What’s in a name?

Psalm54 and 1 Samuel 23. 14-28

The setting for this short psalm is the wild desert area east of the town of Ziph, south east of Hebron in Judah.  David and his band of 600 are dodging from one place to another trying to escape Saul and his army. The Ziphites told Saul of David’s whereabouts and Saul asked them for more precise information which they were able to provide. Saul then closed in on David, he was one side of a mountain and David’s men were running away on the other side. Just at that moment Saul received a message that the land was being attacked by Philistines and he broke off to go and meet the new threat. It reads like a film script. Psalm 54 is David’s prayer in the middle of this threat to his and his followers’ lives.

It is quite simply a prayer for help. David’s confidence in God’s help is deliberately and structurally placed in the very centre of the psalm, ‘Surely God is my help, the Lord is the one who sustains me.’ v4 This is a prayer, expressing an inner certainty before he has experienced God’s answer. He cannot know how God will respond or what will actually happen but in the middle of turmoil his trust is in God.  In our lives we can easily be overtaken by events and it feels as if they control us and our future. The odds may seem overwhelmingly against us and we can lose hope.  This can relate to so many aspects of our lives, our work, relationships, finance or our safety. Things may have got to the place where we have run out of options. God is not a ‘get out of jail free’ card but he is always our help and sustainer. It greatly helps if like David we have known him as our help and sustainer already in our lives. Sometimes we need to reach a point of crisis to turn to him. It is this message that the work of organizations like Christians Against Poverty bring to people when there seems like no hope.

David opened his prayer in the name of God. The name of God represents his authority and power or might. ‘Save me, O God, by your name, vindicate me by your might.’ v1 When I first became a Christian, we frequently sang a chorus that started, ‘In the name of Jesus, in the name of Jesus, we have the victory.’ People have prayed in God’s name throughout scripture. Jesus spoke to the disciples, ‘Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.’ John 14.13 Peter and John prayed in the name of Jesus of Nazareth for a lame man in Jerusalem’s temple court and he walked. Acts 3.6 If something is prayed in God’s name it clearly must be done so in accordance with his will and authority. The purpose of such prayers is God’s glory. It will also bring joy to his people for they glory in God. In the lame man’s case it caused many to praise God and to come to faith. It did not however prevent continuing persecution of the church from the religious authorities.

David ends his prayer with a promise to praise and offer a sacrifice to God in the form of a freewill offering. ‘I will sacrifice a freewill offering to you; I will praise your name, Lord, for it is good.’ v6 This is in anticipation of the Lord’s deliverance and is therefore an act of faith. Freewill offerings were not linked to the festival calendar but were voluntary and personal. They remain a joyous way Christians worship and give thanks to God for particular blessings. However, for the Christian all giving is to be a matter of freewill and a ‘cheerful heart’ rather than a regulatory requirement.

If you find yourself in a David like position. Is there a prayer you can pray in the name of Jesus?

Love has a name – Jesus Culture

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