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Bible Commentaries
Psalms 54

Preacher's Complete Homiletical CommentaryPreacher's Homiletical

Verses 1-7


Superscription.—“To the Chief Musician on Neginoth.” There is very little doubt that “Neginoth” is “the general term denoting all stringed instruments whatsoever, whether played with the hand, like the harp and guitar, or with a plectrum. ‘The chief musician on Neginoth’ was therefore the conductor of that portion of the Temple-choir, who played upon the stringed instruments.”—Smith’s Dict. of the Bible.

Maschil,” an instruction. Berleb. Bible—“We should learn from the example of David that even in the greatest danger we should resort to no forbidden means, nor grow faint, but should call upon the name of God, and commit to Him all our concerns as to the Supreme Judge.”

A Psalm of David, when the Ziphims,” &c. The psalm was composed by David when the Ziphites informed Saul that David concealed himself in their country. This occurred on two occasions, 1 Samuel 23:19; 1 Samuel 26:1. Probably the first of these is referred to here, as the words of the superscription literally agree with the words of the Ziphites, as reported in 1 Samuel 23:19. The psalm, says Moll, “is plain and simple in form and contents. It expresses at first a prayer to God for deliverance in a just cause from dreaded ungodly enemies (Psalms 54:1-3). It then expresses, in a lively manner, confidence in the Divine help and the punishment of His enemies (Psalms 54:4-5); finally it concludes with the vow of thanksgiving for such acts of God in confirmation of His name.”

Homiletically we regard the psalm as presenting to view The troubled life of a good man Psalms 54:1-3; and, The triumphant life of a good man, Psalms 54:4-7.


(Psalms 54:1-3.)


I. The cause of the trouble. “For strangers are risen up against me,” &c. His distress arose from his enemies, whom he here represents as—

1. Unnatural. “Strangers are risen up against me.” The expression is not to be taken literally as denoting foreigners, “since the inhabitants of Ziph, a town situated in the mountain wilderness of Judah, a few miles south-east of Hebron, were of the same race as David.” His own countrymen had become as foreigners to him, had treated him as an enemy. The Psalmist, like St. Paul in an after age, was in “perils among false brethren.” Dickson: “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.”

2. Cruel. “Oppressors seek after my soul.” As a cruel tyrant, Saul was seeking to compass the death of David. Nothing less than the precious life itself would satisfy the jealous and malignant monarch.

3. Practically atheistic. “They have not set God before them.” Arnd.: “Not to have God before the eyes, means to speak and act without dread, whatever one pleases—nay, what is contrary to God and His holy Word, as if God did not see and hear it; nor to be afraid of God’s anger, or of His judgment, and to have no remembrance of God in the heart.” When men thus ignore the Divine Being, can we wonder that they trample under foot all ideas of humanity and justice in their treatment of their fellow-men? So we have a glimpse of this troubled life. Externally the poet knew no safety or peace; he was hunted from place to place with unrelenting cruelty, &c. We, too, know the meaning of trouble, and are not unacquainted with false brethren and fierce enemies, &c.

II. The comfort in the trouble. The Psalmist found relief and help in prayer to God.

1. The object of his prayer. He prayed for audience and acceptance. “Hear my prayer, O God; give ear to the words of my mouth.” But the grand object of his prayer was deliverance from his dangers, salvation from his troubles. “Save me, O God, by Thy name,” &c. David seems to have been aware that the Ziphites had informed Saul of his whereabout; he felt how perilous his position was; and he appealed to God for protection and deliverance.

2. The encouragement of his prayer. This he drew from two sources.

(1) The Being to whom he prayed. (α) His power to save. “Judge me by Thy strength.” He will “show Himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward Him.” “Thou hast a mighty arm; strong is Thy hand, high is Thy right hand.” (β) The perfections of His nature. “Save me, O God, by Thy name.” Barnes: “The word ‘name’ here may include the perfections or attributes properly implied in the name.” It implies all the benevolence, faithfulness, and power that were needed to warrant the most sanguine hope of salvation from Him.

(2) The righteousness of his cause. “Judge me.” These words indicate that David was conscious of the righteousness of his cause. If he obtained his rights in the case, he would be triumphantly delivered. Arnd.: “From these words we learn, if we would pray rightly, and indeed would make a strong, powerful prayer, we must have a good cause, so that our conscience may not condemn us, and render our prayer impotent.”


1. What the good may not expect in this life: exemption from trouble.

2. What the good may expect in this life: support and comfort in trouble. Let us seek it in prayer, as David did.


(Psalms 54:4-7.)

