Psalm 54: Lessons Regarding What God Offers When You Are Attacked

Introduction: Psalm 54 is set during David’s time living as a fugitive in the wilderness. He went from being Israel’s greatest hero and King Saul’s son-in-law to being Israel’s most wanted fugitive. He could no longer hide amongst the Jews. After the high priest Ahimelech helped him, Saul allowed Ahimelech and 84 other priests to be murdered (1 Sam. 21:1-9; 22:6-9). In faith, David followed God’s direction to lead a ragtag army of 400 men into a forest called Hereth in Judah (1 Sam. 22:2). But David then experienced betrayal when a clan within Judah’s territory (the Ziphites) revealed his hiding place to Saul. Without God, David faced certain death. But God miraculously intervened. Through David’s Psalm 54, God reveals seven things that He offers you when you are under attack. These include: (1) deliverance; (2) answered prayers; (3) ongoing protection; (4) the Holy Spirit; (5) justice; (6) fellowship; and (7) peace.

First, David cried out for God to deliver him from those who betrayed him and sought to kill him. God can also deliver you when you cry out to Him. Second, David also cried out for God to answer his prayers. When you are attacked, God promises to give you wisdom when you cry out to Him. Third, David cried out for God’s protection when others tried to kill him. When you take refuge in God, He promises to be your shield and protect you. Fourth, David professed in faith that God would help him and sustain his soul. Through faith in Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit today will help you, guide you, and sustain your soul. Fifth, David trusted God to avenge the evil perpetrated against him. God will also ensure that you are treated justly and fairly. You can leave your vengeance to Him. Sixth, David promised that he would respond to God’s faithfulness to deliver him through praise and sacrifices. Through praise, sacrifice, and worship, David maintained his fellowship with God. These things also help to maintain your fellowship with God. Finally, David thanked God for saving him from his enemies. His faith allowed him to live with peace and security. With faith in Jesus, He also offers you true peace and security.

1. Deliverance: When You Are Attacked, Turn to God for Deliverance. Ps. 54:1.

  • David cried out for God’s deliverance from Saul’s army when the Ziphites betrayed him. While hiding in the wilderness, the Ziphites became aware of David’s presence. In an effort to curry favor with Saul, they betrayed David by revealing his location to Saul. David then cried out for God to deliver his men: “For the music director; on stringed instruments. A Maskil of David, when the Ziphites came and said to Saul, ‘Is David not keeping himself hidden among us?’ 1 Save me, God, by Your name, and vindicate me by Your power.” (Ps. 54:1). The full text of the Ziphites’ betrayal is found in 1 Samuel 23: “19 Then Ziphites came up to Saul at Gibeah, saying, ‘Is David not hiding with us in the strongholds at Horesh, on the hill of Hachilah, which is on the south of Jeshimon? 20 Now then, O king, come down according to all the desire of your soul to do so; and our part shall be to surrender him into the king’s hand.’ 21 Saul said, ‘May you be blessed of the Lord, for you have had compassion on me. 22 Go now, make more sure, and investigate and see his place where his haunt is, and who has seen him there; for I am told that he is very cunning. 23 So look, and learn about all the hiding places where he hides himself and return to me with certainty, and I will go with you; and if he is in the land, I will search him out among all the thousands of Judah.’” (1 Sam. 23:19-23). The Ziphites later betrayed David a second time to Saul in 1 Samuel 26 after David escaped Saul’s first trap: “Then the Ziphites came to Saul at Gibeah, saying, ‘Is David not keeping himself hidden on the hill of Hachilah, which is opposite Jeshimon?”’ (1 Sam. 26:1).

Davids Prayer Wood Engraving Published In 1886 High-Res Vector Graphic - Getty Images

