Psalm 54 (New International Version)
For the director of music. With stringed instruments. When the Ziphites had gone to Saul and said, “Is not David hiding among us?”
There were actually two times the Ziphites betrayed David unto King Saul, first in 1 Samuel 23 and the second in 1 Samuel 26. David escaped both times, but the circumstances of this Psalm seem to best fit the circumstances of 1 Samuel 23, when David learned of the Ziphite betrayal but before the deliverance of God was displayed (1 Samuel 23:26-29).
This is one of the few Psalms with a specific musical direction: With stringed instruments.
1 Save me, O God, by your name;
vindicate me by your might.
David calls on God’s name (his character) and God’s might (his strength). What more would David possibly need than God on his side?!
2 Hear my prayer, O God;
listen to the words of my mouth.
3 Arrogant foes are attacking me;
ruthless people are trying to kill me—
people without regard for God.
David’s troubles came from the Ziphites, as noted in the title of this Psalm and in 1 Samuel 23:14-24. The Ziphites were Israelis; they were even of the same tribe as David (Judah). Yet their betrayal of David was so contrary to both David and God’s cause that David could rightly refer to them as oppressors who sought David’s life.
4 Surely God is my help;
the Lord is the one who sustains me.
5 Let evil recoil on those who slander me;
in your faithfulness destroy them.
It doesn’t seem right, does it, to ask for the doom of enemies? It’s true that Jesus told us to pray in a more generous way for our enemies (Matthew 5:43-44). Yet there is nothing wrong with the basic principle of wanting to see good triumph and for God to do His work against those who do evil.
David lived out another aspect of this prayer. He prayed, Cut them off in Your truth but refused to take vengeance in his own hands. Immediately after the second betrayal of the Ziphites (1 Samuel 26:1) David had the opportunity to kill King Saul in his sleep and he refused to do it. David would not cut him off; he waited upon God to do it.
6 I will sacrifice a freewill offering to you;
I will praise your name, LORD, for it is good.
Psalm 138:2 (ESV)
I bow down toward your holy temple
and give thanks to your name for your steadfast love and your faithfulness,
for you have exalted above all things
your name and your word.
7 You have delivered me from all my troubles,
and my eyes have looked in triumph on my foes.
There is a sense in which David in this Psalm prefigured Jesus, who was the anointed King yet to come into the fullness of His kingdom. He came to rescue and lead God’s people, and when He did, some among God’s people betrayed Him unto death. We can easily see these lines from the Psalm in the mouth of Jesus, praying to His Father:
Save Me, O God, by Your name
Ruthless people are trying to kill Me
Surely God is My help
You have delivered Me from all My troubles
HERE is a striking musical presentation, “The Lord Upholds My Life,” by David Haas. Note also all the stringed instruments in accompaniment, as per the psalmist David’s instructions!
From giamusic.com — DAVID HAAS resides in Eagan, Minnesota, where he is director of The Emmaus Center for Music, Prayer and Ministry and serves as campus minister at Cretin-Derham Hall in St. Paul, Minnesota where he directs the CDH Liturgical Choir and serves as the animator for the Cretin-Derham Hall Taize’ Prayer Community.
Highly regarded as one of the preeminent liturgical music composers in the English-speaking world, he has produced more than 45 collections of original music. His liturgical works are sung and prayed throughout the world and appear in hymnals of many Christian denominations and in many languages.