Lord Save Me From My Friends - Psalm 54 Sermon April Prayer Service
Prayer Service April 6th Season of Easter - 2016. Pr. Ted Giese, Mount Olive Lutheran Church, Regina SK. Psalm 54 - Lord Save Me From My Friends
O God, save me by Your name,
and vindicate me by Your might.
O God, hear my prayer;
give ear to the words of my mouth.
For strangers have risen against me;
ruthless men seek my life;
they do not set God before themselves.
Behold, God is my helper;
the Lord is the upholder of my life.
He will return the evil to my enemies;
in Your faithfulness put an end to them.
With a freewill offering I will sacrifice to You;
I will give thanks to Your name, O LORD, for it is good.
For He has delivered me from every trouble,
and my eye has looked in triumph on my enemies.
Let us pray: May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in Your sight O Lord. Amen.
Grace peace and mercy to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Good Christian Friends. Like many of the Psalms of David Psalm 54 is connected to a specific incident in the life of David. This comes from the period of time where David was on the run from King Saul. Both men had been anointed by the prophet Samuel and King Saul out of jealousy over David's popularity with the people wanted David dead. David had escaped Saul by a warning from King Saul's son Jonathan yet everywhere David went Saul tracked him down. It seemed that David was only ever just one step ahead of Saul and that Saul could strike at any moment.
Fearing for the life of those he loved David even took his parents to the king of Moab, no friend of Israel, and asked if they could stay there until, as David put it, "I know what God will do for me." Until he knew what God would do for him. Think on the first verse of Psalm 54, David prays, "O God, save me by Your name, and vindicate me by Your might. O God, hear my prayer; give ear to the words of my mouth." What stands behind this prayer? the question, "What will God do for me?" "Will God do for me what He did for me before?" "Can I still trust God?" David asks this as he run from Saul.
In our sermon on Psalm 34 we heard about David's running from the safety of the company of Ahemelech and the priests of Nob and how in his running he'd done about the stupidest thing that a person could do, he'd put himself in the worst kind of danger, he'd foolishly risked everything seeking refuge in the court of Achish the king of Gath, in the hometown of Goliath the giant who David had personally killed. To add insult to injury David was even carrying Goliath's sword, the sword with which he'd cut off Goliath's head. Now as David ran the question hung in the air, 'Could not his God who protected him when he went toe to toe with Goliath protect him against King Saul and Saul's burning hot anger?' Through his running, through this experience of being protected by God even in Gath with its many enemies, David learned the truth expressed in Psalm 34 when it says: "Blessed is the man who takes refuge in the LORD," and not in his own schemes. So tonight in Psalm 54, with David still on the run, still trying to avoid a direct confrontation with Saul, David prays, "save me!" "vindicate me!" This prayer of Psalm 54 however isn't completely about the danger of King Saul, oh Saul is there in the background and Saul is the one nipping at David's heals, he is the danger lurking at every turn trying to kill David, and yet Psalm 54 is about something a little bit different, it's about asking for help when the ones who should be helping you have turned against you.
It happened like this, David and his men (who numbered around 600 men) had ended up in the fortified city of Keilah. King Saul heard this news and planned to attack, lay siege to the city and destroy David once and for all. Saul said, “God has given [David] into my hand, for [David] has shut himself in by entering a town that has gates and bars.” What Saul didn't know was that at the urging of his men David had prayed asking God, “O LORD, the God of Israel, [I] your servant [have] heard [from a trustworthy source] that Saul seeks to come to Keilah, to destroy the city on my account. Will the men of Keilah surrender me into his hand? Will Saul come down, as your servant has heard? O LORD, the God of Israel, please tell your servant.” And the LORD said, “He will come down.” Then David said, “Will the men of Keilah surrender me and my men into the hand of Saul?” And the LORD said, “They will surrender you.” Then David and his men departed from the city and took off. When Saul was told that David had left town, Saul gave up the expedition. Unable to live in the comforts of a city where did David and his men end up? They ended up in "the strongholds in the wilderness, in the hill country of the wilderness of Ziph. And Saul sought him every day, but God did not give [David] into [Saul's] hand."
