It’s sad, but it shouldn’t be totally unexpected. Matthew Henry said it well: “Never let a good man expect to be safe and easy till he comes to heaven. … It is well that God is faithful, for men are not to be trusted.”
David learned that lesson. He rescued the town of Keilah from the Philistines, only to hear that King Saul has called out his army to destroy Keilah and kill David. This prompted David to leave Keilah and flee to the Desert of Ziph. It appears that David has given Saul the slip, but the Ziphites send a message to the king saying, “We know where David is hiding, and we’ll gladly hand him over to you.”
Here’s the painful part for David: Both Keilah and Ziph were in Judah—David’s tribe! His own family—that should have had his back—stabbed him in the back instead!
I wish I could say this was a once-in-awhile thing, but we all know that it’s not. In fact, this sort of betrayal probably happens more often than we would care to admit.
It was during this time of betrayal by the Ziphites that David wrote the 54th Psalm. In the opening verses, David laments the ruthless, Godless men that have betrayed him. And then comes that word of pause: Selah.
I believe this Selah may have come when “Jonathan went to David at Horesh and helped him find strength in God” (1 Samuel 23:16). One of the definitions of Selah is to weigh things to see what is more valuable. Notice that Jonathan took David’s attention off his evil betrayers and turned it to his loving God. So in the very next phrase after the Selah we read David saying, “Surely God is my help; the Lord is the One who sustains me.”
Notice four key components of David’s prayer—
- David’s motive for praying. In the opening verse, he says, “Your Name…Your might.” To me, that sounds a lot like the opening words to the model prayer Jesus taught us: “Hallowed be Your Name.”
- David’s prayer. He said, “Hear my prayer, O God; listen to the words of my mouth.” It’s interesting to note that David says nothing to the Ziphites themselves, but he only speaks of them when he is alone with God in prayer.
- Prayer’s result. David didn’t have to try to make things right on his own because God took care of it—evil recoiled on those who stabbed David in the back.
- David’s praise. Notice the words “I will praise Your Name…[You] have delivered me.” Again, this praise and focus on God sounds like the end of the model prayer Jesus taught us: “Yours is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever!”
When enemies assail, when you have been stabbed in the back, don’t look to men for help and don’t take matters in your own hands. Instead take a Selah. Consider that God is worthy of your attention, and not the “ruthless men” who hurt you. Turn your pain over to God and say with David: Surely God is my help; the Lord is the One who sustains me.
Evil will recoil on evildoers, you will be kept safe, and you will be vindicated by God’s might!
If you missed any of the messages in our Selah series, you can find them all by clicking here.