Psalm 55: A Psalm of Betrayal

I will apologize now for two things:

  1. The length of this psalm (it’s slightly longer than my goal length)
  2. The depressing feeling you MAY feel as you read this – but it is what it is.

Do me a favor and please read Psalm 55.

Think about that one person in your life who knows you. I mean REALLY knows you. They know the most intimate details of who you are. What you love, what you hate, what pushes your buttons and what makes you cry. If you were sick they would run to the store and know exactly what your favorite food was that would probably not cure you but sure make you feel better. But even more than this they have been entrusted with the most intimate of information that you’ve always held close to your heart. Weary to trust just anyone with this information – THEY know it all.

For David this would have been treacherous for so many reasons. You are the king and you already have people who want you dead – and your own family is betraying you and now this too? An ally, a friend, a companion wants the same? Someone you’ve most likely had at your house for pot-roast, some cheesy mac and probably ice cream and cookies? Your closest friend who knows your story, knows your past, your hopes and dreams…knows where you sleep – maybe even has a key to your home…knows your routines and every intimate detail about you!

This issue has simply broken David. He cannot fathom that someone would do this. My translation says that David was “distraught” and while I think this is right the Hebrew translation also has “restless” in a wandering aimlessly kind of way. I picture David as so beside himself that he’s in a daze. Not sure what to do, not sure where to go…so he simply prays.

betrayalWe care about what people say about us – and for those who disagree with me then, well, I think you’re part of the minority. But what about when it’s someone close? Someone who is more than an acquaintance but is in truth a friend and companion? When it’s someone I care about then their words mean more – and thus their betrayal runs deep. And honestly it’s not the words they said but it’s the betrayal made. Again, for David it runs much deeper than us and means much more because for him it’s life and death. For you and I the betrayal is simply words thus the effects are going to be minimal. Maybe some whispers from others, maybe some disgrace and embarrassment…but we won’t die from it. I’m not saying it doesn’t sting and hurt – but it’s not life-or-death. David, on the other hand, is ready to run away into the desert, hide in the mountains, flee from any and all people and just be with his protector: God. And so this psalm becomes this all-out prayer of utter grief and despair.

The first part of this psalm is broken up into sorrow, fear, hurtfulness, and pain (vs 1-8); part two comes from this pits of anger which I know we all can relate to (vs 9-15; 20-21); and finally ending in the hope and peace of God (16-19; 22-23).

Betrayal is a really tough thing to work through because not just anyone can betray you – only those close, whom you have an intimate relationship with can hurt you in that capacity. And what’s tough too is that scripture doesn’t have a whole truck-load of information on betrayal except that it WILL happen…and that we MUST forgive (forgiveness is kind of a major theme).

But honestly, David isn’t saying any forgiving words here – so why should I? Again, when we read the psalms we must remember that these are authentic words and feelings from someone in a relationship already with God – and we need to allow his words and feelings be just that. This doesn’t mean we emulate them – but it does mean that we relate to them because they are “ahistorical” (they speak to all in all times).

For me, I take all these feelings of betrayal and I say, “Yeah…I would feel that way too.” I may not have felt it before but I can relate to the fears and anger. I too would want God to take that person out and deal with this situation in the way God COULD. I would want them to feel what I feel and experience the betrayal and hurt that they had caused too. And ultimately, my place of comfort would be knowing that God will not betray, will not hurt or allow pain to fall upon me.

For all the pain that David endures in this betrayal this truly is a psalm of trust – and unfortunately it’s also a reminder for us that the only one we can really trust is God. I don’t want to be cynical but there is more than a grain of truth to that. Satan will use any and all relationships to harm if he can. Satan will harm, confuse, abuse, mislead, lie, and work hard to break down people if it works towards his benefit. And unfortunately that means that you and I and everyone else will fall victim. And if we’ve taken anything from Genesis 3 – you and I are broken and sinful and tend to break relationships too.

Does this mean that we give up on relationships? Does it mean we hold closely any and all sensitive information and never share anything with anyone? Not at all. I think we need relationships – it’s how God created us and wants us to be (with him and each other). But I think what this does challenge ME to do is understand that none of us are perfect. We will have friends fall to hurtful betrayal AS WELL AS US and there has to be some room for forgiveness in those times and spaces. But there also has to be room for the feelings we have – the HONEST feelings we have that comes with the betrayal of a close friend. And ultimately we must find comfort and peace knowing that God hears us, knows us, and will comfort us.

Does this psalm give us hope in those times? Probably not – but it’s not supposed to anyway. What it’s SUPPOSED to do is remind us of the wholesome, sacrificial and loving relationship we have with God and be reminded that when all other relationships fall…God is ever faithful.

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