THIS is a short psalm, written in a time of great trouble, and containing, first, an earnest prayer for deliverance (Psalms 54:1-3); and then an expression of confidence in God's aid, and of thankfulness for the deliverance, which is counted as absolutely certain (Psalms 54:4-7). The "title," which assigns the psalm to David, and makes the occasion his betrayal to Saul by the Ziphites, appears to be trustworthy.
Save me, O God, by thy Name; i.e. by the qualities of which thy "Name" is significant—power, goodness, and truth. And judge me; i.e. "vindicate me," or "judge my cause." By thy strength; or, "thy might"—the might which thou possessest as a gibbor, or "hero."
Hear my prayer, O God; give ear to the words of my mouth. (comp. Psalms 39:12; Psalms 55:1).
For strangers are risen up against me. David's designation of his foes as "strangers" has been made an argument against the trustworthiness of the "title," since the Ziphites were Israelites of the tribe of Judah (Joshua 15:55). But he might well call those "strangers" who were treating him as an alien. Comp. Psalms 120:5, where "the psalmist, heavily oppressed by his countrymen, complains that he dwelt in Mesheeh and Kedar" (Hengstenberg). And oppressors seek after my soul; or, my life. The phrase is exactly that used in 1 Samuel 23:15, when David was in the wilderness of Ziph, in a wood, and "saw that Saul was come out to seek his life." They have not set God before them (comp. Psalms 86:14). David, on the contrary, "set the Lord always before him" (Psalms 16:8).
Behold, God is mine Helper. There is a pause between Psalms 54:3 and Psalms 54:4, indicated by the pause-mark, "Selah." Then, confident of his prayer having been heard, the psalmist breaks out into a joyous burst of thankfulness and self-gratulation (Psalms 54:4-7). The Lord is with them that uphold my soul; rather, of them (Revised Version); i.e. "one of them." But the intention is not to place God on a par with other helpers. Rather, as Professor Cheyne remarks, it is to make him the representative of" the class of helpers."
He shall reward evil unto mine enemies; literally, he shall return the wrong upon my adversaries. "The wrong" is that which his adversaries had wished to inflict upon the psalmist, viz. death (see 1 Samuel 23:19, 1 Samuel 23:20). Cut them off in thy truth; or, "in thy truthfulness" (Cheyne). God had given his people—those who were faithful to him—the promise of his protection, and, being true, could not go back from his word.
I will freely sacrifice unto thee. Confidence has now mounted up to certainty. Regarding the deliverance as accomplished, the psalmist promises a freewill offering (Hengstenberg, Kay, Canon Cook) to God, so soon as he can approach the sanctuary. The phrase used is the ordinary one for sacrifices of thanksgiving (Numbers 15:3). I will praise thy Name, O Lord; for it is good (comp. Psalms 52:9).
For he hath delivered me out of all trouble. "The poet looks forward, and treats the future as past" (Cheyne). He sees the "troubles" over, the Ziphites disappointed and punished, himself not only preserved from the immediate danger, but altogether freed from trouble of every kind, and rejoices in the deliverance which he feels has been accorded him. And mine eye hath seen his desire upon mine enemies. There is nothing about "desire" in the original, which seems rather to mean, "Mine eye has looked, calmly and leisurely, upon my (defeated) enemies" (so Dr. Kay).
HOMILIES BY W. FORSYTH
Peril and prayer.
Here we have—
I. PERIL MOVING TO PRAYER. (Psalms 54:1-3.) Danger may arise from various causes. Soul-danger is the worst. Then when sore pressed and in trouble, the instinct of the heart is to cry to God, "Save me!" Prayer is "the mighty utterance of a mighty need" (Trench).
II. PRAYER INSPIRING CONFIDENCE. (Psalms 54:4.) Prayer brings the soul into the very presence of God. The thought of what he is (" thy Name") and of what he has done ("God is mine Helper"), furnish ample pleas for entreaty, and sure ground for hope. Experience gives us courage to cleave to the word of promise. "If God be with us, who can be against us?"
III. CONFIDENCE ANTICIPATING DELIVERANCE. (Psalms 54:5.) The nearer we get to God, the more truly we are in sympathy with him, so as to make his will our will, the more certain do we become of deliverance. We rise to the vision of victory. God is ever on the side of right. There may still be clouds, but we see the bright light shining above the clouds. There may still be struggles and pains, but we press on with renewed ardour and assurance, for we know whom we have believed, and that he is able to keep that which we have committed to him, and to bring forth judgment unto victory.
IV. DELIVERANCE. AWAKING PRAISE. (Psalms 54:6.) Some forget their obligations to God when the danger is past; but it will not be so with the righteous. Like the Samaritan leper, they return to give glory to God—with sacrifices of thanksgiving and songs of praise.—W.F.
HOMILIES BY C. SHORT
Prayer for deliverance.
I. A PRAYER TO BE DELIVERED FROM IMPENDING DANGER. (Psalms 54:1-3.) The prayer is grounded:
1. Upon the Divine nature. "By thy Name, by thy strength." It is God's nature to save; he uses his omnipotence on behalf of those who call upon him.
2. Upon the righteousness of his cause. "Judge my cause [or, 'avenge me'] by thy strength." We can pray when we are pleading for a good cause.
3. Upon the character of those who threatened his safety. (Psalms 54:3.) They were not men who acted as if they were seen of God; did not set God before them.
II. THE TRIUMPHANT ASSURANCE OF THE PSALMIST'S FAITH. (Psalms 54:4-7.)
1. He is assured of the general truth that God was his Helper. (Psalms 54:4.) He knew that God stood to him in that relation usually, and for ever. He would therefore trust.
2. His assurance is so great that he regards his deliverance as already accomplished. (Psalms 54:5-7.) He is therefore at rest and in peace, delivered from danger.
3. He will sacrifice and praise as one already saved. Faith—real faith—is always joined to works.—S.
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Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Psalms 54". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany