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The Cry of a Wounded Soul – Psalm 55

All of us will be called upon to weather the storms of life. Sometimes these periods of suffering are like a hurricane; they are immense and destructive, but we can see them coming from afar and thus prepare for their arrival. However, sometimes these pains and sorrows hit like a tornado – suddenly and unannounced.

What is a child of God to do after such a storm hits? What can we do when pain and sorrow has caught us off guard, our lives have been turned upside down, and we find ourselves facing a trial that we are unable to solve, much less to comprehend? Psalm fifty-five is the outcry of a man facing such a situation.

This Psalm of David was likely written during the rebellion of his son Absalom. David learned of the plot against his life and chose to retreat from the city of Jerusalem and to hide in the country (2 Samuel 15). It was there that he learned that his trusted counselor, Ahithophel, had joined Absalom in the conspiracy against his life (verse 12).

This was an event which saw David’s authority challenged and life threatened by his own son. His beloved city was overrun with rebellious sinners, and his trusted counselor had turned against him. Psalm fifty-five contains the cry of David’s troubled soul over this painful ordeal.

However, there are two other aspects of this psalm which must be considered. First, this psalm has strong messianic overtones. The thoughts of David recorded in these verses foreshadow the emotional pain which our Lord endured on the night that He was betrayed by Judas Iscariot. Also, this psalm can help us deal with the pain and suffering in our own lives. As we read of David dealing with the pain of his betrayal, we learn how God would have us deal with similar situations that arise in our lives today.

There is help for the hurting heart and salve for the wounded soul. This psalm is the means by which God offers this help and healing.

The Appeal From David’s Heart

“Give ear to my prayer, O God; and hide not thyself from my supplication. Attend unto me, and hear me: I mourn in my complaint, and make a noise” (vs. 1-2).

David’s first response to this tragedy is to pray, but he does more than offer his thoughts towards Heaven. David desires an audience with God. He wants God to hear what he has to say, to give His divine attention to David as he mourns.

His sorrow is so immeasurable that soon his complaints turn into “noise.” There are times when the sorrows of our heart are so overwhelming that we do not know what to say. At such times the Holy Spirit intercedes for us with words that cannot be uttered. “Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered” (Romans 8:26).

“Because of the voice of the enemy, because of the oppression of the wicked: for they cast iniquity upon me, and in wrath they hate me” (v. 3).

David complains about the voice of his enemy. Often the words of an enemy or opponent will cause us more harm than any physical blow. The old adage, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me,” simply is not true. Words can cut like a sword – “There is one who speaks like the piercings of a sword, but the tongue of the wise promotes health” (Proverbs 12:18, NKJV). This is why we need to be careful with the way that we use our words. Even if it is not intentional, our words can be harmful to others.

David feels as if oppression, iniquity, and hatred have been cast upon him. The phrase “cast upon” was used to refer to the practice of “way-laying” one’s enemies on a mountain road by rolling huge rocks upon them to injure them. This was a surprise assault, and David was not prepared for it. He has no where else to turn but to God.

The Anguish of David’s Soul

“My heart is sore pained within me: and the terrors of death are fallen upon me. Fearfulness and trembling are come upon me, and horror hath overwhelmed me” (vs. 4-5).

David’s life was threatened, but making his sorrow more intense was the fact that his own son, Absalom, was behind this rebellion. What had he done to make Absalom turn out this way? How had he failed his son? How could he have done things differently? Many parents have had to deal with similar struggles in their lives.

David’s sorrow became so intense that his heart ached within him, he feared for his life, and horror overwhelmed him. He stated that fearfulness and trembling had come upon him. One remembers that our Lord shared a similar experience in the presence of Peter, James, and John in the Garden of Gethsemane. There Matthew tells us that Jesus began to be sorrowful and deeply distressed. He confided in His three friends that “My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death” (Matthew 26:37-38).

“And I said, Oh that I had wings like a dove! for then would I fly away, and be at rest. Lo, then would I wander far off, and remain in the wilderness. Selah. I would hasten my escape from the windy storm and tempest” (vs. 6-8).

