PSALM 54 TALK: HONOURING THE NAME OF GOD (Trusting in the revealed character of God)

PSALM 54 TALK: HONOURING THE NAME OF GOD

(Trusting in the revealed character and promises of God no matter what life brings us)

 A talk to encourage Christians to face the trials and difficulties of life confident that they are trusting in a great God of love who promises to help and sustain them at all times.

THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide”.

 INTRODUCTION

Recently I heard an interesting talk by a representative of the organisation called, “Voice of the Martyrs” a Christian organisation that helps and supports Christians living in countries where they are persecuted. It was disturbing to learn from the speaker that Christians suffer persecution in more than 50 countries in the world today. He spoke of examples of Christian persecution where people had been killed, Churches had been destroyed and many people had been displaced from their homes simply because they dared believe in the Christian faith.

Some might ask: If God loves his people why does he allow them to be persecuted?

This is a question any Christian could ask when any kind of trouble or difficulty comes on them.

The bible never presents the idea that believers will avoid problems and difficulties in this life. In fact all the main New Testament writers present the idea that problems and difficulties are a normal part of the Christian life and God uses them to mould us into true people of faith and to test our faith. As Peter teaches in 1 Peter 1: 6 – 9,

In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls”.

 David did not have an easy life in fact most of his Psalms are set in the context of great difficulty. The general background to the first two books of Psalms is stated in Psalm 2: 2,

“The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather together against the Lord and against his Anointed One”.

 Psalm 54 and its historical context is an excellent example of the conflict David was promised as the Lords anointed. The Hebrew heading for the Psalm reads,

“For the director of music. With stringed instruments. A maskil of David. When the Ziphites had gone to Saul and said, ‘Is not David hiding among us’”

 This maskil (inspired teaching) Psalm of David was written during the eight to nine year period when David was on the run from King Saul who sought to destroy him as he knew he had been passed over by God as king for David. The actual incident of David’s run from Saul is identified as the time’s the Ziphites betrayal of David to King Saul when David sought refuge in their city called Keilah. The land of the Ziphites is in the south of Israel close to the land of the Philistines. David had fought for the Ziphites against the Philistines and they then betrayed him on at least two occasions. This is recorded in 1 Samuel 23 and we read about the second Ziphite betrayal in 1 Samuel 26.

Why these Israelites turned on David especially after he had fought for them against the Philistines is not known. However it seems that it is part of the conflict he was told he would experience in Psalm 2: 2. This conflict would not only come from the pagan kings outside of Israel but will also come from opposition to his kingship within Israel as well.

We believe that David wrote Psalm 31 with this incident in his mind as well (see Psalm 31 Psalm talk for more details).

Psalm 54 features, the name of God:

Verse 1: “Save me, O God, by your name”

 Verse 6: “I will praise your name; O Lord for it is good”

 Also the Psalm features the three main names for God:

  1. Elohim: The general name for God that features in the second book of Psalms and appears in Psalm 54 three times in verses 1 – 3 and at the start of verse 4 when it says,

“Surely God (Elohim) is my helper”

  1. Adonai: The name of God usually translated as “Lord” in English bibles and literally means, “Master or Owner” appears in the second part of verse 4 where it reads,

“The Lord (Adonai) is the one who sustains me”

  1. Yahweh: Which features in the first book of Psalms and is the Covenant name of God given to Moses by God at the burning bush in Exodus 3 and is said to mean something like, “He is” or “He causes to be” thus the English bible translation reads, “I am who I am”. It appears in Psalm 54 in verse 6 where we read,

“I will praise your name; O Lord (Yahweh) for it is good”

 Jesus taught us to Hallow or Honour the name of God in his model prayer for all true believers in Matthew 6: 9 and Luke 11: 2.

So I have decided that the main theme of this Psalm is “Honouring the name of God” and I have divided this Psalm into three sections based on the concept of honouring the name of God.

I hope we will learn how the name of God, which is his revealed character, is a great support and comfort when we face difficulties in this life.

