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?’
Save me, O God, by your name;
vindicate me by your might.
Hear my prayer, O God;
listen to the words of my mouth.
Arrogant foes are attacking me;
ruthless people are trying to kill me –
people without regard for God.
Surely God is my help;
the Lord is the one who sustains me.
Let evil recoil on those who slander me;
in your faithfulness destroy them.
I will sacrifice a freewill offering to you;(Ps. 54:1-7 NIV)
I will praise your name, Lord, for it is good.
You have delivered me from all my troubles,
and my eyes have looked in triumph on my foes.
The structure of the Psalm is typical of many of the Psalms though I have not always drawn attention to this structure. Psalm 54 is a short Psalm and is an easier Psalm for us to see the structure.
- A. Prayer for deliverance v1-2
Save me, O God, by your name; vindicate me by your might. Hear my prayer, O God; listen to the words of my mouth.
- B. Reason for the prayer v 3
Arrogant foes are attacking me; ruthless people are trying to kill me–people without regard for God.
- C. Statement of trust v4
Surely God is my help; the Lord is the one who sustains me.
- C. Statement of trust v4
- B.’ Resolution of the prayer v5
Let evil recoil on those who slander me; in your faithfulness destroy them.
- B. Reason for the prayer v 3
- A.’ Thanksgiving for deliverance v6-7
I will sacrifice a freewill offering to you; I will praise your name, LORD, for it is good. You have delivered me from all my troubles, and my eyes have looked in triumph on my foes.
The structure shows (v4)what lies at the centre of the Psalm, what lies at the centre of the issue, and what lies at the centre of the Psalmist’s life and our lives as we read the Psalm. It is the fact that God is our help, the Lord is the one who sustains us. The Psalmist cries out in verse 1 and 2, the reason for his prayer is in v3. At the centre is God. The major lesson from the structure is an encouragement to pray, an encouragement to come into God’s presence. The resolution to the problem is given in v5. At this stage nothing has changed, the problem is still there, but now the Psalmist has the sanctuary’s perspective on the problem, that is a perspective informed by the presence of God. In v6-7 the Psalmist gives thanks for the deliverance as if it has already happened.
A. Prayer for deliverance
Only God can save and vindicate the Psalmist. The name and might of the Lord are called upon in the moment of his trouble. He cries out that God will listen to his prayer and to the words of his mouth. The name of the Lord is a reminder that God is faithful to His covenant. The might of the Lord reminds the Psalmist that he has come in prayer to the one who is supreme in power.
B. Reason for the prayer v3
Arrogant foes are attacking the Psalmist. They are called arrogant because they show no regard for the Lord. They come in their own strength. They are ruthless people because they show no respect for human life. The Psalmist brings this matter before the Lord.
C. Statement of trust
Because the Psalm has a structure, what the Psalmist is doing here is teaching himself and us about the importance of prayer. People who are creative often use the cathartic effect of poetry to express their emotions. The Psalmist is distressed. He wants to make sure he is heard, the enemy are advancing, his life is at risk and the presence of the Lord makes the difference in how he feels. He reminds himself, as he has done on so many occasions, that God is his help, the Lord is the One who sustains him. We may want to question the vitality of the Psalmist’s faith. We might ask, why is he always afraid, why is there always some drama to deal with? If he has had so much experience of the Lord why does he put himself and us through this again? The answer is, he is just like us. The battles we dealt with last week still leave us needing the Lord this week. The Psalmist is a real person, with real fears, he is not like some super spiritual person who appears to have everything under control. He knows real happiness, real sadness, courage, fearfulness, doubt, distress, weariness, joy, loneliness, and a makeup of emotions similar to what we all experience. There are days we are better at dealing with things, and there are times we get tired of the battle. The Lord knows how much we need to be supported and so He gives us these many reminders for us to learn to trust Him. Taking the best approach to challenges does not come second nature to the Psalmist, nor does it to us. The Lord is always with us, but we don’t always sense that, and we need to be reminded.
B.’ Resolution of the Prayer
The enemy will have their plans spring back upon them. As much as the physical threat is the verbal abuse in the slanderous accusations that they are making. Their words are lies and the faithful God who is faithful in His righteousness will destroy the enemy.
A.’ Thanksgiving for deliverance
O what peace we often forfeit, because we do not come to God in prayer. Prayer has made the difference in the Psalmist’s life. He will offer his thanksgiving, for the name of the covenant LORD is good. The covenant LORD had promised that He would deliver His people. God would never leave them nor forsake them. The Lord has answered and blessed the Psalmist and allowed him to see the triumph over his foes. The promise that the Lord makes to us is that He will crush Satan under our feet.
Lord God forgive us for trying to resolve battles without prayer. We need every encouragement to come to You in prayer. Lord even with these encouragements we still don’t pray. Lord help us to grow in our prayer life, help us to be encouraged as we see the difference that being in Your presence makes because we pray in Jesus’ name. Amen