Preached by Dr. Gene Scott on April 17, 1977
“What time I am afraid, I will trust in thee. In
God I will praise his word, in God I have put my
Trust; I will not fear what flesh can do unto me.”
IN 1 SAMUEL 21, David is fleeing from Saul. Here was a man who could look in God’s face and say, “I was herding the sheep, faithful,” and suddenly his life was changed because of the claim that God placed upon him. Back in 1 Samuel 16, God’s prophet Samuel anointed David to be king over all of God’s people, Israel. The initiative in relationships with God always starts with God. The theological expression for this is “prevenient grace.” God is the Hunter; He is the Seeker.
That is not only true concerning the seeking and saving of the lost, it is also true when God lays a claim upon a life. This is why we are to pray to the Lord to send forth laborers into the field. In the New Testament, “As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Paul and Barnabas for the work whereunto I have called them.” (Acts 13:2) Once God takes the initiative with a life, you are never going to be the same again. When He taps you on the shoulder, there is no such thing as a “volunteer” in the natural sense of the word. God gives you the right to respond, but you really don’t have a choice. You can act out your choice, but once the call comes, the only right way to go is to follow God no matter what.
I believe every saint is called to the ministry. The church is a people that belong to the Lord. If you belong to Him, then you become His body and you ought to treat whatever you do as a 100 percent commitment to God, understanding that you are His.
In obeying God, we are sometimes prone to associate our circumstantial happenings with the will of God, as though once God calls us to anything and we make a commitment, He ought to reward us with ease and rosiness thereafter. I want us to tune in on David today, not just as an example for preachers for those whom the world might call leaders. David was “a man after God’s own heart.” (1 Samuel 13:14, Acts 13:22) He was selected by God for a task, and he is an example for each one of us, whatever we are doing for God. God called him; God upset his routines; God changed his life.
David became a hero at first. The famous story of David killing Goliath follows the chapter after David’s anointing, but then everything started going wrong. When the ladies began to sing that David had killed his ten thousands, but King Saul had killed only thousands, jealousy came into the heart of Saul, and a series of persecutions began. David had to dodge the javelin thrown by Saul, and he had to hide in the wilderness. Saul sent men to fetch David in his bed to slay him, so he had to escape through a window. All this happened after he had been called of God and anointed. His troubles did not stop there; they just kept getting worse.
“Then came David to Nob to Ahimelech the priest . . .” David was so famished that he talked the priest into letting him eat of the hallowed showbread that was in the Holy Place. (1 Samuel 21:1-6) He had come without any weapons to fight with. After David had killed Goliath, Goliath’s sword had been taken to this place and was kept “wrapped in a cloth behind the ephod.” David was able to talk the priest into giving him that sword.
If you are facing any problems today, I want you to tune in on the man after God’s own heart and the anointed of God. After persecution on top of persecution, instead of seeing victories accumulate, he is being hunted, he is oppressed, and now he is famished. “And then David arose, and fled, that day for fear.”
I’m glad the Bible is honest and admits that a man after God’s own heart can flee for fear. Some men of God cloak their weaknesses by their behavior and words, pretending to be spiritual supermen. We are constantly faced with the feeling that if you are a leader, you must never communicate any cracks in this crock of clay, because mankind wants a god they can touch and see. There is only One like that who has no cracks in the pot, and that is Jesus. I take great comfort in seeing that a man after God’s own heart “arose, and fled that day for fear of Saul, and went to Achish the king of Gath.”
Gath is in the middle of the Philistine country, about halfway between Gaza and Jerusalem. Remember, David is the man who had killed Goliath, the Philistine champion. And Saul wanted to use the Philistines to kill David; he was afraid to kill David himself. Saul sought to entrap David by deceitfully marrying his daughter to David, making the bride price to be the killing of so many Philistines. Saul was sure David would get killed by the hand of the Philistines, but he wasn’t. (1 Samuel 18:17-21) You read in the verses immediately preceding, everywhere Saul put David, he conducted himself wisely. (1 Samuel 18:5) Everything he did was good and right; he didn’t deserve anything that was happening to him. He might have continuously complained to God because God had anointed him to be king and upset his life. That anointing is what had upset Saul, because Saul knew that David was to be the successor.