  1. PRAYING IN THE NAME OF GOD (1 – 3)
  1. BEING HELPED BY THE NAME OF GOD (4 – 5)
  1. GIVING PRAISE TO THE NAME OF GOD (6 – 7)
  1. PRAYING IN THE NAME OF GOD (1 – 3)

David stars this Psalm with the words,

“Save me Oh God”

 From the situation David found himself in Keith in the land of the Ziphites described for us in 1 Samuel 23 David is in a very dangerous situation. He has been betrayed by the Ziphites, probably conveyed to him by Abiathar the son of the chief priest of Nob called Ahimelech who was killed by Deog the Edomite at King Saul. Abiathar recently joined David in Keilah after narrowly escaping the clutches of Deog himself. David is in danger of being trapped in Keilah and so he cries out to God for help or salvation. He spells out how much danger he is in, in verse 3,

“Strangers are attacking me; ruthless men seek my life – men without regard for God”.

 Even though the Ziphites and Saul and his soldiers are not strangers or “aliens” by their actions they are acting like strangers or foreigners. They are also acting like they are Godless or people who have no regard for God. The ruthless and merciless killing of the priests of Nob proved how much Saul and his followers which now included the Ziphites had fallen away from God.

 However David links his request for help and salvation in Keilah with these words,

“Save me, Oh God, by your name:”

 What does David mean by the words, “By your name”?

I believe praying in the “Name” of God means we are seeking to appropriate 3 great truths we know about God:

  1. God’s revealed character
  2. God’s might and love
  3. God’s promises to always care for us
  1. God’s revealed character

 I have spoken before in other Psalm talks about how “names” in the bible and in the ancient Israel culture actually meant something. They revealed something about the person and in this case God’s name reveals what he is really like. In another talk I spoke of how Jacob got his name and on a web page called, “behind the name” I came across this excellent explanation of Jacob’s name:

“Jacob (later called Israel) is the son of Isaac and Rebecca and the father of the twelve founders of the twelve tribes of Israel. He was born holding his twin Brother Esau’s heel, and his name is explained as meaning “holder of the heel” or “supplanter”.

 Jacob revealed throughout his life that he lived up to his name as he was a selfish and grafting character who did anything he could to be the number one son in his father’s house. However later in his life God met Jacob in the form of a man who Jacob wrestled with and would not let go. Through the man Jacob wrestled with God touched Jacob on his hip and he became partially crippled. This meeting with God changed Jacob and in fact humbled him and he got a new name, Israel, which means something like “May God prevail”.

The Old Testament presents many names for the one God of heaven and earth and these names backed up by the revealed acts of God show us that God’s name really does mean something special. On another excellent web page called, “Got a Question? Org.” I picked out 10 of the special names for God and their individual meanings,

  1. EL, ELOAH: God “mighty, strong, prominent” (Genesis 7:1; Isaiah 9:6)
  1. EL SHADDAI: “God Almighty,” “The Mighty One of Jacob” (Genesis 49:24)
  1. YAHWEH-JIREH: “The Lord Will Provide” (Genesis 22:14)
  1. YAHWEH-RAPHA: “The Lord who heals” (Exodus 15: 26)
  1. YEHWEH-NISII: “The Lord our banner” (Exodus 17: 15)
  1. YAHWEH-MIKADDESH: “The Lord who Sanctifies”, “Makes Holy” (Leviticus 20: 8)
  1. YAHWEH-SHALOM: “The Lord our peace” (Judges 6: 24)
  1. YAHWEH-TSIDKENU: “The Lord of Righteousness” (Jeremiah 33:16)
  1. YAHWEH-ROHI: “The Lord our Shepherd” (Psalm 23:1)
  1. YAWEH-SABAOTH: “The Lord of Hosts” (Isaiah 1:24 and Psalm 46:7)

This is not a complete list of the special names for God in the bible but please note if you look up the references the “got a Question.org.” quotes you will see that each of these special names for God is linked to an intervention of God into the history of Israel. Therefore God always backs up his names with actions that flow from his divine character.

