“But surely, God is my helper; the Lord is the upholder of my life. He will repay my enemies for their evil.” ~Psalm 54:4-5a (NRSV).
Disregarding the original setting—one of sharp betrayal—this simple seven-verse psalm is perhaps an eternal reality check; the Spirit of the Lord goading us with reminders of the saving nature of the Sovereign God.
This psalm is a wake-up call, as David in this situation recalls after his Selah (verse 3), and we would do well to receive, too, when railing against the iniquity of the world that bears down on us.
Two Halves Make A Whole
Being such a tidy psalm, there is a simple twofold structure. Verses 1-3 detail David’s plea; the first two verses he cries out desperately. Only the third verse dwells upon the nature of the wicked; they are the cause of the pleading.
There is such a sharp transition—noted especially if we read the psalm aloud—taking verse four immediately after verse three. We can detect that something dawns on the psalmist in their lament. His delivery from distress has happened before! (Verse 7a)
Verses 4-7, then, comprise the other more positive half.
There would not be a full story if we didn’t have a positive to go with the negative or a negative to go with a positive. All things in life are, of a sense, kept at balance. And if positives transform into negatives we are aggrieved, yet inspiration fills that void if we can transform the negative into a positive.
This psalm does just that. David talks himself around. He notes quickly the nature of God to deliver; and it’s never later than necessary.
Transforming Negative To Positive In Our Lives
There is a grand lesson that this psalm introduces. We may have been fortunate enough to have already been exposed. The mind is responsible for insights, either negative or positive. The mind decides.
But the mind can only decide if it draws on experience. We need to have experienced this salvation of God in the judgment of our living situations. We must have seen the Lord come to our rescue. These are the memories we need to draw on, for if we have no stories—no testimonies to the faithfulness of God—we will struggle to convert the negative into a compelling positive.
It’s how our faith has been built, one brick of salvation experience at a time.
Faith can only operate where it has permission; that is, the logical reason to believe by act when all around is evidence to the contrary.
Faith borrows from the past—drawing on the rich legacy of the soul’s oral tradition, which has witnessed the faithfulness of God time and again—and it mortgages it against the difficult present, knowing such arrangements provide for an assured future.
Such a reality check moves the mind to recall what God has done. Jesus’ last words: “It is finished.” Faith is reconciled by quick memory of this; to understand, again, the battle is won.
© 2011 S. J. Wickham.