Betrayal by a friend can do more damage than an entire battle.
No one knew the sting of betrayal better than David.
In Psalm 55, David finds his heart opened up and war torn by a close friend. Caught unaware, David’s thoughts and conversations are consumed by what has happened.
Chances are, you can relate. When we’re let down by others, it’s all too easy to spend our nights analyzing words and actions, tossing and turning instead of resting in the One who knows the ripe pain of betrayal.
But unlike so many of us, David doesn’t lose hours of sleep rehashing the event in his mind or getting a “second opinion” from friends. Rather, he places the situation squarely in the hands of his God.
David did two things in the face of betrayal:
1. David admits his feelings about the situation (Ps. 55:4-15)
Internally, the betrayal was tearing David up. He could see the wickedness around him and was prepared to face it. He was not, however, prepared to see a good friend classified as one of his enemies.
“For it is not an enemy who reproaches me;
Then I could bear it.
Nor is it one who hates me who has exalted himself against me;
Then I could hide from him.
But it was you, a man my equal,
My companion and my acquaintance.
We took sweet counsel together,
And walked to the house of God in the throng.” (Ps. 55:12-14)
Who is David’s betrayer in Ps. 55? Some believe David is referring to his son, Absalom, who rebelled against his father in grievous ways. But scholar John Phillips believes the pain David felt in this psalm came as the result of a double blow. David was betrayed by his own son and his good friend and advisor, Ahithophel. As a personal advisor to the throne, Ahithophel would have walked with King David in the temple courts and would have been privy to many of the throne’s secrets.
In the end, Ahithophel gave counsel to Absalom and aided in the insurrection against David’s throne. He was the one who counseled Absalom to steal David’s wives in order to make permanent the damage to the King’s throne (2 Sam 16-17).
The thought off such a calculated betrayal pains David greatly and informs the angry prayer we see in this song.
- abandonment (vs. 1-2)
- pain (vs. 4)
- fear (vs. 4-5)
- despondency (vs. 6)
- restlessness (vs. 6-8)
- anger (vs. 9)
- the need for justice (vs. 9-11, 15)
- betrayal (vs. 12)
- surprise & shock (vs. 12-14)
- tricked & used (vs. 14)
- overwhelmed (vs. 15)
God does not expect us to suppress emotions when others sin against us. There is real injustice in the world, and it brings very real pain.
But too often, we give vent to our emotions in sinful ways. We disguise excuses to gossip as prayer requests. We manipulate the feelings of those around us to garner compassion or pity. We dwell on and nurse sins committed against us in order to assuage our own righteousness or pride.
Betrayal is not pretty – for the betrayer or for the betrayed. But when David vents about his circumstances, he takes his emotions to the One who rights all wrongs.
2. David acknowledged God was the One to fix things (Ps. 55:16-23)
So upset is David by his betrayal, that he first expresses a desire to flee. But running from a situation (or holing ourselves up on our sofas) doesn’t bring reconciliation.
In the end, David acts by asking God to restore order to his city. He asks God to “divide their tongues” (vs. 9).
The historical account is recorded in 2 Sam. 15 when David’s friend, Hushai, came to visit him in the wilderness. David sent Hushai back to the rebellion with false counsel tasking him to serve as the “divided tongue” God used to ensure their downfall and David’s victory.
God brought victory to David.
In Ps. 55, David reveals the ways in which God works in our betrayal to bring victory:
- He answers our prayers (vs. 16)
- He saves us – which is gracious because apart from salvation, we are the betrayers (vs. 16)
- He hears us (vs. 17)
- He gives us peace in the midst of life’s storms (vs. 18)
- He sustains us (vs. 19)
- He preserves us (vs. 19)
- He brings justice to guilty parties (vs. 19-20)
We’ve all had a friend we thought had our best interests at heart only to be surprised they had “war in their hearts” instead (vs. 21). These people trick us with their smooth talk and compliments, then use their words to wound.
Whether it’s the friend who speaks ill of you to set themselves up as funny.
Whether it’s the coworker that throws you under the bus to get the big promotion.
Whether it’s the family member who practices deceit to gain an audience.
Whether it’s the church friend who undercuts your acts of service in order to curry favor.
These individuals are indeed at war. They are at war with a holy God, rebelling against the hard edges of his Word that calls all people to faith and repentance, humility and service, love and sacrifice.
In the end, David acknowledges it will not go well with the betrayers – not because believers can use God as a weapon of retribution, but because God is at work in the world to make all things right.
And he will not “permit the righteous to be moved.” As we’ve seen in this song, believers will encounter difficulty sure enough. Betrayal is all too common. But Scripture is clear that the battle of redemption has already been won. God does not permit the permanent undoing of those who trust in him (Ps. 55:22-23).
In the end, as John Phillips says, “the only thing to do us to fling ourselves into the arms of God, as David did at the close of this psalm.” (Phillips 436).
“Cast your burden on the Lord,
And He shall sustain you;
He shall never permit the righteous to be moved.” (Ps. 55:22)
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