In the New Testament we have many special names for Jesus Christ like:

  1. JESUS: “Savoir” or “Save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21)
  1. CHRIST: “”Messiah” or “Anointed One” (Matthew 1:16)
  1. IMMANUEL: “God with us” (Matthew 1:23)

These are just three of the main names of Christ in the New Testament and they too are backed up by what Jesus actually did for us.

In the Gospel of John Jesus takes up the covenant name for God, Yahweh or “I am” and gives us 7 new insights into who he is and what he has done for us. The seven new insights are:

  1. Bread

“I am the bread of life; he who comes to me shall not hunger.” John 6:35

  1. Light

“I am the light of the world; he who fallows me shall not walk in the darkness, but shall have the light of life.” John 8:12  

  1. I am the Gate

“I am the gate; if anyone enters through me, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.” John 10:9

  1. I am the Good Shepherd

“I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for His sheep.” John 10:11

  1. I am the Resurrection and Life

“I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in me shall live even if he dies.” John 11:25

  1. I am the Way, Truth, Life

“I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through me.” John 14:6

  1. I am the True vine

“I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser.” John 15:1  

The divinity of Jesus Christ is further illustrated in John 8:58.

“Jesus said, “Truly, Truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I am”, which means that Jesus existed before His human life on earth”.

So when we pray in the name of God we are linking ourselves to the revealed character of God that all the names of God back up by his actions reveal to us.

  1. God’s might and power

David knew the power and love of God on many occasions in his life and often referred to them in his many Psalms in the bible, liked Psalm 31: 7 and 8,

“I will be glad and rejoice in your love, for you saw my affliction and knew the anguish of my soul. You have not handed me over to the enemy but have set my feet in a spacious place”

These words of Psalm 31 could fit so well the situation David found himself in Keilah and this is another reason why I believe that Psalm 31 was written around the same time or at least with this incident in David’s life in mind. In verse 1 David also asks,

“Vindicate me by your might”

David also sees his God who he is praying to as not only loving but mighty and powerful as well. This is the God David not only prays to when he faces the giant Goliath but who he trusts in as he twirls the rock in the sling that helped by God brings the giant down. We might say David had giant killing faith but it was not David’s faith that was giant killing but it was who his faith was in that made the difference.

David had a strong belief backed up by his knowledge of the bible and his continual experience of God. He had learnt that God could be relied upon to save him because he believed that this God had revealed himself as both mighty and loving.

In the New Testament we have a new and greater insight into this God of might and power who sends to earth his ultimate revelation of himself. Jesus continually shows us his might or power and love throughout his entire ministry on earth. He healed the sick revealing might and power over sickness, cast our demons showing he had might and power over the forces of evil, he stilled the storm showing he had might and power over nature and he raised people from the dead showing he had might and power over death. However he did all this as an act of love, curing the sick, clearing the soul of evil invasion, stilling the storm to save his disciples from drowning and raising the dead because he had love and compassion for those who suffered the power of death. Jesus showed love at all times during his earthly ministry.

Finally the one great driving force for Jesus, his prime mission on earth was to die on the cross. Listen to his words in Matthew 20: 28,

“Just as the Son of man did not come to be served, but to give his life as a ransom for many”.

In the cross we see all the main attributes or character of God to the full. We see the justice of God in that Jesus gave his life to pay for our sins. We see the love of God in that he did it to save us from our sins. This was something he did not have to do but he did because he loves us.

Finally we see the power or might of God in the cross because it is the power of God to save.

Paul knew this very well because on the number of occasions in his letters to the churches he spoke of the cross and its message which he called the Gospel as the power of God to save us. At the end of the first chapter of his first letter to the Corinthians he says in verse 17,

“For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel – not with words of human wisdom less the cross of Christ be emptied of its power”.

So when we pray in the name of Christ we pray in the mighty power and love he has won for us through his death and resurrection.

