March 20: Psalm 56

March 20: Psalm 56

Prayer for deliverance from foes

Long Meter 88.88                     Hamburg (When I Survey the Wondrous Cross), p. 90

Be gracious unto me, O God, for men of earth would me devour.

They fight against me all day long, oppressing me with all their power.

My foes have trampled me all day long; many the proud who fight against me.

The day I fear I’ll trust in You, The Lord, whose word my praise shall be.

In God I trust; I will not fear, for what can mere man do to me?

All day they twist my words; their thoughts are all of schemes to injure me.

They meet, they lurk, they mark my steps; they’re waiting for my soul to fall.

For their iniquity, O God, in wrath bring down the nations all.

You count my tossings and my tears kept in Thy book and mem-o-ry.

My foes shall, when I call, turn back; long I have known God is for me.

In God, Whose word I’ll always praise. The Lord, Whose word my praise shall be

In God I trust; I will not fear, for what can mere man do to me?

I’ll pay my vows with thanks to You; from death, O God, You set me free,

Kept me from falling, that with God my walk in light of life may be.

Psalm 56 is the prayer of a believer sorely tried but still trusting in God. It may
easily be prayed as the prayer of Christ our Lord in the context of His redemptive sufferings, but it also expresses the feelings of those who have, like the Apostles, been counted worthy to suffer for the name of Jesus. That is to say, this psalm is the prayer of David, the prayer of Christ, the prayer of the Church, and the prayer of any disciple of Christ within the Church. What the Church suffers, after all, she suffers in communion with Christ, and what is suffered by individual members is part of that same mystic communion of which the Apostle Paul wrote in Colossians 1:24. Much of the drama against Christ in the Gospels is repeated in the experience of the first Christians narrated in Acts and the various Epistles, where we likewise read repeatedly of persecutions, plots, lurking ambushes, false testimony, denunciations, floggings, imprisonment, and even death. In varying degrees, such was the lot of Stephen, James, Paul and the other Apostles. The mandate laid on all believers, that they daily take up the cross and follow Jesus, is not a thing light or incidental to the living of the Gospel, for Scripture affirms that “all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution” (2 Tim. 3:12). Psalm 56 is a perfect prayer for all such folk. The more important sentiment in our psalm, however, is deep trust in God’s abiding mercy and help. In this psalm’s act of trust, the future itself becomes a sort of narrative past: “You have delivered my soul from death, my feet from stumbling, so that I may rejoice before the Lord in the light of the living.” (Reardon, p. 109-110)

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