Each week as we read one of the Psalms, I write an article that hopefully gives some insight into the meaning of the psalm. Sometimes I struggle to find the one thought I want emphasize because the psalms are rich with many inspiring thoughts. However, seven hundred words are rarely ample to express one thought much less many.
As I sat to read and think about Psalm 56, I got no further than the introduction. Before I got to the first verse, I was impressed with my topic. The introduction of the psalm reads, “To the chief Musician upon Jonathelrechokim, Michtam of David, when the Philistines took him in Gath.” You should understand the introduction to the psalm is also a part of it, and this one is really a mouthful. Before even getting started, we have to ask, “What is David doing at Gath?”
As in so many of the psalms, David was fleeing from Saul, and he stopped to pray and plead for God’s help. Gath was no place to find the kind of comfort he needed. The beginning of this psalm is so peculiar because David sought refuge among the Philistines who were Israel’s chief enemies at the time. Both Saul and David had killed thousands of Philistines because they were wicked idolaters who tried to run Israel out of the Promised Land. They were still seeking revenge on Joshua after 400 years. Yet, here we find David knocking on their gates, seeking their help, and looking for refuge.
The Philistines did not trust David, as you can well imagine, so in order to buy time, we find him in 1 Samuel 21 acting like a complete mad man, a nutcase with spittle drooling down his beard as if he did not have enough sense to know better than to knock on the enemy’s door. David looked harmless; they must have thought he would soil himself at any minute. How far down did David go to make himself a fool in the sight of God’s enemies?
This sixteen word introduction struck me because as ridiculous as it sounds, God’s people do these stupid tricks all the time. They seek refuge with the enemy thinking they will fare better with them than sticking it out with God’s people. They want to live with the Philistines instead of with Israel when the Philistines have never been anything other than debased. Like Lot, they vex their righteous souls daily with the unlawful deeds of the devil’s crowd (2 Pet. 2:8).
Several months ago I warned that the new casino in Rohnert Park would become a temptation to the membership of Berean. It never should have been necessary to issue such a warning, but I can read scripture as well as you and I know Christians are often baffling. I knew some would venture to Gath and would blather all over themselves with the nice restaurants and the lure of the gaming tables and slot machines. Some of them would do as David did and end up in the employ of King Achish as they help rake in his money (1 Sam. 27). After all, it pays good—top dollar. Who cares if it God would spew that lukewarm Christian from His mouth?
What is their justification? They need protection from their creditors. Saul is chasing them. They need a job—they need to be paid well because it takes a lot to offset selling out God. The pocketbook is powerful, and like Balaam they will eventually get what they want (2 Pet.2:15). I am reminded of Moses who might have been tempted to remain in Pharaoh’s house to enjoy the life of an Egyptian prince—however, the scripture says: “By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter; Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; Esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt: for he had respect unto the recompence of the reward. By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king: for he endured, as seeing him who is invisible” (Heb. 11:24-27). It seems Christians will sell out to Gath or Egypt for a whole lot less than what it cost Moses.
I have to ask you a question: “What are Bereans doing at Graton Resort?” Joshua said, “Choose you this day whom ye will serve…” Is there really an option? Do Christians have an option? Will the redeemed give up God for the pleasures of sin for a season? Will they enter Gath to fatten their pocketbooks? God help us when real troubles come. Who will we trust to stand with us?
Pastor V. Mark Smith