Even though Saul sought him every day David felt secure because the wilderness of Ziph was called the wilderness of Ziph for the Ziphites who lived there and the Ziphites were unlike the Philistines of Gath who were David's enemies and from whom there would be an expectation that they might betray or kill him for the things David had done in the past to their people. David had clearly learned something from his past experience and sought out a more friendly group of people to hide amongst, you see the Ziphites were family, they were a clan in David's own tribe, the tribe of Judah. King Saul was a Benjaminite he was not of the house of Judah, And then there were men like Saul's servant Doeg who killed the priests of Nob after David had fled from there to Gath. Doeg was a Edomite, not even a Jew - Doeg who had slaughtered the Levitical priests who were consecrated to the Lord was a stranger not even a countryman. These were the sort of men who pursued David. But the Ziphites they were not foreigners, they were not strangers to David, there were not Philistines or Edomites, what's more they were his own kind of Israelites; David would be safe with them, they were family, they were his people, they would protect him.
And yet the book of 1st Samuel tells us that as David and his men dwelt in the strongholds in the wilderness of Ziph it was then that, "the Ziphites went up to Saul at Gibeah, saying, “Is not David hiding among us in the strongholds at Horesh, on the hill of Hachilah, which is south of Jeshimon? Now come down, O king, according to all your heart's desire to come down, and our part shall be to surrender him into the king's hand.” And Saul [from whom the Spirit of the LORD had departed] said, “May you be blessed by the LORD, for you have had compassion on me. Go, make yet more sure. Know and see the place where his foot is, and who has seen him there, for it is told me that [David] is very cunning. See therefore and take note of all the lurking places where he hides, and come back to me with sure information. Then I will go with you. And if he is in the land, I will search him out among all the thousands of Judah.” [Agreeing to this the Ziphites] arose and went to Ziph ahead of Saul.
And what again is David's prayer in Psalm 54, "O God, save me by Your name, and vindicate me by Your might. O God, hear my prayer; give ear to the words of my mouth. For strangers have risen against me; ruthless men seek my life; they do not set God before themselves." The Ziphites men from a clan in David's own tribe, the tribe of Judah, his extended family had disowned him, were betraying him, were becoming to David ruthless men who were not family, who were not even friends or countrymen, they had become strangers to him; strangers with no regard for his life or the life of his men. They were supposed to give him shelter, protection and love. They were supposed to be dependable.
Now we start to see the heartbreaking nature of this prayer for help. Today people might say that the Ziphites were, "throwing [David] under the bus," the tires of the bus were about the run right over David and Saul was at the steering wheel. This is also called being, "Backstabbed" a term that comes from the assassination of Julius Caesar when even his close friend Brutus along with many other close and trusted advisors literally stabbed Julius Caesar in the back killing him in Rome on March 15, in the year 44 BC. In the last couple years the term "Frenemy" has begun to be used for someone who looks like a friend to your face but turns out to be undermining you and treating you poorly, in the end they are not friends they are backstabbers, enemies, willing to through you under the bus: The whole while you believed that they had your back, that they were protecting you or were going to be there when you needed them. Psalm 54 is about David experiencing this with the Ziphites, friends who became strangers; Jesus experienced this with Judas who betrayed Him in the Garden of Gethsemane with a kiss. A greeting of friendship and brotherhood, of affection and love turned on its head and made into a deadly kiss bringing death and crucifixion. Jesus' betrayal by Judas is where the phrase, "the kiss of death," originally used by the mafia, comes from. In Psalm 54 it is like David is praying, 'Save me from the kiss of death, save me from the backstabbers, save me from my Frenemies, save me from being thrown under the bus!"
When David says, "vindicate me!" he puts it into God's hands, he takes it out of his own. On the internet you will occasionally see memes that are meant as jokes but in which there is a good kernel of truth, they often go like this, "Lord give me patience . . . Because, if you give me strength, I'm gonna need bail money to go with it" or "Lord please give me patience, because if you give me strength I may just beat someone to death." in Psalm 54 David is asking God to vindicate him, this prayer is an act of loving patience, because David knows that God is "gracious and merciful slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love." So David prays "save me, vindicate me." As Jesus says, "Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you." David doesn't take matters into his own hands, electing rather to trust in God. He doesn't want to do violence against Saul.
Have you found yourself in a situation where you have been betrayed by someone who you should have been able to depend on? By now you'll likely have already been thinking of this. How deeply it cuts you to find that friend, that family member, the love of your life, plotting against you. How tempting it is to take matters into your own hands, to personally plot to punish the one who turned on you; to do something; to get back at them; to fight.
