Psalm 56:3

Taking this psalm as David's, we may use it to illustrate two great truths.

I. "THE FEAR OF MAN BRINGETH A SNARE." (Proverbs 29:25.) The best of men are but men at the best. David was a man of splendid courage and generosity; but there were times when he grievously erred (1 Samuel 21:10-15). It was said by Dr. Arnold, "The fear of God makes no man do anything mean or dishonourable, but the fear of man does lead to all sorts of weakness and baseness." We may see here how the fear of man leads to failure in truth. When the thought of self is uppermost, we are apt to resort to our own devices. God's ways are too slow, so we turn to our own way. Children, through fear, will tell lies. We pity them and forgive. But, alas! we do not ourselves wholly put away childish things. Abraham prevaricated. David practised deceit. Peter denied his Lord. The fear of man also leads to the sacrifice of independence. Imagination working through fear exaggerates our danger. We become restless and impatient. Instead of bravely facing our foes, we shrink from the path of duty.

"He is a slave who will not be In the truth, with two or three." But, worse still, the fear of man may lead to failure in justice and generosity. We are apt to put ourselves first. To save our miserable lives is the chief thing. Rather than that we should suffer, we would let others suffer. Rather than that we should be put to shame, we would have our opponents "cast down." This is the mean, selfish spirit which Satan recognized as so strong in human nature, when he said, "All that a man hath will he give for his life."

II. GOD DELIVERETH HIS SERVANTS THAT TRUST IN HIM. (Daniel 3:28.) How naturally David turned to God in trouble! Circumstances moved him, but there was more - love constrained him. His heart went forth in clinging trust to God. Faith is the true antidote to fear. It lifts us out of the dust. It places us by the side of God. It fills our soul with peace and hope. Through trust we gain courage to face the foe (ver. 6). Further, we obtain resolution to continue the conflict (vers. 7-9). Taking hold of God's strength, we wax strong. All that is deepest and truest in our hearts calls upon us to be brave, and to quit ourselves like men. We are in the way of duty, and are able to say, like the king in the story, "Come on, come all; this rock shall fly from its firm base as soon as I." The experience of the past and the sure word of promise raise our hopes. We look to the future with confidence. In all our wanderings God watches over us. In all our weaknesses and sorrows God stands by us with tender compassion for our weaknesses, and with loving consolations for our sorrows. The victory will be with the right (vers. 10-13). If God has begun a good work in us, he will carry it on to the end. He who has been our Refuge in the past will not fail us in the future. Therefore let us go forward bravely in the path of duty, not counting our lives dear unto ourselves, so that we may be found faithful to him who hath called us, and finish our course with joy. - W.F.

What time I am afraid, I will trust in Thee.
It is not given to many men to add new words to the vocabulary of religious emotion. But so far as an examination of the Old Testament avails, I find that David was the first that ever employed the word that is here translated, "I will trust," with a religious meaning. And it is a favourite word of his. I find it occurs constantly in his psalms; twice as often, or nearly so, in the psalms attributed to David as in all the rest of the psalter put together; and it is in itself a most significant and poetic word. But, first of all, I ask you to notice how beautifully there comes out here the occasion of trust. "What time I am afraid, I will put my trust in Thee." This psalm is one of those belonging to the Sauline persecution. If we adopt the allocation in the superscription, it was written at one of the very lowest points of his fortunes. And there seem to be one or two of its phrases which acquire new force, if we regard the psalm as drawn forth by the perils of his wandering, hunted life. For instance — "Thou tellest my wanderings," is no mere expression of the feelings with which he regarded the changes of this earthly pilgrimage, but is the confidence of the fugitive that in the doublings and windings of his flight God's eye marked him. "What time I am afraid," I will trust. That is no trust which is only fair weather trust, nor the product of outward circumstances, but of his own fixed resolves. I will put my trust in Thee. True faith, by a mighty effort of the will, fixes its gaze on the Divine helper, and there finds it possible and wise to lose its fears. Then, still further, these words, or rather one portion of them, give us a bright light and a beautiful thought as to the essence and inmost centre of this faith or trust. Scholars tell us that the word here translated "trust " signifies literally to cling to or hold fast anything, expressing thus both the notion of a good tight grip and of intimate union. Now, is not that metaphor vivid and full of teaching as well as of impulse? "I will trust in Thee." "And he exhorted them all that with purpose of heart they should cleave unto the Lord." We may follow out the metaphor of the word in varied illustrations. For instance, here is a strong prop, and here is the trailing, lithe feebleness of the vine. Gather up the leaves that are creeping all along the ground, and coil them around that support, and up they go straight towards the heavens. Here is a limpet in some pond or other, left by the tide, and it has relaxed its grasp a little. Touch it with your finger and it grips fast to the rock, and you will want a hammer before you can dislodge it. Or, take that story in the Acts of the Apostles, about the lame man healed by Peter and John. All his life long he had been lame, and when at last healing comes, one can fancy with what a tight grasp "the lame man held Peter and John." That is faith, cleaving to Christ, twining round Him with all the tendrils of our heart, as the vine does round its pole; holding to Him by His hand, as a tottering man does by the strong hand that upholds. And then one word more. These two clauses that I have put together give us not only the occasion of faith in fear, and the essence of faith in this clinging, but they also give us very beautifully the victory of faith. You see with what poetic art — if we may use such words about the breathings of such a soul — he repeats the two main words of the former verse in the latter, only in inverted order — "What time I am afraid, I will trust in Thee." He is possessed by the lower emotion, and resolves to escape from its sway into the light and liberty of faith. And then the next words still keep up the contrast of faith and fear, only that now he is possessed by the more blessed mood, and determines that he will not fall back into the bondage and darkness of the baser. "In God I have put my trust; I will not fear." He has confidence, and in the strength of that he resolves that he will not yield to fear. There are plenty of reasons for dread in the dark possibilities and not less dark certainties of life. Disasters, losses, partings, disappointments, sicknesses, death, may any of them come at any moment, and some of them will certainly come sooner or later. Temptations lurk around us like serpents in the grass, they beset us in open ferocity like lions in our path. Is it not wise to fear unless our faith has hold of that great promise, "Thou shall tread upon the lion and adder; there shall no evil befall thee"?

