Psalm 54: Prayer for Defense Against Enemies

Even though no one is pursuing me as Saul was pursuing David when he wrote this psalm, I can still make the same pleas and declarations.
Verse 1: “Save me, O God, by Your name.”

It is only in God’s name that I have salvation. It’s only through God that I am free of the influence of Satan and the consequences of succumbing to his temptations – which come from my willful nature (James 1:12-15).

Verse 2: “Hear my prayer, O God.”

Question: This thought just occurred to me: It’s been said that one of the blessings of being in Christ is that we have direct access to God in prayer, whereas in the Old Testament, they had to go through a priest. David apparently had direct access. Was he an exception to the rule?

Personal application: This is a good plea to make in every prayer, that God will hear my voice. (Maybe we shouldn’t take that for granted!)

Repeating that plea will remind me of the kind of person I need to be if I dare to approach the throne of the Creator, the God of the universe – not in fear, but with respect for His holiness. It also reminds me of what a great privilege it is for me – an ordinary person in an ordinary town among ordinary people – to approach the throne of grace (Hebrews 4:16).

Verse 4: “Behold, God is my helper: The Lord is the sustainer of my soul.”

How easy that is to forget. How often I need to be reminded of that! Because I work at home, I have innumerable choices during the day. No small or school-age children dictate my schedule. Almost everything I do is either a choice of the moment or the consequence of a commitment I’ve made.

Yet how many times do I call on God’s help — especially when it’s a matter of setting spiritual priorities? David reminds me that God will help. He will sustain my soul.

Verse 6: “Willingly I will sacrifice to you.”

David doesn’t specify the size of the sacrifice. It could be something as simple as writing a check; it could be sacrificing my physical life in His cause.

Once I’ve made that commitment, once I’ve grown to that point of meaning that statement, it won’t matter. Because then I’ll also be able to repeat Paul’s declaration, “It is not I who live but Christ lives in me” (Galatians 2:20).

Verse 6: “I will give thanks to Your name, O LORD, for it is good.”

I notice in verse 4, the word “Lord” is not in small caps. As my Lord – my master – he sustains my soul. When I thank Him, I address Him as YHWH.

Contrary to those in the world who either deny or resent God, I believe His name is good. It’s not to be associated with the evil that happens in the world, for suffering is ultimately Satan’s doing and the work of those who follow him.

God protects us from the enemy. He defends us, He sustains us, and He helps us. He is faithful to His children (verse 5), and He has delivered us from distress (verse 7).

Jesus Still Defends Us

Two incidents in Luke 5 illustrate not only Satan’s tactics but the way Jesus speaks up for His disciples.

The chapter begins with Jesus calling Peter, James, and John out of their vocations into his mission: to seek and save the lost (Luke 5:1-11; Luke 19:10).

Next, Luke records the healing of a man with leprosy and a paralytic and the calling of Levi the tax collector to follow Him.

This is when the Pharisees come in. And this is when they begin to attack Jesus, not directly, but through His disciples.

When they see Jesus and the disciples eating at a great banquet hosted by Levi, they come not to Jesus but to the disciples, grumbling, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and ‘sinners’? (v. 30) The Greek word for “grumbling” here means “to murmur, mutter, say anything against in a low tone,” indicating they mean their words for the disciples’ ears only .

Why complain to Jesus’ disciples? Because the Pharisees have seen Jesus’ power and don’t want to confront Him? Because the new disciples have little experience with being challenged?

Whatever the reason, Jesus answers the challenge: “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”

The Pharisees direct their next criticism directly to Jesus about His disciples: “The disciples of John often fast and offer prayers, the disciples of the Pharisees also do the same, but Yours eat and drink.” 5:33

Again, Jesus defends their actions. “Can you make the guests of the bridegroom fast while he is with them? But the time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; in those days they will fast.”

Two observations here: 1) The opponents of Christ attack Him through His disciples; 2) Jesus is aware of what is happening and steps in to defend His followers.

Is it any different today? When opponents of God attack His followers for alleged ignorance, for our unwillingness to follow society’s lead, for our stances on moral issues, we must ask ourselves: Is their problem with us, or with God?

