After David had been anointed the new king, he lead a life on the run to avoid being murdered by Saul and his soliders. David had much reason to be afraid, and in Psalm 56 David openly speaks to God about his fears. He also affirms his faith in God for His protection and deliverance. Fear can have a paralyzing effect on a person, but when we are frightened, we should follow David's example and run to God with our concerns. "David decided that he would rather be guided by faith in God instead of fear over his circumstances." (Explore the Bible Adult Learner Guide, Fall 2009, p. 59)
During his flight, David could not let his guard down for his enemies were after him day and night; they did not rest from their pursuit and neither could David (verse 1). This never-ending pursuit caused David to pled for mercy from God. He did this because he feared for his life. David had fought Goliath and fended off wild animals to protect his sheep so he was not a cowardly man, but the attacks he faced from Saul made him tremble. Everyone will have moments when they are extraordinarily courageous, but will also have moments that will shake us to the core with fear. No one in immune to fear.
David's fear did not control him, and in verse 3 he states that he would trust God when he is afraid. This shows that it is possible "for fear and faith to occupy the mind at the same moment". (Treasury of David by Charles Spurgeon) The best antidote for fear is to place your trust in God. "Whether the fear arise from without or within, from past, present, or future, from temporals, or spirituals, from men or devils, let us maintain faith, and we shall soon recover courage." (Treasury of David by Charles Spurgeon)
David also said he would not fear men (verse 4); he could say this because of this faith in God's sovereignty over his circumstances. David also knew that men may injury his body and may even take his life, but men could harm his soul for his soul was in God's protective hands. "Jesus said, 'Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul' (Matthew 10:28). Instead, we should fear God, who controls this life and the next. (Life Application Bible Notes)
David also praised God for His Word and the promises contained therein which were sustaining him during his time of trouble. "Faith brings forth praise."(Treasury of David by Charles Spurgeon) Regardless of the ever-changing circumstances of our lives, we can rest assured that God will not forsake us, and He will keep the promises He made in His Word. God's faithfulness is praiseworthy no matter what situation we find ourselves.
Every day David's enemies spent their time twisting David's words to use them against him (verse 5). This is a common tactic of the ungodly; they do not value the truth nor do they understand the power that words can have and the harm they can do to others. David's enemies had him outnumbered and were relentless in their pursuit of him (verse 6). Saul and his soliders showed David no mercy, but David turned to God believing that God would bestow mercy on him which the Lord did. David believed that his enemies' schemes were not too much for God to handle.
In verse 7 David asked a question that many who have been oppressed have probably asked, "Will they go unpunished for what they are doing to me?". David followed up his question with a request for justice -- for God to humble his enemies "in wrath". Wrath is "God's holy response to human sin." (Explore the Bible Adult Learner Guide, Fall 2009, p. 62)
David's trial was not going unnoticed by God (verse 8). God knew ever detail of David's wanderings as he tried to stay one step ahead of Saul and his men, and God remembered every tear David had shed. The same is true for us when we are faced with overwhelming odds. God is aware of our oppressive situation, and He will remember us and our struggles. God does not discount, overlook or forget any problem of His children. He is actively involved in our lives and working in our situation, even though we may not see His hand in our circumstances.
In verse 9 David proclaims that God will answer his prayers and will deliver him from his dire straits; his faith has not waivered in the face of his life threatening circumstances. "The cry of faith and prayer to God is more dreadful to our spiritual foes than the war." (Adam Clarke's Commentary) Romans 8:31 (HCSB) reiterates the latter part of verse 9: "If God is for us, who is against us?". "He who has God WITH him need not fear the face of any adversary." (Adam Clarke's Commentary)
In verses 10 and 11 David reiterates his thoughts from verse 4, that is, he will praise God's Word because he trusts God and what can man do to him. The repetition of these points shows that the importance of them to David. He was totally and completely dependent on God and His Word for guidance, protection, wisdom and provision. He knew that nothing that was occurring to him was outside of God's control; his problems were not bigger than God. David's faith in God was sustaining him. "When we make a deliberate choice to trust God in the face of our troubling circumstances, in due time we will find ourselves praising God for His faithfulness to us. We will also renew our devotion to Him by living in obedience to His ways." (Explore the Bible Adult Learner Guide, Fall 2009, p. 64)
David during his time of flight had made promises to God (verse 12), and he was telling God that he was not going to be the type of believer that make lots of promises when seeking deliverance from hardship only to never fulfill those vows when the trial had passed. What are some of the things David could have promised God? "To renounce the devil and all his works, the pomps and vanities of this wicked world, and all the sinful desires of the flesh; to keep God's holy word and commandment, and to walk before him all the days of thy life." (Adam Clarke's Commentary)
In verse 13 David recalls that God has not only thwarted his enemies' attempt to cause David's physical death, but He had delivered David from spiritual death because of his faith. Because of his faith, David enjoyed a relationship with God which brought him joy, peace and protection. In this final verse of the psalm, David expressed gratitude, hope and trust.
So what can you do when you are afraid: talk to God about your fears, choose to affirm your trust in God, remember God is aware of your situation and He will deliver you in due time, continue to praise God and thank Him for the work He is doing in your life.