Almighty God, I need you. Thank you that you never leave me, that you protect me on all sides.
Read PSALM 55
For the director of music. With stringed instruments. A maskil[b] of David.
1 Listen to my prayer, O God,
do not ignore my plea;
2 hear me and answer me.
My thoughts trouble me and I am distraught
3 because of what my enemy is saying,
because of the threats of the wicked;
for they bring down suffering on me
and assail me in their anger.
4 My heart is in anguish within me;
the terrors of death have fallen on me.
5 Fear and trembling have beset me;
horror has overwhelmed me.
6 I said, “Oh, that I had the wings of a dove!
I would fly away and be at rest.
7 I would flee far away
and stay in the desert;[c]
8 I would hurry to my place of shelter,
far from the tempest and storm.”
9 Lord, confuse the wicked, confound their words,
for I see violence and strife in the city.
10 Day and night they prowl about on its walls;
malice and abuse are within it.
11 Destructive forces are at work in the city;
threats and lies never leave its streets.
12 If an enemy were insulting me,
I could endure it;
if a foe were rising against me,
I could hide.
13 But it is you, a man like myself,
my companion, my close friend,
14 with whom I once enjoyed sweet fellowship
at the house of God,
as we walked about
among the worshipers.
15 Let death take my enemies by surprise;
let them go down alive to the realm of the dead,
for evil finds lodging among them.
16 As for me, I call to God,
and the Lord saves me.
17 Evening, morning and noon
I cry out in distress,
and he hears my voice.
18 He rescues me unharmed
from the battle waged against me,
even though many oppose me.
19 God, who is enthroned from of old,
who does not change—
he will hear them and humble them,
because they have no fear of God.
20 My companion attacks his friends;
he violates his covenant.
21 His talk is smooth as butter,
yet war is in his heart;
his words are more soothing than oil,
yet they are drawn swords.
22 Cast your cares on the Lord
and he will sustain you;
he will never let
the righteous be shaken.
23 But you, God, will bring down the wicked
into the pit of decay;
the bloodthirsty and deceitful
will not live out half their days.
But as for me, I trust in you.
- Psalm 55:1 In Hebrew texts 55:1-23 is numbered 55:2-24.
- Psalm 55:1 Title: Probably a literary or musical term
- Psalm 55:7 The Hebrew has Selah (a word of uncertain meaning) here and in the middle of verse 19.
New International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
‘…betrayal and the withholding of affection damage the roots from which love grows. Love can only survive these injuries if they are acknowledged.’1
The historical context of today’s psalm is probably Absalom’s rebellion and Ahithophel’s betrayal.2 David is pleading for God’s help when threatened by a powerful conspiracy in Jerusalem, led by a former friend. In terms of structure, the prayer is framed by a plea for help (v 1) and a final confession of faith: ‘as for me, I trust in you’ (v 23). At the center stands the heart of the psalm, a prayer for vengeance on his enemies (v 15). On either side of this central prayer is a 12-line stanza, each consisting of 5 lines plus 3 lines plus 4 lines. Hebrew poetry uses literary parallels and structures like this to convey deep theological truths.
David is grappling with the reality that someone he has closely trusted has now turned against him – surely one of the most painful experiences in life – nothing hurts more than a wound from a friend. At times, a friend may need to confront, lovingly, in order to help,3 but the kind of betrayal David is wrestling with cuts deep. You can feel his anguish throughout the psalm; the hurt caused by a friend’s betrayal, someone with whom he ‘once enjoyed sweet fellowship’ (v 14), most clearly in verses 13, 14, 20, and 21.
Some years ago, a friend I had once trusted turned on me and used my vulnerability against me. It’s an experience I have struggled deeply to come to terms with and I’ve often turned to this psalm for help. I relate profoundly to David’s final call, to cast my cares on the Lord, for he will sustain me and will never let the righteous be shaken (v 22). If you are processing a similar betrayal, ask God to help you to conclude, with David, ‘But as for me, I trust in you’ (v 23).
Resolve today to be a faithful friend in times of trouble, bringing healing, acceptance, and understanding to those you love.
Lord God, I lift up to you others in the world who are suffering, even devastated by war. As they cry out to you, be their comfort, their assurance, their peace.