  1. God’s promises to always care for us

 David knew that God had called him to a difficult job but he also knew that God promised to help him and in fact fight for him against his enemies. I mentioned earlier that the underlining context of many of David’s Psalms is Psalm 2: 2,

“The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather against his Anointed one”

This Psalm not only sets up the promise of the conflicts David would face in the future but offers the promise of God to care for David by fighting for him. We read in Psalm 2: 3 – 12

“Let us break their chains,” they say, “and throw off their fetters.”The One enthroned in heaven laughs; the Lord scoffs at them. Then he rebukes them in his anger and terrifies them in his wrath, saying, “I have installed my King on Zion, my holy hill.” I will proclaim the decree of the LORD: He said to me, “You are my Son: today I have become your Father. Ask of me, and I will make the nations your inheritance, the ends of the earth your possession.   You will rule them with an iron scepter; you will dash them to pieces like pottery.” Therefore, you kings, be wise; be warned, you rulers of the earth. Serve the LORD with fear and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry and you be destroyed in your way, for his wrath can flare up in a moment. Blessed are all who take refuge in him”.

Jesus saw his ministry and mission on earth mirrored by the life and words of David recorded in the Psalms. In fact the words in verse 7 of Psalm 2 are for filled in the baptism of Jesus as we see in the words of Matthew 3: 16 and 17,

“As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him, and a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love: with him I am well pleased”.

Jesus like David did not take the easy path in his life as we saw before in the fact that Jesus came to serve and give his life as a ransom for many. Jesus had one great focus in his ministry his death on the cross but he too knew that his death was not the end. Listen to how Jesus prepared his disciples for his death to come in Matthew 16: 21 – 22,

“From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life”

Jesus calls us as well to the way of suffering or difficulties when he says in Matthew 16: 24,

“Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me”.

However Jesus does not desert us in our daily “keilah” type situations but offers us his promise to always be with us to save and care for us. Listen again to the tremendously comforting words of Christ in Matthew 11: 28 – 29,

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls, For my yoke is easy and my burden is light”

When we pray in the name of Jesus we are also claiming his many promises of help and care even in the most difficult times of life.

  1. BEING HELPED BY THE NAME OF GOD (4 – 5)

 Now that David has prayed and trusted in the name of God, his revealed character he now claims the help and victory he has in and through the God he trusts in. Sometimes prayer is something we need to do to remind ourselves of who we are trusting in. Prayer also is a practical way of demonstrating to God that we do trust in him. Sadly I am just like everyone when it comes to prayer. When I am going through great difficulty I pray a lot but when things seem to be going well I often forget to pray. At least by setting aside a small part of the day for prayer no matter what is going on in our lives is a good way of forcing ourselves to pray regularly.

We have learnt that David wrote this Psalm around the time of his narrow escape from Saul in the town of Keilah and he would have been in much prayer at this time owing to his very difficult circumstances. The twenty third chapter of 1 Samuel records both the difficult situation David found himself in Keilah and how David made practical steps in pray to find the will of God for him there. Now David in verse 4 makes an amazing statement of faith,

“Surely God is my help; the Lord is the one who sustains me”.

I pointed out in the introduction that David uses two different names for God in this verse, Elohim and Adonai and this is not an accident but is something quite intentional. So I will look at this verse in two parts:

  1. The Elohim Part

     And the,

  1. The Adonai Part

I will then look at verse 5 which I call,

  1. Divine Retribution in the name of God
  1. The Elohim Part

First of all God (Elohim) is to David a God who loves to save and protect his people.

Therefore David has confidence to believe that God will save him by helping him out of the supposed trap of Keilah. He claims the help probably before it actually comes and this is true faith in action as the writer to the Hebrews says in Hebrews 11: 1,

“Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see”.

Some teach we can name and claim anything we want in life but this is not what this verse or any other verse in the bible is teaching us. We can only be certain of what God has promised to do for us in the bible. We therefore claim a specific promise in the bible. It has been said that there are 3573 promises in the bible. However it is important for us to realize that with most promises God gives us a condition that must be for filled. Let me illustrate take the promise in Philippians 4: 19,

The promise:

“And my God will meet all your needs”

The condition:

“According to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus”

So a correct claiming of this would go something like:

God will supply my every need (note not my want) according to what Christ has won for us. It is in fact according to the will of the father through Christ.

