indifferent to our pain, God knows all we’ve suffered and treasures every tear we shed. Clinging to God’s word—maybe to his promise that David will be Israel’s next king—he knows that with God for him, his enemies have no chance. He thus experiences God’s peace though still in grave danger, humanly speaking. He prays that God will judge his enemies and rescue him, as he walks in God’s life-giving light.

Lord, you know all I’m going through and cherish my every tear. You are unequivocally for me—no matter what opposition I face or how weak and vulnerable I feel. I put my trust in your sure word of protection. Establish your sovereign rule in and through me, I pray. Amen.

Take hold of this truth in your free moments today:

You’ve rescued me from death and kept my foot from stumbling
so I can walk before you, God, in the light of life.


[a] 1 Sam. 21:10-15.

Why Yahveh?

Every translator of the Psalms must decide how to handle God’s personal name, YHWH, which occurs repeatedly in its Hebrew text. Translators of the King James Version usually translated it “LORD” (all caps) and occasionally transliterated it (badly) as “Jehovah.” Modern translations, likewise, either translate or transliterate it. While translating it aims to make it more accessible to readers, transliterating it is more faithful to the text since it’s not a word at all, but rather God’s uniquely personal name. I’ve chosen to transliterate it to root it more firmly in the biblical story as the name—meaning the “self-existent One”—that God revealed to Moses on Mount Sinai. This name set Israel’s God apart from all the gods of Israel’s neighbors.

Personal names are, well, very personal. Even the sound of a name can evoke strong emotion. One problem with YHWH is that we aren’t sure how it was pronounced since Jews long ago stopped saying it in order better to hallow it. In transliterating it, I follow the advice of my esteemed Hebrew professor, Raymond Dillard. He advocated transliterating it as Yahveh—pronounced yah·vay—arguing that following the modern Hebrew pronunciation of its third consonant makes the name sound more robustly Jewish than Yahweh.
May these psalms be a light to you in dark times. You can read more of Mark Robert Anderson's writings on Christianity, culture, and inter-faith dialogue at Understanding Christianity Today.