Now David is surrounded by Philistines. “And the servants of Achish said unto him, Is not this David the king of the land? did they not sing one to another of him in dances, saying, Saul hath slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands?” Put flesh and blood on him. He is in Philistine country; I imagine him bearing a cloak big enough to hide the giant sword of Goliath and trying to move through the streets of Gath. He is recognized and he hears everybody telling this news, “Is not this David the king of the land?”
“And David laid up these words in his heart, and was sore afraid of Achish the king of Gath. And he changed his behavior before them, and feigned himself mad in their hands, and scrabbled on the doors of the gate . . .” Scrabbled is Old English for “made marks.” David was just writing nonsensical syllables on the doors of the gate, and he “let his spittle fall down upon his beard.” (1 Samuel 21:10-13)
Can you see the man who had been anointed with oil flowing down over his head and onto his beard, now play acting, feigning madness with spittle dribbling down upon his beard? “Then said Achish unto his servants, Lo, ye see the man is mad: wherefore then have ye brought him to me? Have I need of mad men, that ye have brought this fellow to play the mad man in my presence? shall this fellow come into my house? David therefore departed thence, and escaped to the cave of Adullam.” (1 Samuel 21:14-22:1)
Are any of you in a worse condition than David? If you have ever felt that God let you down after calling you, or if you have ever entertained the thought that your service of God deserves better treatment than you are receiving; if you, after giving your life to God, have found circumstances closing in, then let God’s Word finally bring you to the answer that David found. You may even have been guilty, like David, of relying upon fleshly methods to deliver yourself, and the best you can do is just escape the pressure of the moment, but you are still dwelling in fear. Let God’s Word hone in on your life today.
There comes to David a band of men in need and in distress and in debt, and around this nuclei will assemble those who become his mighty men in subsequent chapters. Psalm 56 was written between the fear and the pressure in Philistine country and God giving him this band of men called Adullamites. At first glance, they weren’t too impressive. They became his mighty men, but he was still alone, still afraid, still oppressed by his circumstances when he sat down and wrote, “Be merciful unto me, O God; for man would swallow me up; he,” that is, the men opposing him, “fighting daily oppresseth me.” Do you ever feel that the battle ought to let up for a day, that the pressure ought to ease for at least a day? Well, you are not the only one who has had to face this. “He fighting daily oppresseth me.” Underline those words.
“Mine enemies would daily swallow me up.” An alternative translation is “Mine observers would daily swallow me up.” There is something about a man who is committed to God that makes every observer who is not equally committed to God antagonized. There are two forces working in this world, and man by himself is just no match for demonic forces. Man’s only hope is to come under the dominion of Divine forces, so that he might be able to say, “Greater is he that is in me, than he that is in the world.” (1 John 4:4) When a man called of God comes on the scene, be it the saint called to the most humble duty, or a preacher, or a missionary or whatever work you are called to do, the world not under the dominion of the Holy Spirit reacts like a dog whose hackles rise in the presence of a stranger. That is the scene here.
David doesn’t have a friend to talk to; he has left Jonathan in the previous chapter. He’s alone in Philistine country having barely escaped through feigning madness, and hiding with not a soul that he can tell his trouble to save God, and that’s when God’s man is at his best. “They be many that fight against me, O thou most High.” Now underline these words: “What time I am afraid, I will trust in thee.” (Psalm 56:2-3)
There are many verses in Psalm 56 that we can dwell upon, poetic sayings we can tune in on and remember. Let’s read through the agony of David’s prayer, before returning to verse 3. “Every day they wrest my words: all their thoughts are against me for evil.” Have you ever been in a circumstance where it seems nobody can even think good of you? David hadn’t done anything but obey God, yet they twist all his words and think evil of him. “They gather themselves together, they hide themselves, they mark my steps, when they wait for my soul.”
