Monday, November 12, 2007

The Worst Sort of Pain

A meditation on Psalm 55:12-22.

It's interesting that in this part of the Psalms we have three "betrayal" psalms. Psalm 52 is David's response to being turned in to Saul by an Edomite, and Psalm 54 is his cry after being ratted out by his own countrymen...the Ziphites. Neither of these two things could compare to the kind of backstabbing betrayal David will feel and present in Psalm 55. It is a betrayal that cut so deep that David says, "Oh, that I had wings like a dove! I would fly away and be at rest. Behold, I would wander far away, I would lodge in the wilderness" (v. 6-7). My movie-infested mind can't help but recall the first part of Forrest Gump, in which Jenny's abusive father drives her to kneel in the corn field and pray, "Dear God, make me a bird, so I can fly far...far, far away from here."

Much like Jenny, David has been betrayed by someone close to him...someone that he calls his "companion and...familiar friend" (v. 13) Some guess that David is either writing about Absalom (i.e.- David's son who wanted to take over the kingdom) or Ahithophel (i.e.- who was David's advisor that turned on him). We can't really be sure...all we know is that whoever did this was close to David. He loved this man. They "had sweet fellowship together...[and] walked in the house of God in the throng" (v. 14). They had been together in worship, lifting their hands to the Lord in praise. Maybe they sat together in wonder as they discussed the great forgiveness of God in David's life. Maybe they had been holding one another accountable...each according to their greatest temptations. Imagine the closest Christian relationship you of deep trust and mutual adoration. Now, imagine that person betraying you...turning you out...acting as if you meant nothing to him/her.

Imagine that great friend speaking of you in ways if he/she were some wicked, persecuting unbeliever. In fact, if it was an unbeliever, you might be prone to bow out your chest a little and get ready to fight to defend yourself and your faith. However, your chest doesn't bow's deflated by the knife that has been shoved into your back, at the hands of the one who always said things like "I've got your back", "You can count on me", and "We're in this thing together."

How will David respond? To whom will David turn in such an awful situation? "As for me, I shall call upon the Lord, and the Lord will save me. Evening and morning and at noon, I will complain and murmur, and He will hear my voice" (v. 16-17). The pain will turn to prayer. The shock will turn to supplication. The deep cuts from a friend will turn into loud cries to the Lord. There's no way to understand it when this happens...there's no real explanation when the man or woman you've trusted for so long breaks it all in one moment. It has to send you reeling back to the only One who is completely trustworthy and will work on your behalf.

This kind of praying apparently brought clarity to David's mind. No longer was he simply trying to regain equilibrium from the "knife wound". Now, looking back, he sees a different friend...hindsight is 20/20, they say. Now, David understands who the man really was. "He has put forth his hands against those who were at peace with him; he has violated his covenant. His speech was smoother than butter, but his heart was war; his words were softer than oil, yet they were drawn swords" (v. 20-21). Now, it's all clear.

James Montgomery Boice writes, "Earlier David was deeply pained by the betrayal. Here, having laid the matter before God and having assured himself that God is his Savior and that he will surely deliver him from such evil, David steps away from his own feelings and reflects on the wrongdoing itself. The real problem is that the man is a covenant breaker, and the reason he breaks covenant is that he is a hypocrite. He pretends one thing but plots another. He speaks peace, but actually he is devising war" (Psalms: Volume 2, p.463).

Interestingly, when we come to verse 22, David speaks what seems to be a personal word of advice to any who would hear. If it were a televised event, I'd imagine that everything around David pauses, and David stays animated and looks directly into the camera. With a sincere heart, he says, "Cast your burden upon the Lord and He will sustain you; He will never allow the righteous to be shaken" (v. 22). It's just like the hymn says, "Friends may fail me, foes assail me, He, my Savior, makes me whole...Hallelujah, what a Savior!"

Have you been there? Have you stood in shock or wept with grief, having found that dear friend to actually be a great foe? Have you had those sleepless nights of wondering, "What just happened here?" Listen to David, my friend. Turn your feelings of bitterness, frustration, and anger into an assault of prayer. Then, cast your anxieties on the Lord, for He cares for you (1 Peter 5:7).

Ultimately, consider this...Jesus Christ Himself had such a friend...a friend named Judas. When Judas betrayed Jesus, Jesus was already feeling the weight of suffering that the betrayal would bring, so He was assaulting heaven with His prayers in the Garden of Gethsemane. After the betrayal, when all was said and done, what is it Jesus did? He cast Himself into the arms of the Father...remember? "Father, into Your hands I commit my spirit" (Luke 23:46). So, what should we do? Let's let the Bible answer..."consider Him who endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart" (Heb. 12:3).