David claims the many promises God gave him about his help and protection and makes the statement:

Surely God is my help”

  1. The Adonai part

In the second half of verse 4 David writes,

“The Lord (Adonai) is the one who sustains me”

I mentioned in the introduction that the “Adonai” name for God means something like “Master or Owner”. David sees his God as his master or Lord and we must confess Jesus as our Lord according to Paul in Romans 10: 9,

“That if you confess with your mouth, Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved”.

Kidner rightly points out that David sees,

“God’s hand behind all human help”

God is Lord of life and the universe, as David claims in Psalm 19: 1,

“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the works of his hands”

Yet David goes further than seeing God asjst Lord of the universe but also Lord of his life. He declares that this “Adonai” or master:

“Is the one who sustains me”

The old spiritual song says:

“He’s got the whole world in his hands”

It also says,

“His got you and me brother in his hands”

David did not just mouth the names of God; he lived by them because he believed he was constantly helped by the name or the very character of God. Over and over in Psalms of David I have looked at so far David makes statements like we find in Psalm 33: 5,

“The Lord loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of his unfailing love”

Often David cries out to the unfailing love of God for help in the difficulties of his life, as he does in Psalm 40: 11,

“Do not withhold your mercy from me, O Lord; may your love and your truth always protect me”.

Yes David proved over and over again that not only is God his helper but he is his very sustainer. At any time during the eight or nine years David was on the run from King Saul his life could have been taken but God stepped in on many occasions to help and sustain him. The story of David’s escape from the certain trap in Keilah was only one more example of this.

  1. Divine Retribution in the name of God

What did David want God to do for him in Keilah specifically?

Verse 5, tells us:

“Let evil recoil on those who slander me; in your faithfulness destroy them”.

This verse is another example of a feature of the Psalms of David namely what is called an imprecation, which is a prayer or request to God to call down God’s judgment on our enemies. I came across this for the first time in Psalm 5: 10, which reads,

“Declare them guilty, O God! Let their intrigues be their downfall. Banish them for their many sins, for they have rebelled against you”.

I would like to quote my own words from my explanation of this verse in my Psalm 5 talk and the issue of imprecatory prayers for the Christian,

“Verse 10 – Is David’s actual prayer for God’s judgment to come upon his enemies, this is called in theological cycles as imprecation which is a term which means invoking evil or judgment on someone. There are many examples of imprecation in the Psalms and these Psalms are often called Imprecatory Psalms. This raises the issue in my mind of whether we should pray this way when we deal with God’s enemies today. Jesus taught us to love our enemies and pray for them, Luke 6: 27 – 29,

“But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic”.

However we also know from the teaching of Christ and the rest of the New Testament that God has appointed a day that all men will be judged, Acts 17: 31,

For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising him from the dead.”

This means that when we read David praying for God to deal with his enemies like he does here in verse 10, who are also God’s enemies we should think of this in the context of the final judgment to come. Martin Luther pointed out that when we pray in the Lord’s prayer, “Thy Kingdom come”, we are praying for God’s day of Judgment to come as well.

However interestingly I did read an article on the net by a man named Dr Peter Hammond, called “Praying for Justice” and he points out that in the many persecuted parts of the world prayers like David is praying here are prayed in places were Christians suffer major and terrible persecution. Here is a small extract from that article,

“Despite the fact that 90 of the 150 Psalms include imprecations (prayers invoking God’s righteous judgment upon the wicked) such prayers are rare in the average Western church. However, amongst the persecuted churches these prayers are much more common”.

Praying Against the Persecutors

Amidst the burnt out churches and devastation of Marxist Angola I found the survivors of communist persecution – including the crippled and maimed, and widows and orphans praying for God to strike down the wicked and remove the persecutors of the Church. I was shocked – yet it was Biblical (Even the martyrs in heaven pray)”.

“How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?” (Revelation 6:10).