But look what God does: “Thou tellest my wanderings.” David will later expand this phrase into the thought of Psalm 139: “O LORD . . . Thou knowest my downsitting and mine uprising, thou understandest my thought afar off. Thou compassest my path and my lying down, and art acquainted with all my ways.” Here, in Psalm 56, he says it concisely: “Thou tellest my wanderings.” David is saying, “God, I may be hidden from others, but You know where I am.” “Put thou my tears into thy bottle: are they not in thy book?” He carried a little water bottle, and I’m sure that triggered the thought: “God, You see my tears, every drop.” But we come to the heart of the prayer in verse 3: “What time I am afraid, I will trust in thee.”
We have been teaching on faith in a non-mystical frame. In Hebrews 11, the chapter about God’s heroes of faith, the word translated faith is the Greek word pistis. In the New Testament, the word was self-defining. You did not have faith until you added the will to what the mind had agreed to and the heart had responded to. There is much confusion in the church world about the meaning of the word faith in the Bible. There is a “gift of faith,” which is really a faithing expression of God’s own Spirit. (1 Corinthians 12:1-11) It is an addition beyond ourselves; every expression of God’s Spirit augments human expression, it does not replace it. The expressions of the Spirit are an outflowing of the power or dunamis of God. That is the Greek word from which we get our word dynamite. It is the enduement of that additional power in this vessel of clay that places a stamp of God-likeness or “Godness” in our expression.
Paul spent 11 chapters writing to the Corinthians describing their fleshy expressions, their carnality, even though they were said to be “plutocrats,” overfull in the things of the Spirit. At the end of chapter 11, as though he’s just weary with the subject of their flesh, Paul says, “I’ll deal with the rest of it when I get there.” Paul never heard of “chapter and verse;” he just wrote a flowing letter. After saying “I’ll deal with the rest when I get there,” he says, “Now concerning the spirituals.” The King James Version says “spiritual gifts,” but the word gifts is in italics, meaning it was added by the translators. Paul goes on to talk about those spirituals. The spirituals are nothing but “the expressions of the Spirit,” what God looks like when He becomes or is Himself through us. Jesus of Nazareth was the ultimate substance of God that moved into a tent of human flesh; the Greek word is hypostasis. As you saw Jesus walking around, you saw God.
In answer to a query from His disciples, Jesus said, “If you have seen me, you have seen the Father.” (John 14:9) He prayed that the same Spirit that was with them in Jesus would come to dwell in them, and that is our promise too. (John 17)
As the substance of God had His full flow in a fleshy vessel inhabited by God’s nature called Jesus of Nazareth, when that Spirit abides in us and flows through us, the expressions of the Spirit will come out in this manner. There will be the articulative dialog expressions which enhance our communication upward to God and horizontally to the saints for the building up of the saints: the gifts of tongues, interpretation, and prophecy. There will be the augmentation of the mental faculties in the gifts of wisdom and discernment and knowledge. And there will be the augmentation of that which is the physical expression of life in the flowing forth of the gifts of healing and faith and miracles. (1 Corinthians 12:7-11) Faith is right in the middle of that because faith involves a physical attachment of the body to God’s promises.
That New Testament word for faith involves mental assent to an idea, heart response to what the mind has agreed to, and confidence in that idea. We can make an analogy to the natural laws. I have come to an agreement in my mind about the theory or law of gravity, having observed it long enough or believed it or experienced it. But there is now in my heart an absolute confidence that when I step off this step, my foot will go down and not up. If the law were to reverse, and my foot were to fly up to the ceiling, that would shake my confidence in the law of gravity. That is what we mean by confidence. There is a point where your heart becomes firmly joined with what was once mere theory. The law of gravity is a hypothesis, it can be grasped by the mind, but it is confidence that makes me leap off and know that I will go down to the floor. The initiative on our side starts with the will. The heart rises in confidence to what the mind has agreed to, and my will says “move,” and I step and go down. I have to hang my body on that theory or I wouldn’t walk a step. That’s all faith is, and faith involves a willing attachment of the body to what the mind agrees to and the heart responds to.