David cried out to God for deliverance1

  • The Ziphites betrayed David only after David risked his life to deliver God’s people. The Ziphites lived within the territory of Judah. Thus, their betrayal of a member of the tribe of Judah would have been surprising to David and his men. The story of their betrayal is all the more shocking in light of the events that preceded it. After finding refuge in the forests of Hereth with 400 followers, God tested David’s faith and the faith of his men by calling them to deliver the people of Keilah from Philistine oppression (1 Sam. 23:1-4). As King of Israel, it was Saul’s duty to protect the people of Keilah from the Philistines (1 Sam. 9:16). But Saul did not want to risk losing his kingdom by fighting the Philistines. He knew from Samuel of the prophecies that David would replace him. Thus, his attention was focused solely upon David. David further did not have a regular army. Most of his followers joined him because of their debts and legal troubles (1 Sam. 22:2). Additional men then joined them to form a small force of 600 men (1 Sam. 23:13). But they most likely lacked the good weapons and training. Nevertheless, when David and his men stepped out of their shelter in faith and obedience, God blessed them with victory over their more powerful Philistine adversaries (1 Sam. 23:4-5). Upon learning of David’s location, Saul celebrated because he believed that he could finally kill David and prevent God’s prophecy from coming true (1 Sam. 23:6-8). David then learned that it was the Ziphites who betrayed him (1 Sam. 23:19-23). Many would have questioned David’s decision to help the people of Keilah. All David could do to save his men was to cry out to God. God responded and used the Philistines to thwart Saul’s plans (1 Sam. 23:24-29). David’s men were then able to escape into the wilderness.

  • Cry to God when you are in need of deliverance. Like David, God also wants you to cry out to Him when you need deliverance. “A Prayer. I cry aloud with my voice to the Lord; I make supplication with my voice to the Lord. I pour out my complaint before Him; I declare my trouble before Him. When my spirit was overwhelmed within me, You knew my path. In the way where I walk they have hidden a trap for me. Look to the right and see; for there is no one who regards me; there is no escape for me; no one cares for my soul. I cried out to You, O Lord; I said, ‘You are my refuge, my portion in the land of the living. Give heed to my cry, for I am brought very low; deliver me from my persecutors, for they are too strong for me. Bring my soul out of prison, so that I may give thanks to Your name; the righteous will surround me, for You will deal bountifully with me.”’ (Ps. 142:1-7). Like David, will you turn to God in times of need?

  • God will deliver you from your enemies when you depend upon Him. Like David, God delivered the Jews from their enemies with His mighty arm: “Say, therefore, to the sons of Israel, ‘I am the LORD, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will deliver you from their bondage. I will also redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great judgments.” (Ex. 6:6). “Moses said to the people, ‘Remember this day in which you went out from Egypt, from the house of slavery; for by a powerful hand the LORD brought you out from this place. And nothing leavened shall be eaten.”’ (Ex. 13:3). “for the LORD your God is the one who goes with you, to fight for you against your enemies, to save you.” (Dt. 20:4). As the Jews learned in the wilderness, there was no enemy that God could not defeat. Will you depend upon Him?

2. Answered Prayers: When You Are Attacked, Pray For God’s Help. Ps. 54:2.

  • David cried out for God to hear his prayers. Faced with Saul’s superior armed forces and his hiding place exposed, David cried out for God to hear his desperate prayers for help: “Hear my prayer, God; listen to the words of my mouth.” (Ps. 54:2). David’s petitions reflected his deep relationship with God. God was David’s only plan for his survival.

  • David repeatedly turned to God for guidance in the face of Saul’s attacks. When David intervened to help the people of Keilah, he learned that Saul planned an imminent attack. At that time, David asked the priest Abiathar to pray as well (1 Sam. 23:9-15). David made it a practice to cling close to God. This in turn allowed him to hear God’s counsel.

  • Seek God in prayer when you are in need of deliverance. If you are under attack, God also wants you to follow David’s example and diligently petition Him in prayer. “A Psalm of David. LORD, I call upon You; hurry to me! Listen to my voice when I call to You!” (Ps. 141:1). “A Psalm of David. Hear my prayer, LORD, listen to my pleadings! Answer me in Your faithfulness, in Your righteousness!” (Ps. 143:1). “He delivered me from my strong enemy, and from those who hated me, for they were too mighty for me.” (Ps. 18:17). “Though I walk in the midst of trouble, You will revive me; You will stretch forth Your hand against the wrath of my enemies, and Your right hand will save me.” (Ps. 13:7). When you cry out, He will give you wisdom: “But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” (Jam. 1:5). “Behold, You desire truth in the innermost being, and in the hidden part You will make me know wisdom.” (Ps. 51:6). “For the LORD gives wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding.” (Prov. 2:6). If you need wisdom, diligently turn to God in prayer, and He will also give you His wisdom. Are you turning to God on a daily basis for His guidance and protection from evil?

