AMERICAN COINS have the words “In God we trust.” In our pluralistic age, it is not unreasonable to respond, “Which God?” Even if the answer to that were unambiguously the God of the Bible, most people, I suspect, would think of this trust in God in fairly privatized of mystical ways. It is distressingly easy to think of trust in God as a kind of religious intuition, a pious sensibility, with only the vaguest perception of what this trust entails.
David is under no such delusions. Twice in Psalm 56 his description of the God in whom he trusts implicitly gives some substance to the nature of trust. David writes, “When I am afraid, I will trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I will not be afraid. What can mortal man do to me?” (56:3-4, emphasis added). Again: “In God, whose word I praise, in the LORD, whose word I praise — in God I trust; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?” (56:10-11, emphasis added).
In both passages, David grasps that trust in God is the only solution to his fear: “When I am afraid, I will trust in you . . . in God I trust; I will not be afraid . . . in God I trust; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?” The superscription of the psalm shows that David wrote it shortly after his horrible experience in Gath (1 Sam. 21:10-15). While fleeing Saul, David hid out in Philistine territory and came within a whisker of being killed. He escaped by feigning madness. Doubtless he had been very afraid, and in his fear he trusted God, and found the strength to pull off a remarkable act that saved his life.
But for our purposes, the striking element in David’s confession of his trust is his repetition of one clause. Three times he mentions the Lord God whose word I praise. In this context, the specific word that calls forth this description probably has something to do with why David could trust him so fully under these circumstances. The most likely candidate for what this “word” is that David praises is God’s promise to give him the kingdom and to establish him as the head of a dynasty. His current circumstances are so dire that unbelief might seem more obviously warranted. But David trusts the Lord whose word I praise.
What we need is faith in the speaking God, faith in God that is firmly grounded in what this speaking God has said. Then, in the midst of even appalling circumstances, we can find deep rest in the God who does not go back on his word. Transparently, such faith is grounded in God’s revelatory words.