“What time I am afraid . . .” Why am I afraid? I’m in Philistine country. “They twist every word; every thought is evil against me. Everywhere I turn, I’m overpowered and outnumbered.” Am I going to hang my body on what my eyes see in the world around me and the emotions that are generated from that surrounding threat to my very existence, or am I going to hang my body on “Thus saith the word of the LORD?” What did David have to go on? God’s Word said, “You will be king over all My people.” What did it look like? He wasn’t even a king over a bunch of grasshoppers at that moment. He had just been running in fear, playing the madman. Everything defied what God had said. His was a willing choice: “What time I am afraid . . .” (Psalm 56:3) That’s a fact; he was scared! What does David say next? He does not say, “O God deliver me!” He says, “I will trust.” This is the first time in the Old Testament that David takes that word and uses it regarding God. David will use that word about 10 times more than anybody else. That proves something to me: it takes the extremity of circumstance to bring forth that expression of faith out of you.
That word for trust in the Hebrew literally means, “to grasp fast with the hand and lean on or hang on.” You find that same word used in a negative sense in both 2 Kings and in Isaiah in the account of Sennacherib’s siege of Jerusalem. Those arrogant people from Assyria stood outside the wall and called out to Hezekiah’s men on the wall, “Do you think you can lean on the reed which is Egypt?” They used a word for a reed that grows along the Nile, which if you lean on will break. But the word they use for lean is the same as David’s word here. They go on to say, “If you lean on that reed in Egypt, it will splinter and pierce your hand, and the sore will fester.” (Isaiah 36:6)
That same word is used in other places. In Proverbs 28:1 the word is translated strangely, “The righteous are bold as a lion.” Literally, it means, “The righteous trusts as a lion,” and it’s the same word that David chooses for grasping onto God. The expression, as written, had no logical meaning. It described the results of the action rather than the action because, if you would trust and lean heavily on the Lord, the continued activity of trusting in that manner would bear out the results: God protects, makes secure and gives safety to those who trust in Him. So, by the time Solomon wrote Proverbs, the word for lean had become a metaphor for boldness.
There was a town in old Israel called Laish. In the book of Judges, it says that the people in that town “dwell careless, quiet, and secure.” The word careless is literally the same word in another form of the verb for trusting. The literal translation is, “This Laish town, the people in it, dwell in trust . . . quiet and secure.” (Judges 18:7)
David introduced this word in relationship to God. Periodically, God’s people would push God out into a far-away land and not even pronounce His name, “Jehovah,” out of a fear of His untouchable quality. But God spoke to Moses and said He would reveal Himself to His people by His name JEHOVAH. David in his times of extremity made God come alive in the experience of the pain and the suffering and the fears that are a part of ordinary life. He applied this word to God and literally said, “You can make God your stay. You can turn from your fears and displace them by making God your possession and hanging in there on His promises.” Did it work? David not only became the king, he became the forefather of the King of kings and Lord of lords.
Hebrews 11 says, “Faith is the substance of things hoped for.” Trusting action like this concretionizes, or transubstantiates things hoped for. God is looking for a man who will defy everything he sees and feels, and who will literally seize hold of God’s promise and displace every other activity by hanging in there on what God has said. In front of him is the hope, that which is not seen. What is seen is everything defying the hope. But when he seizes on what God has said, he sets in motion a process which leaves behind the concretionized result. The world looking at the happening will see that his literal faithing act brought onto the stage of history the proven fact that, when you hang in there on God’s promise, God backs His Word.
Our problem is that we want the concretionizing to be done first by God. We want the platform to be intact, and then we will stand on it and say, “Hooray! He hath made me secure with a firm foundation.” But the way of faith says that there isn’t anything except the Architect’s plan, God’s Word. So, in a non-mystical way, I’m going to defy everything else and start ordering every action of my life and hang in there on what God has said. When we obtain God’s promises, then the platform is intact for the world to see. Who started it all? The ultimate Faither. For God out of nothing spoke and the worlds on which we walk were formed.
