Vol. 6, No. 4
~ Page 9 ~
Because of his courageous defeat of the gigantic Goliath, David, the shepherd lad of Bethlehem, became the hero of Israel. King Saul "set him over the men of war, and it was good in the sight of all the people" (1 Samuel 18:5). David's fame spread as he traveled through the hamlets of Palestine; women danced and sang, "Saul hath slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands." The King, however, was hardly impressed with these musical eulogies. In fact, he was "very wroth," and so, "Saul eyed David from that day and forward" (1 Samuel 28:7-9). Presently, envy conceived and Saul began to make attempts to have David slain. From place to place he pursued him. How dark and depressing must these days have been to that noble Hebrew youth.
The inspired penman of 1 Samuel informs us that on one occasion, David (perhaps in desperation) fled to the king of Gath (Philistine territory). Quite possible he was confined for a period, for the sacred narrative characterizes him as being "in their hands" and again, finally, he escaped: to Adullam (1 Samuel 21:13; 22:1). What tearful times these were! Later David penned two psalms relating to the incident just mentioned -- Psalm 34 and Psalm 56. It is to this latter one that attention is especially called at this time.
The superscription of Psalm 56 asserts that it is a psalm of David, "when the Philistines took him in Gath." Though these superscriptions are not a part of the original text, they do nevertheless reflect great antiquity, antedating even the Septuagint (285-246 B.C.) In this period of crisis the psalmist pleads:
"Be Merciful unto me, O God; for man would swallow me up:
All the day long the fighting oppresseth me.
Mine enemies would swallow me up all the day long;
For they are many that fight proudly against me"(Psalm 56:1-2).
Then, in recounting the heartbreaking episodes of the past David says:
"Thou numberest my wanderings:
Put thou my tears into thy bottle:
Are they not in thy book!" (Psalm 56:8).
David knows that the Lord has not been unmindful of his fugitive perils. Though the shepherd boy had been driven relentlessly from place to place, God had "numbered" or "counted" such, that, Jehovah had been intimately aware of all dangers confronting David. In the language of Job, he might well have asked: "Doth not he see my ways, and number all my steps?" (Job 31:4). Our Lord Jesus, using a similar figure, assures us that the very hairs of our heads are "all numbered" (Matthew 10:30). How minute is the concern of the Almighty for his children!
Our great Jehovah is truly a God of compassion. Paul, in describing the tender feelings of sympathy that the Heavenly Father has for those in distress, says that he is "the God of all comfort" (2 Corinthians 1:3). Indeed, "as a father pitieth his children, so Jehovah pitieth them that fear him" (Psalm 103:13). And so, David implores, "Put thou my tears in thy bottle." The Psalmist beseeches his Maker to be mindful of his tears -- treasure them up, as men might preserve costly liquids. How magnificently graphic! How brimming with comfort! One is reminded of the grief of King Hezekiah, and Jehovah's response thereto through the prophet Isaiah, "I have heard thy prayers, I have seen thy tears" (2 Kings 20:5). Is it not wonderful to know when our hearts are laden with sorrow there is always One who is never too busy to truly care? Heartaches may go unnoticed by others, but not by him. Therefore, "Cast thy burden upon Jehovah, and he will sustain thee" (Psalm 55:22).