Theme: The Fugitive’s God
In this week’s lessons we learn how David approached God in prayer when he experienced the terrible situation of being betrayed.
Scripture: Psalm 54:1-7
Yesterday we were describing the setting of Psalm 54. David had gone to the town of Keilah to rescue the city from the Philistines. But when David discovered that Saul was coming in pursuit, and that the city was going to deliver David over to Saul, David escaped and fled into the desert of Ziph.
Even in this remote area David was not safe. When he was in Horesh, one of the towns of this region, the Ziphites went to Saul at Gibeah to tell him where David was hiding. They said, “Is not David hiding among us in the strongholds at Horesh, on the hill of Hakilah, south of Jeshimon? It was a very specific set of directions. Now, O king, come down whenever it pleases you to do so, and we will be responsible for handing him over to the king” (1 Sam. 23:19, 20). It pleased Saul to do so right away. So he moved against David, pursuing him out of Horesh into the southern wilderness before he was forced to break off to defend the country against the Philistines who were invading further north.
Even this was not the end of David’s trouble or the Ziphites’ treachery. Later, when David and his men were hiding in Hakilah in the same southern region, the Ziphites went to Saul again and reported, “Is not David hiding on the hill of Hakilah, which faces Jeshimon” (1 Sam. 26:1)? The title of Psalm 54 refers to these betrayals by the people of Ziph when it says, “A maskil of David. when the Ziphites had gone to Saul and said, ‘Is not David hiding among us?’”
So this was a bad period for David, as I indicated. It was a time when seemingly he had nowhere to turn. He was unsafe even in the wilderness, and there was hardly anyone he could trust. He had saved one of the cities of his tribesmen in the south, but even these people were against him. Derek Kidner says, “To be betrayed by Doeg the Edomite had been hardly a surprise (1 Sam. 22:22), but now David finds himself rejected by men of his own tribe.”1 He was rejected, pursued, betrayed. But it is out of this dark, dangerous and disillusioning situation that he called upon God in the words of Psalm 54 and found God to be his sure and steadfast help.
This is a psalm for anyone who feels abandoned, rejected or betrayed. Do you feel that no one is on your side, that no one cares for you? You need to do what David did and turn to God. In this psalm we see what that means and how David did it.
One lesson we learn from David is that whenever he had a problem he brought it to God, which is what he does in the opening part of this psalm (vv. 1-3). In other words, he prayed. If Joseph Scriven’s popular hymn of 1855 had been known in his day, David would have understood it and identified with it completely:
Have we trials and temptations? Is there trouble anywhere?We should never be discouraged: Take it to the Lord in prayer!Can we find a friend so faithful, who will all our sorrows share?Jesus knows our every weakness: Take it to the Lord in prayer!
Do thy friends despise, forsake thee? Take it to the Lord in prayer!In his arms he’ll take and shield thee, thou wilt find a solace there.
So David prayed. But equally important is the fact that he prayed to God; that is, he prayed to the true God whom he had come to know by studying Scripture and by personal experience. He reminds us how important this is by saying in the first line of the psalm, “Save me, O God, by your name” (v. 1).
How does David respond to his difficult situation?
What does that reveal about David?
Reflection: Have you ever been betrayed, rejected, or abandoned—perhaps even by Christians? How can this psalm help you in your own response to mistreatment?
1Derek Kidner, Psalms 1-72: An Introduction and Commentary on Books I and II of the Psalms (Leicester, England, and Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1973), p. 197.