Cry for Help

Psalm 54

Watch the Selah, v.3 – it’s important, later

Don’t believe there’s higher percentage of atheists in world, we just hear more from them. They speak their true beliefs more freely, openly. Atheist tries to disprove God’s existence by presence of evil. Claim that since there is evil, if there is a god he must either not be good or not be all-powerful. Either case disqualifies him from being God of the Bible, therefore no God.

But if they’re right, we all have a problem: atheist’s view of reality has no provision for true justice. Psalmist cries out for help – not limited to deliverance from circumstances, also a plea for justice. Yet psalm includes assurance of righteous dealing with evil and evildoers. Something only possible (1) if there is a transcendent God, one not limited by time and space, and (2) if there is human existence beyond present life. If both aren’t true, suicide bomber e.g. gets a pass – either there is no God to mete out justice or he’ll never meet that God.

Psalm one of 13 identified as “maschil” – thought to mean “a teaching psalm” or “psalm of instruction”. If so, this is good one to teach us how to pray, especially in particular kind of circumstance. Title refers to particular event in David’s life: 1 Sam. 23:19-20 – time when delegation from Ziph, some of David’s own tribe, informed Saul of David’s location. Betrayed by one of his own people – opportunity for all sorts of wrong thinking, wrong attitude, wrong behavior toward those who wronged him.

Spoke of it in prayer meeting: mindset of “I can’t do anything else so I’ll pray”. Not the sentiment expressed by David here. Prayer not a last resort for David, shouldn’t be for us either. Gives us the ABC’s of prayer: agonizing in prayer, bedrock of prayer, confidence in prayer – as a first (not last) resort. Safe to say things would go better in life if prayer were regular first stop. Don’t leave on trip, get onto highway (or into the air), then think about fuel and supplies; fuel up, pack supplies before departure. Should treat rest of life with same consideration – expressing dependence on God, seeking his help and supply, then meeting challenge or beginning task.

A. agonizing in prayer v.1-3

agonizing in original sense: struggling for victory – “fight the good fight” 1 Tim. 6:12

4 strong words: save, vindicate, hear, give ear – one praying expends energy, pleading with God to hear and act

one praying also struggles against unbelief / weak faith; discouragement / circumstances / fatigue; unrighteous anger / frustration

struggles for sense of God’s pleasure, active hope in God and promises, proper/biblical view of world

struggle isn’t a problem; lack of struggle might be – might want to check for spiritual pulse

save me (1a)

are real enemies, want to see real harm come to David – in this case, was in physical danger

small group of individuals maneuvering government to achieve result: get the king to use the army to address non-military problem – David represented no threat to government or social order

small interest group using PAC or court system to bring harm to Christians – restricting speech, requiring acceptance of unbiblical standards (allow atheists/muslims in leadership in Christian organization)

deliver me by your power for the sake of your honor

basis / cause for deliverence rests entirely with God, not the one praying

vindicate me (1b)

judge my case and show me to be in the right, implied: my enemies in the wrong

if godly man’s case is shown to be right, his accusers must be wrong: “law of non-contradiction”

not looking for delay, short-term solution; requests decisive determination backed by omnipotent power of God

hear me (2)

parallel appeals: hear my prayer // give ear to my words – similar effect to turning up volume, intensity

“In wrestling earnestness he beseeches that heavenly ears would listen to his cry, and that his words might not be cast out at the mercy-seat.” Henry Law

as much an emphatic expression of dependence on God as plea for attention; if God doesn’t answer, it’s hopeless

here’s why the situation: they have no regard for God (3)

root cause of all evil against people of God – enemies of God’s people because enemies of God

active hostility not required to make someone an enemy of God – only two classes of people

“Anyone who isn’t with me opposes me, and anyone who isn’t working with me is actually working against me.” Matt. 12:30NLT

in David’s case, hostility was actively engaged; he credits it to practical atheism, living as if God doesn’t exist

