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Psalm 54 Sermon

Psalm 54 Sermon
Explaining the Book of Psalms

 
 
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Psalm 54 Sermon: I’d like us to turn our attention to the book of Psalms. And in particular, we’re going to be considering Psalm 54.

Let’s read this 54th psalm to begin our time together.

{Read Psalm 54…}

Psalm 54 Sermon 1a 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 Sermon 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 Sermon 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 Sermon 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 Sermon 1b 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.

Psalm 54 Sermon 2 Request God to Hear You

Now, you need to be earnest about this as you as you seek this kind of thing. Don’t be ashamed to do like David did in verse 2 and ask the Lord to hear you.

2 {Hear/Listen to} my prayer, O God;
{give ear to the words of my mouth./Pay attention to what I say!/listen to the words of my mouth.}

Now, what do you see David doing here? David is getting desperate. And it’s alright to be desperate in prayer. Look – you and I are going to be desperate somewhere – either in front of everyone or in front of the Lord. David is being wise and he’s expressing his desperation to the Lord.

A calm quiet mumbled prayer for deliverance and vindication from your Ziphites – your betrayers and slanderers – well, that might just indicate that you really don’t care whether God answers or not. Your heart needs to be in a state of desperation before the Lord.

Now, it’s not disrespectful to God to demand that he hear you. The verbs in verse 2 are commands. Now, no doubt they are submissive commands. But they are commands nonetheless. Don’t think that it is beneath a faithful Christian to command God to do something on his behalf. With the heartbeat of Jesus in you saying, “Your will be done” you can command the Lord to do anything. Even when it’s an essentially self-focused prayer. David’s is here. He’s praying for himself.

So, in your life as you experience Ziphite moments of betrayal and slander, desperately go to the Lord asking him for protection from them and vindication before them and others.

Psalm 54 Sermon 3 Present Your Trouble to the Lord

And then you’ll want to bring up the details of why you’re so desperate as you pray to the Lord, like David does in verse 3.

3 {For strangers/For Foreigners/Strangers} {are risen up against/have risen against/attack/are attacking} me,
{and oppressors/and violent men/ruthless men} {seek after my soul/have sought my life/seek my life}:
{they have not set God before them./who do not respect God/men without regard for God}

Selah.

So, what case does David have against these Ziphites? What is his justification for asking that God would put an end to their schemes?

Well, David points out that these men – who were Israelites, and actually from the tribe of Judah – were acting like foreigners. Why else would they be seeking to destroy the one whom the Lord had already anointed king and who was just waiting until Saul would step aside until he could assume the crown? David was in fact – and in God’s eyes – the king of Israel. There was only one problem – the old king whom God had rejected wouldn’t leave. And yet, despite that, as a matter of fact, David was the king of the Ziphites. But they were acting like foreigners because they were betraying their king.

And they weren’t just betraying their king. David says that they were attacking and rising up against him. As they called twice for Saul and his army to come and destroy their king, these Ziphites were in a way themselves indirectly attacking David.

David goes on to say that these Ziphites were also violent men. They were oppressive. They were ruthless. And they sought after David’s soul – after his very life.

And further, these Ziphites were acting this way because they had a faulty relationship with the God to whom David is praying. {20 minutes}

And this really is the root cause of all betrayal and slander – it’s that people don’t have a right relationship with the Lord. They don’t set God before their eyes – they don’t respect him – they have no regard for him. And where that’s the case – where people have no regard for the Lord, well, they’re not going to regard his people, either.

So, these Ziphites are bad folks. They are violent and oppressive and murderous in their hearts – if not with their hands – toward God’s true servant. And they have no regard for the Lord.

Are your Ziphites similar? Those whom you’ve known over the years to betray you or to slander you – would you be able to describe them in this way?

Well, perhaps this is a safeguard then. We can be so easily offended and put on the defensive by any number of really small matters. And it’s possible for us to identify a person as a Ziphite – a slanderer or betrayer – and yet, really if you were to try to bring this kind of charge against them to the Lord, you’d find not enough evidence to convict, as it were. In those cases, perhaps praying this kind of prayer for these people wouldn’t be appropriate.

And yet, if you’re able to identify some people in your life in these terms, then you are free to do so. God wants you to pray this way about them. He wants you to say the same thing about these people that he himself knows to be true.

Certainly, confess your own faults and sins first. But then after that, have no qualms about speaking to the Lord concerning your Ziphites in terms that the Lord himself would be comfortable with and understand and agree.

Psalm 54 Sermon 4 Remind Yourself of God’s Care for You

So, you and I – as we experience betrayal and slander – we need to desperately seek the Lord to deliver and protect and vindicate us. And we need to state clearly to the Lord why the people who are doing this to us are so troublesome in our hearts.

But don’t leave it there. We can get so focused on the wrongs that others have committed against us that we forget that there’s a God in heaven to whom we’re praying. And that’s why it’s very important to remind yourself of God’s care for you, like David does in verse 4.

4 {Behold/Look/Surely}, God is {mine helper/my deliverer/my help}:
the Lord is {with them that uphold/the sustainer of/among those who support} {my soul/me}.

So, the message that comes out loud and clear in this verse is that we need to remember that we are not alone in this battle – in this struggle – in this life.

We’re not alone as we face betrayal and slander. God is with us. He’s your helper – your deliverer.

And God is enough – that’s for sure. But very interestingly, the Lord has David speak of God as someone who is “with” or “among” another group that David takes comfort in knowing they exist. That group is “them that uphold my soul” or “those who support me.”

