Psalm 54 is quite short at only 7 verses. It is addressed to the choirmaster, a Maskil of David, when the Ziphites went and told Saul, “Is not David among us?” There were actually two times that the Ziphites betrayed David to King Saul by revealing his location, the first of which is 1 Samuel 23 and the second is 1 Samuel 26. David escaped both times. This Psalm is likely written about the first account, when David learned about the Ziphite betrayal but before he saw the deliverance of God.
David cries out for God to save him, according to His name and by His strength. He then asks God to hear the words of his prayer, that strangers (or insolent men) have risen up against him and are looking to take his life; men who are opposed to God and ignore Him. David then proclaims that God is his helper, the Lord is with those who uphold his life, and that He will repay his enemies for their evil.
He continued in prayer, asking the Lord to cut off those who are working for such evil, and ends on a note of confident conclusion declaring the goodness of God and the certainty of his enemy’s downfall.
“David lived a life of dangers and hair-breadth ‘scapes, yet was he always safe.” (Spurgeon)
How often can one’s world come tumbling down in a single lifetime? How often have you found yourself at the end of your rope, utterly spent and defeated, with nothing ahead but bleakness? How often has God then used the end of your own strength to show you that He really is in control? How often until we actually learn that He is good and faithful and loves us like the perfect Father He is?
What is remarkable about this Psalm in particular is the present danger is mixed with confident praise and assurance. David laments and wails, he implores and vents, and he constantly reassures himself (and now us) of the constant lovingkindness of God! These two things are not kept separate from one another but purposefully woven together. Go back and read it again; take note of how often he jumps from pleading to preaching. David is a unique example for all who read the Psalms especially, for he was constantly on the run from those who sought his very life yet he remained steadfast on the promises of God! He is a reminder that we must not sanitize our prayers before God, we must not compartmentalize our thoughts and struggles and feelings and joy, for we see in this 7 verse tapestry a striking combination of contrasting threads of the human soul, all of which give glory to God, whether it be through earnest prayer or heartfelt praise.
Application and Question:
Do you censor your prayers before God? If so, that might be a big reason why you don’t like to pray. That might be a big reason as to why you might not feel heard or comforted or corrected. I mean, what sort of relationship would I have with my wife if I didn’t let her in on everything I’m going through and only told her the good stuff? That wouldn’t be a deep or meaningful relationship in any way because I’m not being my actual self around her. I’m not letting her into my life as it is really happening, just on the parts I think she’ll want to see. If we are doing this with the Lord God Almighty, creator of heaven and earth, who knew us before all time and space and knows us and our thoughts more than we could ever know ourselves and loves us more than we can conceive, how much shallower is that relationship going to feel to us?
God wants literally all of you; heart, mind, body, soul, sins, confessions, struggles, anger, joys, praises, confusion, doubts, secrets, shame, you name it! Just let it out, man! Stop holding back and trying to keep Him at arms length – instead, run to that wonderful and loving Father and jump into His arms! Let Him know it all. Be vulnerable and lost and open and honest. Pour out your heart to Him and build intimacy with Him; make Him a refuge from even your own hearts and minds. Establish Him daily as the King of your life, first in your heart; surrender yourself daily to His will for you and be all-consumed by worship and thanksgiving; hear His voice when you open your Bible and take His yoke upon you; come to Jesus, all you who are weary and heavy-laden, and you will find rest for your souls. He is gentle. A bruised reed He will not break, and a smoldering wick He will not snuff out.
Spend time with Him and learn to walk beside Him. Only then will you begin to crave time alone in prayer, and only then will His words be sweeter than honey. Only then will you go on being filled with the Holy Spirit. This is the most important daily discipline of all, yet one largely ignored in our fast-paced lives. King David knew the value in pouring out one’s heart to the Lord, as well as being well-versed in God’s promises and familiar with His character. It is through a life lived in intimacy with God that we can stand confidently upon the waves of any storm, our eyes fixed on Jesus, and never worry that we’re going to slip under.
Lord, please help me pray when I really, really don’t want to pray. Please take away my reluctance to meet with you and help me be honest with you. I confess that I have neglected time spent with you, that I have gradually let my love grow cold. Please forgive me and renew my heart, that I might pour it out before you in praise and wonder and worship. Teach me to love you properly, that I might love others properly and be that city on a hill that cannot be hidden. Teach me your laws and precepts, and teach me to love your word. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Song: Only There (Shane & Shane)
“The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God.’ They are corrupt, and their ways are vile; there is no one who does good.”
Psalm 53: 1
The introduction to this Psalm calls for the ‘Director of Music’ to use a particular tune, mahalath. In some of its forms this word appears to signify, disease; hence the title of this blog, the Song of Humankind’s Disease. This song, though, has an ending full of hope.
