Several things David here comforts himself with in the day of his distress and fear.
I. That God took particular notice of all his grievances and all his griefs, Ps. 56:8. 1. Of all the inconveniences of his state: Thou tellest my wanderings, my flittings, so the old translation. David was now but a young (under thirty) and yet he had had many removes, from his father’s house to the court, thence to the camp, and now driven out to sojourn where he could find a place, but not allowed to rest any where; he was hunted like a partridge upon the mountains; continual terrors and toils attended him; but this comforted him, that God kept a particular account of all his motions, and numbered all the weary steps he took, by night or by day. Note, God takes cognizance of all the afflictions of his people; and he does not cast out from his care and love those whom men have cast out from their acquaintance and converse. 2. Of all the impressions thus made upon his spirit. When he was wandering he was often weeping, and therefore prays, “Put thou my tears into thy bottle, to be preserved and looked upon; nay, I know they are in thy book, the book of thy remembrance.” God has a bottle and a book for his people’s tears, both those for their sins and those for their afflictions. This intimates, (1.) That he observes them with compassion and tender concern; he is afflicted in their afflictions, and knows their souls in adversity. As the blood of his saints, and their deaths, are precious in the sight of the Lord, so are their tears, not one of them shall fall to the ground. I have seen thy tears, 2 Kgs. 20:5. I have heard Ephraim bemoaning himself, Jer. 31:18. (2.) That he will remember them and review them, as we do the accounts we have booked. Paul was mindful of Timothy’s tears (2 Tim. 1:4), and God will not forget the sorrows of his people. The tears of God’s persecuted people are bottled up and sealed among God’s treasures; and, when these books come to be opened, they will be found vials of wrath, which will be poured out upon their persecutors, whom God will surely reckon with for all the tears they have forced from his people’s eyes; and they will be breasts of consolation to God’s mourners, whose sackcloth will be turned into garments of praise. God will comfort his people according to the time wherein he has afflicted them, and give to those to reap in joy who sowed in tears. What was sown a tear will come up a pearl.
II. That his prayers would be powerful for the defeat and discomfiture of his enemies, as well as for his own support and encouragement (Ps. 56:9): “When I cry unto thee, then shall my enemies turn back; I need no other weapons than prayers and tears; this I know, for God is for me, to plead my cause, to protect and deliver me; and, if God be for me, who can be against me so as to prevail?” The saints have God for them; they may know it; and to him they must cry when they are surrounded with enemies; and, if they do this in faith, they shall find a divine power exerted and engaged for them; their enemies shall be made to turn back, their spiritual enemies, against whom we fight best upon our knees, Eph. 6:18.
III. That his faith in God would set him above the fear of man, Ps. 56:10, 11. Here he repeats, with a strong pathos, what he had said (Ps. 56:4), “In God will I praise his word; that is, I will firmly depend upon the promise for the sake of him that made it, who is true and faithful, and has wisdom, power, and goodness enough to make it good.” When we give credit to a man’s bill we honour him that drew it; so when we do, and suffer, for God, in a dependence upon his promise, not staggering at it, we give glory to God, we praise his word, and so give praise to him. Having thus put his trust in God, he looks with a holy contempt upon the threatening power of man: “In God have I put my trust, and in him only, and therefore I will not be afraid what man can do unto me (Ps. 56:11), though I know very well what he would do if he could,” Ps. 56:1, 2. This triumphant word, so expressive of a holy magnanimity, the apostle puts into the mouth of every true believer, whom he makes a Christian hero, Heb. 13:6. We may each of us boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and then I will not fear what man shall do unto me; for he has no power but what he has given him from above.
IV. That he was in bonds to God (Ps. 56:12): “Thy vows are upon me, O God!--not upon me as a burden which I am loaded with, but as a badge which I glory in, as that by which I am known to be thy menial servant—not upon me as fetters that hamper me (such are superstitious vows), but upon me as a bridle that restrains me from what would be hurtful to me, and directs me in the way of my duty. Thy vows are upon me, the vows I have made to thee, to which thou art not only a witness, but a party, and which thou hast commanded and encouraged me to make.” It is probably that he means especially those vows which he had made to God in the day of his trouble and distress, which he would retain the remembrance of, and acknowledge the obligations of, when his fright was over. Note, It ought to be the matter of our consideration and joy that the vows of God are upon us—our baptismal vows renewed at the Lord’s table, our occasional vows under convictions, under corrections, by these we are bound to live to God.
V. That he should still have more and more occasion to praise him: I will render praises unto thee. This is part of the performance of his vows; for vows of thankfulness properly accompany prayers for mercy, and when the mercy is received must be made good. When we study what we shall render this is the least we can resolve upon, to render praises to God—poor returns for rich receivings! Two things he will praise God for:—1. For what he had done for him (Ps. 56:13): “Thou has delivered my soul, my life, from death, which was just ready to seize me.” If God have delivered us from sin, either from the commission of it by preventing grace or from the punishment of it by pardoning mercy, we have reason to own that he has thereby delivered our souls from death, which is the wages of sin. If we, who were by nature dead in sin, are quickened together with Christ, and are made spiritually alive, we have reason to own that God has delivered our souls from death. 2. For what he would do for him: “Thou hast delivered my soul from death, and so hast given me a new life, and thereby hast given me an earnest of further mercy, that thou wilt deliver my feet from falling; thou hast done the greater, and therefore thou wilt do the less; thou hast begun a good work, and therefore thou wilt carry it on and perfect it.” This may be taken either as the matter of his prayer, pleading his experience, or as the matter of his praise, raising his expectations; and those that know how to praise in faith will give God thanks for mercies in promise and prospect, as well as in possession. See here, (1.) What David hopes for, that God would deliver his feet from falling either into sin, which would wound his conscience, or into the appearance of sin, from which his enemies would take occasion to wound his good name. Those that think the stand must take heed lest they fall, because the best stand no longer than God is pleased to uphold them. We are weak, our way is slippery, many stumbling-blocks are in it, our spiritual enemies are industrious to thrust us down, and therefore we are concerned by faith and prayer to commit ourselves to his care who keeps the feet of his saints. (2.) What he builds this hope upon: “Thou hast delivered my soul from death, and therein hast magnified thy power and goodness, and put me into a capacity of receiving further mercy from thee; and now wilt thou not secure and crown thy own work?” God never brought his people out of Egypt to slay them in the wilderness. He that in conversion delivers the soul from so great a death as sin is will not fail to preserve it to his heavenly kingdom. (3.) What he designs in these hopes: That I may walk before God in the light of the living, that is, [1.] “That I may get to heaven, the only land of light and life; for in this world darkness and death reign.” [2.] “That I may do my duty while this life lasts.” Note, This we should aim at, in all our desires and expectations of deliverance both from sin and trouble, that we may do God so much the better service—that, being delivered out of the hands of our enemies, we may serve him without fear.