3. Protection: When You Are Attacked, God Offers You Ongoing Protection. Ps. 54:3.

  • David cried out that his enemies sought to kill him. If captured, David faced certain death. Thus, David prayed for God to protect him from his many enemies: “For strangers have risen against me and violent men have sought my life; they have not set God before them. Selah” (Ps. 54:3). David could not understand why Saul was so eager to kill him when he had faithfully served Saul: “Then David fled from Naioth in Ramah, and he came and said to Jonathan, ‘What have I done? What is my guilt? And what is my sin before your father, that he is seeking my life?”’ (1Sam. 20:1). Even though the Ziphites lived in the territory of Judah, they also became “strangers” to David. All David could do was to take refuge in God and depend upon God to be his shield of protection.

  • God can be your shield when you take refuge in Him. God likely allowed David to face a seemingly hopeless situation so that he would be forced to fully depend upon God. In his later song of deliverance, David proclaimed that God was his shield who was always there for him when he was under attack: “My God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold and my refuge; my savior, You save me from violence.” (2 Sam. 22:3). “For You bless the righteous person, LORD, You surround him with favor as with a shield.” (Ps. 5:12). “You are my hiding place; You keep me from trouble; You surround me with songs of deliverance. Selah” (Ps. 32:7). As part of His Covenant with Abraham, God also promised to be a shield to him and his descendants: “After these things the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision, saying, ‘Do not fear, Abram, I am a shield to you; Your reward shall be very great.”’ (Gen. 15:1). “Blessed are you, Israel; who is like you, a people saved by the LORD, the shield of your help, and He who is the sword of your majesty! So your enemies will cringe before you, and you will trample on their high places.” (Dt. 33:29). If you are under attack, depend upon God, and let Him be your shield of protection.

  • Trust God to never leave you or forsake you. David proclaimed in faith that God would not abandon believers who seek Him: “Do not abandon me nor forsake me, God of my salvation!” (Ps. 27:9b). “For the LORD loves justice and does not abandon His godly ones; they are protected forever, but the descendants of the wicked will be eliminated.” (Ps. 37:28). “For the LORD will not abandon His people, nor will He abandon His inheritance.” (Ps. 94:14). You can also trust that God will never leave you or forsake you. He wants you to cry out to Him and put your trust in Him.

  • God is sovereign over all creation and every government. Because God anointed David to be king, his enemies had no power to stop God’s will. Daniel explained: “It is He who changes the times and the epochs; He removes kings and establishes kings; He gives wisdom to wise men and knowledge to men of understanding.” (Da. 2:21). “He makes the nations great, then destroys them; He enlarges the nations, then leads them away.” (Job 12:23). “Behold, the nations are like a drop from a bucket, and are regarded as a speck of dust on the scales; behold, He lifts up the islands like fine dust.” (Is. 40:15). “All the nations are as nothing before Him, they are regarded by Him as less than nothing and meaningless.” (Is. 40:17). “The LORD is King forever and ever; nations have perished from His land.” (Ps. 10:16). “You shall multiply the nation, You shall increase their gladness; . . .” (Is. 9:3(a)). “All the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, but He does according to His will in the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of earth; and no one can ward off His hand or say to Him, ‘What have You done?’” (Dan. 4:35). Even in hard times, do you trust that God is fully in control?

  • Have faith that God will also protect you when you do His will. Like David, you never need to fear your enemies when you are doing God’s will. When the Jews walked with Him, He promised to cause their enemies to fear them: “I will send My terror ahead of you, and throw into confusion all the people among whom you come, and I will make all your enemies turn their backs to you.” (Ex. 23:27). ‘“This day I will begin to put the dread and fear of you upon the peoples everywhere under the heavens, who, when they hear the report of you, will tremble and be in anguish because of you.’” (Dt. 2:25). If you are serving God, do you trust Him to protect you?

4. The Spirit: When Attacked, The Holy Spirit Will Guide and Sustain You. Ps. 54:4.

  • David professed faith that God helped him and sustained him. David knew that he could not deliver himself. But he had faith that God would both help him and sustain his soul: “Behold, God is my helper; the Lord is the sustainer of my soul.” (Ps. 54:4). The author of the book of Hebrews repeated this promise (Heb. 13:5-6). Through faith in Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit today will also help you, guide you, and sustain you.