The outward life of the Psalmist at this time was characterised by constant peril and trial; but his inward life was marked by peace and triumph. Consider—

I. The nature of the triumphant life. The poet brings into notice two prominent features of this life—

1. Faith. Faith is the soul of all heroisms, whether of patient endurance, or brave, persistent performance. David believed in

(1) God. To him God was not a myth or the mere article of a creed to which he had assented; but the grand Reality of being. His faith was living and realising in its character. He felt the presence of God with him, &c.

(2) The righteousness of God’s government. “He shall reward evil unto mine enemies.” Notwithstanding his present distresses, David was fully persuaded of the righteousness of the Divine laws and administration. Ultimately the apparent inequalities in God’s government of the world will all be removed. Men will be retributed according to their character and conduct.

(3) God’s interest in the individual life of those who trust Him. “Behold, God is mine Helper,” &c. God is personally interested in every one whose confidence is reposed in Him. In his distressing wanderings, David never passed beyond the Divine care. In his extremest danger he was covered by the shield of the Divine protection. It was his faith in these things that enabled him to live a triumphant life, even in the midst of incessant persecutions and perils. It is true of all men and in all ages that LIFE CAN BECOME VICTORIOUS ONLY THROUGH FAITH. Faith enlarging the horizon of life, realising the future and invisible, feeling the presence of God, and resting in His promises, transforms common men into heroes (Hebrews 11:32-40).

2. Worship. “I will freely sacrifice unto Thee,” &c. Here we have

(1) The forms of worship. “Sacrifice, … praise.” Forms are indispensable to us. They express, and, by expressing, often increase, religious feeling.

(2) The spirit of worship. “Freely.” This is not to be interpreted as signifying either (α) Spiritual as opposed to ceremonial offerings; or (β) Voluntary sacrifices as contrasted to those offered in fulfilment of vows; but (γ) Offerings brought with a willing mind and a glad heart. Sacrifice and praise, gifts and songs, are acceptable unto God and helpful to man only in the measure of their spontaneousness and heartiness. Here is another thing which contributed to the triumph of the Psalmist,—he delighted in worship. Worship calms, emboldens, strengthens man. Faith and worship are of the essential nature of a victorious life.

II. The conquering power of the triumphant life.

1. It gives assurance of victory. “Behold, God is mine helper,” &c., Psalms 54:4-5. The believer in Christ has an unfailing assurance that, through Him, he will vanquish all his enemies.

2. It enables its possessor to realise the deliverance, and to triumph even in the midst of the trouble and conflict. “He hath delivered me out of all trouble,” &c. The victorious spirit enables David, even in the midst of his anxieties and perils, to realise

(1) Complete deliverance from trouble; and
(2) Complete triumph over his enemies. “Mine eye hath seen his desire upon mine enemies.” Wordsworth: “The words ‘his desire’ are not in the original, and would be better omitted. What David says is, that his eyes look calmly on his enemies: he views them without alarm; for he feels that the shield of God’s power and love is cast over him to protect him.”

CONCLUSION.—Let us thankfully rejoice in the victorious life. Even now, while beset by troubles and confronted by enemies, we triumph in and through Jesus our Lord. “These things I have spoken unto you, that in Me ye might have peace,” &c. (John 16:33). “We glory in tribulations also,” &c. (Romans 5:3-5). “In all these things we are more than conquerors,” &c. (Romans 8:31-39). “Now thanks be unto God, which always causeth us to triumph in Christ.”


(Psalms 54:4.)

“Behold, God is mine helper.”
Man often stands in need of Divine help. It is good and pleasant to enjoy the help of our fellow-saints; but their help is limited, uncertain, and often valueless. Not so God—He is possessed of every qualification, so there never can be failure with him. Notice—

I. When God is the helper of His people.

1. In the great crisis of their conversion. He raiseth from the pit, delivers, saves, &c.

2. In the troubles and afflictions of life. These are many, varied, sometimes severe, &c. Job, the Apostles (2 Corinthians 1:8-10).

3. In the perils and conflicts of their warfare (Psalms 37:14-15; Psalms 60:11-12; Psalms 146:5).

4. In their labours and toils in His kingdom (Psalms 121:1-2).

5. In weakness, sickness, and death (Psalms 23:4; Psalms 116:1-9).

II. What kind of a Helper is God.

1. Always near at hand.

2. Always efficient and sufficient.

3. Perpetual and everlasting.

III. The conclusions to which the subject should lead us.

1. Personal knowledge and reliance on God.

2. Unwavering faith and hope.

3. Constant prayer and supplication. He will be sought and inquired of.

4. Acknowledgment and praise. “Bless the Lord at all times,” &c.—Jabes Burns, D. D.

Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Psalms 54". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/phc/psalms-54.html. Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1892.
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