Give ear to my prayer, O God, and hide not yourself from my plea for mercy! Attend to me, and answer me; I am restless in my complaint and I moan, because of the noise of the enemy, because of the oppression of the wicked.
For they drop trouble upon me, and in anger they bear a grudge against me. My heart is in anguish within me; the terrors of death have fallen upon me.
(skip to v. 12)
For it is not an enemy who taunts me— then I could bear it; it is not an adversary who deals insolently with me— then I could hide from him.
But it is YOU, a man my equal, my companion, my familiar friend.
We used to take sweet counsel together; within God's house we walked in the throng.
Let death steal over them; let them go down to Sheol alive; for evil is in their dwelling place and in their heart.
I can think of no greater pain – than that of betrayal. It’s one thing to experience the deceit of an acquaintance or co-worker who is only using you as a stepping stone - we just chock it up to ambition… it isn't personal. But it’s quite ANOTHER to be deceived by someone you trust: a close friend, a counselor, a spouse.
Have YOU been … betrayed?
The details of our experiences may vary – but the emotions we feel are basically the same – sorrow… anger ... bitterness. This unwelcomed breach of trust scars the heart and sours the spirit.
This psalm will take us on a tour of these emotions – and THEN will show us what to do with them.
There is little doubt among scholars that David is referring to the rebellion of his son, Absalom.
You may recall how Absalom sparked a revolt against his father. Angry that his dad hadn’t done something about his sister’s rape. Bewildered that his father seemed so indifferent about the problems of his kingdom. Absalom sought not only to unseat David – he wanted to humiliate him.
David, understandably shaken by the treachery of his son, was slow to react to Absalom’s rebellion. Naturally blaming himself and his past sins for the whole mess – not knowing that behind the scenes ⇒ the strife was being manipulated by a man he THOUGHT of as one of his closest friends. A member of David’s inner circle – his counselor – was pulling the strings that prompted Absalom to ruin his dad.
As if the rebellion of a child isn’t bad enough – add to it the treachery of your best friend and you can understand the PAIN David felt.
THIS PSALM is called “A Maschil,” meaning - it is a Psalm of Instruction – a psalm with a specific lesson.
Not only will it show us the natural emotions we can expect when betrayed, it will teach us the proper way of PROCESSING those emotions. It is one thing to feel the hurt, the embarrassment, the guilt and the anger, but it’s quite another to process those emotions in a way that pleases the Lord.
So, if you have wondered WHAT a Christian should DO when he is betrayed, David will show us three important things:
1. Notice FIRST David’s Anguish in the opening of the Psalm. His choice of words is not lost on us… words like mourn, hate, pain, terror, and overwhelmed… these all reflect his Anguish. As you wade through these powerful words, you understand:
FIRST how David Felt. To some degree, he felt LOST… abandoned by God and forsaken by man. He had always known the grace and mercy of God – but as he goes through THIS he can’t understand why God IS ALLOWING so much suffering. When he prayed, he couldn't understand why God seemed SO FAR away.
He didn’t just feel abandoned, he felt ABUSED. He describes it as “the oppression of the wicked” in v. 3. Cornered – like he had nowhere to turn… his physical resources spent… his allies gone… no matter how FAST his mind worked, there was no possible way he could get ahead of this. “If his BEST FRIEND had betrayed him - how could he trust ANYONE??” “His SON had turned the hearts of the entire nation against him.” “The city of Jerusalem was in total chaos.”
Abused and abandoned – that’s how he felt.
THEN we see what he Feared in vv. 4 and 5. He didn’t know if his health could take it. The turmoil of his surroundings had made its way into his soul. He was wrung out like a dish rag. Still haunted by the ghost of Uriah, the man he murdered, and the heaviness of his sin with Bathsheba, he wondered “When will I ever stop paying for my mistakes?”
In truth – everything he is experiencing had been set into motion by his own hand some 30 years prior. He KNEW that HE was responsible for this. Sin is a terrible thing. What began as an exciting “fling,” set into motion a whirlwind of trouble that caused his whole world to collapse around him.
But not only do we see what he felt and what he feared, vv. 6-8 show us what he fancied. He wanted WINGS that would help him escape all this. He was sick of everything –
- the gossip, the slander, the lies.
- He was sick of the controversy in his family.
- Sick of the thankless people he was called to lead.
He wanted to do what Elijah and Peter had done when they were depressed: RUN AWAY. He longed for the hills he roamed as a boy tending sheep. He wanted to escape.
Some of YOU are there now. Tired of the struggle. Tired of the sacrifice. Ready to run away – thinking a change of scenery will help you forget your problems.
THAT’s how David felt.
2. But after his anguish, we THEN see his Anger in vv. 9-15. It grew white-hot. His mood of defeat and despair gave way to hatred. He was being hurried down the back-alleys of Jerusalem by his body-guard, Joab. Forced to abandon the throne and the comfort of his palace… forced to flee the tabernacle of God. All his work and labor of love in ruins. The hymns he had written for THEM. His loves. He lost it ALL!