Jesus is the first Hero of faith. Hebrews says that Jesus was the agent who formed the worlds. (Hebrews 1:2) So God’s own Son before the worlds were famed became the speaking agent of creation. Our Pacesetter spoke the Word out of God’s conception of this universe and, from nothing, made everything. Now, as we follow Him, will we hang our bodies on the things of time, or will we take this eternal Word, “forever settled in heaven,” and hang our bodies on it? (Psalm 119:89) These worlds may pass away, but God’s Word is eternal. (Matthew 24:35)
David’s starting point was to hit bottom, and then make a decision. Not “God, if You’ll get rid of my fears, I will put my trust in You,” but rather, the fears become an excuse for faithing: “What time I am afraid, I will trust in thee.”
Do you remember the story of Gideon? Where was Gideon when God found him and made a deliverer out of him? He was hiding in a vineyard threshing wheat. (Judges 6:11) He never started to become a hero until right there in the vineyard, he finally stopped questioning God and took Him at His Word. Gideon found God’s promise, “I am with thee” sufficient. He built his altar, and then and there began to become a deliverer of God’s people.
He started out scared and displaced the fear by putting his trust in the Lord: “What time I am afraid, I will trust . . .” Then, notice the inversion that occurs in verse 4. He puts his trust in the Lord first, and then declares he is not afraid: “In God I will praise his word, in God I have put my trust; I will not fear what flesh can do unto me.” Again, in verse 11, “In God have I put my trust: I will not be afraid what man can do unto me. . . For thou hast delivered my soul from death.” That is our promise; that happened at Calvary. “Wilt not thou deliver my feet now from falling, that I may walk before God in the light of the living?” He asked God to start delivering him here, not just in eternity. But he started right where he was, scared, and he said, “What time I am afraid, I will put my trust in the LORD.”
Re-printed with permission from Pastor Melissa Scott
Prayer Requests for November, 2014
For Robin Harris’ dad (Oklahoma City) who has glaucoma and liver problems.
For Mary (Oklahoma City), who has lost muscle movement in her legs and right shoulder.
For Isaac Douglas (Illinois), that he gets approved for work release soon.
For Robert Casto (Cushing, OK) and His family, for health.
For Vangie Gonzales (Silver City, NM), for health.
For Dennis Martin (Lexington, OK) who has had several heart surgeries and is now having another pace maker put in.
For Willie Scott (Grady, Arkansas), that he will be granted clemency from the parole board.
For Ronald Macon (Illinois) who has suffered kidney failure.
For Ronald Wells (Illinois) who is facing surgery to remove a cancer from his back.
For Ponnell Buchanan (Joliet, Illinois) who seeks favor from God on his case.
For Michael Small’s Mom, Suzanne (Illinois).
For Anthony Grayson (Elmira, New York), that he finds legal assistance.
For Mike Long (Larned, Kansas), for health.
For Sister Ann & the Carmelite nuns in Little Rock.
For Freddie Lee Lott (Chicago, Illinois), to stay “cancer free.”
For Robert Heffernan (Grady, Arkansas), who has been ill with a kidney and bladder infection.
For all the Wingspread brothers who have recently gotten out of prison. There are a number of them now.
For Pastor Scott’s health; & her ministry in Los Angeles.
For Margaret, for healing of glaucoma.
For Shirley. She broke a couple of bones in her foot and ankle and will be laid up for a while.
For all of us at Wingspread.
When I Survey the Wondrous Cross
Published in 1707
By Isaac Watts
When I survey the wondrous cross
On which the Prince of glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss,
And pour contempt on all my pride.
Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast,
Save in the death of Christ my God!
All the vain things that charm me most,
I sacrifice them to His blood.
See from His head, His hands, His feet,
Sorrow and love flow mingled down!
Did e’er such love and sorrow meet,
Or thorns compose so rich a crown?
Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were a present far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.
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