When we desire to understand the heart of David’s worship, there is no better place to turn than to the Psalms. In Psalm 56 and 57 (to only examine two), we find them both starting with persecution. The one is persecution from the Philistines, and the other is persecution from Saul. In this we have symbols of persecution from the world and persecution from the backslidden Church. I find it interesting that even with both of these two very different oppressors, the first few verses in both the Psalms reference David being “trampled.”
“Be gracious to me, O God, for man has trampled upon me; fighting all day long he oppresses me (Psalm 56:1). He will send from heaven and save me;He reproaches him who tramples upon me (Psalm 57:3).” This is the unfortunate fate of a “David.” David symbolizes the man of faith – which is ironically the one that always gets trampled upon by men of the world, whether religious or otherwise. Though in both Psalms David is being trampled, his cry is to God and God alone. He does not raise his voice against the Philistines or against Saul.
In Psalm 56, we find that verses four and eleven repeat one another. In verse 11 we read: In God I have put my trust, I shall not be afraid. What can man do to me? In another translation it uses the word “flesh” instead of man. What is the “flesh” and who is the “me” being spoken of? We have already seen from verse one that David is being trampled upon. So obviously flesh is doing something to him. Not to mention, if David is taken, there is a lot of torture that man can do to another man. Yet David insists that man can do nothing to me.
The “me” must mean something more than the physical body that can indeed be harmed by men. However, what he is in God, the essential David, cannot be harmed. In this we have the basis for why we shall not fear. This is the basis for worship. Who we are in God cannot be taken from us. We are something very distinct and different from our bodies. Though we are contained within our physical bodies, the reality of who we are is not destroyed with our body. This is why in the midst of persecution we can find solace in God.
In all of the saints of old, whether Old Testament or New Testament, we read that the glory of God is revealed in both their lives and their deaths. Martyrdom is not merely in death, but a lifestyle. When we can live as though we have already died, then we are truly living. Our lives are not our own. God is somehow in control and is bigger than our lives. Everything we do is to the glory of God. Nothing is for self.
In this, our death is taken in a way to say, “There is something more important than self-preservation.” In order to die at the hands of persecutors and make that kind of statement through your death does not come at the end of your life. You aren’t going to somehow find the gusto to endure pain. This kind of manifestation is displayed through your life – your death is only the final enactment. Any persecution that is faced, whether to the death or we live through it, will display full well the wisdom by which we truly are governed.
King Zedekiah was promised his life if he surrendered to Babylon. There was a problem. He feared men more than God. Because he feared what the people of Israel would say, he was brutally tortured and ultimately killed. His death was not valiant. Isaiah, tradition says, was cut in half while hanging upside down. While they hacked him asunder, he was still prophesying. Meshach, Shadrach, and Abednego took “death” (fiery furnace) without wavering. They claimed, “Even if God does not deliver us, oh king, we still will not bow down to your stupid antichrist statue!”
When we view Acts 16, we see the story of Paul and Silas. These two men are beaten and thrown in prison unjustly. At midnight, they start singing songs of praise to God. In the midst of their worship, the prison doors swing wide open. What is it about the worship of Paul and Silas that would cause for such a phenomena? When you can give testimony of God like that to the world in the midst of adversity and trials, then you have given the ultimate witness of God that glorifies God and can be used as a witness to save the nations.
When our worship comes from a heart that knows God’s character and that He would not allow anything to befall us if it did not glorify Him, we have stepped out of the realm of music as worship and into the realm of Davidic worship. Even in the midst of prison and death, Paul and Silas rejoiced in the God who saved them. Death could not keep them from Him. Why fear? If we die, we go to see the Lord. If we are tortured, then we should count it privilege to be found as worthy vessels to take the same torment that Christ received. Isn’t this why Peter and John rejoiced after being beaten by the Sanhedrin in Acts 5:40-42?
Probably the greatest travesty of our age is the use of manipulation during worship to rile up the emotions and senses during the music time. True worship should be a spontaneous expression of a reality that has been obtained corporately, by a people who have been long enough and intensely enough together to obtain it. Choruses should be the expression of joy, not its substitute. Music can be a powerful thing, but when music becomes a means to feeling, we have forsaken the holy worship in Spirit and truth.
There is a wickedness beyond human capacity, which is of the principalities and powers of the air. If we do not recognize (and wrestle) them now, then we will not recognize them during the time of persecution. We will assume that mankind is purely corrupted, and in that we will possibly lose heart. But what do we lose heart in? It is ultimately that we lose faith in God, and we therefore lose our own humanity as well.
Our lifestyle must be born out of the real belief in a soon coming Tribulation and return of the Lord. With this, our view is properly centered to not fret with the things of this life, and to endure patiently until the end when we shall receive reward. My struggles in daily life are things to rejoice in. I know that the tougher the struggle the greater the work of sanctification it will bring. I rejoice that in pain there is comfort, in struggle there is ability to overcome, in persecution there is endurance, and in torture there is a crown.