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Bible Commentaries

Sermon Bible Commentary

Psalms 56



Verse 3-4

Psalms 56:3-4

I. Notice how beautifully there comes out here the occasion of trust. "What time I am afraid, I will trust in Thee." That goes deep down into the realities of life. It is when we are afraid that we trust in God, not in easy times, when things are going smoothly with us. This principle—first fear and only then faith—applies all round the circle of our necessities, weaknesses, sorrows, and sins.

II. Notice how there is involved in this the other consideration that a man's confidence is not the product of outward circumstances, but of his own fixed resolves. "I will put my trust in Thee."

III. These words, or rather one portion of them, give us a bright light and a beautiful thought as to the essence and inmost centre of this faith or trust. Scholars tell us that the word here translated "trust" has a graphic, pictorial meaning for its root idea. It signifies literally to cling to or hold fast anything, expressing thus both the notion of a good tight grip and of intimate union. That is faith, cleaving to Christ, turning round Him with all the tendrils of our heart, as the vine does round its pole, holding to Him by His hand, as a tottering man does by the strong hand that upholds.

IV. These two clauses give us very beautifully the victory of faith. "In God I have put my trust; I will not fear." He has confidence, and in the strength of that he resolves that he will not yield to fear. The one true antagonist and triumphant rival of all fear is faith, and faith alone. The true way to become brave is to lean on God. That, and that alone, delivers from otherwise reasonable fear. Faith bears in her one hand the gift of outward safety and in her other that of inward peace.

A. Maclaren, Weekday Evening Addresses, p. 103.

Verse 8

Psalms 56:8

I. The human side of life. It is described under two forms: wandering and tears; and the division, though brief, is very comprehensive. Life has its active part in wanderings, its passive in tears. This description of life is true (1) in its changefulness; (2) in its imperfection; (3) in its growing fatigue.

II. We come to the Divine side of life. This belongs only to the man who can feel, know, and be regulated by it, as the polestar shines for those who take it for their guide. What then does this view of God secure for the man who looks to Him,? (1) It secures for his life a Divine measure. "Thou tellest my wanderings." That is not merely, Thou speakest of them, but Thou takest the tale and number of them. We ask Him to teach us to count our days, and He replies by counting them for us. They look often as restless as a bird's flutterings, as unregarded as the fallen leaves, but they are reckoned up by God, and there shall not be too many for the wanderer's strength or too few so as to fall short of the promised rest. (2) This view of God secures a Divine sympathy in life. "Put Thou my tears into Thy bottle." This teaches (a) that God is close beside a sufferer in the time of sore trial, so near that He can mark and catch the tears; (b) that the tears are preserved—they enter into God's memory, and become prayers; (c) that the tears shall be brought forth again. It is for this they are marked and preserved. (3) This view of God secures a Divine meaning in life. "Are they not all in Thy book?" It is possible then, if a man puts all his wanderings and tears into the hand of God, that they may be seen at last to end in a plan, man freely contributing his part and God suggesting and guiding. We cannot but think that this shall be one of the occupations of eternity: to read the meaning of the past in the possessions of the future, and this not for each one interested in himself alone, but for each interested in all.

J. Ker, Sermons, 2nd series, p. 290.

Our Lord's life was throughout characterised by sorrow, yet He is only recorded to have been moved to tears three times.

I. In the Epistle to the Hebrews we are told that He offered up tears "to Him that was able to save Him from death." This alludes evidently to the agony in the garden. Of these tears we know only that they must have been tears for sin and for the wrath of God due to and consequent upon sin; they must have been tears for the sin of the world.

II. In unison with the sorrowing sisters over the grave of their brother, we read that "Jesus wept," teaching us that the emotions and sentiments to which the varied fortunes of life give rise are not to be suppressed and stifled as tokens of a natural and unregenerate mind, but to be sanctified by seeking in them the presence, the support, and the sympathy of our incarnate God.

III. The tears of our Lord over Jerusalem sanctify entirely the sentiment of patriotism, as His tears over the grave of Lazarus sanctified the domestic affections. As a natural instinct patriotism may be felt by the natural man, but in the Christian the natural instincts are taken up into the current of the spiritual life, and all of them coloured by religious principle. Observe how the natural feeling of patriotism should be sanctified. Prayer for Jerusalem was in Christ's heart. Let us then pray earnestly for our beloved country, that she may not come under the indictment brought against Jerusalem of throwing away opportunities and disregarding the day of grace.

