Clinging To God
For the director of music. To the tune of “A Dove on Distant Oaks.” Of David. A miktam. When the Philistines had seized him in Gath.
Be merciful to me, my God,
for my enemies are in hot pursuit;
all day long they press their attack.
My adversaries pursue me all day long;
in their pride many are attacking me.
When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.
In God, whose word I praise—
in God I trust and am not afraid.
What can mere mortals do to me?
Like coal transformed into diamonds under pressure and heat, the Bible shows David transformed into greatness by his trials and troubles. Yet, David seems to sing his sweetest songs in the darkest of times. The superscript of today’s psalm text indicates yet another time of trouble for David: “When the Philistines had seized him in Gath” (I Samuel 21:10-15). Yet, even in extremity David manages to think beyond his narrow world in asking that his song be handed on to “the director of music”. David hopes that one day others in trouble will join him in singing this song of trust.
David’s repetitious “all day long…all day long” underscores the unrelenting attack of enemies. Understandably, David feels afraid. Yet it is in moments of fear that David is learning to put his trust in God: “When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.” This speaks to real life; it is only when we are afraid that we are going to learn to trust. So Alexander Maclaren writes:
If there is not fear there is no trust, the two facts do co-exist. The eye that takes in visible facts on the earthly level supplies the heart with abundant reason to fear. But it rests with ourselves whether we shall yield to those, or whether, by lifting our eyes higher and higher and fixing the vision on the Unseen, on Him who is invisible, we shall call such an ally to our side as shall make fear and doubt impossible. We have little power directly controlling fear or any other feeling, but we shall determine the object on which we shall fix attention. (Commentary in the Expositors Bible; Psalms)
Maclaren is right, as we have little power to turn off fear or any other emotion. There is no on-off switch for fear. But we can make a choice as to where we will put our attention. When David is afraid, he learns to put his attention on God, and focus on Him.
God is then David’s antidote to fear. And David sees a close link between putting his trust in God and God’s Word: “I put my trust in you. In God, whose word I praise.” David’s trust is founded on what God has promised in His Word. David is particularly fond of the Hebrew word batach translated as “trust”, and uses it twice as many times as all the other psalmists combined. The root meaning of batach is “to cling” and has the idea of to “trust in, feel safe, be confident, careless…that sense of well-being and security which results from having something or someone in whom to place confidence.” (R. Laird Harris, Gleason Archer, and Bruce Waltke, Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament)
If we choose to look at our circumstances, it might be very reasonable to be afraid. But if we choose to look at God, it will be very unreasonable not to trust. As David did when He was afraid, we can choose to cling to God and His Word.
READ REFLECT RESPOND REST