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Befriended Then Betrayed

Psalm 55: For the director of music. With stringed instruments. A maskil of  David. 1Listen to my prayer, O God, do not ignore my plea; 2hear me and answer me. My thoughts trouble me and I am distraught 3at the voice of the enemy, at the stares of the wicked; for they bring down suffering upon me and revile me in their anger. 4My heart is in anguish within me; the terrors of death assail me. 5Fear and trembling have beset me; horror has overwhelmed me. 6I said, "Oh, that I had the wings of a dove! I would fly away and be at rest- 7I would flee far away and stay in the desert; Selah 8I would hurry to my place of shelter, far from the tempest and storm. 9Confuse the wicked, O Lord, confound their speech, for I see violence and strife in the city. 10Day and night they prowl about on its walls; malice and abuse are within it. 11Destructive forces are at work in the city; threats and lies never leave its streets. 12If an enemy were insulting me, I could endure it; if a foe were raising himself against me, I could hide from him. 13But it is you, a man like myself, my companion, my close friend, 14with whom I once enjoyed sweet fellowship as we walked with the throng at the house of God. 15Let death take my enemies by surprise; let them go down alive to the grave, for evil finds lodging among them. 16But I call to God, and the LORD saves me. 17Evening, morning and noon I cry out in distress, and he hears my voice. 18He ransoms me unharmed from the battle waged against me, even though many oppose me. 19God, who is enthroned forever, will hear them and afflict them— Selah —men who never change their ways and have no fear of God. 20My companion attacks his friends; he violates his covenant. 21His speech is smooth as butter, yet war is in his heart; his words are more soothing than oil, yet they are drawn swords. 22Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous fall. 23But you, O God, will bring down the wicked into the pit of corruption; bloodthirsty and deceitful men will not live out half their days. But as for me, I trust in you.

Introduction

Have you ever been betrayed by a close friend—someone you trusted and with whom you shared happy times? It's hard enough to be put down or betrayed by someone who doesn't like you, but to be betrayed by a person you thought was a loyal friend is very hard to handle. Psalm 55 was written by King David at a time soon after he was betrayed by a close friend. Because he shared his personal experience of hurt, disillusionment and pain, this psalm has practical application for every believer who goes through the same sad experience. Besides the practical implications of this psalm, there are prophetic implications as well. The betrayal of David by a close friend certainly prophetically portrays the betrayal of the Lord Jesus Christ by Judas who had lived closely with Jesus for three years.

Background Notes

We see from the title of this psalm that it was written by David as a "maskil," or contemplative psalm. We also see that it was used in temple worship, accompanied by stringed instruments. Unlike some other psalms, the occasion of Psalm 55 is not given in the title. The possible occasions can be narrowed down because of the subject matter—the betrayal of David by a close friend. We can't be 100% sure, but it is very likely that David was speaking here of the treasonous acts of Ahithophel, his trusted counselor, who betrayed King David at the time of Absalom's rebellion. Ahithophel abandoned his king and went over to the side of David's selfish and power-hungry son, Absalom. He not only joined Absalom's conspiracy—he actually counseled Absalom on how he could best defeat David and usurp the throne of Israel! During this rebellion David was forced to leave Jerusalem, his royal capital, and flee across the Jordan River. You can read the entire sad story in 2 Samuel 15-19. Somewhere far away from Jerusalem, probably on the far side of the Jordan River, as he was awaiting the battle with Absalom's men, David found time to record his anguished thoughts. Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, he penned Psalm 55.