Ziphites were David’s brothers according to flesh (Judahites), at same time strangers to kingdom of God

must keep in mind who real enemy is: people do evil things, are responsible for actions; however, they are agents, willing ones, but still tools of sin and Satan (Eph. 6:12)

to be victorious over true enemy, must use right weapons: includes “praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit” (Eph. 6:18)

B. bedrock of prayer v.4-6

God is my helper (4a)

“David did not direct his prayers at random into the air, but offered them in the exercise of a lively faith. There is much force in the demonstrative adverb. He points, as it were, with the finger, to that God who stood at his side to defend him; and was not this an amazing illustration of the power with which faith can surmount all obstacles, and glance, in a moment, from the depths of despair to the very throne of God?” Calvin

some of strongest affirmations of faith come in midst of greatest trials – be careful about asking God to increase your faith!

betrayal by friends causes great pain; at same time drives us to greater dependence on friend who will never fail

and my friends’ helper (4b)

genuine friends are so because all serve common Master; flip side true also – those genuinely committed to serving Master will be true friend

is a great mercy to have friends, especially those sent by God; is even greater mercy to have God as friend

He’ll deal with them (5)

has reached point in prayer and thought: God will take care of the problem – emphasis on “God”, not “take care”

very next psalm makes it explicit: “Cast your burden on the Lord, And he shall sustain you” Psa. 55:22

“our cares and burdens are to be thrown away, abandoned into his care, so that we have nothing more to do with them.” TWOT

means we don’t continue trying to solve problem, deal with enemies on our own after casting on God

prayer is that God’s enemies would be destroyed, cut off, that he would deal with them decisively

may sound excessive and harsh to our ears, remember God has two options open to him

1 – bring enemy’s life to end, go directly to eternal prison, do not pass Go, do not collect $200

2 – bring enemy’s life to end, raise him to new life in Christ, convert enemy to friend by putting to death old man

either way, God is righteous and does what is righteous

I’ll have dealings with God (6)

my priority – my standing with God, not what enemies are up to or dealing with them directly

anticipates good outcome, promises to present thank-offering to God, give God glory for what he accomplished

regardless of what happens to enemies, has already experienced gracious relief from God

brought burden, left it at mercy-seat, has been relieved of its oppressing weight

that relief alone sufficient reason for sacrifice/worship and praise

once done, pray-er no longer need be preoccupied with how to achieve relief, deal with enemies

shouldn’t be like man, bent nearly double with huge pack on back, kind soul flags down bus, pays fare for him, man gets on and stands in aisle when many empty seats

if you gave it to God, don’t take it back unless he gives it to you

C. confidence in prayer v.7

circumstances haven’t changed but attitude has

why?? has intentionally focused on God, his provision, his grace, his character rather than on problem

didn’t happen instantly, was a process – during Selah at end of verse 3

prayer is God-ordained means supplying our needs, including need for change of outlook

perspective continues to change through end of psalm – confidence grows until

it’s as good as done

when subject is God, don’t have to see it to believe it

have track record – our own built on top of that of all previous saints

we/they pray, ask God’s help, he provides; always worked that way, will continue to do so

it’s as sure as God is God

not because God is cosmic gumball machine – put in money, turn handle, out comes the treat

because God has promised to supply needs of his people, to bless them, to bring them safely home

and essential aspect of his character is “abundant goodness and truth” Ex. 34:6 – God cannot fail to keep his promise and still be God

David is proper example in his prayer as recorded here, is worthy of following. Not because he points to what is good by his example; because he points to God – God is his helper, God is his hope, God deserves his worship and praise. Don’t miss one other point here: David did not tell his troubles to God so he would feel better – not a case of sanctified steam relief. Told his troubles to God because God was his first and only hope. David wasn’t even going to try carrying his burdens alone, didn’t turn to family or friends for aid. Instead trusted God to use whatever means he chose to bring relief. Like David, let us be quick to tell Jesus all our troubles, place our confidence in him, our helper and hope.

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