God’s Word for You
Psalm 54:1-3 Clear me of blame
by Pastor Timothy Smith on Wednesday, May 1, 2019
To the choir director. With stringed instruments.
A Maskil of David. When the Ziphites went to Saul and said, “Is David not hiding among us?”
David wrote this Psalm. The heading mentions Ziphites. Ziph was a village “at the extremity of the tribe of Judah toward the border of Edom in the south” (Joshua 15:21). In 1 Samuel 23, as David was hiding from King Saul, the king’s son, Jonathan, came to David to “help him find strength in God” (1 Samuel 23:16). David was in a strongly defended position, probably a high rocky summit with steep slopes, sometimes called a “stronghold” (1 Samuel 23:19). But the people who lived nearby gave away his location to King Saul. Sometime in the days that followed David’s betrayal, either while Saul was advancing on David’s position or after David slipped away down to the Desert of Maon (1 Samuel 23:25-26), he composed this short Psalm, which has been called “one of the most typical prayers of the Psalter.”
1 Save me, O God, by your name.
Clear me of blame with your might.
2 Hear my prayer, O God.
Listen to the words of my mouth,
3 for strangers have risen up against me,
terrifying men seek my life.
They do not set God before them. Selah
David was afraid for his life. He says, “Strangers have risen up against me,” which is either a reference to King Saul’s troops or the Ziphites who betrayed David’s hiding place. I think that most likely it was the Ziphites. David has turned south to hide from the murderous, madman king, and he found himself smack dab in the middle of atheist country. These strangers were “terrifying men,” and they were out to kill David.
He is more concerned with his reputation in the prayer than with his life. We suppose that David was pretty confident in his own strength and in the mighty men who formed his fearsome army. They were remarkable warriors, each with his own list of personal exploits (1 Chronicles 11:10-25, 20:4-8). But a sword won’t repair a name. David’s salvation depended on God, and David understood and believed in the value and the power of God’s holy name. He asks God to come to his aid. Many translations begin the second half of verse 1 with “Vindicate me,” but when I asked my Seventh and Eighth-graders what “vindicate” means this morning, only my son had any idea about it, so I have translated the Hebrew diyn as “clear me of blame.”
In David’s time, God showed the rightful ruler by placing that ruler on a throne and keeping him there. David knows that he will be personally vindicated (judged to be blameless), at least in the eyes of the people, when his accusers and enemies are defeated.
We don’t live in a world where that’s the case any longer. Christ defeated our enemies. But not by overcoming them with weapons. He overcame them, not by spilling their blood, but by letting his own blood be shed. It is in the power of Jesus’ name that we are rescued from our chief enemies, and by his name we will have eternal life with him in heaven.
Pastor Timothy Smith