Psalm 56:1 – Be gracious to me, O God, for man tramples on me;
all day long an attacker oppresses me;
Saul is hunting David down and he is bent on killing him. The only weapon David can get his hands on is the sword of Goliath whom he slew many years ago. David runs away to Gath and feigns insanity so that the Philistines won’t kill him. See it all in II Samuel 21 (read the whole chapter and get the context). And some time during all of that he wrote this Psalm.
David was not being metaphorical when he wrote these opening words or the rest of the Psalm. When he says that his enemies are out to get him (vs. 1, 2, 5, 6) he is not stretching the truth just to be make a point (or, as a lady at a former church used to say – “speaking ministerially”).
In this Psalm David calls for God to be gracious (v. 1), he maintains that he is trusting God (vs. 3, 4, 11), he says he is not afraid of what men may do to him (vs. 4, 11), he testifies that God will rescue him when he calls to Him (v. 9), and he promises to offer thank offerings, one can suppose, once he is out of this mess (v. 12). And in the midst of all these confident assertions about God preserving Him and helping Him, David devises a plan to outsmart Achish by pretending to be insane, frothing at the mouth and scratching up the doors.
The unbelieving may conclude that any atheist could have come up with that little diversion without the nuisance of prayer and affirmation of God’s protection and care. If God is so loving and helpful, then why does David have to act deranged in order to escape from Achish?
Fair enough. Here are a few thoughts about that:
1) Nowhere in the Scriptures is it ever even hinted at that trust in God means sitting around waiting for Him to do everything for us. In fact, the persevering expenditure of great effort is a testimony of faith in God. The God who David trusts is the One who says that He will take our efforts and make great things come out of them that could not result otherwise.
2) The consistent testimony of the Scriptures is that when God wants to do something, He calls on people to do things that He is quite capable of doing better Himself. Does God need to destroy the world with a flood in order to judge people? Does He need to have a whale swallow a man in order to get him to where he is supposed to be? Does He need us to deliver a message for Him that He knows better then we do? Of course not. But He does. David’s scheme is not testimony of God not doing anything. It is testimony to the way that we see Him consistently working throughout history.
3) The scheme to do this was put in David’s head by God Himself. We need to be a little careful here. Lots of well meaning Christians get strange ideas that God should never get the credit for. Dare to disagree with them about where their little plans come from and you get charged with not being open to the leading of the Spirit. But that does not mean that God never puts ideas into our heads.
4) The minds we have are a gift from God. To refuse to use them for good is to be in a state of disobedience. God gives resources to be used as He says. Our brains are one of those resources, or as Galileo said “I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason and intellect has intended us to forego their use.” David used his marvellously.
5) David knew that if his plan failed that God had other pans for him. He is not trying to circumvent God’s plan. He is fighting for his life, which is part of what he was created for.
To do nothing would be a great act of disobedience and that is never safe for the believer.