For many years, I opened the daily newspaper looking forward to another dose of wisdom from the mind of Charles Schulz, the creator of the comic strip "Peanuts." In one particular scene, Lucy chides her little brother Linus, "You a doctor! HA! That's a big laugh! You could never be a doctor! You know why? Because you don't love mankind, that's why!"
Linus ponders her indictment for a moment and then shouts, "I love mankind. It's people I can't stand!!"
There are some days I have to laugh and say "Amen!" Let's face it; most problems are people problems. You can have a job that demands long hours and great physical effort, but neither the hours nor the energy drain gives you the problems difficult people do. You can have financial difficulties, physical pain, a tight schedule, and face miles of driving each day, but these things are not the cause of our major battles. It's people, as Linus said. Difficult people are perhaps the most challenging problems of all!
Psalm 54 is David's lament over the constant grind of people problems. Take a moment to observe the superscription; you'll find it worth your while. (By the way, I hope you are learning to do that when studying the ancient songs in the Bible. The words that appear before the first verse of each psalm are part of ancient text, giving the reader some helpful hints about the song.)
In the Fifty-fourth Psalm the superscription reads:
For the choir director; on stringed instruments.
A Maskil of David, when the Ziphites came and
said to Saul, "Is not David hiding himself among us?"
This unusually long superscription tells us that David wrote the song. We also learn that it is a "Maskil." All Maskil songs offer instruction and insight for dealing with certain situations. In this case, Psalm 54 provides some very practical advice on how to respond to problems created by other members of the human race who are just as ornery as we are!
According to 1 Samuel 23:14-26, David was being chased by jealous King Saul, whose murderous manhunt forced the singer to take refuge in a bleak and rugged location. He feared for his life, so he was desperate to find a place of safety. But everything backfired. The spot called "the hill of Hachilah" appears safe within Ziphite territory, supposedly neutral ground. But David found no rest there. The Ziphites turned against him and reported his location to Saul, and the chase resumed. David fled to the wilderness of Maon but soon found himself surrounded by Ziphites and Saul's soldiers.
I can just picture David. He's dirty, sweaty, hungry, thirsty, exhausted, and no doubt, discouraged. He slumps beside a leafy bush or beneath the shadow of a rock to escape the searing rays of the desert sun, and he begins to pour out his feelings in a poem. Attacked and betrayed by people, he is led by the Holy Spirit to record his feelings. Those expressions are what we have today preserved in the lyrics of this song, Psalm 54.
From Living the Psalms by Charles R. Swindoll, copyright © 2012. Reprinted by permission of Worthy Inspired, an imprint of Hachette Book Group, Inc.
Used with permission. All rights reserved.
In Embraced by the Spirit, we step away from the heat of theological battle that analyzes and criticizes and move quietly and closely to the One who has been sent alongside to help.