Psalms 54-60: Seven prayers at the center of Book II

Psalm 54 – Prayer of individual for help against enemies
Psalm 55 – Prayer for help: a conspiracy in Jerusalem (“they prowl about on its walls”)
Psalm 56 – Prayer for help against enemies
Psalm 57 – Prayer for deliverance from enemies
Psalm 58 – Prayer for the heavenly Judge to set right what human rulers have not
Psalm 59 – Prayer for help: enemies surround Jerusalem (“The…prowl about the city”)
Psalm 60 – Prayer of community for help after suffering devasting defeat

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One Reply to “Psalms 54-60: Seven prayers at the center of Book II”

  1. I decided to play through these psalms on guitar as reading them, listening for the music of the words and wondering how it might be arranged if someone were to write a modern praise song from these.

    Psalm 54:4, “Surely God is my help; the Lord is the one who sustains me” would probably be repeated as the chorus. These are words I hope to remember when times are difficult, money is tight, help seems to slip our grasp and indeed when it looks like our enemies outnumber our friends. The prologue to this psalm suggests that it was written by King David when the Ziphites had gone to Saul and said, ‘Is not David hiding among us?’ Will he be betrayed? Or will God deliver him safely. The words echo the reminder that the Lord is the one who sustains us all.

    Psalm 55 has two parts that are particularly interesting as I read this morning. First, there is some insinuation that David has a friend who is betraying him, “If an enemy were insulting me, I could endure it…but it is you…my close friend, with whom I once enjoyed sweet fellowship at the house of God” (55:12-14). His friend doesn’t stop there, “My companion attacks his friends; he violates his covenant…his words are more soothing than oil, yet they are drawn swords” (55:20-21). A disturbing revelation to be sure, a traitor is revealed. God will deal with the traitors of our lives. The repeated chorus here was perhaps: “Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken” (55:22).

    One thought arises from Psalm 56 of particular interest, “What can mere morals do to me?” and “What can man do to me?” (56:4, 11). David, seized by the Philistines in Gath (Goliath’s home town) cries out to God and begs him to remember his misery, “list my tears on you scroll” (55:8) for, it seems, if God remembers these present troubles, the enemy will be dissuaded. The chorus here is no doubt verse 11, “In God I trust and am not afraid. What can man do to me?” I have a feeling these words show up on our currency (at least they do at this moment) because our forefathers of this land agreed with David, in God we trust!

    David is hiding in a cave in Psalm 57, fleeing from Saul. He writes this song that no doubt has some great choral crescendo by verse 8, “Awake, my soul! Awake, harp and lyre! I will awaken the dawn.” It would be fun to play some screaming lead at that point!  The chorus is the repeated verses: 5 & 11 along with a pre-chorus of verse 10:

    For great is your love, reaching to the heavens; your faithfulness reaches to the skies. Be exalted, O God, above the heavens; let your glory be over all the earth.”

    Sounds like part of a Third Day song, Your Love Oh Lord.  Enjoy this video:

    The climax of Psalm 58 seems to be in verses 6-8, though probably not something that would find its way into our modern civil society, “Break the teeth in their mouths, O God; Lord, tear out the fangs of those lions!” (58:6). But we do feel this way at times, don’t we? Aren’t their times when we call upon the Lord to vanquish our enemies? It’s an emotion I think we all feel, even if we are wise to check it without lashing out. But God hears our prayers and I think he approves of our honest cry for his help.

    “You are my strength, I watch for you; you God, are my fortress…You are my strength, I sing praise to you; you, God, are my fortress, my God on whom I can rely.” (Psalm 59:9 and 17).  In contrast to the previous psalm, David makes this request, “But do not kill them” (59:11). These are men acting on Saul’s behalf, so David doesn’t want them destroyed since he will eventually be the king! He wants them to remember their deceit, how they were “snarling like dogs” (59:6 & 14), don’t let them forget! Sometimes it’s important to remember the bad, but Lord, help us not to dwell on the anger of the past!

    The theme of Psalm 60 seems to reflect a concern that God has left them, at least for some time, “You have rejected us, God” and “it it not you, God, you who have now rejected us” (60:1 & 10).  Yet the conclusion is drawn, “with God we will gain the victory” (60:12), something we must always remember, even when it seems God has withdrawn his support. Reminds me of the debate on the “Problem of Evil” in the world. Why does God allow such to exist? Something worth pondering on, thinking about deeply. Just remember that in the end God reigns.

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