The psalmist complains that strangers were risen up against him to take away his life, 1-3; expresses his confidence in God that he will uphold him, and punish his enemies, 4,5; on which he promises to sacrifice to God, 6; he speaks of his deliverance, 7.
NOTES ON PSALM LIV
The title is, "To the chief Musician upon Neginoth, an instructive Psalm of David, when the Ziphites came to Saul, and said, Doth not David conceal himself among us?"
Ziph was a village in the southern part of Palestine. David having taken refuge in the mountains of that country, the Ziphites went to Saul, and informed him of the fact. Saul, with his army, immediately went thither, and was on one side of a mountain while David was on the other. Just when he was about to fall into the hands of his merciless pursuer, an express came to Saul that the Philistines had invaded Israel, on which he gave up the pursuit, and returned to save his country, and David escaped to En-gedi. See the account in 1 Samuel 23:19-29. It is supposed to have been after this deliverance that he composed this Psalm. Neginoth, from nagan, to strike or play on some kind of instrument, probably signifies stringed instruments, such as were played on with a plectrum.
Save me, O God, by thy name
Save me by thyself alone; so name here may be understood. The name of God is often God himself. David was now in such imminent danger of being taken and destroyed, that no human means were left for his escape; if God therefore had not interfered, he must have been destroyed. See the introduction above.
Hear my prayer
In his straits he had recourse to God; for from him alone, for the reasons alleged above, his deliverance must proceed.
Strangers are risen up against me
Saul, his courtiers, and his army.
They have not set God before them.
It is on no religious account, nor is it to accomplish any end, on which they can ask the blessing of God.
This is true.
Behold, God is mine helper
This would naturally occur to him when he saw that Saul was obliged to leave the pursuit, and go to defend his territories, when he was on the very point of seizing him. God, whose providence is ever watchful, had foreseen this danger, and stirred up the Philistines to make this inroad just at the time in which Saul and his army were about to lay hands on David. Well might he then say, "Behold, God is mine helper."
Is with them, that uphold my soul.
naphshi, my life. This may even refer to the Philistines, who had at this time made an inroad on Israel. God was even with his own enemies, by making them instruments to save the life of his servant.
He shall reward evil
Saul and his courtiers, instead of having God's approbation, shall have his curse.
Cut them off in thy truth.
Thou hast promised to save me; these have purposed to destroy me. Thy truth is engaged in my defence; they will destroy me if permitted to live: to save thy truth, and to accomplish its promises, thou must cut them off.
I will freely sacrifice unto thee
Or, I will sacrifice nobly unto thee. Not only with a willing mind, but with a liberal hand will I bring sacrifice unto thee.
For it is good
Thy name is good; it is descriptive of thy nature; full of goodness and mercy to man. And it is good to be employed in such a work: whoever worships thee in sincerity is sure to be a gainer. To him who orders his conversation aright, thou dost show thy salvation.
For he hath delivered me
Saul had now decamped; and was returned to save his territories; and David in the meanwhile escaped to En-gedi. God was most evidently the author of this deliverance.
Mine eye hath seen his desire upon mine enemies.
It is not likely that this Psalm was written after the death of Saul; and therefore David could not say that he had seen his desire. But there is nothing in the text for his desire; and the words might be translated, My eye hath seen my enemies-they have been so near that I could plainly discover them. Thus almost all the Versions have understood the text. I have seen them, and yet they were not permitted to approach me. God has been my Deliverer.
ANALYSIS OF THE FIFTY-FOURTH PSALM
There are three parts in this Psalm:-
I. David's prayer for help and salvation, Psalms 54:1-3.
II. His confidence that he should have help, Psalms 54:4,5.
III. His gratitude and obedience, Psalms 54:6,7.
1. David's petition: 1. "Save me." 2. "Plead my cause." 3. "Hear my prayer." 4. "Give ear to my words." He is much in earnest; and yet does not desire his prayer to be heard unless his cause be just. If just, then let God plead it.
2. He produces two grounds upon which he petitions: 1. God's name. 2. God's strength. 1. He that calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved; I call: "Save me in thy name!" 2. Thou art a powerful God, able to do it: "Save me in thy strength."
The greatness of his danger causes him to urge his prayer.
1. His enemies were strangers; from whom no favour could be expected.
2. They were violent oppressors-formidable, cruel tyrants, from whom he could expect no mercy.
3. They were such as could be satisfied with nothing less than his blood: "They rise to seek after my life."
4. They had no fear of God: "They have not set God before them."
II. Notwithstanding they are all that I have already stated; and, humanly speaking, I have nothing but destruction to expect; yet I will not fear: because, 1. God is with me. 2. He is against them.
1. "God is my helper:" as he has promised, so he has done, and will do, to me.
2. "God is with them also who uphold my soul. Selah." Behold this!
But he opposes them who oppose me; is an enemy to them who are mine enemies.
1. "He shall reward evil" to such: of this being assured, he proceeds to imprecate.
2. Destroy thou them: "Cut them off in thy truth." Thou hast promised that it shall be well with the righteous; and that snares, fire, and brimstone, shall be rained on the wicked. Let God be true: Fiat justitia; ruat coelum, pereat mundus. They must be cut off.
III. For such a mercy David promises not to be unthankful.
1. For this he would offer a princely sacrifice: "I will freely sacrifice."
2. He would praise the name of the Lord: "I will praise thy name."
For this he gives two reasons:-
1. That which internally moved him: "For it is good."
2. That which was outwardly impulsive; his deliverance. 1. His deliverance was great and effectual: "Thou hast delivered me out of all my trouble." 2. His danger was so imminent that, humanly speaking, there was no escape. The enemy was within sight who was bent on his destruction; yet he was delivered; and they were confounded. On these accounts it was right that he should sing praise, and offer sacrifice. To the grateful, God is bountiful.