The initiator of the communist persecution in Angola was Agestino Neto. Described as a “drunken, psychotic, Marxist poet”, Neto had been installed by Cuban troops as the first dictator of Angola. He boasted that: “Within 20 years there won’t be a Bible or a church left in Angola. I will have eradicated Christianity.” Yet despite the vicious wave of church burning and massacres it is not Christianity that was eradicated in Angola but Agestino Neto. Neto died in mysterious circumstances on an operating table in Moscow”.

Even though David often prayed for God’s judgment to catch up to his enemies he never actually sought to carry out that judgment on Saul and those who followed him. In fact David had at least two occasions to kill Saul when he was on the run but does not do it saying 1 Samuel 24: 6,

“The Lord forbid that I should do such a thing to my master, the Lord’s anointed, or lift my hand against him, for he is the anointed of the Lord”.

Recently I was in a bible study where we were discussing the words of Judas Iscariot in John 12: 4- 6 and how Jesus knew Judas would betray him yet he treats Judas with the same love he had for the other 11 disciples who where faithful to him.

David’s prayer in verse 5 of this Psalm actually asks for divine retribution for his enemies who slander his good name in Israel. He asks for their evil to recoil or backfire on them.

He then calls yet again on the character or name of God to deal with them,

“In your faithfulness destroy them”.

Calvin writes,

“His confidence of obtaining his request was grounded upon the circumstances that God could no more deny his word than deny himself”.

The bible makes it clear God cannot let sin go unpunished and this is why his divine nature, his faithfulness and justice sent Jesus to die for our sins on the cross so that Paul can claim in Romans 6: 23,

“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord”.

David requested for particular help for his desperate plight in Keilah based on his understanding of the name or character of the God he trusted in.

3.GIVING PRAISE TO THE NAME OF GOD (6 – 7)

 This brings us to the final two verses of this short but amazing Psalm 54, which are like so many other final verses of a Psalm of David, a word of praise.

This praise is directed like the rest of the Psalm to the mighty name of God. Verse 6 says,

“I will sacrifice a freewill offering to you; I will praise your name, O Lord, for it is good”.

I would like to speak about three issues concerning praising the name of God that are raised in these last two verses:

  1. God’s name should lead us to biblical worship (vs. 6a)
  2. God’s name should cause us to give him praise (vs. 6b)
  3. God’s name should lead us to declare his salvation for us (vs. 7)

 God’s name should lead us to biblical worship (vs. 6a)

David declares in verse 6a his intention of offering a freewill sacrifice in praise to the name of God,

“I will sacrifice a freewill offering to you”.

David was faithful to the God given forms of worship laid down in the first five books of the bible known as the Torah or law of God. The form of worship laid down here is that of sacrifice in the sanctuary of God which after David’s time became the Temple of God under the rule of King Solomon.

This promise of biblical worship would not be able to happen for a number of years as David at the time of writing has been banished from Jerusalem where sacrificial worship can only take place.

Interestingly both Psalms 50 and 51 seem to question the validity of sacrificial worship. Psalm 50: 6 – 13 reads,

“I do not rebuke you for your sacrifices or your burnt offerings, which are ever before me. I have no need of a bull from your stall or of goats from your pens, for every animal of the forest is mine, and the cattle on a thousand hills. I know every bird in the mountains, and the creatures of the field are mine. If I were hungry I would not tell you, for the world is mine, and all that is in it. Do I eat the flesh of bulls or drink the blood of goats?”

Psalm 51: 16 reads,

“You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings”.

On both these occasions David is revealing the short comings of Old Testament worship as it did not obtain full pardon and forgiveness of sins but rather looked forward to the full salvation of God to come in the deeds of the Messiah, who we know is Jesus Christ our Lord.

David does not condemn Old Testament sacrificial worship in both Psalm’s 50 and 51. In fact in Psalm 50: 14 and 15 he writes,

Sacrifice thank offerings to God, fulfil your vows to the Highest, and call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you will honour me.”

And in Psalm 51: 17 he writes,

“The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise”.

David is pointing out that God does not look at the outward forms of worship of the worshipper but rather God looks at the heart of the worshipper and what is motivating the worshipper that is his real concern.

