Psalm 54 -

The Weapon of Prayer

 

For the director of music. With stringed instruments.

A maskil of David. When the Ziphites had gone to Saul and said,

"Is not David hiding among us?"

1Save me, O God, by Your name;

vindicate me by Your might.

2Hear my prayer, O God;

listen to the words of my mouth.

3Strangers are attacking me;

ruthless men seek my life—

men without regard for God. Selah

4Surely God is my help;

the Lord is the one who sustains me.

5Let evil recoil on those who slander me;

in Your faithfulness destroy them.

6I will sacrifice a freewill offering to You;

I will praise Your name, O Lord, for it is good.

7For He has delivered me from all my troubles,

and my eyes have looked

in triumph on my foes.

As the inscription states, the occasion of this psalm is: "When the Ziphites had gone to Saul and said, ‘Is not David hiding among us?’" The "Ziphites" were the people who lived in the Desert of Ziph. Twice David hid from Saul there, and twice the Ziphites informed on him (see I Sam. 23:19; I Sam. 26:1). They informed on him in order to curry favor with King Saul. "Mighty men will find readily more friends in an evil cause, than the godly find in a good one" [Dickson, 322].

So David not only had to contend with Saul and his great army, but he had to contend with traitorous countrymen. He turned for help to his best and truest ally; he turned to God: "Save me, O God, by Your name; vindicate me by Your might" (vs. 1). We can go to God for salvation of body, as well as soul. David, in this case, is seeking bodily salvation, salvation from an enemy (Saul) who is hunting him down. David is clearly in the right in his conflict with Saul, and so, he can confidently pray for "vindication." "In asking for divine protection it is indispensably prerequisite we should be convinced of the goodness of our cause, as it would argue the greatest profanity in any to expect that God should patronize iniquity" [Calvin, in Plumer, 576]. "Albeit no man should rashly call God to give judgment, yet in a good cause, against a strong party, an upright man may call for and expect assistance from God" [Dickson, 323].

As his primary weapon in his conflict with Saul, David uses prayer: "Hear my prayer, O God; listen to the words of my mouth" (vs. 2). The weapon of prayer is a weapon that is never unavailable. "This has ever been the defence of saints. As long as God hath an open ear we cannot be shut up in trouble. All other weapons may be useless, but all-prayer is evermore available" [Spurgeon, 440]. David "did not lift up his hand even against the enemies of God till he had first lifted them up in humble supplication to the Lord his strength" [J. Dolben, cited in Spurgeon, 443]. In fact, if there was a good side to the affliction that David was experiencing, it was that it drove him closer to God in prayer. "Whatever makes us feel our entire dependence on God is good for us. David could not have had the blessed experience of this Psalm if Saul and his myrmidons had not sought his life" [Plumer, 576].

David describes his situation: "Strangers are attacking me; ruthless men seek my life—men without regard for God" (vs. 3). The Ziphites were probably "strangers" to David (though, of course, they knew who David was). But David knew personally Saul’s men who were "attacking" him. Yet, they were "strangers" to David in that they were acting in a way that made no sense to David, not fitting for people of God. "No strangers are more strange than they who cast off the bands of civility and nature, whereby they were bound: false countrymen, false brethren, false, friends, false alliance, are those of whom men may expect least in their need, for David findeth such men to be his greatest enemies" [Dickson, 323].

Those seeking David were "ruthless." They cared nothing for right and wrong in the situation. They only cared about their standing before a king who had turned evil. They were "men without regard for God." Sadly, they were concerned about what King Saul thought of them, but they had no regard for what the Lord of the Universe thought of them. They acted as if God did not see nor hear their actions.

The "Selah" after verse 3 denotes a pause, or a musical interlude in the psalm. After this brief pause, David’s confidence has been restored, and he has faith that his prayer will be answered: "Surely God is my help; the Lord is the one who sustains me" (vs. 4). "David was pressed down to the very mouth of the grave; and how could he recognize the gracious presence of God? He was trembling in the momentary expectation of being destroyed; and how is it possible that he can triumph in the certain hope that divine help will presently be extended to him?" [Calvin, in Plumer, 577]. "Behold the power of faith. It hopes against hope" [Plumer, 577]. "He already, with the eye of faith, sees God advancing as his ‘helper,’ though to the eye of sense nothing presented itself but destruction on every side" [JFB, 217]. "Fervent prayer hath readily a swift answer, and sometimes wonderfully swift, even before a man have ended speech, as here David findeth in experience" [Dickson, 324].

David was assured in his spirit that God would answer his prayer, because he knew that his cause was a just one. The Lord was his "sustainer", because he was on the Lord’s side. "It is a great comfort to us to see God sustaining our sustainers, befriending our friends, giving skill to our advocates, and strength to our defenders. God will ever take part with those who take part with His meek and sorrowful ones" [Plumer, 577]. Confident of this, David then prayed specifically that justice would be executed upon his enemies: "Let evil recoil on those who slander me; in Your faithfulness destroy them" (vs. 5). "As God is a friend to the friends of his distressed children, so he is a foe to their foes; and their foes shall smart for their enmity in due time" [Dickson, 324].

David is so certain of deliverance that he vows to worship God for it: "I will sacrifice a freewill offering to You; I will praise Your name, O Lord, for it is good. For He has delivered me from all my troubles, and my eyes have looked in triumph on my foes" (vss. 6-7). "In faith, he sees the deliverance already accomplished, and ‘praises’ God by anticipation for it" [JFB, 217]. This is faith: To praise the Lord under such circumstances. "Let us trust that if we are as friendless as this man of God, we may resort to prayer as he did, exercise the like faith, and find ourselves ere long singing the same joyous hymn of praise" [Spurgeon, 442].

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