BETRAYED BY A FRIEND?
Please read Psalm 55, underline words that are important to you, then consider these reflections on the psalm.
Betrayal is hurtful. “The worst pain in the world goes beyond the physical. Even further beyond any other emotional pain one can feel. It is the betrayal of a friend.” –– Heather Brewer (aka Zac Brewer, New York Times author.) Perhaps at some point in your life you, too, have experienced the pain of being betrayed by a friend.
David, the second King of Israel, fell victim to betrayal by a friend, and wrote about it in Psalm 55. He described a friend who turned against him: “His speech was smooth as butter, yet war was in his heart; his words were softer than oil, yet they were drawn swords.” (verse 21).
David knew that what his ‘friend’ had done did not happen by accident; it was a deliberate act on the part of one who “did not change” who “did not fear God.” (verse 19). David was stunned. He could hardly realize it really happened until it did happen. There was little or nothing he could do about it. The harm has been done. “It is you a man, my equal, my companion, my familiar friend,” he wrote. Thinking about the years that their friendship has lasted, he said: ‘We used to take sweet counsel together; within God’s house we walked in the throng” (verse 13-14). As we might say today, “We even went to church together!” David struggled to forgive him. Like William Blake, the 18th century English poet expressed it: “It is easier to forgive an enemy than to forgive a friend.”
“Of all people, a man should be able to open his heart fully to his Christiana brother, but unfortunately there are those even in the church who do not hesitate to betray a brother’s confidence to promote their own quirks and interests, just as the psalmist’s best friend had done.” (John T. Willis The Psalms III.)
Sometimes when one has been deeply hurt there is a strong urge to move somewhere else as soon as possible, to escape the hurts by running away. David considered that option: “Oh, that I had wings like a dove! I would fly away and be at rest; yes, I would wander far away; I would lodge in the wilderness. I would hurry to find a shelter from the raging wind and tempest” (verse 6-7). The dove is recognized for its innocence and swiftness of flight. A dove could cover a great distance in her flight. Reflecting on that option, David decided he did not need to go elsewhere. There was something he could do and stay in Jerusalem, his home city. And that is exactly what he did! He let God know what had happened and how he was hurting inside: “I call to God, and the Lord will save me” (verse 16).
His prayerful words were agonizing, painful, pointed and urgent. “Give ear to my prayer, O God, and hide not yourself from my plea for mercy! Attend to me and answer me…. They drop trouble upon me, and in anger they bear a grudge against me” (verse 1-2). Stanley Morris, a Christian brother and Biblical linguist, translated it like this: “Pay attention to me; answer me. I’m worried, and I’m upset…. I have great anxiety…I’m scared; I’m shaking, I am overwhelmed with horror” (The International English Bible, 2014).
It has been suggested that the betrayal which hurt David so much was that of Ahithophel, a trusted comrade, counselor and spiritual leader of Israel whose betrayal is described in 2 Samuel chapters 15 through 17. Read this story for yourself. You will discover how Ahithophel turned against David during the rebellion of Absalom, and gave Absalom advice on how he could trap, capture and kill his father (king David himself!). Another trusted friend of David was Hushai, who took on the responsibility of protecting David in answer to David’s prayer: “O Lord, please turn the counsel of Ahithophel into foolishness” (2 Samuel 15:31). David had learned a very important lesson in life: in troublesome times you don’t need to run away, but you need to pray about it and trust in the Lord to work things out.
Psalm 55 is recognized by Bible students everywhere for this promise: “Cast your burden on the Lord, and He will sustain you; He will never permit the righteous to be moved” (verse 22). This became one of the favorite Old Testament passages of the apostle Peter. He quoted it in 1 Peter 5:7––”casting all your anxieties on Him because He cares for you.”
Rowland Hill (1744–1833) an English preacher and an influential advocate of smallpox vaccination, penned the words to a hymn based on Psalm 55. They are still being sung in churches after 250 years:
“Cast thy burden on the Lord,
Only lean upon His word;
Thou shalt soon have cause to bless
His eternal faithfulness.
He will gird thee by His power,
In thy weary fainting hour;
Lean then, loving, on His word;
Cast thy burden on the Lord.”
What a great God we have! A great and faithful Friend! He will never betray our trust, but will renew our strength and courage in every trying circumstance.
“Do thy friends despise, forsake you?
Take it to the Lord in prayer;
In His arms He’ll take and shield thee;
Thou will find a solace there.
–– Joseph Scriven
(Scripture references from the English Standard Version, unless otherwise noted.)
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