We to must worship God in a biblical way and the New Testament sets down what writer to the Hebrews calls for us to worship God as the new and living way made possible by the death and resurrection of Christ, Hebrews 10: 19 – 25,

Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching”.

Jesus said to the women at the well in John 4: 23, 24,

“Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshippers the Father seeks. God is spirit and his worshippers must worship in spirit and in truth”.

So through the perfect and final sacrifice of Christ on the Cross we can come to God and worship him in our hearts in spirit and truth and the Hebrews verses teach that this is not to be just an individual activity but something we should do with others, spurring one another on to love and good deeds.

So if we want to truly worship God as he is, his name and character we should join with other like minded Christians and worship him in spirit and truth. This will involve both our hearts and minds and God’s revealed word the bible where we find the truth about God.

  1. God’s name should cause us to give him praise (vs. 6b)

David might have had to wait up to eight years before he could for fill his vow to worship God biblically, by sacrifice in the sanctuary in Jerusalem but he could do the second part of his vow to God in verse 6 anytime and anywhere. This second part of verse 6 reads like this,

“I will praise your name, O Lord, for it is good”

When David knew God has saved him from the trap of Keilah he had only one reaction and that was to praise his God. If he actually penned the Psalm before he was saved from Keilah then his words are words of faith made in anticipation to God’s great rescue of his plight. David got out of the city of Keilah safely but soon after this the people of Keilah, the Ziphites betrayed David again. They told King Saul of David’s where a bouts in their territory. We read in 1 Samuel 23: 24 – 29 of yet another close shave David had with Saul and his army. David and his men where on one side of a mountain and Saul and his men where on the other side and both seemed destined to meet when their two paths crossed but God again saved David by causing Saul and his men to break off the chase owing to an attack by the Philistines in another part of the land.

This story of treachery by the Ziphites on two separate occasions and David’s escape made possible by the providential hand of God forms the background to this Psalm according to the Hebrew heading at the top of the Psalm.

Non believers often talk about luck and would say David was just a lucky person but David would not have called his narrow escapes from certain death at the hands of King Saul as luck. True believers like David do not believe in luck but we believe in the providential hand of God that often using ordinary events of life to guide and protect us.

This providential hand of God in the life of David always led him to praise the known name or character of his God. The apostle Paul taught and lived out this teaching during his life and ministry for our Lord. Here are two examples of Pauls teaching on praising God in our daily lives:

1 Thessalonians 5: 16 – 18,

“Be joyful always, pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus”.

Ephesians 5: 18 – 20,

“Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

I like the second reference because it contains three interesting aspects to praising God as we know him.

First it is the contrast to the ungodly activity of getting drunk. Many people seek to find a state of happiness and wellness from getting drunk but Christians are encouraged by Paul to find this in praising God in the company of other believers.

Secondly this passage teaches us the role and purpose of music in praising and worshipping God. Paul encourages us to use Psalms, hymns and spiritual songs in our praise of him.

Thirdly and finally Paul like David speaks of his praise of God being in the name of our God and for Paul that was, “in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ”. Our praise of God is not aimless but is directed to our Lord who has done so much for us and promises to do even more.

  1. God’s name should lead us to declare his salvation for us (vs. 7)

The final verse of this amazing short Psalm rounds off David’s praise for his God who is about to or already has saved him yet again from the deadly clutches of King Saul, verse 6 reads;

“For he has delivered me from all my troubles, and my eyes have looked in triumph on my foes”.

Spurgeon neatly and eloquently sums up what David is saying here when he writes,

“David lived a life of dangers and hair breadth escapes, yet he was always safe. In the retrospect of his very deliverance he feels that he must praise God and looking upon the mercy which he sought as though it were already received”.

David did not live an easy life but because he had to rely on God so much he lived a remarkable life. Some Christians react negatively to problems and difficulties in life as though they thought that when you become a follower of Christ you will be wrapped up in cotton wool and only good things will come your way. Nothing could be further from the truth as I pointed out in the introduction all the great New Testament writers speak of the role of suffering in the Christian life. They all seem to suggest that suffering as a Christian should give us joy.

