The Exodus Book of Psalms--Part 6
Mar 26, 2010
Psalm 56 is the 55th psalm. From previous study, I have learned that 55 is the number of MERCY. And so Psalm 56 begins this way,
"Be merciful, O God, for man has trampled upon me; fighting all day long he oppresses me."
The theme is MERCY. This psalm was written to commemorate God's mercy on David, and David's mercy upon King Saul. Recall that the Ziphites had betrayed David's hiding place in the nearby forest. Saul came with 3,000 men to take David prisoner. But while Saul was sleeping, David crept into the camp and could have killed Saul. In fact, Abishai, who came with David, recommended that he kill Saul (1 Sam. 26:8).
(9) But David said to Abishai, "Do not destroy him, for who can stretch out his hand against the Lord's anointed and be without guilt?"
David took Saul's spear and jug of water and then talked to Saul from across the ridge to let him know that he could have killed him but did not. Saul then went home (1 Sam. 26:25).
From there, David went to the land of the Philistines and came to Achsah, king of Gath. 1 Sam. 27:4 says,
"Now it was told Saul that David had fled to Gath, so he no longer searched for him."
Hence, in the title of this psalm, we read, "A Michtam of David, when the Philistines seized him in Gath." A "Michtam" means "engraven," referring to truth being engraven to give it a permanent medium, not like parchment which would fade or rot with time.
This psalm is intercessory in nature, because David felt as if he were constantly under suspicion, both by the Philistines and by his own people. Psalm 56 reads,
(5) All day long they distort my words; all their thoughts are against me for evil. (6) They attack, they lurk, they watch my steps, as they have waited to take my life. . . (8) Thou hast taken account of my wanderings; put my tears in Thy bottle; are they not in Thy book?
But David's hope and faith is summarized in the final verse:
(13) For Thou hast delivered my soul from death, indeed my feet from stumbling, so that I may walk before God in the land of the living. To the chief Musician, Al-taschith."
The last sentence above is the postscript to Psalm 56 and should not be attached to the start of Psalm 57. See Dr. Bullinger's The Companion Bible. Al-taschith means "destroy not," and it is the word used in 1 Sam. 26:9, where David tells Abishai, "Do not destroy him," that is, Saul. It expresses David's mercy upon Saul, as well as God's mercy upon the Church that Saul represents in its persecution of the overcomers.
Once we see the background of Psalm 56 and understand its focus upon mercy, we can then relate it to its corresponding story in Exodus 32. Once again, this psalm relates to the story of the golden calf, but this time the focus is upon Moses' intercession asking for mercy upon the church in the wilderness.
David says in Palm 56:8, "Put my tears in Thy bottle; are they not in Thy book?"
Moses says in Exodus 32,
(31) . . . Alas, this people has committed a great sin, and they have made a god of gold for themselves. (32) But now, if Thou wilt, forgive their sin--and if not, please blot me out from Thy book which Thou hast written."
It is not hard to picture Moses in tears before the Lord, even as David wept for Saul for his sin. Both mention God's "Book."
Moreover, the result of sin, both Israel under Moses and Saul in later years, is the removal of God's direct presence (face) from the church. In Moses' day, God removes "the angel of His Presence" (or Face) as Isaiah 63:9-10 tells us. This was the Angel Peniel, "the Presence/Face of God," which had the power to lead Israel into the land of Canaan from the South without having to experience death and resurrection pictured by the Jordan River.
Peniel was replaced by another powerful angel, Michael, the angel of death and resurrection (Dan. 12:1-3), who ultimately led them into Canaan over the Jordan River. This is the angel that God promised would lead Israel into the Promised Land in Ex. 32:34, saying, "Behold, My angel shall go before you." A few verses later in 33:3, God said again, "for I will not go up in your midst, because you are an obstinate people, lest I destroy you in the way."
God's personal presence was in the Angel of His Presence, Peniel. This angel would remain "unemployed" until recent years when the time arrived for the Feast of Tabernacles to begin moving toward fulfillment. (See chapter 14, The Wars of the Lord.)
Psalm 56, then, speaks of David's own experience at the time he wrote it. But it also is placed in order in the book of Psalms to reflect the mercy of God upon Israel in Exodus 32. In this, we learn that Israel received mercy, and yet the consequences of their sin was to lose the "face" of God represented by the angel Peniel. The "face" of God is prophetic of the feast of Tabernacles, shown by Moses' face that glowed with the divine presence in Exodus 34:35 when he returned from the Mount on the 8th day of Tabernacles. (See The Laws of the Second Coming, chapter 9.)
This pattern has been repeated in the NT "church in the wilderness," which has worshiped the golden calf by its love of money, and has also persecuted the overcomers as rebellious Saul did. For this reason, the church as a whole will not enter the Promised Land apart from death and resurrection. Those who are alive at the time of His second coming (presence) will be "changed" without having to die and be raised from the dead, so that these overcomers might fulfill the purpose of the angel Peniel, the Angel of Tabernacles.
One might ask, "Why, then, have so many overcomers died in past years? Do they not need Michael's calling to be raised from the dead?"
Yes, but that is the purpose of the First Resurrection. It is to raise up the overcomers at the Feast of Trumpets, so that they will be alive on the earth to fulfill the Feast of Tabernacles two weeks later. Trumpets occurs on the first day of the seventh month; Tabernacles begins on the 15th day of the same month. The promise to the overcomers (as with Caleb and Joshua) is that they will be alive to cross into the Promised Land, while the rest of the people died in the wilderness.
Hence, the overcomers must be resurrected FIRST. Paul says this is the first event in the sequence surrounding His coming (1 Thess. 4:16). Only then can those who are "alive and remain" be caught away with them at the Feast of Tabernacles, for by this time they will all be united as one body on earth.
A thousand years later at the time of the general resurrection of "the rest of the dead" (Rev. 20:5), the resurrection will include both the church and the unbelievers. Each will receive reward according to their doings when alive on earth. Jesus says of this resurrection in John 5,
(28) Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming in which ALL who are in the tombs shall hear His voice, (29) and shall come forth; those who did the good deeds to a resurrection of life, those who committed the evil deeds to a resurrection of judgment.
This is obviously not the limited resurrection of Rev. 20:5, but the universal resurrection of Rev. 20:12. Jesus says that there will be some in that resurrection who will receive "life," while others will be judged. It is plain, then, that those being given "life" in the universal resurrection are the church. The FIRST resurrection, therefore included only SOME of the believers--that is, the overcomers.
This is the sixth part of a series titled "The Exodus Book of Psalms." To view all parts, click the link below.
Dr. Stephen Jones