Lectionary Calendar
Friday, May 24th, 2024
the Week of Proper 2 / Ordinary 7
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Bible Commentaries
Psalms 54

Kingcomments on the Whole BibleKingcomments

Verses 1-3

Salvation by God’s Name

For “for the choir director; on stringed instruments” (Psalms 54:1) see at Psalm 4:1.

For “a Maskil” see at Psalm 32:1.

This psalm is “a Maskil of David”. It is an instruction, a maskil, for the wise, the maskilim. When the remnant has fled abroad, the strangers (Psalms 54:3), represented in the Ziphites, who are a picture of the surrounding nations, will betray them to the violent men (Psalms 54:3), represented in Saul, who is a picture of the antichrist, and his followers. Psalm 54 instructs the remnant to pray to God and put their trust in Him who will deliver them.

We read here the occasion for the writing of this psalm. This is one of fourteen psalms that mention in the heading the occasion of their writing (Psalms 3:1; Psalms 7:1Psalms 18:1; Psalms 30:1Psalms 34:1; Psalms 51:1Psalms 52:1; Psalms 54:1Psalms 56:1; Psalms 57:1Psalms 59:1; Psalms 60:1Psalms 63:1; Psalms 142:1). During the time that David was fleeing from Saul, the Ziphites twice reported to Saul where David was hiding (1 Samuel 23:19; 1 Samuel 26:1). This betrayal is the occasion for this psalm.

Much of this psalm is applicable to us, who also suffer from what people do to us because we belong to Christ. We can think especially of all believers who are persecuted because of their faith, such as in North Korea, China, and Islamic countries.

David asks God to save him from his enemies by His Name (Psalms 54:1).The “name” stands for all that God is, for His Being and all His attributes. One of those attributes is His power to exercise justice. David asks if God will vindicate him by His power. Prophetically, it is the language of the believing remnant in the end times when they are oppressed by the self-willed, false king, the antichrist.

David addresses God, not the LORD. He does not do so until the end of the psalm, when the covenant faithfulness of the LORD has been demonstrated (Psalms 54:7). Now the point is that God demonstrates His power toward hostile people. His enemies do not seek direct confrontation with David, but act with cunning treachery.

When David hears about it (1 Samuel 23:25; 1 Samuel 26:3-Numbers :), he does not confront the enemies in his own strength, but appeals to the power of God. His enemies don’t notice this, but David does all the more. He knows he is in his right and he asks God to demonstrate that to his enemies by means of His power.

After David has come directly to God with his need in Psalms 54:1, he then asks God to hear his prayer (Psalms 54:2). His prayer consists of “the words of my mouth”. He makes known to God in clear words what his need is and what he would like God to do. Likewise, we too may make our need known to God by means of our words (cf. Philippians 4:6).

Then David describes what troubles him, what his need is (Psalms 54:3). There are “strangers” who have risen against him and want to kill him. “Strangers” means those who do not belong to Israel, the nations. The Ziphites are a type, an example. They are inhabitants of the wilderness Zif, possibly Israelites, possibly also Canaanites, who are unknown to David (strangers). In any case they prophetically represent the nations.

These strangers want to kill David. They are focused on him as on a criminal and not on God, they do not keep God in mind and do not consider His authority at all. If they did, they would see David the way God sees him. But He is not before their eyes, they don’t have Him in mind, His power and His righteousness. The believer, David, the remnant, does (Psalms 16:8).

Verses 4-5

God Is Helper

Then David turns his gaze away from the people who are after him and, with an emphatic “behold”, turns his eyes with confidence to God (Psalms 54:4). God is his Helper. He has often experienced that and he is counting on it again now. He knows that “the Lord”, that is Adonai, the sovereign Ruler of the universe, “is the sustainer of [literally: as those who sustain]” his soul. His soul, his life, is under siege and threatens to waver. But he will not fall because the Lord sustains him. He is aware that his faithful followers also sustain him, which they only can do because God helps and sustains them.

David does not take the law into his own hands, but leaves it to God to recompence his attackers the evil (Psalms 54:5; Romans 12:19). God will deal with them according to what they deserve. He trusts that God will act that way for He is faithful to Himself. That means He will deal righteously with any evil done to His own. He cannot deny Himself and therefore in His faithfulness He will destroy the unrepentant evildoers (cf. 2 Timothy 2:13).

The unbelieving part of Israel will be wiped out in the future by the disciplinary rod of God, the Assyrian (Isaiah 10:5), in this case the king of the north. For David, the judgment on Saul does not come immediately to his deliverance. It will be years before Saul is killed.

Verses 6-7

Giving Thanks to the Name of the LORD

After his salvation, he will “willingly … sacrifice” to God (Psalms 54:6). He does not act out of obligation or compulsion, he does not do it because it is formally the way it should be done, he does it spontaneously out of love because he is grateful. In these sacrifices he will give thanks to the Name of God, who is “LORD” (Psalms 52:9). He will do so because that Name is good. LORD is the Name that indicates the covenant relationship of God with His people. By virtue of that Name, God acts on behalf of those who are in this covenant relationship with Him.

He has shown the goodness of that Name by delivering David, and in him the remnant, from all trouble (Psalms 54:7). They have seen the proof: they have seen their enemies fall by God’s action in their favor. All the evil attempts to bring him down have been foiled by the LORD. Now they lie down defeated. David sees it and knows that he is delivered and safe. Just as the Egyptians perished in the Red Sea (Exodus 14:23-Hosea :), so too will the enemies perish in the future (cf. Zechariah 14:12).

Bibliographical Information
de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Psalms 54". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/kng/psalms-54.html. 'Stichting Titus' / 'Stichting Uitgeverij Daniël', Zwolle, Nederland. 2021.
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