David wanted to escape. Like a dove, he wanted to fly away to a place of safety out of the reach of his tormentors. This is the way that some people choose to deal with their problems. They literally run from their troubles and abandon those who are depending upon them, they choose momentary escapes from reality through drugs and alcohol, or they take the “big escape” by taking their own life.

While running away may appear to be an attractive option, the child of God must be mindful of God’s will in all things. God has promised to offer a way of escape from our temptations (1 Corinthians 10:13), but He gives us the strength to stand and face our trials. “Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand” (Ephesians 6:13).

When Jesus was arrested by the mob, Peter drew his sword and began to fight. Jesus rebuked him, stating that if He had wanted to, He could have prayed to the Father who would have given Him more than “twelve legions of angels” to rescue Him from these men (Matthew 26:52-53). Jesus could have escaped His troubles, but He did not.

The Atrocities That David Experienced

“Destroy, O Lord, and divide their tongues: for I have seen violence and strife in the city. Day and night they go about it upon the walls thereof: mischief also and sorrow are in the midst of it. Wickedness is in the midst thereof: deceit and guile depart not from her streets” (vs. 9-11).

David wants God to turn the violence intended by his enemies upon themselves. As in the days of the Tower of Babel, David wants God to “divide their tongues” – to confuse their plans and to turn them against one another.

From the wilderness David can “see” the violence and strife that this plot has brought to his beloved city. Absalom has turned Jerusalem into a den of evil, wickedness, deceit, and sorrow. Often we are left to watch helplessly as the sins committed by one person destroy the lives of others, even those whom we love. Our inability to stop their pain causes us to suffer immeasurable emotional torment and grief.

However, David is experiencing something more painful than knowing that Jerusalem is affected by the wickedness of his son. He has to deal with the treachery of a close friend.

“For it was not an enemy that reproached me; then I could have borne it: neither was it he that hated me that did magnify himself against me; then I would have hid myself from him: But it was thou, a man mine equal, my guide, and mine acquaintance. We took sweet counsel together, and walked unto the house of God in company” (vs. 12-14).

It was not an open attack from an obvious enemy that had struck David. This old warrior could have defended himself against such an attack. “But it was you!” It was a man whom David had trusted to be his counselor and guide, one whom he had treated as an equal, a close acquaintance or “familiar friend” (NASV).

No one is as real an enemy as a false friend. Their reproaches cut to the soul. They are the ones to whom we have opened ourselves and made ourselves the most vulnerable. They know where to hit us so that it hurts the worst and does the most damage.

While this passage expresses David’s sorrow over the betrayal of his friend Ahithophel, it obviously foreshadows Judas’ betrayal of the Lord. In a similar passage in Psalm 41, David wrote, “Yea, mine own familiar friend, in whom I trusted, which did eat of my bread, hath lifted up his heel against me” (v. 9). In the upper room, on the night that He was betrayed, Jesus told his disciples that this Scripture was about to be fulfilled (John 13:18). Later, in the Garden of Gethsemane, when Judas kissed Him, Jesus responded, “Friend, wherefore art thou come?” (Matthew 26:50). Jesus may as well have said, “It is you. My friend and My equal. We took sweet counsel together and walked into the house of God as brothers. I trusted you with the purse, as well as My life.” It is no surprise that the next time we read of Judas he is hanging himself in remorse over his treachery (Matthew 27:3-5). Ahithophel suffered a similar fate (2 Samuel 17:23).

The Action That David Took

“Let death seize upon them, and let them go down quick into hell: for wickedness is in their dwellings, and among them” (v. 15).

David cried out for justice. Although he did not want any harm to come to his son, there was a part of him that wanted the treason and betrayal to be dealt with in the appropriate manner. These men needed to die for their wickedness. However, instead of taking matters into his own hands, David trusted in God to handle the situation.

“As for me, I will call upon God; and the LORD shall save me. Evening, and morning, and at noon, will I pray, and cry aloud: and he shall hear my voice” (vs. 16-17).

