Life-Study of Psalms, by Witness Lee

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Psalm 54 is in the same category as Psalms 52 and 53. Here the psalmist asked God to annihilate his enemies, while he himself was seeking to participate in the enjoyment of God in His help, sustenance, and salvation. It is hard to believe that a God-man could pray for such a thing.

In verse 1 the psalmist says, "O God, save me by Your name,/And execute judgment for me by Your might." On whom was judgment to be executed? According to the psalmist, it was to be executed on his enemies, who were Gentiles.

Verses 2 and 3 continue, "O God, hear my prayer;/Give ear to the words of my mouth./For strangers have risen up against me,/And those who terrorize seek my soul;/They do not set God before them." The strangers here are Gentiles. For the Gentiles not to set God before them means that they do not fear God. To them, there is no God.

In verse 4 the psalmist goes on to say, "Behold, God is my help;/The Lord is among those who sustain my soul." Those who sustained the psalmist’s soul, helping God to save David, must have been Jews.

It is in verse 5 that the psalmist prays for the annihilation of his enemies, saying, "He will return the evil to those who lie in wait for me./Annihilate them in Your faithfulness." Instead of asking the Lord to have mercy on them in His faithfulness, the psalmist prays that God will annihilate them. This does not fit in with the psalmist David’s spirituality. In typifying Christ as the fighting victor, it is all right for David to ask God to annihilate his enemies. But in his spiritual living, in his spirituality, it is altogether not right for him to hate his enemies, to ask God to destroy, to annihilate, his enemies. This is against the nature of the spiritual life of God’s chosen people, and even against God’s holy word in the Old Testament, Proverbs 25:21-22, quoted by the apostle Paul in Romans 12:20. Hence, we cannot admit that David’s spirituality is perfect.

Then the psalmist says, "I will offer a freewill offering to You;/I will praise Your name, O Jehovah, for it is good./For He has delivered me from all distress,/And my eye looks triumphantly upon my enemies" (vv. 6-7). Is this the prayer of a spiritual man, or is it the utterance of a man in his natural concept? After reading such a psalm, can we still hold David in high regard?

I have learned that it is altogether not easy to understand the Bible. In particular, it is not easy to have the proper understanding of a psalm like Psalm 54. In studying this matter, I have been helped by John Nelson Darby’s use of the word sentiment in relation to the Psalms. Darby says that the Psalms are the expressions of the sentiments of the saints. Regarding Psalms 52—57, I would say that here we have not merely the sentiments of the psalmists but their complex sentiments. Their sentiments are a matter of mixture. To trust in God is certainly right, and part of Psalm 54 is an expression of David’s trust in God. But how can we justify David’s praying, in the same psalm, for the annihilation of his enemies? He hated them to such an extent that he asked God to annihilate them. We must admit that in this psalm we have a mixture and that the sentiments of the psalmist are complex.

(Life-Study of Psalms, Chapter 24, by Witness Lee)