Doctrinal Points

1. David's betrayal by a close friend has practical implications. David's unfaithful friend was at one time very close to him: "If an enemy were insulting me I could endure it; if a foe were raising himself against me I could hide from him. But it is you, a man like myself, my companion, my close friend, with whom I once enjoyed sweet fellowship as we walked with the throng to the House of God" (vs12-15). But David had come to the recognition that his "friend" was never a true friend. In verses 20-21 he described him as the type of untrustworthy person who breaks his promises and attacks his friends. This former friend's personality was characterized by speech "as smooth as butter," and "as soothing as oil"—but all the time his heart was filled with self-interest! Have you ever met anyone like that? Unfortunately, even believers may sometimes be smooth talkers, but their smooth words may be masking selfish and deceptive hearts. Diotrephes was an early Christian who, it seems, would betray a fellow believer if it put him more in the limelight (3 John 9-10). Although we may never have been betrayed in quite the same way as David was, all of us have probably had at least one experience of being let down by a close friend—someone we thought was trustworthy. Perhaps a "good friend" has talked negatively behind your back, or revealed confidential personal information about you to others, or defrauded you in some way, or spoken untrue, angry or bitter words against you—even actions that caused you great disillusionment and pain. Perhaps the person who let you down or betrayed you is a family member—a sibling, a parent, a spouse or a child. The pain and grief is magnified when a close family member turns against us, or proves to be untrustworthy or unfaithful. So Psalm 55 has practical implications because we can all identify, at least to some degree, with the grief and anguish of soul that David experienced: "My thoughts trouble me and I am distraught...my heart is in anguish within me... (vs1, 4). How many of us can identify with David's cry, "Oh, that I had the wings of a dove! I would fly away and be at rest. I would flee far away.... far from the tempest and storm" (vs 6-8). Have you ever longed to escape from a troubled situation or an emotional storm—to get away to a desert island, where no one could cause you further distress? In verses 9-11 we see that the betrayal of the king had resulted in governmental disruption and a breakdown of law and order in Jerusalem. Even before David fled from Jerusalem, violence, strife, malice, threats, destruction and lies were rampant in the city. As smooth-talking Absalom "stole away the hearts of the men of Israel," and the people gave up their allegiance to good King David. In the same way, various forms of betrayal among Christians today—such as infidelity, lies, backbiting, malicious gossip, power- plays—disrupt and destroy families and homes, sever friendships, cause strife in the church, stumble young believers and cause unbelievers to scorn and disrespect the Lord Jesus Christ. Throughout the psalm, in fact, right from the first verse, we see that David did the right thing. He brought the problem to the Lord in prayer. "Listen to my prayer, O Lord...Hear me and answer me" (vs1-2). "But I call to God, and the Lord saves me...I cry out in distress and He hears my voice" (vs16-17). "But as for me, I trust in You" (v23). Even though David expected Absalom's army to appear at any moment, following the counsel of the traitor Ahithophel, David's confidence was in the Lord. He was sure that God would answer him and deliver him. "He ransoms me unharmed from the battle waged against me, even though many oppose me" (v18). David's prayer of confidence in the Lord concluded with an exhortation to all believers to trust in the Lord for strength and justice; "Cast your cares on the Lord and He will sustain you" (v22). 1 Peter 5:7 gives us the same message: "Cast all your anxiety on Him, for He cares for you." And in Philippians 4:6-7 we read, "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and petition, let your requests be made known to God." What is the result of bringing our cares and anxieties to the Lord? He will give us strength and peace of heart and mind—in a way that is far beyond our human understanding, the peace of God will guard our hearts and minds through Christ Jesus!

2. David's betrayal by a close friend has prophetic implications.

It doesn't take a lot of keen insight to see a parallel between the betrayal of David by a trusted friend and the betrayal of our Lord by Judas. For three years Judas was part of that close-knit fellowship of disciples. For most of that time Judas was not a traitor. He really thought that Jesus was going to publicly declare Himself as King and then proceed to set up His kingdom by overthrowing the Roman occupation of Israel. Judas probably thought that he would be right up there in the limelight when the Lord Jesus set up His kingdom! But Judas didn't like the way things were turning out, and so he decided to betray an innocent man. As Ahithophel's treachery ended in suicide (2 Samuel 17:23), so Judas' betrayal of Christ ended in suicide (Matthew 27:5). Further prophetic implications in this psalm will be fulfilled in the future tribulation period. During that time, a small band of godly Jewish believers will be betrayed by a false messiah and his followers. These end-time believers will flee from Jerusalem and find refuge in the wilderness where they will be protected by the Lord. Their prayers to God for justice will be answered with the return of the Lord and His subsequent judgment all wicked and evil people. This judgment will include casting the false messiah alive into the lake of fire (Revelation 19:20).

Practical Application: We can fly away!

In Psalm 55:6-8 we saw that David longed to escape from his troubles, like a bird who could fly away from a storm to take refuge and rest in a quiet place. By faith, we can fly away! A line from a familiar hymn says, "There is a place of quiet rest near to the heart of God." We can find that place of quiet rest when we turn to the Lord and pour out our hearts to Him in the midst of our storms and times of trouble. This is what Asaph had in mind when he penned "But as for me, it is good to be near God. I have made the Sovereign Lord my refuge" (Psalm 73:28). So let's keep this practical application in mind when we feel overwhelmed and want to get away from our troubles. We can fly away!
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