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Psalm 54 1 Commentary

Psalm 54 1 Commentary Superscription

Now, like many psalms, Psalm 54 starts with a superscription or literally a “writing above” the psalm. And in this psalm the superscription actually gives us some helpful background on the situation in David’s life that called for the writing of this psalm.

KJV Psalm 54:1 <{To/For} the {chief Musician/choir director/music director/director of music}

{on/to be accompanied by/with} {Neginoth/stringed instruments},

{Maschil/a well-written song},

{A Psalm of/by} David,

And here’s now the situation in David’s life that moved him to write this…

{when/it was written when} the {Ziphims/Ziphites} {came and said to Saul/came and informed Saul/had gone to Saul and said},

{Doth not David hide himself with us?/“Is not David hiding himself among us?”/“David is hiding with us”}>

Now, the situation to which this is referring is found in both 1 Samuel 23 and in 1 Samuel 26. Two times these men from Ziph – a city in Judah – came and told Saul that David was among them.

Now, you remember that Saul was king of Israel at the time. But there was a problem – the Lord had anointed David king after he had anointed Saul. So, Saul, being an exceedingly sinful and unprincipled man – and one who was actually under the Lord’s judgement – he sought opportunities to kill his opponent David. In Saul’s mind, if he could kill David then he would be able to remain king and kind of put an end to the Lord’s anointing David to be king. He actually thought that he could stop God’s plan. What arrogance – and what madness!

Psalm 54 1 Commentary 1 Samuel 23

Well, so it happened that these men from the city of Ziph were zealous to please their humanly-appointed king, Saul. And so, the first time – as recorded in 1 Samuel 23 – these Ziphites sent to Saul letting him know that David was hiding in their region.

Now, Ziph was in a rather hilly region of Judah and it was the perfect place for a fugitive like David to hide. And so, Saul comes with his men and they search for David. And in a relatively humorous scene, Saul needs to “use the facilities” or “relieve himself” or whatever euphemism you’d like to use for it – in Hebrew, he’s “covering his feet” – and amazingly, he was doing that in the very cave in which David and his men were hiding!

Well, David’s followers encouraged David to kill Saul right then and there. But he wouldn’t do it. He wasn’t going to utilize some artificial means for God to fulfill his purpose. Unlike Abraham who with his wife Sarah planned to use some human means to accomplish God’s promise, David would not take that course of action. So, David simply cut off a part of Saul’s robe.

Then Saul leaves and David comes out after him showing him the piece of Saul’s robe that he had cut off and appealing to him that David is not interested in killing Saul. Saul repents for the moment and determines not to pursue David anymore.

Psalm 54 1 Commentary 1 Samuel 26

But then just a little while later in 1 Samuel 26 Saul gets it in his mind to once again pursue David to kill him. And so he comes down to Ziph again – where David was still hiding – because these treacherous men from that city seem to enjoy turning-in David to their bloodthirsty and God-forsaken king.

Well, this time, Saul goes to sleep and is surrounded by his army of 3,000 elite fighters. But God causes a really unusually-deep sleep to come on these folks and so David and Abishai his assistant go right up to Saul and take his spear and his water jug. Abishai offers to kill Saul and end all of this madness right then and there! But David refuses. He will not use artificial human means to accomplish God’s plan – and certainly he won’t do it when it involves disobeying the Lord.

So, David wakes everyone up from a safe distance and reveals that he has Saul’s spear and water jug. Saul repents once more and promises to never again pursue David. And I believe that Saul actually ends up keeping his word to David at that point. Because David flees to Philistia and then Saul dies in battle a little while later.

Now, reflecting on those events, try to imagine the faith that this whole scenario would have called for in this man who’s just like you and me – David. To have at your disposal the ability to end your long trial and to twice refuse. David could have had immediate relief from this persecution that drove him from his home and from his country eventually. But he didn’t take it. Why? Because he trusted in the Lord.

So, that’s a brief synopsis of the events of 1 Samuel 23 and 26 which mention these men referenced in Psalm 54 known as the Ziphites. This is the situation that called for the writing of this psalm.

And as evil as King Saul was, he’s not the only one – or really, even the primary one – that David is dealing with in this psalm. David is actually focused mostly on these Ziphites who keep urging Saul to come and try to kill David.

Psalm 54 1 Commentary Who Are Your Ziphites?

So, do you have any modern-day Ziphites in your life?

Do you have someone who likes to get you in trouble with the boss?

Or maybe a family member who selectively chooses which facts he’d like to share with others in the family that might make you look bad while he leaves out other facts that would balance out the details that seem negative?

You might – or our church corporately might – have a person or persons who try to make us look bad and get us in trouble with the larger community. {10 minutes}

Paul the apostle had at least one group of “Ziphites” if you will in the form of some unbelieving Jews in Thessalonica who weren’t content to trouble him in their city alone but also made the effort to follow after him and get him in trouble in other cities.

So, how do you deal with your Ziphites? That’s going to be the title of this message – Dealing With Your Ziphites. Let’s allow David through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit to help us see how you can righteously deal with the Ziphites – the betrayers and slanderers in your life and those who have evil intent for you.

Here’s how David dealt with his literal Ziphites.

Psalm 54 1 Commentary Request Deliverance and Vindication from the Lord

To begin, you need to request of the Lord deliverance and vindication, like David does in verse 1.

{Save/Deliver} me, O God, by thy name,
and {judge/vindicate} me by thy {strength/power/might}.

So, David is asking for deliverance and vindication.

Let’s note first of all what David is not doing and what we ought not to do. And that is to take your own vengeance on these people – these Ziphites in your life. Don’t take your own vengeance. That would be just as unrighteous as they’re acting. Don’t do that!

Vengeance is mine, says the Lord. I will repay.

If someone comes along and slaps you on one cheek, turn the other so that he can slap you there as well.

If your enemy is hungry, feed him. This is the way that you can heap burning coals on his head – by doing good to him.

Pray for those who persecute you.

These are all New Testament admonitions for us to not seek our own vengeance – but to allow the Lord to repay people who are doing us wrong.

So, negatively, don’t take your own vengeance.

But positively, of course, seek the Lord for deliverance and vindication.

You need deliverance from the consequences of what betrayers and slanderers will do to you. You need their traps against you to fail. And you need the damage that they’re trying to inflict on you to explode in their own faces.

So, you need God to deliver you from their schemes. But you also need God to clear your reputation amongst those whom these Ziphites have tried to ruin that very reputation. You need to be vindicated by the Lord.

So, in regard to your Ziphites – your betrayers and slanderers – don’t take your own vengeance, but rather seek the Lord to protect you from them and to vindicate you or to clear your reputation where they have sought to slander you publicly.

Read the rest of our Psalm 54 Sermon

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