E. M. Goulburn, Christian World Pulpit, vol. ii., p. 104.

Tears are here employed as exponents of sorrows and troubles. They have a sort of sacramental meaning, being outward and visible signs of an inward and invisible grief, and sometimes, too, though more rarely, of an inward and visible joy. But it is not all tears that are treasured up by God. There are some of which He takes due note, which are recorded in His book and kept in His bottle, and which form some of the most precious and efficacious agencies for good which are known in our world. These tears we may range in three classes.

I. They are tears of repentance. By repentance I mean that godly sorrow for sin out of which the new life in the case of many must have its birth. When a sinner is converted, there is a meeting of the waves of sin and the waves of Divine grace, and there must be tumult and unrest for a season. We have illustrations of this in the New Testament, in the case of (1) the woman that was a sinner; (2) the Philippian gaoler; (3) Peter. Theirs were tears of repentance unto salvation, that needeth not to be repented of.

II. Another class of tears which are treasured up by God are those which are wept in the spiritual conflicts of life. There are the earlier and the latter rains in the life of God in the soul of man. The chief sorrows of a Christian life are those which arise from a sense of sin, and defect, and unbelief, and ingratitude. It is but a poor life which has not its hours of secret self-examination, and its hours therefore of secret grief. The tears we shed then are seen by Him who ever seeth in secret, and they are put into His bottle and recorded in His book.

III. Another sort of tears which are equally dear to God are the tears wept over the wickedness of men and the apparent slowness with which the kingdom of God makes its way. Blessed are they that thus mourn, for they shall be comforted.

E. Mellor, In the Footsteps of Heroes, p. 67.

The tears of which David speaks in this Psalm were such as any one may shed in ordinary disappointment or distresses of life. The Psalmist knew that such tears would be dear to God. He uses three metaphors: the arithmetical table; the process of preserving precious wine; the memorandum book. "Thou tellest my flittings, my changes, my flutterings, my agitations." Thou tellest my flittings; put Thou my tears into Thy bottle; are they not (written) in Thy book?

I. Things so treated by God cannot be wrong. It would be a very severe creed, and little suited to man and his world, which should exclude tears from the Christian's vocabulary of language.

II. Sorrow is not our normal condition. That graceful verse seems written as for this very end, to show that sorrow is the parenthesis: "Weeping may endure for a night." Still sorrow is a very real thing. No one can despise it. And when it comes, God sends it so that it shall be felt.

III. Every sorrow comes with many missions. (1) Sorrows tell of sin—sin that would else be latent and unknown. (2) Sorrows break up the ground; the ploughshare passes through the clods to break them. (3) Sorrows draw out graces which were sleeping. (4) Sorrows throw us into the arms of Jesus.

IV. We must deal with our sorrows measuredly. If we are not to despise them, we are not to faint under them. There are tears which, if they do not actually rebel, are nevertheless murmuring tears. They complain of God. There are selfish tears and too protracted tears. The highest exercise of sorrow is to return to duty bravely, throwing into duty more of Christ and more of heaven.

J. Vaughan, Sermons, 9th series, p. 69.

References: Psalms 56:9.—C. J. Vaughan, Voices of the Prophets, p. 94. Psalm 56—A. Maclaren, Life of David, p. 77.

Verse 12-13

Psalms 56:12-13

I. The motive. "Thou hast delivered my soul from death."

II. The obligation. "Thy vows are upon me, O Lord." The Christian who would be a Christian indeed must not be ashamed of the yoke of Christ.

III. The cheerfulness of this spirit of self-sacrifice finds its legitimate expression in praise, and its ardour in a prevailing desire to "walk before God."

W. M. Punshon, Sermons, 2nd series, p. 300.

References: Psalms 56:12, Psalms 56:13.—J. R. Macduff, Communion Memories, p. 218. Psalms 57:4.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxv., No. 1496. Psalms 57:7.—J. Jackson Wray, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxi., p. 360. Psalms 57:8.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xvii., No. 996; J. Irons, Thursday Penny Pulpit, vol. x., p. 173; J. B. Heard, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxvi., p. 332. Psalm 57—A. Maclaren, Life of David, p. 119; C. Kingsley, Westminster Sermons, p. 302.


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Bibliography Information
Nicoll, William R. "Commentary on Psalms 56:4". "Sermon Bible Commentary".

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