(A. Maclaren, D. D.)

There are two classes of calamities in connection with which men have felt themselves in all ages moved to public confession and supplication; those which come to them from the hand of Providence through the order of the system of Nature around them, and those which have their origin wholly or chiefly in the follies, vices and sins of mankind. But the two stand by no means on the same ground with regard to the question of national humiliation and prayer. In the case of calamities which a nation has brought upon itself by its follies and crimes, there can be no question of the duty of humiliation and prayer. But when we are asked to join in an act of national humiliation on account of a scanty harvest, we seem to be standing on quite different ground. Chastisement which seems to fail on us from the skies brings suffering, but with it much that modifies it, and which may make us see, if we have but the open eye, that it is blessing in disguise. If we were asked to recognize in a late and scanty harvest a signal part of the Divine chastisement, I should feel little disposed to respond. And this not on the ground of doubts about the power of prayer in its legitimate sphere; but rather from a deepening sense of the reality and grandeur Of this power of prayer. We are only just emerging from Jewish levels of thought and belief in the Christian Church. Through all the Christian ages we have been prone to return on the tracks of Judaism, and to conceive of God, in His ways in the providential government of the world, as the ruler, after all, of a little realm, at the centre of which are the interests of our little lives.

1. The principle on which we are less ready than of old to rush to confession under natural national calamities of an ordinary type, is a just and noble one, and is a sign of vital progress in our theological conceptions, and our view of our relation to the world and to God.

2. This progress in the Christian thought of our times runs parallel to the progress in our conceptions of the true nature and the subject-matter of prayer, which is the fruit of growing knowledge and experience in the individual believing soul. As experience widens and deepens prayer becomes, or ought to become, less a cry of pain, and more an act of communion; intercourse with the Father in heaven, whereby His strength, His serenity, His hope flow into and abide in our hearts I should think but little of a Christian experience in which there is not a constant lifting up into the higher regions the subject-matter of prayer.

3. I by no means say, that even in an advanced state of Christian intelligence, there may not be natural national calamities, under which it would be wise and right for a nation to humble itself in confession and supplication before God. We must hot regard our prayer as a sure means of securing the removal of such calamities. Always, behind the prayer, if it is to be worth anything, is the thought, "It is the Lord, let Him do what seemeth to Him good." There is in man, deep down in his nature, a sense, not only that the relation between his nature and the world around him, and the God who rules it, have become jangled and out of tune, but also that the responsibility for the discord lies at his door. Everywhere, in all countries, in all ages, at the bottom of man's deepest thoughts is the sense of sin. It is natural for men to rush to humble confession and importunate supplication when they think that the hand of God is upon them in judgment; and it is good and right for them at such seasons to approach Him, if they will but remember that the message of the Gospel is that God is reconciled in Christ to His children, that all His dealings with them, His sharpest and sternest discipline, are moved and ruled by the hand of that love which gave the well-beloved Son to Gethsemane and Calvary, that men might know its measure.

(J. Baldwin Brown, B. A.)

Our nature is strangely compounded. Trembling and trust often co-exist in us. It was so in David, whose heart is laid bare to us in these psalms. Now, fearfulness, although it has some ill effects which are sure to appear unless it is kept under the control of faith, nevertheless it has its own appointed good results in the formation of Christian character. Some have no fear, they are utterly unconcerned as to God and His claims. They need that the alarm bell of fear should be rung in their hearts. And many Christians need more of it: their flippant talk about sacred things; their indifference as to the condition of the ungodly: their heedlessness of talk would cease and give place to a holy fear. Fear, then, is not to be indiscriminately condemned. But it is when fear paralyzes trust that it becomes a sin, and as such is condemned.


