John T. Willis

Monday, January 16, 2017

I am not Afraid; What can Mortals do to Me?--Psalm 56

The superscription attempts to connect Psalm 56 with the Philistines seizing David at Gath. But elsewhere in the Hebrew Bible there is no reference to such an event. Apparently, the closest to this is 1 Samuel 21:10-15, according to which some of the soldiers of Achish king of Gath accused David as a traitor against the Philistines; David pretended that he was a madman, and Achish released him. The recurring theme of Psalm 56 is:
             "In God, whose word I praise,
                     in God I trust, I am not afraid;
               what can flesh [mortals] do to me?" (56:4, 10-11).
Psalm 56 falls into three brief stanzas.

1. The composer of Psalm begins by pleading to Yahweh, "O Most High," to be gracious to him.
     a. The reason for this is that people have trampled on him, foes oppress him, his enemies trample on him all day long, many fight against him.  56:1-2.
     b. The psalmist declares that when he is afraid, he puts his trust in Yahweh. He praises Yahweh's word. He declares he is not afraid, what can flesh do to him? 56:3-4.

2. The psalmist describes his enemies. 56:5-11.
     a. The psalmist explains that his enemies seek to injure his cause all day long. All their thoughts are against him for evil. They stir up strife, they lurk, they watch the psalmist's steps, they hoped to have his life. 56:5-6.
    b. The poet beseeches Yahweh to repay his enemies for their crime; cast down the peoples in wrath. 56:7.
    c. The composer declares that Yahweh has kept count of his tossings. Metaphorically, he asks Yahweh to put his tears in Yahweh's bottle to be a record. I f Yahweh does this, his enemies will retreat in the day when the psalmist calls, assured that Yahweh is FOR him. 56:8-9.
   d. The psalmist intones the recurring refrain or chorus in 56:4: the psalmist praises Yahweh's word; he trusts in Yahweh; he is not afraid; What can a MERE MORTAL do to me? 56:10-11.

3. The psalmist promises:
     a. He will perform his vows. 56:12a.
     b. Render thank offerings to Yahweh. 56:12b.
     c. Joyfully, the psalmist proclaims that Yahweh has delivered him from death and his feet from falling so that the psalmist may walk before God in the light of life. 56:13.

Share YOUR experiences and concerns and anxieties and cares and fears with others. Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis


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