Ever feel betrayed by someone you trust? In Psalm 55 we see how David handled betrayal.
This psalm starts with an extended prayer, verses 1-11 and then switches audience every few verses after that. Verses 15 and the last verse are the only other verses addressed to God. Verses 12-14 are actually addressed to his betrayer, who is also the focus of verses 20-21.
The switch back to addressing God in verse 15 and the fact that it is the central strophe highlights this curse on his enemy.
Although not usually listed as an imprecatory psalm, it contains many of the features usually associated with them. An imprecatory psalm is one that calls down curses upon an enemy.
How should a Christian interpret these psalms? Jesus told us to love our enemies, so how can we love our enemies and curse them at the same time? Or are these psalms only applicable to the time of David but not to our time?
I think the simplest way to understand these psalms is to recognize that even though we are to love our enemies we should also hate evil. It is OK to pray for God to bring justice to our world. We should desire that God right the wrongs we see and punish those who commit evil actions.
It is a fine line to walk, but we should continue to pray for our enemies to turn to God while also desiring that God punish those who continue to practice evil behavior. With that in mind lets take a look at the psalm.
Hear My Prayer
Give ear to my prayer, O God,
and hide not yourself from my plea for mercy! Psalm 55:1
David begins by calling upon God to listen to his prayer. He is overwhelmed by the evil of his enemies and wishes he could escape the suffering.
And I say, “Oh, that I had wings like a dove!
I would fly away and be at rest; Psalm 55:6
We have all felt this way at some point. Sometimes the troubles of life bring us to a point where all we want to do is flee. But that is not always possible, so what can we do when we are trapped by evil?
For it is not an enemy who taunts me—
then I could bear it;
it is not an adversary who deals insolently with me—
then I could hide from him.
But it is you, a man, my equal,
my companion, my familiar friend. Psalm 55:12-13
What makes this evil so unbearable is that the enemy was someone David thought was a close friend. This "friend" is now involved in committing great evil.
...for I see violence and strife in the city.
Day and night they go around it on its walls,
and iniquity and trouble are within it; Psalm 55:9-10
In response to this evil David calls upon God for justice.
Let death steal over them;
let them go down to Sheol alive;
for evil is in their dwelling place and in their heart. Psalm 55:15
The Lord Saves Me
David is convinced that God will answer his prayer. God will not let evil continue.
But I call to God,
and the Lord will save me. Psalm 55:16
Notice that these enemies are not simply people who have hurt David. They are people who refuse to change. They have committed themselves to evil and have no fear of God.
God will give ear and humble them,
he who is enthroned from of old, Selah
because they do not change
and do not fear God. Psalm 55:19
Cast Your Cares on the LORD
Once more we are reminded that this enemy is someone who has turned on his friend and even broken a covenant.
My companion stretched out his hand against his friends;
he violated his covenant. Psalm 55:20
So how does David handle this troubling situation?
Cast your burden on the Lord,
and he will sustain you;
he will never permit
the righteous to be moved. Psalm 55:22
Sometimes the only answer is to take your trial, hand it over to God and trust him. "He will sustain you." And he will bring justice in His time. We need to let go of our fears and place it all in God's hand.
Of course this is not as easy to do as it is to write, but as is so often true of spiritual things, the answer is simple even if the application is difficult.
As if David needs this reminder just as much as we do, he ends the psalm by repeating his simple answer:
... But I will trust in you. Psalm 55:23
So ... do you trust Him? Do you trust Him with everything in your life? Do you believe that He will protect you and bring good from the bad in your life?
Even in the middle of rejection and betrayal David kept His faith and placed all of his hope in God. Do you?