First, we must be sure that we are indeed pursuing God’s cause and not our own political ambitions. If it is for God we live, then Paul in his eloquence gives us confidence.

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us?

…Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies; who is the one who condemns?

Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us. (Romans 8:31-34)

Satan is still attacking vulnerable disciples through criticism. And when he does, we tend to take it personally.

If we know His Word, Jesus is still in us and will defend us – much like He defended Himself from Satan’s temptations by reciting Old Testament Scripture (Luke 4:1-13).

As long as the Word of Christ is part of us, as long as we have access to Him through prayer, He will continue to answer on our behalf and protect us from evil. (Matthew 6:13).

Never an Orphan

It was only in February this year, shortly after my mother passed away, that I heard the word orphan applied to an adult. Before that, I thought of orphans only in terms of children, destitute without parents to care for them. Even though both of our parents were gone now, my sisters didn’t feel like the term applied to us, either.

Yet there stayed with me the concept that my siblings and I stand – next in line, so to speak – without the parents that had been there from the moment we were born. No one else can take their place. They had always been there, and somehow – even though I knew better – I thought they always would be. Their abiding presence was my only experience. When mother died, I did feel orphaned, or at least abandoned.

Now I have no one around who knew me the way they knew me. My older siblings knew me from when I was a baby – but they were children then, too. They weren’t the ones who watched me grow – they were growing as well!

Are We Orphans?

I realized the other day that there is someone else who was with us when we were born, watched us grow up, knows us better than we know ourselves, has always been available to us, is available to us even now. He has a quality our parents could not have. He will always be there – not just because He wants to be, but because He can be.

We have a Heavenly Father, to whom we can talk any time, night or day – who was, is, and will be with us yesterday, today, and tomorrow. He has promised to be our Father. He has all the qualities of a caring parent, and more.

He provides for us. “Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they?” (Matthew 6:26)

He is always ready to hear from us. “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” Philippians 4:6

He is our Eternal Father, always there through the Son. “For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; and the government will rest on His shoulders. And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 9:6

He will always welcome us back, even when we fail him. “And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his slaves, ‘Quickly bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet; and bring the fattened calf, kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; for this son of mine was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found.’ And they began to celebrate.” Luke 15:21-24

He loves us unconditionally. “I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You have loved Me.” John 17:23 “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8

Because He’s Eternal

He can forgive our sins. “…giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in Light. For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” Colossians 1:12-14

He can provide us with all spiritual blessings. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ.” Ephesians 1:3

In the absence of our parents on earth, it’s now up to us to continue to build a relationship with our Heavenly Father through prayer, through acknowledging our total dependence on Him, through faith in His Son, and through studying His written Word to discover how to live a better life here and to bless our children with an eternal legacy.

Rejoice, anyway.

“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” 1 Thessalonians 5.16-18

The terms are pretty demanding, aren’t they? Always — without ceasing — everything. How could anyone rejoice, pray, and give thanks in every circumstance, every minute of the day?

Yet that seems to be what God through the apostle Paul is requiring of believers. And in context, these exhortations are among other verses that also use absolute terms: “be patient with allalways pursue what is good…test all things…abstain from every form of evil.”

From what we read in Acts 17 about their early history, this young church in Thessalonica was undergoing some heavy persecution because of their faith. Yet Paul praised them at the beginning of his letter for their “work of faith, labor of love, and patience of hope.”

In light of their situation, we might understand why they were told to rejoice, pray, and give thanks. They needed to be reminded that no matter what their circumstances, 1) they could rejoice because they had salvation through Jesus; 2) they had constant access to their heavenly Father through prayer; and 3) they could be thankful even during hardships, knowing that trials produce patience, and patience leads to perfection (James 1:2-5).

What does that mean for Christians today? It means that in all circumstances,  God asks us to rejoice, pray, and give thanks. It means we replace our complaining with rejoicing. It means we overcome anxiety and despair through prayer. It means that in our prayers we not only ask God to bless and help us, but we remember to thank him for all things physical and spiritual with which we have been so richly blessed.