The Lord Is My Helper - YouTube

Turn the Jesus to guide your steps2

  • God will empower you by guiding your path out of darkness. David praised God as his “lamp” who “illumines my darkness.” (Ps. 18:28; 2 Sam. 22:29). God helped David by guiding David to a place of safety. God guided David to caves to hide as Saul’s army tried to kill him (1 Sam. 22:31). Even though the Ziphites betrayed him, God allowed for these events to unfold in this manner so that His power to deliver David could become clear for all to see. In some other circumstance, David might have felt responsible.

  • The Holy Spirit is the Helper who applies Jesus’ Word to your life to guide you. David turned to God’s Word to guide his path: “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” (Ps. 119:105). Today, the Holy Spirit is the “Helper” who will cause you to remember the Word and then apply it in your life. “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you.” (Jo. 14:26, 16; 15:26; 16:13). He will also sustain your soul. Are you reading the Word and praying for the Spirit to guide you?

5. Justice: When You Are Attacked, You Can Trust God to Avenge You. Ps. 54:5.

  • David trusted God to avenge the many wrongs against him. Instead of taking matters into his own hands, David trusted God to be faithful and to avenge the injustices against him: “5 He will pay back the evil to my enemies; destroy them in Your faithfulness.” (Ps. 54:5). David’s faith and trust in God allowed him to later forgive both Saul and the Ziphites. “Some are uncomfortable with prayers that ask for the doom of enemies. It’s true that Jesus told us to pray in a more generous way for our enemies (Matthew 5:43-44). Yet there is nothing wrong with the basic principle of wanting to see good triumph and for God to do His work against those who do evil. David lived out another aspect of this prayer. He prayed, Cut them off in Your truth but refused to take vengeance in his own hands. Immediately after the second betrayal of the Ziphites (1 Samuel 26:1) David had the opportunity to kill King Saul in his sleep and he refused to do it. David would not cut him off; he waited upon God to do it.” (David Guzik on Ps. 54).3

  • Pray for God to vindicate you instead of seeking your own vengeance. As our example, David prayed for God to vindicate him when he was attacked “For You have maintained my just cause; You have sat on the throne judging righteously.” (Ps. 9:4). David did not attempt to seek vengeance or take matters into his own hands: “A Psalm of David. Contend, LORD, with those who contend with me; fight against those who fight against me. . . Judge me, LORD my God, according to Your righteousness, and do not let them rejoice over me.” (Ps. 35:1, 25). “Vindicate me, God, and plead my case against an ungodly nation; save me from the deceitful and unjust person!” (Ps. 43:1). For example, David told Saul that God would judge their dispute: “May the LORD judge between you and me, and may the LORD take vengeance on you for me; but my hand shall not be against you. . . May the LORD therefore be judge and decide between you and me; and may He see and plead my cause and save me from your hand.” (1 Sam. 24:12, 15). Instead of trying to right the wrongs against you, God also wants you to give your burdens to Him. Even if His timing is not your timing, He will be just and fair to you.

  • God will one day judge unrepentant sin. David warned that unrepentant sinners would one day face God’s final judgment: “But the way of the wicked will perish.” (Ps. 1:6b). “You have eliminated the wicked; You have wiped out their name forever and ever.” (Ps. 9:5). “He will rain coals of fire upon the wicked, and brimstone and burning wind will be the portion of their cup.” (Ps. 11:6). “The face of the LORD is against evildoers, to eliminate the memory of them from the earth.” (Ps. 34:16). “However, the LORD said to Moses, ‘Whoever has sinned against Me, I will wipe him out of My book.”’ (Ex. 32:33). “May they be wiped out of the book of life, and may they not be recorded with the righteous.” (Ps. 69:28). Thus, you should never interpret God’s withheld judgment as a license to sin. God may withhold judgment to give sinners the chance to repent.

  • God blessed David with mercy because he was merciful. Because David trusted God to avenge his wrongs, David was able to forgive his enemies. David also showed mercy on many occasions. On two separate occasions, he spared Saul from death even though Saul was pursuing David and trying to kill him (1 Sam. 24:10-13; 26:7-11). He also later spared Shimei when he had an opportunity to kill him (2 Sam. 16:7-12). God was fair and just to show David the same mercy that David showed to his enemies (2 Sam. 22:26; Ps. 18:25; Prov. 11:17). “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.” (Matt. 5:7; Jam. 2:13). God will also be merciful to you when you show mercy to others.

