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Psalm 55: A Friend's Betrayal Print E-mail
Sunday, 15 January 2012

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The people that we love, trust, and admire the most are the ones who can hurt us the most. It is always difficult when someone mistreats us, but it is especially difficult when we are betrayed by a trusted companion. We expect to be hurt by our enemies or those we do not know, but we do not expect it from our friends and loved ones. It surprises us. It shocks us. And it hurts us deeply. So then, what do we do when this happens? What do we do when someone we trust betrays us?

David is dealing with a friend’s betrayal in Psalm 55.  We do not know the exact situation that served as the background for this psalm, but as we will see, David does tell us that he is dealing with the betrayal of a friend (v. 12-14, 20-21).  Before we jump into looking at how David handles this situation, we do need to note that not all situations are the same.  In other words, we have to understand this psalm in light of the fact that David was the King of Israel and the betrayal he faced is far more extreme than much of what we face.  Yet, with that in mind, I do think we can draw some principles from his approach to the situation that can help us.  In order to do this, I want to identify three actions/attitudes in the psalm that we need to consider.

The anguish of David:

As we see over and over again in the psalms, David is honest with the Lord about his struggles.  Look at verses 1-3. David is crying out to God for mercy in this situation.  He tells the Lord: I am restless in my complaint and I moan.  David is desperate for God to act and he cries out in his anguish.  He describes this anguish in verses 4-5.  Look at those verses with me.  David is in anguish, he is overcome by fear and trembling, he is struggling against horror and the terrors of death.  David is honest about the trouble that he is facing.  In verses 6-8 David states his desire to simply be removed from the situation.  Look at those verses.  David longs to flee.  He wants to get away.  He does not want to deal with the problems that he is facing.

Have you ever felt that way?  Have you ever been in a situation that you just did not want to deal with?  Apparently you are not alone.  The troubles that we face often cause us to want to just escape.  Sometimes such an escape can be a good thing.  Jesus set aside time in His ministry to ‘escape’ and pray to the Father.  Of course, sometimes seeking to escape can simply be a refusal to do what we need to do (and should therefore be avoided).  Like David, we should bring such desires to the Lord.  It is alright to run to Him as our refuge and pray for rescue and relief.  This does not relieve us of our responsibility to act when we need to, but perhaps it gives us time to be with the Lord before we act.

Of course, some of us may read David’s description of his anguish and his longing to escape and feel like he is just being weak.  We might not say it out loud, but if somebody came to us talking like David in this psalm, we might be tempted to tell them: “Man up and stop acting so weak.”  The problem with such a response at times is that it fails to recognize the Bible’s understanding of strength.  We are not ‘more manly’ when we try to pull up our bootstraps and do things in our own power.  Rather, we are strong, men of God, when we recognize our weaknesses and cry out to the Lord for His strength.  You will always be stronger on your knees.  We must not let our pride and arrogance keep us from humble honesty before the Lord.  You are not strong because you are good at hiding your struggles and anguish. 

David admitted that he was desperate for the Lord and he did it in a very public way: he wrote a psalm for all of Israel to sing.  When we face hard situations, and we will this very year, we must not let our pride keep us from crying out to the Lord for help.  We need to be honest with Him.  And we need to be honest with one another.  May we humble enough to admit to the Lord and to one another that we are desperate for His mercy.  When we face a friend’s betrayal, or any other difficult situation, may we be honest in our anguish and in our prayers.

The deception of the enemy:

Why was David in such anguish?  What was he facing that caused him to be so desperate?  He tells us in verse 3 that he is facing an enemy.  In verses 9-11 he further describes this enemy.  Look at those with me.  The enemy that David is facing is within the city.  They are wicked men who are bringing violence and strife in the city.  The walls of the city were to be a place of protection and safety.  Rather, these men were bringing iniquity and trouble on the walls.  Instead of fair dealings in the marketplace, they were filling it with oppression and fraud.  So we see that the enemy that David is facing is wicked and is corrupting the city with sin.

If this were not enough, David describes the enemy further in verses 12-14.  Look at those with me.  This ‘enemy’ that David has been praying about is his companion, his familiar friend.  It is not what we expect.  And it is not what David expected.  He expected his enemies to seek to destroy the city, but not his friends. And make no mistake about, he is talking about someone who he was once close to.  He writes of their former friendship: We used to take sweet counsel together; within God’s house we walked in the throng.  This was a person that possibly served with David in the Kingdom.  He was one who had worshipped with David in the Temple.  Yet, things had changed.  David further describes what the person was doing in verses 20-21.  Look at those verses with me.  This companion, this familiar friend of David’s, had betrayed him by breaking his covenant and deceiving people with his words.  He had been a friend.  He looked like a friend.  He even sounded like a friend in his speech.  Yet, war was in his heart.

