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)
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.