1. The Christian worker's sense of responsibility.

2. Experiences of affliction.

3. Constitutional nervous disorder.

4. Anxiety as to the future.

II. ITS DISADVANTAGES: it hinders all success and misrepresents God.

III. ITS CURE. Get more light and exercise more trust.

(Alfred Rowland, B. A.)

— "What time I am afraid." Alas! those times are many. Let me speak of three causes of fear and unrest, and the trust which should remove them.

I. FEAR FOR THE MORROW. There is the fear which arises from a contemplation of possible exigencies and contingencies in the future of our life's temporal economy. Where one can sing —

"... I do not ask to see

The distant scene: one step enough for me,"a hundred are bowed down with anxiety, worry, care, and the restlessness of doubt. I am perfectly sure that underneath the placid face and the serene smile that sits on many a brow there is much fear and alarm as to the future. What is the remedy for this? What is there that will give a man peace? My answer is — Trust! Trust in God, His wisdom, His love, His Fatherly care, His plans and His purposes! If there is one phase of the teachings of the Bible that has been more attested by human experience than another, it is the assurance that trust in God is the secret of strength, serenity, and peace. He is behind all events, and before all contingencies. He is above the cloud and below the waters. Say, then, O ye timid ones, ye sorrowing ones, ye foreboding ones, ye anxious ones, "What time I am afraid, I will trust in Thee."

II. Another great cause of fear is THE FACT OF DEATH. God has so constituted us that the very elements of life stand in battle array against the elements that produce death. It is natural, and in perfect harmony with God's purpose in us, that we should cling to life; and by so much as we cling to life, by that much do we fear death. And perhaps the two feelings in regard to death that most contribute to this fear are the loneliness and uncertainty that inevitably belongs to it. "I shall die alone," said the great Pascal. Nothing is so distressing to the human spirit as solitude, and when sell, rude is overhung ,with darkness it is then full of awfulness. And it is the awfulness that comes from the solitude and darkness of death that makes us shrink from it. What is the panacea for this fear? Trust in God — God's presence, God's sustaining hand. If there be a Providence watching over us in life, is it not reasonable to suppose that some provision for our need in the hour and conflict of death is made for us? that His providence will open the gate of death for us and guide us through? that His care for us will be as manifest then as now? Does a mother watch over her child all day — fondle it, nestle it in her bosom, teach it, protect it, uphold it — and then leave it alone when the darkness conies?

III. FEAR IN REGARD OF THE DESTINIES OF THE FUTURE LIFE. They ask, Where will my destiny be? Shall I be numbered with the blest, or rejected with the lost? Momentous questions! Tremendous thoughts! I cannot wonder that they make men anxious. The wonder is that, living as we do on the threshold of eternity, we are not more concerned. Whither, at such times of foreboding, shall we flee for succour? To God, the Father of our spirits. Every soul that turns to Him with the cry, "Father, I have sinned"; every heart that yearns for His forgiveness, shall have refuge and peace on earth, shall have a welcome home in heaven

(W. J. Hocking, B. A.)


1. Our state of sin should awaken great fear in our hearts.

2. Well may we fear when conscience convicts and condemns.

3. In times of temptation we ought to fear.

4. A backsliding state may well make us afraid.

5. To be in affliction and nigh to death in a state of impenitence, is a state which should excite the greatest fears.


1. God has revealed the doctrine of His providence as an antidote to all those fears which relate to this life.

2. He has revealed the doctrine of His grace as an antidote to all these fears which result from sin and guilt.

3. He has revealed the doctrine of immortal glory and blessedness to remove the fear of death and our anxiety concerning another world.


1. In some cases the knowledge of this Divine resource has delivered the mind from all fear. — Fear concerning the body or the soul — life or death, the grave or eternity (Job 13:15; Proverbs 28:1).

2. Where it does not do this, it may prevent the worse effects of fear. Two ships in a storm, the one with a good anchor and anchorage, and the ether without either, meet that storm under widely different circumstances (2 Corinthians 7:10).

3. Sometimes in the most fearful circumstances it enables us not only in patience to possess our souls, but to glorify God.


1. The absence of that salutary fear, which leads to provision against danger, proves the extremity of that danger in which we are involved.

2. That fear which is accompanied with utter despair must be the portion of those who have not found the true refuge.

3. They will realize infinitely more than they ever feared in the very deepest seasons of their despair in this life. For it is very certain no man ever formed a sufficiently awful idea of the worm that dieth not, and of eternity. Let all these considerations induce sinners to prize that refuge of mercy and grace which the Gospel presents, and let us be allowed to turn them all into an occasion for urging upon them the immediate and indispensable necessity of trust in God.


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