James says this about the role and place of suffering in the Christian life with these amazing words in James 1: 2 – 4,

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything”.

On my last mission trip to Myanmar, Burma I fell very ill to a strange illness during my first week there. Before I started my mission trip I had prayed for good health so that I could be able to teach the word of God to hungry believers there but I got sick. As I lay in my hotel bedroom on the second night of my illness I wept in prayer to God for help and deliverance and the next day I was able to rise from my sick bed and continue my work for him. I was able to make contact with home through the internet and I was humbled to learn that many people back home were praying for my recovery. I was able to preach at a service the night before when I was very weak and sick and I learnt a powerful lesson which I think Paul expresses in 2 Corinthians 12: 9 – 11,

“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong”.

David lived for eight to nine years facing what seemed like certain death at the hands of King Saul and his testimony is well described in the words of this last verse of Psalm 54,

“For he delivered me from all my troubles”

God has delivered us from the clutches of death caused by our many sins by sending The Lord Jesus Christ to die on the cross. Troubles, the bible teaches all one way or another originates in the problem of sin and the greatest “trouble” we all must face is death itself. Yet for the true believer God has delivered us from even death. Listen to the amazing words of Paul spelling this out in Romans 8: 31 – 39,

 “What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who then is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written:

“For your sake we face death all day long;
we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord”.

Like David we too then should praise God with the same words he used here in verse 6,

“For he delivered me from all my troubles”

Finally David closes his Psalm with these words,

“And my eyes have looked in triumph on my foes”

These words are definitely words spoken using the eye’s of faith. His eye’s might have seen a small but significant triumph over his enemies in the city of Keilah but a few days later these same enemies caused him trouble again. Also because the incidents with the betraying Ziphites happened early in David’s time of being hunted by Saul he did not have complete triumph over those foes for probably nine long years. If we also consider that even after David became king he still had a whole life of difficulties caused by vicious enemies. He faced a further 47 years before he could say he triumphed over his foes by passing from this life to be with God forever.

The same kind of thing can be claimed by us; yes we are saved once we put our faith in trust in Christ. However we are continually being saved by God as he uses the struggles and difficulties of this life to change us to be more and more like Christ. Finally one day we will be finally and totally saved when we pass from this life into glory.

Even in his earthly life David saw with his own eyes the triumph of his foes but the complete triumph of all his foes could only been seen by the eyes of faith. This is because God has appointed a day when there will be a final judgment. All believers can only see that day using eyes of faith but let me give you a glimpse of that day through the eyes of God’s word, Revelation 20: 11 – 15,

“Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. The earth and the heavens fled from his presence, and there was no place for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what they had done. Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire”.

I close as I usually do with a poem and a prayer,

TRUSTING IN THE NAME OF GOD

I trust in the mighty name of God

For it is the power of God to save.

The name of Jesus lifts me up

From the depths of sins dark grave.

 

God hears the prayers of all those who trust

In the name of the mighty Lord above

He is the one who sent his Son

To reveal to us great love.

 

Many try to bring God’s people down

For God they have no regard.

But God helps those who trust in him

In Jesus he’ll save and guard.

 

Surely God is our great help in life

He’s made promises to love us

He sustains our lives through trials

So in God we must trust.

 

God will repay the evil men do

For his great judgment day will come

But those who trust in Jesus death

Will be saved yes everyone.

 

I aim to worship the name of God

For he is good as his name declares

Praise his name he is marvellous

He always listens to prayers.

 

I trust in the mighty name of God

For God always delivers me

Even when troubles surely come

In Christ there is victory.

 

By: Jim Wenman

 

PRAYER:

 Dear father in heaven w honour and praise your mighty name for you are the one who made heaven and earth and who made us to enjoy you and worship you forever. Thank you for sending your dear Son to die for our sins on the cross so that we might be able to be forgiven of our many sins and also be able to relate to you again. Help us to glorify your name in all that we do and say so that others might know your love as well. In the mighty and wonderful name of Jesus we pray, Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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