David takes comfort in the fact that even in this world, he’s not alone. There are others who support and uphold him.

And that’s important for us to remember as well. As we’re slandered or betrayed, we’re never alone. It might feel like we are. But it would do us well to remember that even among mankind, we’re not alone. And certainly, the Lord never leaves or forsake us.

Psalm 54 Sermon 5 Remind Yourself that God will Make Matters Right

And it’s not that God is just there but that he’s not going to do anything.

No – when we experience slander and betrayal – and as we desperately cry out for God to deliver and vindicate us from those whose actions toward us and attitude toward the Lord are demonstrably wicked and harmful – then as we remind ourselves that we are not alone – that God is with us – well, we then need to remind ourselves of the ultimate end and result of the Lord being “with” us.

And that is, that he will ultimately make matters right, as David confesses to believing in verse 5.

5 {He shall reward evil unto mine enemies:/ He will recompense the evil to my foes;/May those who wait to ambush me be repaid for their evil!/ Let evil recoil on those who slander me;}
{cut them off/Destroy them} {in thy truth/in your faithfulness/as a demonstration of your faithfulness}.

So, David is sure that the Lord will make matters right by bringing justice to the evil-doers in his life.

And the wording in Hebrew is a little hard to determine whether David is asking for these things to happen or if he’s just declaring that God will indeed make these things happen – or maybe both!

But whatever the case, whether he’s again submissively commanding that the Lord would bring justice to his betrayers and slanderers – or whether David is simply stating his conviction that the Lord will bring justice to these men the Ziphites, the result is the same. David believes that the Lord will do right.

And we need this too. We can pray desperately for God to help – and then basically allow unbelief to make us think as if the Lord is not going to help. That’s no good! If we pray for God’s help, we need to believe that he will act.

The one who comes to God must believe that he is and that he is a rewarder of those who diligently seek him.

Anything you ask, if you believe that you receive it, it will be given to you.

If any man lacks wisdom, let him ask of God and it shall be given him. But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering or doubting.

These are New Testament admonitions that encourage us to do just what David is doing here – to really believe that God is going to take care of you – and that he is going to “take care of” your slanderers and betrayers and persecutors. {30 minutes}

Psalm 54 Sermon 6 Anticipatingly resolve to praise the Lord for his help

Well, if you’re resolved that God will hear and answer you by dealing out justice to your Ziphites, then the next step is not a far reach for you.

If you really believe that God is going to help you and answer your prayer for deliverance and vindication, then the next logical step is what David expresses in verse 6. And that’s to anticipatingly resolve to praise the Lord for his help.

6 I will {freely sacrifice/willingly sacrifice/sacrifice with a freewill offering} unto thee:
I will {praise/give thanks to} thy name, O LORD; for it is good.

Now, David isn’t going to sacrifice anything while he’s being chased by Saul and away from the presence of the Tabernacle. But he is convinced that God is going to answer his prayer in such a way as to allow for him to return to a place of normalcy and ability to worship the Lord like he used to.

And this is what we ought to do in these trials of ours. We need to look forward to God actually answering the prayers that we’re offering up to him. And we need to resolve in our hearts that it won’t be back to business-as-usual after the Lord helps us.

Has this ever happened to you – that you’ve prayed desperately for the Lord to be gracious to you – and then he answers! And what’s your response?

Remember the account of the 10 lepers – and Jesus healed them all. But how many came back to thank him? Just one. You and I need to be that one who turns back to the Lord and genuinely thanks and praises him for his help.

Psalm 54 Sermon 7 Anticipate the Lord’s Answering & Helping You

And really, beyond resolving to thank the Lord for his deliverance and vindication from slander and betrayal – from the Ziphites in your life – you need to anticipate the Lord’s answering and helping you – precisely because he has helped you so many times in the past. This is how David thinks of things to end Psalm 54 in verse 7.

7 {For/Surely} he {hath delivered/rescues} me {out of/from} all {trouble/my troubles}:
and {mine eye hath seen his desire upon/my eye has looked with satisfaction upon/I triumph over/my eyes have looked in triumph on} mine enemies.

In other words, has the Lord ever answered any of your prayers? If he answers this prayer concerning people who slander or betray you, is that the first time that God has ever answered your prayer?

Of course not! For true believers God delights in answering our prayers.

Ask and you will receive. Whoever asks will receive.

If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you. Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples.

These are statements from Jesus concerning God’s desire to answer our prayers. This is what he wants to do for believers. And so, you and I have experienced answered prayer before, haven’t we?

Yeah, we have! And this is one thing that helps encourages us that God will do this again. As you earnestly seek the Lord’s deliverance and vindication when you’re betrayed or slandered you know that he will hear you – because he’s heard and answered you many times before.

Psalm 54 Sermon Closing

So, what we’ve seen in this psalm is inspired counsel regarding how to deal with the Ziphites in your life – with people who intentionally get you in trouble – by slandering and betraying you – even though you did nothing to deserve such treatment. You – like David – need to…

  1. Earnestly ask the Lord for deliverance and vindication.
  2. Bring up the details about these people who have attacked you – that they have no regard for God or man.
  3. Remind yourself of God’s care, and rest assured that he will make matters right.
  4. Anticipate praising and thanking the Lord for answering this prayer just like he’s done for you so many times in the past.

And in this way, I think the Lord will be pleased to help us as we seek to Deal With Our Ziphites.

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