Psalm 53 is a near repeat of Psalm 14 with some minor changes. For example the ‘deeds’ (14:1) of the wicked have now become their ‘ways’ (53: 1), and the people that had ‘turned aside’ (14:1), have now ‘turned away,’ (53:2). It seems that, however long the interval between writing these Psalms, David has simply observed a worsening of humankind’s disease.
This disease, arises from the denial of God; unbelief in Him. This is utter folly as the evidence of God’s existence is everywhere. The symptoms of this disease are: corruption; vile behaviour, acts of evil and violence. This disease causes dis-ease as another symptom is fear, even when there are no causal factors. The increase of knowledge has not lessened this behaviour.
The solution is to believe in God and to call upon Him. He is the source of all salvation and is able to restore humankind, bringing real joy to the hearts of His creation.
These two Psalms (14 & 53) depict the reality of sin, the denial of and unbelief in God. This is a situation where individuals believe in themselves and their own created truths instead of God. We see the result of this sin in the world and in our lives today. We also see that it is our hearts that are the source of this sin (1). C. H. Spurgeon describes this condition defined in these Psalms as the: Fact of Sin; the Fault of Sin; the Folly of Sin; the Filthiness of Sin; the Fruit of Sin; and the Fear that attends sin.
Wonderfully there is a solution, the salvation that God offers us by His grace through our faith in Jesus Christ. His Son can be our Saviour because Jesus died in our place and then rose again defeating death and the power of sin. Through this means of salvation God restores us to what we were created to be in relationship with Him. A joy that is not of this world is simply one of the blessings He bestows (Ephesians 2: 8-9; Colossians 1: 21-23).
The Question of Application
God can be seen in Jesus Christ, in His creation, in the Bible, in the Church and in those who truly believe in Him. Above all, He can be seen AND known in our hearts with the presence of His Holy Spirit through our faith in Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 3: 16). Do you see God?
God of hope, help us to see you and to put our faith in you. Lead us to repentance and new life. In times of trouble save us from blind despair and help us to wait in confidence for the blessings that we cannot imagine. May our lives be a testimony to your love and truth so as to encourage the world in which we live, and to give you glory and honour. We ask this in the name of Jesus Christ the Lord. Amen
Come Thou Fount of every blessing sung by Chris Tomlin
Olive Tree (By: Chris Barnes)
Text: Psalm 52
OBSERVE: In verses 1-4, the psalmist blasts an evil person. The psalmist sarcastically calls him a mighty hero, but in reality, this person is a disgrace to God because of his wicked actions. Doeg the Edomite fits this picture well. Then in verses 5-7, we read about the downfall of the wicked as God will eventually judge this wicked person as he deserves. The righteous, who were the victims of his oppression, will witness his destruction and mock him because he tried to protect himself by his own strength. This is unlike the righteous who put themselves under God’s protection. In the final two verses, we read that the righteous will flourish. In a similar way that a olive tree is a symbol of life and fertility, God’s protection gives the psalmist hope and leads the composer of this psalm to worship God continually.
INTERPRET: This psalm shares traits of many types of psalms, but in the end it is a psalm of confidence. The psalmist addresses an evil person, who celebrated the destruction he leaves behind him. The title of the psalm names Doeg the Edomite as this evil person and this story is found in 1 Samuel 7; 22: 6-23. However, in spite of the threat, the psalmist knows the evildoer will be uprooted, while the psalmist himself is like an olive tree which is productive, healthy and alive. Thus the psalmist praises God for what he has done for him.
According to the title, this historical event inspired the writing of Psalm 52. Even so, the psalm is historically non-specific, so it can be used in later, similar, but not identical situations.
APPLICATION: Psalm 52 reminds both ancient and modern readers that God is the only true source of protection and prosperity. While on the surface it may look like the wicked person may win, the truth is that God will bless the righteous. Just as olive trees flourished and were of great importance to the Israelite agriculture, so too will the righteous flourish and be of great importance to the Kingdom of God.
Perhaps for us today, this psalm can be more helpful to read as a prayer of Jesus.
Jesus was attacked by wicked spiritual and human agents but nevertheless put his hope in his Heavenly Father. Although Jesus suffered death, he was ultimately victorious. Here again we see Christ as our ultimate example, for when we trust in God’s unfailing love, we also become like an olive tree flourishing in the House of God.
PRAYER: Heavenly Father, help me to not lean on my own strength but to trust in your protection. May I prosper through your unfailing love so that I may be productive, healthy and alive like an olive tree. Thank you for the righteousness of your Son, so that I may be righteous. AMEN.
SONG: Psalm 52 - Olive Tree
In 2023, each week's blog is a follow-up reflection written by the preceding Sunday’s preacher to dig deeper into the sermon topic and explore engaging discussion questions.