by Pastor David Groendyk
This psalm is another lament written by David. The header links this psalm to 1 Samuel 21:10–15 where David first flees to the Philistine city of Gath to escape Saul then must flee away from Gath to escape the Philistines. (Psalm 34 was also written by David after that historical event.) But more than just being a lament where David’s enemies are trampling over him, this is also—as the ESV Study Bible calls it—a psalm of anticipated thanksgiving. David confidently anticipates the deliverance God will give him and is already praising God for it.
One verse that stands out to me is verse 8. There’s something profoundly comforting and reassuring about this verse. Although it doesn’t describe the grand act of deliverance that David anticipates elsewhere in this chapter, it is a reminder that God sees and remembers all of our griefs and sorrows. He writes down in a book all the times we are tossed about. He collects every tear we’ve ever shed in a bottle, and it spurs him on to do something about our situation. Your God cares when you weep and are burdened. More than just caring about your tears, however, as one commentator points out, God himself has shed his own tears as a man. Jesus wept over Lazarus’ death (John 11:35), he wept at the rebellion and future destruction of Jerusalem (Luke 19:41), and he wept while offering up prayers and supplications (Hebrews 5:7). Your God knows pain, suffering, and grief. Rest assured that God knows what to do when you cry out to him with tears.
The repeated refrain in the face of being trampled is in verses 4 and 10–11: “In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can flesh do to me?” This is the refrain that we must repeat to ourselves as well in the midst of grief and oppression. If God is for us (v. 9), then ultimately-speaking nothing of this world can defeat us. If we seek our comfort, protection, and vengeance from anyone or anything besides God himself, we will be sorely disappointed, because nothing that comes from this world has any ultimate power. The infinite and eternal God is your savior, father, and friend. Now, that doesn’t mean he’ll simply do whatever you ask him to do. But it does mean that we can be assured that everything God is doing is working out for our good. In the midst of trial, we must have faith in our God—not that he will do exactly what we want, but that everything he’s doing has a purpose even if we perceive it to be bad.
One of the phrases that we shouldn’t be quick to gloss over is “whose word I praise” (vv. 4, 10). Between that phrase being repeated three times and the image of God writing in a book in verse 8, there’s a heavy emphasis in this psalm on God writing and speaking, and that is not an accident. God’s own words are what we must go back to over and over again if we want to survive our trials. Why should I trust God when my circumstances look awful? How do I know God is for me? How has God promised to help me? How will he provide for me in this time? Go to the Word! He didn’t write a 1000-page book for nothing. It is filled with the only truths and promises that will sustain you through a long and hard life. Read his Word regularly and frequently, and praise him for it. Think about it like this: how can you praise God for his Word if you never even read it? In his Word are immeasurable riches of his grace. Go back to it again and again.