This unusual phrase ‘Put my tears in Your bottle’ is found in Psalm 56, and it is part of a heart felt prayer for God’s help. This was written by David at a time when his life was under threat, so much so that he felt as if he was just one step away from death. He had run for his life from danger to what he thought might be a safe place. But instead he found himself surrounded by those who were not his allies, and his life was once again at risk – definitely a case of out of the frying pan and into the fire!
Commentary on Psalm 56
Background to Psalm 56
As a result of killing Goliath, and his God given success in battle, David had become very popular among the people. And king Saul had become jealous, he resented David’s success and, more than once, had tried to kill him. As the threat increased David had to flee, he had become a fugitive, and he was on the run. He had began to realise the extent that Saul would go to in eliminating him as a threat to his kingship.
When David fled from king Saul’s court he initially turned to Ahimelek, the priest, for immediate assistance. Ahimelek was fearful to help David, which proved founded, but he did provide for him and his men. David then moved on to Gath, an area belonging to the Philistines, under the rule of king Achish. (This account is found in 1 Samuel 21:10-15.)
Here David was recognised and seized by Achish’s men. His reputation, as a popular and successful warrior in Israel, had gone before him. And the Philistines were speculating, was David now the king of Israel, wasn’t he the one the people sang about in their celebrations?
If king Achish thought that David was king of Israel, this would not be a safe place for him! There existed a long running enmity between Israel and the Philistines. David realised that he had to get away from the court of king Achish. The extent of the threat seemed so great that he feigned madness to try and get away from Gath. This was the desperate situation that he was in when he wrote Psalm 56.
Cry to God for Help
The psalm begins with a cry to God for help – a prayer in a time of desperate need. A time when fear is rising, but it also contains a great confession of faith – the only way to overcome fear.
“Whenever I am afraid, I will trust in You. In God (I will praise His word), In God I have put my trust; I will not fear. What can flesh do to me?”Psalm 56:3-4 NKJV
As David declares his faith and trust in God, as he speaks the words, there is a shift and a change in the tone of what he says. There comes a fresh assurance that God hears and sees our plight. We can be honest with God about the way we feel – after all He knows all our thoughts. We can acknowledge our fears, and by acknowledging, face them, and put our trust in God.
There may be times when we will encounter difficult experiences, and feel that we just can’t do what is required. It is too difficult, and seems too hard, and we just cannot carry on. We may find ourselves in turmoil, in places we never expected to be, and having to do something we would never have thought we would have to do – through no fault of our own.
When we recognise our own weakness, and that there is only one way forward, there grows a new level of trust and dependency in God.
Put my Tears in Your Bottle
“You number my wanderings; Put my tears into Your bottle; Are they not in Your book?”Psalm 56:8 NKJV
David poetically here expresses his confidence in God’s love and faithfulness to him – even in this dire and desperate situation. And he asks a rhetorical question, that God would note in His heavenly record all of David’s troubles. Why? As a call for action – for God to respond to his cry for help. For God not only sees, but He takes note, and if He takes note, David is reassured that God will respond to his cry for help!
There is comfort here for all of us, to know that God takes note and records our tears. To know that our struggles are recognised, that our pain and suffering do not go un-noticed. God is ‘El Roi’ the God who sees where we are and what we are going through – and He is moved with compassion to act on our behalf.
Power of Praise and Prayer
David now renews his confession of trust in God, even in the face of such unsettling fear.
“In God (I will praise His word), In the Lord (I will praise His word), In God I have put my trust; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?Psalm 56:10-11 NKJV
There is a confident assurance here, that there is nothing too difficult for God. Prayer and praise are powerful, they bring a shift in our perspective. They can take us from the place of ‘I can’t do this’ to ‘I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me’.
And David finishes the psalm with thanksgiving, as if his prayer has already been answered.
“For you have delivered my soul from death. Have you not kept my feet from falling, that I may walk before God in the light of the living?”Psalm 56:13 NKJV
We can walk through dark and difficult times, in the light of life, when we walk, by faith, with the Lord Jesus. There is a strength and empowering in the knowledge that God sees, hears, and cares for us. He is with us every step of the way. Sometimes we are called to trust in God when we do not understand the reason why things are working out the way they are. To trust in Him for the next step.
“Sometimes when we are called to obey, the fear does not subside and we are expected to move against the fear. One must choose to do it afraid.”Elisabeth Elliot
Waiting on God
David was released from Achish’s court and was able to escape Gath. He gathered other fugitives around him and built up a company of over 400 loyal men. He moved his parents to a place of safety under the protection of the king of Moab. And then he began a period of waiting for God’s word to be fulfilled in his life. He waited well.