6. Fellowship: When Attacked, God Offers His Fellowship Through Worship. Ps. 54:6.

  • David promised to sacrifice and praise God for His goodness. Even though his circumstances had not yet changed, David promised to praise God and offer sacrifices: “Willingly I will sacrifice to You; I will praise Your name, Lord, for it is good.” (Ps. 54:6). David’s praise, worship, and sacrifices allowed him to stay in God’s fellowship.

  • David offered a voluntary fellowship sacrifice out of gratitude. When a person sinned, God required different kinds of sin or burnt offerings. But a person wishing to express their gratitude to God could make a voluntary peace or “Shalom” offering to Him where the person symbolically ate part of the sacrifice with God (Lev. 3:11, 16). This suggests a close state of intimacy with God, and that is what David offered in Psalm 54:6. It was David’s desire to be in fellowship with God and offer Him praise and worship.

  • Jesus’ offer to “dine” with believers. You are also called to seek fellowship with God through Jesus: “God is faithful, through whom you were called into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” (1 Cor. 1:9). When speaking to the believers in the Church of Laodicea, He made an intriguing invitation to the believers that they could form an even deeper relationship with Him: “Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline; therefore be zealous and repent. Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me.’” (Rev. 3:19-22). Jesus offers this fellowship to you as well when you seek Him.

  • Turning to God and praising Him helps to maintain your fellowship. As our example, David repeatedly thanked God and praised Him every time that God delivered him: “But rejoice, all who take refuge in You, sing for joy forever! And may You shelter them, that those who love Your name may rejoice in You.” (Ps. 5:11). “That I may proclaim with the voice of thanksgiving and declare all Your wonders.” (Ps. 26:7). “A Psalm of David, when he pretended to be insane before Abimelech, who drove him away, and he departed. I will bless the LORD at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth.” (Ps. 34:1). “The righteous person will be glad in the LORD and take refuge in Him; And all the upright in heart will boast.” (Ps. 64:10). “I will give thanks to You, Lord my God, with all my heart, and I will glorify Your name forever.” (Ps. 86:12). Regardless of your situation, the Apostle Paul also encouraged believers to always thank God: “always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to our God and Father;” (Eph. 5:20). “in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thess. 5:18). Regardless of the timing of your deliverance, give thanks that God will one day deliver you from evil.

7. Peace: When You Are Attacked, God Offers You Peace and Security. Ps. 54:7.

  • David found peace in God’s faithfulness to keep His promises. Because God had been faithful to keep His promises to David, David knew that he could continue to trust God: “For He has saved me from all trouble, and my eye has looked with satisfaction upon my enemies.” (Ps. 54:7). With faith and trust in God, David could live in peace and security from his many enemies. Through faith in Jesus, He offers you this as well.

  • God promises a covenant of peace. As part of God’s covenant, God offers true peace: “The Lord will give strength to His people; the Lord will bless His people with peace.” (Ps. 29:11). “I shall also grant peace in the land, . . .” (Lev. 26:6). “The LORD lift up His face to you, and give you peace.” (Nu. 6:26). “And I will make a covenant of peace with them; it will be an everlasting covenant with them. And I will place them and multiply them, and set My sanctuary in their midst forever.” (Ezek. 37:26).

  • Jesus is the Prince of Peace, who gives us the peace that surpasses all understanding. Jesus is the Prince of Peace who offers the peace that surpasses all understanding: “For a child will be born to us, a . . . Prince of Peace.” (Is. 9:6). “For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall,” (Eph. 2:14). “And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 4:7). “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ . . .” (Rom. 5:1). His definition of peace, however, is different from the world’s definition: “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.” (Jo. 14:27). To understand the peace that Jesus offers, we must look at the meaning of the word peace in Hebrew. In Hebrew, the word Shalom or “peace” has a different meaning than the English translation. Rabbi Robert Kahn observes: “One can dictate peace; shalom is a mutual agreement. Peace is a temporary act; shalom is a permanent agreement. One can make a peace treaty; shalom is the condition of peace. Peace can be partial; shalom is whole. Peace can be piecemeal; shalom is complete.” If you are looking to be made comfortable, this is only a temporary condition that will fade. God wants to form a permanent agreement with you. An ongoing faith in Jesus provides the peace that surpasses all understanding. His peace does not prevent stressful things from happening. It is instead the ability to stay calm, collected, and happy in the face of adversity. In other words, God will not give you peace by changing your surroundings. He will give you peace by changing your response to your surroundings and other people.