No wonder David was struggling so much.  No wonder he asked the Lord to give him wings so that he could escape this situation.  David has been betrayed by a friend.  This companion has acted wickedly towards David and is at least a part of the rebellion that is taking place in the city for which David is responsible as King.  So then, how will David respond?

The response of the righteous:

First, David responds by calling to the Lord for He will deal justly with the wicked.  Look at verses 16-19.  David prays and asks God to save him.  He looks to the Lord for help in this terrible situation.  Make no mistake, David does ask that the Lord put an end to his enemy’s rebellion.  In verse 9 he prays: Destroy, O Lord, divide their tongues.  In verse 15 he prays: Let death steal over them; let them go down to Sheol alive; for evil is in their dwelling place and in their heart.  These requests fall into the category of imprecatory prayers.  It is hard for us to know what to do with them. 

Should we pray this over those who betray us?  Well, again, we must remember the larger context of this psalm.  This is not just David’s bitter cry against a friend who has been mean to him.  No, this is the King of Israel crying out to God to deal with the wicked for the sake of the righteous.  He prays for God to deal with them justly.  So then, what about us?  I think we can still (and should) pray for God to be just in His dealings with the wicked for the sake of the righteous.  Of course, in light of the New Covenant that Jesus established through His death and resurrection, such a prayer will not include praying for death to steal over our enemies.  We pray that the Lord will grant them repentance and faith (which I guess spiritually speaking is a form of death).  We pray for justice, knowing that justice will ultimately come in one of two ways. 

First, if our enemies turn from their sins and trust in Christ, then their forgiveness will be just because Jesus paid for their sins at the cross.  Second, if they do not repent, then God will deal with them in the end.  Thus, although our approach is not exactly the same as David’s due to the fact that we are not the King of Israel and are no under the New Covenant, we still call out to God and trust Him to deal justly.  And like David, may we do this regularly: evening and morning and at noon (v. 17).

Second, David responds by trusting in the Lord for He will sustain.  Look at how David concludes the psalm in verses 22-23.  David encourages us: Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you.  The burden is not ours to bear alone.  Stop trying to bear it alone.  Cast it on the Lord.  He loves you and cares for you.  He has not called you to go through whatever it is that you are facing on your own.  Bring your anguish and despair to Him.  Bring your trouble and hurt to Him.  He is big enough to handle your problems.  He will not forsake the righteous or give up on His plans for them.  You can trust Him.  YOU CAN TRUST HIM.  Even in the midst of a desperate situation, even when friends have betrayed you, you can trust the Lord.

We live in a fallen world where enemies abound.  Even our friends and companions can deceive and betray us.  But this does not mean that we should go through life cynical and untrusting.  We cannot stop loving others because we are afraid of the hurt they may cause.  No, this is not the response that the Bible encourages us to make.  Rather, we are to call upon the Lord and trust in Him to sustain us.  We are to entrust our lives to Him.

Is this not exactly what Jesus did when He was betrayed by His friends?  Judas sold Him out for thirty pieces of silver.  Peter denied even knowing Him.  Yet, how did Jesus respond?  Peter answers: When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly (1 Peter 2:23).  Even in the face of terrible betrayal and suffering, Jesus kept entrusting Himself to the Father, the just judge.  He knew that the Father was in control of the situation and that He could be trusted.  In fact, Jesus trusted the Father’s plan to redeem a people through His own sacrifice on the cross.  Peter continues: He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might died to sins and live to righteousness.  By his wounds you have been healed (v. 24). 

Brothers and sisters, if we are going to live righteous lives in this fallen world, if we are going to endure even when friends betray us, if we are going to trust in God no matter what, then we must begin with the gospel.  We cannot face these situations feeling like victims.  When we remember the gospel, Jesus’ death in our place, it frees us up and empowers us to entrust our lives to him who judges justly.  Like David in his day, and even more, like Jesus in His suffering, may we always trust in God to see us through.  Amen.

~ William Marshall ~

Last Updated ( Tuesday, 24 January 2012 )

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