David did not seek to avenge himself. He took this matter to God in prayer and trusted in God to save him. David prayed to God continually and with certainty, believing that God both heard his plea and would answer his cry. We would do well to remember David’s example. We must never seek vengeance for ourselves, but give place for the wrath of God. “Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men. If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men. Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord” (Romans 12:17-19).

“He hath delivered my soul in peace from the battle that was against me: for there were many with me. God shall hear, and afflict them, even he that abideth of old. Selah. Because they have no changes, therefore they fear not God” (vs. 18-19).

So confident is David in God’s willingness and ability to handle this situation that he speaks of God’s deliverance as if it has already happened! God shall hear and afflict the enemy. Not only does God hear the prayers of His suffering children, but He also hears the evil that is done by His children’s tormentors. Nothing escapes the all-seeing eye or the all-hearing ear of God.

David returns to describing the character of his treasonous friend.

“He hath put forth his hands against such as be at peace with him: he hath broken his covenant. The words of his mouth were smoother than butter, but war was in his heart: his words were softer than oil, yet were they drawn swords” (vs. 20-21).

Such are those who go back on their word and take advantage of the trust that their friends and neighbors have placed in them. Their words are smoother than butter and softer than oil, but drawn swords are behind their backs and war is in their hearts. We must beware a trap when the bait appears to be the most enticing. “He who hates, disguises it with his lips, and lays up deceit within himself. When he speaks kindly, do not believe him, for there are seven abominations in his heart. Though his hatred is covered by deceit, his wickedness will be revealed before the assembly” (Proverbs 26:24-26, NKJV).

The Admonition That David Gave

“Cast thy burden upon the LORD, and he shall sustain thee: he shall never suffer the righteous to be moved” (v. 22).

Sometimes this is the only remedy for a hurting heart. There is, quite honestly, nothing more that we can do.

David says for us to “cast” our burden upon the Lord. We may not be able to resolve the matter, but we have to get rid of it, for if we keep it with us it will slowly drag us down and ruin us. Anyone who has gone fishing knows what it means to cast something. It means to throw it as far away from you as possible. In this case, we are to cast our burdens “upon the Lord.” We do this through prayer. Notice again the role that prayer has played throughout this psalm (vs. 1-2, 16-17, 19).

Peter would use this verse as a means of offering comfort to the suffering Christians of his day. “Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time: casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you” (1 Peter 5:6-7). God cares for us and He cares about what happens to us. God will take care of us, just as He did for both David and for Jesus. We are to “cast” because God “cares.”

The promise of God is that He will sustain us through the storm that we are weathering and will not allow us to be moved. He who stands with God stands firm in the face of adversity.

“But thou, O God, shalt bring them down into the pit of destruction: bloody and deceitful men shall not live out half their days; but I will trust in thee” (v. 21).

This verse is very similar to verse 15. David will trust God to take care of those who are threatening his life. We must show the same faith which was shown by David. It is hard to watch as those who have hurt us appear to “get away with” their sins. However, we must rise above the temptation to take matters in our own hands or to complain about God’s apparent lack of concern for our situation. We must put our trust in God’s promise that those who seek to do harm to His children will be brought down to the pit of destruction. No one is going to get away with anything. Vengeance belongs to God, and He will execute His justice in His own time and in His own way.

Conclusion

This psalm gives us an opportunity to look into the heart of a man after God’s own heart, as well as to look into the heart of our suffering Savior. However, the practical use that we need to make of this psalm is to find the strength and guidance to weather the storms of our own lives.

This psalm reminds us that we are not the only ones who have faced these kinds of trials. God cares about the grief and sorrow that we feel. He cares about us and wants us to cast our burdens upon Him in prayer. While He does not permit us to escape the troubles of life, He does give us the strength to be sustained through those times of sorrow. Jesus, our mediator and advocate, has personally experienced the pain of betrayal and treachery. His way is the best way to handle these kinds of situations.

“For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps. Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth. Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously” (1 Peter 2:21-23).