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Daily Devotional • December 16

Pamela Lewis
Conquering Your Ziphites
A Reading from Psalm 54

1    Save me, O God, by your Name; *
    in your might, defend my cause.
2    Hear my prayer, O God; *
    give ear to the words of my mouth.
3    For the arrogant have risen up against me,
and the ruthless have sought my life, *
    those who have no regard for God.
4    Behold, God is my helper; *
    it is the Lord who sustains my life.
5    Render evil to those who spy on me; *
    in your faithfulness, destroy them.

6    I will offer you a freewill sacrifice *
    and praise your Name, O LORD, for it is good.
7    For you have rescued me from every trouble, *
    and my eye has seen the ruin of my foes.

One of the few psalms with specific musical directions, this very short song is also called a maskil, the Hebrew word for “contemplation” — or, perhaps better still, “instruction.” It references two dangerous times in David’s life (1 Sam. 23, 26). Saul wanted to kill David, and so, to hide from him, David went to Ziph, which was near where his family lived. He had given help to the Ziphites to fight their enemies, the Philistines. However, the Ziphites — themselves Israelites — betrayed David to Saul. Although they are of the same tribe, the Ziphites are now “strangers” to David, who not only seek his life but who are also godless (v.3).

The psalmist begins his song from this place of danger and fear, with its fourfold imperative entreaties to God: save, vindicate, hear, give ear. David relies on both the name and the strength of God to save him, qualities he has known since his youth, and which he boldly demands of the Lord, given their extremely close relationship. 

How easy it would have been for David to take matters into his own hands and smite his oppressors as he had felled Goliath. Instead, he remembers who God is, proclaiming that he is his true helper and sustainer, and then gives God a new — and more effective — command: to let evil roll on his slanderers and to destroy them, which are signs of God’s faithfulness. David moves from prayer to praise, while vowing to make a freewill sacrifice to God, for no other reason except that God has always delivered him from his troubles, enabling him to look at his foes in triumph. 

I got Ziphites, you got Ziphites, "all God’s chillun" got Ziphites. They come in different forms and at different times. But we can, like David, and like his great Son who will come after him, speak the words of faith and triumph over our foes.

Pamela A. Lewis taught French for 30 years before retirement. A lifelong resident of Queens, New York, she attends Saint Thomas Church Fifth Avenue and serves on various lay ministries. She writes for The Episcopal New Yorker, Episcopal Journal, and The Living Church.

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Today we pray for:

The Diocese of Oji River – The Church of Nigeria
St. John’s Episcopal Church, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
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