So what happened with David in the end? There David is in the wilderness of Ziph with his men trying to keep a low profile with the Ziphites - who have become ruthless strangers - spying on David, actively seeking his death, participating in a manhunt for King Saul, will David be saved? How will David be vindicated? David hearing that Saul and Saul's men had come down to seek him sought refuge at a mountain in the Arabah to the south of Jeshimon. "Saul went on one side of the mountain, and David and his men on the other side of the mountain. And David was hurrying to get away from Saul. [And] as Saul and his men were closing in on David and his men to capture them," you can almost hear David praying, "O God, save me by Your name, and vindicate me by Your might. O God, hear my prayer; give ear to the words of my mouth. For [my tribesmen, the Ziphites, have become] strangers [to me and] have risen against me; ruthless men [these Ziphites and Saul and his men like Doeg the Edomite] seek my life; they do not set God before themselves." David's life and the lives of all his men hang in the balance, and as Saul and his men were closing in on David and his men to capture them God provides an escape for David and his men when "a messenger came to Saul, saying, “Hurry and come, for the Philistines have made a raid against the land.” So Saul returned from pursuing after David and went against the Philistines. Therefore [the word of the LORD in 1 Samuel 23 records that that very] place [where Saul turned from pursuing David to go after the Philistines, that mountain] was [afterward] called the Rock of Escape."
Years later David's prayer is set to music and sung in the Temple built by his son Solomon. And with great appreciation, acknowledging the hand of God in his escape that day, you can hear the conclusion of Psalm 54, knowing that the Lord had removed David's enemies from his path and made him King of Israel in place of Saul. Psalm 54 concludes "Behold, God is my helper; the Lord is the upholder of my life. He will return the evil to my enemies; in Your faithfulness put an end to them. With a freewill offering I will sacrifice to You; I will give thanks to Your name, O LORD, for it is good. For He has delivered me from every trouble, and my eye has looked in triumph on my enemies."
The Rock of Escape, that mountain, points to the true rock of Escape, "to the place called Golgotha (which means Place of a Skull)," where Jesus was crucified, where Jesus died. Ultimately the Lord provided everlasting vindication by allowing Himself to betrayed unto death in David's place, in your place, on that Rock of Golgotha, the Rock of Escape. When all looked lost God saved David from certain death, God does this for David by not sparing His own Son on the mount of Calvary, at Golgotha. This is the great exchange: Jesus for David, Jesus for you. Jesus came to people like the Ziphites, Jesus came to His own and as John's Gospel says, "His own people did not receive Him." In fact they plotted His death and, "cried out, 'Away with Him, away with Him, crucify Him!'” And when Jesus had died and was taken down from the cross it was on this same rock of Golgotha that Jesus was buried, John's Gospel records how it was that, "in the place where [Jesus] was crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb in which no one had yet been laid." From that tomb on Easter Morning Jesus was risen from the dead making Golgotha, His place of death also His place of resurrection, which makes Golgotha the true rock of Escape, the Rock of Refuge.
It is this Jesus, the Rock of our Salvation, the very Cornerstone, of whom St. Peter in the Book of the Acts of the Apostles says, "there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” "Save me by Your Name," is what Psalm 54 says, and it is this salvation, this rescue, this escape that answers the question David was asking as he began to run, "What will God do for me?" Jesus suffered all, even death on the cross to give the victory. That is what God has done, that is what God has done for David, that is what God has done for you.
This victory over death and betrayal is as much yours as it is David's because you like David have this victory in the person and work of Jesus the Christ. You are saved in Him and by Him, you are vindicated both now, on The Last Day and for eternity in Him and by Him. For this reason Psalm 54 is not just David's prayer it is your prayer to, your prayer in times of trouble, your prayer when those who should be for you are against you. I leave you with the words of Saint Paul, take them alongside the prayer of Psalm 54, and take courage in all things, Saint Paul says, "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 with [His Son Jesus] graciously give us all things?" Amen.
Let us pray:
Lord have mercy on us, Christ have mercy on us, Lord have mercy on us, “take our minds and think through them, take our lips and speak through them, take our hearts and set them on fire; for the sake of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, Amen.
 1 Samuel 22:3
 1 Samuel 23:7
 1 Samuel 23:10-12
 1 Samuel 23:14
 A Commentary on Psalms 1-72, John F. Burg, Northwestern Publishing House 2004, pg 530-531.
 1 Samuel 16:14 1 Samuel 23:19-24
 Psalm 145:8
 Matthew 5:44
 1 Samuel 23:26
 1 Samuel 23:26-28
 Mark 15:22
 John 1:11
 John 19:15
 John 19:41
 Acts 4:12
 Romans 8:31-32