Psalm 54 contains a short statement after the title that says that the psalm was written when the Ziphites had told Saul where David and his men were hiding. That account is recorded in 1 Samuel 23:19-29.
If that statement is accurate, then David must have written the psalm shortly after he found out that he and his men had been betrayed. The first part of the psalm shows the shock that David must have felt. In verses 1-3 he wrote, “Save me, O God, by Your name, and vindicate me by Your power. Hear my prayer, O God; give ear to the words of my mouth. For strangers have risen against me and violent men have sought my life; they have not set God before them. Selah.”
Being a military leader, he quickly realized that their situation was bad. He probably had hoped that they were relatively safe because their location was not known, but that was no longer true. Suddenly, they had to move. Where were Saul’s men? How much time did they have to leave? Where should they go? How much time before it would be too late?
In the worldly and cynical society that we live in today, it would seem strange to think of a man, such as David, pausing to write a psalm to the Lord asking for His help. One might say, “He should have been making plans to fight or escape! A hurried prayer might have been permissible, but not a psalm! There was no time!” But David’s faith did not rest in his own ability. His faith was in the Lord, and he knew that his only hope rested with Him.
In addition to David’s faith, Psalm 54 also shows that he reacted to situations much as we do today. The first three verses show his dismay. Anytime that we are hit with an unexpected situation, or face some kind of emotional and spiritual blow, we give into the emotions of the moment before we rebound and begin to think. David may have been shocked by the news, but he also quickly recovered and turned to the Lord. His example is a valuable lesson for us today. Often, the size of a problem, or the darkness of the situation, can fill us to the point that we have no room for anything else. The burden of life becomes almost too great, and we drown in our own despair.
David could have done that. He could have sat down, given up, and waited for Saul to take him. He could have railed against God. But he recovered quickly and acted by trusting God to help him. The account in 1 Samuel says that David and his men fled from Saul. David’s only option was to try to outrun Saul, but the account in 1 Samuel also said that Saul was gaining! It was only a matter of time before Saul would have him! But at the last minute, a messenger arrived at Saul’s camp and told him that the Philistines were raiding the land. Saul had to break off the attack and leave. David was saved!
From that account, we can see that the Lord did indeed protect David; but David did not have the luxury of being able to read about it when he wrote his psalm. Hindsight is always 20/20. No, all he knew was that he and his men would soon be caught, and he would die. So, his plea went up to the Lord. “Save me, O God, by Your name, and vindicate me by Your power.”
After David presented his plea, the entire direction of his psalm changed. In verse 4 he wrote, “Surely God is my help; the Lord is the one who sustains me”. From the plea, David turned to his assurance that he had in the Lord. The problems that David, faced were, at least, as bad as what Christians face today but, as we have seen, he could look beyond the immediate problem to the security that comes in the Lord.
Verse 6 almost sounds like David was trying to bribe God, “Willingly I will sacrifice to You; I will give thanks to Your name, O Lord, for it is good.” On the surface, it seems like David is saying, “Okay Lord, if you save me, I will offer sacrifices to you”. Too often, Christians try to play that kind of game with God. “Lord, IF you do such and such, then I will do this.”
But that was not David’s intention at all. In verse 7 he wrote, “For he has delivered me from all my troubles, and my eyes have looked in triumph on my foes.” David KNEW that he would be delivered. Therefore, he promised to make a freewill offering because God would save him, and David trusted God. That unquestioning trust was one reason that God loved David.
Today, we would do well to follow the example of David. He has adopted us into His family. As His children, God has PROMISED to care for us. That promise was sealed with the blood of His Son – Jesus Christ! How much more should our trust show over that of David?