When we are in trouble, why do we foolishly return to evil practices and places thinking they have somehow changed and will now bring us comfort and peace when our past experiences have proven to us they never can? Why don’t we instantly seek the Lord? The introduction to Psalm 56 tells us it is “of David for the director of music, to the tune of ‘A Dove on Distant Oaks’ when the Philistines had seized him in Gath.” Gath is the Philistine city David faced and defeated Goliath with the help of the Lord when he was just a young teenage boy (1 Samuel 17). It was a place of victory but not a place to take residence. A few years later, we see that David lived in Gath for a year and four months as he and six hundred of his men are fleeing from Saul (1 Samuel 27). Why would David think anything good could come from living among Israel’s enemy? He thought this because his heart and mind were not in a good place as he had become discouraged in his flight from Saul (1 Samuel 27:1). He foolishly thought there was nothing good left for him in Israel and chose to live among an idol-worshipping, Israel-hating people. What a low place! Reading this experience, we see David has now buddied up with the king of Gath, was doing raiding parties for him, and even lined up in battle against Israel at one point! Sometimes in our depression and fear, we make unwise, ungodly decisions. David already knew this was not a good place as he had to pretend to be a madman to escape from there in an earlier experience (1 Samuel 21:10-15). Why would he think it would be any better now? He had momentarily taken his eyes off the Lord. When we find ourselves in a place of trouble, even if we are the cause of it, we should do as David did and return to the Lord, calling out to Him for help, wisdom, and deliverance.
While there is no record David encountered physical attacks from the Philistines in Gath during this time, he faced their slander “all day long” (vv. 1-2). Words can often pierce deeper than swords. He asked for the Lord’s mercy, realizing there was no favor among the Philistines. David most likely knew these slanderous words would soon turn into violent actions against him and his men. It was time to get out and get back to trusting the Lord once again. Although David and his men lived among the Philistines for over a year, the king was using him, and the Philistine commanders did not trust him or want him there. We should not be surprised when we experience fear, slander, and evil schemes (vv. 5-6) of wicked people we have chosen to live among because that is their nature! When we make unwise decisions and settle where God’s presence and favor are absent, we must seek His mercy! According to Psalm 56, it seems David had swallowed his pride and wised up. He was once again placing his thoughts on God and His Word (vv. 3-4) and asking for His help (v. 7). When we finally come to our senses, stop listening to our emotions, feelings, hurts, and fears, and start calling out the Lord once again, we will remember and experience the goodness of the Lord once again.
David was in misery (v. 8). He knew God recorded his tears in a scroll (“bottle” KJV). God is not unaware of our pain and grief, even if we cause it. David knew he must not blend in with the enemy any longer but come out and call on the Lord, proving his allegiance to Him (v. 9). The best way to let those who do not follow the Lord know you are following Him is to testify, praise, and speak His Word in their presence (vv. 9-10). Maybe your unwise decisions have you buddied up with the wrong crowd, but it is not too late to seek the Lord. When David’s heart and mind shifted back to the Lord, he praised Him (v. 12) and remembered how He had delivered him many times before (v. 13). In our despair and depression, we must not forget all God has done for us. In our frustration and fear, we must worship the Lord and continually keep our eyes, thoughts, and heart on Him so as not to find ourselves living among those who practice evil and hate God and His people. David would one day be king of Israel, but he couldn’t do that living in Gath. If he was going to leave physically, he had to start by returning his heart and mind to the Lord.
1. Have you taken your eyes and thoughts off the Lord in your despair, grief, or trial?
2. Have you moved back and settled in the enemy’s camp?
3. Isn’t it time to return your heart and mind to the Lord?
Lord, when I am afraid, I will trust in You. I must remember Your enemies are not my allies. It is never a good idea to settle in the enemies’ camp. Help me keep my eyes, thoughts, and heart focused on You. Help me not think to myself as David did, but consult You in prayer for Your will and direction. Thank You for rescuing me even when my decisions have caused me more grief and despair. I will praise You and remember all Your goodness. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.