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).

What God Doesn’t Want – or Need

While you may resent paying taxes, you may also commit another 10 to 15 percent of your income to the church. You answer with generosity when you’re presented with a genuine need. While others sleep in on Sunday morning, you dedicate that time to Him — and not just for the worship hour – but for Bible class, too!

Surely God is grateful when you and I make such sacrifices of our money and time for Him!

Not so fast, writes the poet Asaph. In Psalm 50 he portrays a courtroom to which the Almighty God comes out of the perfectly beautiful Zion in the midst of a devouring fire and a mighty tempest. He summons His covenant people from heaven and earth to a trial where He is both the judge and the witness against His people.

And what does He testify against them? Not that they neglect sacrifices to Him, but that they think that’s all He wants.

His words are pointed and harsh. “I will not accept a bull from your house” because “every wild animal [and] the cattle on a thousand hills” (NRSV) are Mine already. “If I were hungry, I would not tell you, for the world and all that is in it are Mine.” You think that because you offer these burnt offerings to Me, you are acceptable to Me. (9-13)

Some of you – and I will call you wicked – are fond of quoting My law, yet you are undisciplined. You don’t hesitate to bend the law when it suits you; you’re not ashamed to openly associate with adulterers. (16-18)

You make Me in your image and suppose that if you’re righteous in your own eyes, you must be righteous in Mine, too. But you are wrong. (21)

I rebuke you for your foolishness. I lay this charge before you: Even as you offer sacrifices, you have forgotten Me. “Mark this, you who forget God, or I will tear you apart, and there will be no one to deliver.” (21-22)

Yet there is still hope – even for those of us who, in our misplaced devotion – have forgotten the object of that devotion.

We can still see the salvation of God, if we remember this: God wants us to honor Him with thanksgiving as our sacrifice. He wants us to recognize our dependence on Him, to call on Him when we’re in trouble. (23, 15)

When we recognize our dependence on Him, we’ll see those perceived “sacrifices” of money and time with a different attitude. For they will not be sacrifices at all, but natural responses born out of gratitude and love.

Learning by Heart

“Your word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against You.” Psalm 119.11

If you grew up going to Bible classes every Sunday morning, it’s likely you were expected to learn memory verses each week. We called it knowing verses “by heart” — remember? According to the dictionary, that means to “learn something so well it can be written or recited without thinking.”

Somehow we leave memorization behind as we grow into adulthood. But Psalm 119:11 indicates that adult believers may need those memory verses more than ever — to help us remember who we are and to whom we belong and to keep us from offending the God we serve.

Jesus was able to use scripture to defend himself against sin when he was tempted in the wilderness. With every temptation, Jesus answered, “It is written” (Matthew 4.1-11). Likewise with our every temptation, God has promised a “way of escape” (1 Corinthians 10.13).

Could it be that memorizing Bible verses is one of those ways?

Bible verses we can recall at a moment’s notice can be used not only to keep us from sinning but to give us spiritual courage: “If God is for us, who can be against us?”

“Love your neighbor as yourself” will help us live at peace with one another; “Cast all your cares on him” comforts us; “In everything give thanks” reminds us to view the world with gratitude.*

Whatever your situation, hide some appropriate Bible verses in your heart. Remember those you learned as a child, or even better, memorize new ones that will help you handle life’s unexpected turns and temptations. Write them down on a 3 x 5 card and put it in your pocket or tack it to the front of your fridge.

Make them such a part of you you don’t have to even think about them. Then, like having God standing beside you, they’ll be there when you need them.

*Romans 8.31; Luke 10.27; 1 Peter 5.7; 1 Thessalonians 5.18

Alone, but Not Lonely

I will travel from birth to death alone. No one lives inside my brain, occupies the same space or views events exactly like I do. Even if I had an identical twin, she would not always be beside me, nor always share or even understand my thoughts.

As I grew up, I experienced new situations alone: walking “by myself”; entering kindergarten “by myself”; driving for the first time “by myself”; marrying “by myself,” leaving the only family I had known. In a certain sense, I am alone. No other human being can know me or understand me wholly.

But am I lonely? No.

There is One who has been there from before my birth – One who has seen what I’ve seen, been where I’ve been, known all the people I’ve ever known, One who can remember personal experiences I’ve forgotten that have formed my personality and character. He understands me. He loves me. He wants the best for me. He is anxious for me to know, understand and love Him. And He wants me to live with Him for eternity.

The only way it’s possible for me to be with Him is to become like Him – pure and free from sin. He sacrificed part of Himself to make that possible. He gave His only Son.

I would pray the prayer of David, King of Israel:

O LORD, you have searched me and you know me.

You discern my going out and my lying down;

You are familiar with all my ways.

Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O LORD.

Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; too lofty for me to attain.

Where can I flee from your presence?

If I go up to the heavens, you are there;

If I make my bed in the depths, you are there.

If I rise on the wings of the dawn,

If I settle on the far side of the sea,

Even there your hand will guide me,

Your right hand will hold me fast.

Search me, O God, and know my heart;

Test me and know my anxious thoughts.

See if there is any offensive way in me,

And lead me in the way everlasting.

from Psalm 139