As David fled the city he had helped build, he grew angry. He was KING after all! How DARE they forget all the good things he had done. His blood boiled over two things in particular:
First, he was angry over the trouble in his Country. He had left the city known for its peace NOW embroiled in lawlessness, looting, and violence. And to think that his SON – his OWN flesh and blood - was responsible for this insurrection and riot ⇒ was more than he could bear.
In vv. 10 and 11 he tells the Lord about all the evil he had witnessed… describing a city completely given over to chaos… more like Ferguson or Chicago than the ‘Holy City.’
But that was not ALL that grieved him. The trouble in his country PALED in comparison to the Treachery of his Comrade in vv. 12-15. The man responsible for all this?? The one manipulating Absalom?? – was a man named Ahithophel.
THIS is why David felt these wounds so keenly.
Ahithophel was a member of David’s inner circle – a confidant… a friend.
How his mind must have drifted back to the good ole days when the people loved him and his friends would do anything FOR him. How HE and Ahithophel were like brothers – they thought alike – they shared the same concerns – they fought the same battles.
THIS was the man stabbing David in the back!!!
He could close his eyes and see how it all happened. His anger growing at the thought of his friend, turned traitor, whispering in the ear of his son. David’s spies confirm that Ahithophel is telling Absalom that the king MUST die. So David’s anger splashes onto the page in verse 15 when he says, “Let death steal over them; let them go down to Sheol (hell) alive!”
That doesn’t sound very Christ-like, does it?? But when hurt grows into anger, REVENGE is the only thing on your mind.
3. But I’m glad the story doesn’t end there. After David’s Anguish and Anger, we see David’s Answer in vv. 16-23. Let’s read them together:
But I call to God, and the Lord will save me. Evening and morning and at noon I utter my complaint and moan, and he hears my voice. He redeems my soul in safety from the battle that I wage, for many are arrayed against me.
God will give ear and humble them, he who is enthroned from of old, Selah because they do not change and do not fear God. My companion stretched out his hand against his friends; he violated his covenant.
His speech was smooth as butter, yet war was in his heart; his words were softer than oil, yet they were drawn swords.
Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved.
But YOU, O God, will cast them down into the pit of destruction; men of blood and treachery shall not live out half their days.
But I - will trust - in you.
NOW we understand why David calls this psalm a “Maschil.” It teaches us to trust the Lord.
Suffering … pain … loss - will teach you so important things.
Through all this terrible STUFF… through all the hurt of betrayal - he had learned three specific things about the Lord:
First, he learned about the Responsiveness of the Lord. He realized that the very MOMENT HE PRAYED, God had an answer in the works. He was confident that God – who had never failed him the PAST – would deliver him from THIS situation too. The Responsiveness of the Lord comforted him.
You need to remember that too. In times of great distress, when we feel disappointed and lonely and forsaken – it is THEN that we need to cry out to the Lord. As the writer of Hebrews said, “Let us therefore come BOLDLY unto the throne of grace that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”
In times like THESE we need to reflect on the writings of John, who said, “And THIS is the confidence that we have in Him – that, if we ask ANYTHING according to His will, He hears us. AND if we know that He hears us, whatsoever we ask, we KNOW that we have the petitions that we desired of Him!”
God is Responsive.
Not only did David remember the Responsiveness of the Lord, he remembered the Righteousness of the Lord in vv. 19-21.
According to David’s way of thinking – God would have to give up HIS throne if He allowed David to be forced from his. WHY?? Because God had PROMISED that throne to David. And because God is a RIGHTEOUS God, He ALWAYS keeps His Word!
As David thinks of the people who had taken up arms against him, and recalls all their abominations and blasphemies, he KNEW that the Righteousness of God wouldn’t allow the Lord to remain neutral – that they hadn’t just offended David, they had offended the Lord. He knew that while God IS merciful and gracious – he also knew that the Lord would not close His eyes to the evil of these two men.
In his most desperate hours – with his future still hanging in the balance, and with the decisive battles YET to be fought, David teaches us to FLING ourselves on God.
The Righteousness of God will comfort you in your hour of hopelessness. God WILL ACT – His righteousness demands it!
It is NOT your responsibility to GET EVEN – it is not yours to show the world who they are – God will handle that. Don’t drag your friends into it. Trust the Lord!!! Don’t share your grievances with sympathetic ears that cannot vindicate you - share it with God!
But not only does David teach us of the Responsiveness of God and the Righteousness of God, He then shows us the Retribution of God in vv. 22 and 23. “Cast your burden upon the Lord and HE shall sustain you: He shall NEVER permit the righteous to be moved!”
Sounds like ANOTHER of God’s servants – Peter – who wrote, “Cast all your cares upon the Lord, because HE cares for YOU.”
David’s hopes were confirmed. God stepped into the situation so that David didn’t have to be the one to exact vengeance. God did it FOR him. God is a God of justice – and when He promises to take care of it – you can TRUST Him!
What can WE learn from all of this??
- Betrayal hurts… deeply.
- There are times when men fail us.
- And while some of the problems we face are of our own making, we should trust the Lord to work things out for our good… because He WILL!
- When life comes crashing in on you and you don’t know what to do, trust the Lord – HE will vindicate you. He is your defender and shield. Remember what He told us in Zechariah 2:8?? “He that touches YOU, touches the apple of His eye.”
While nothing hurts like betrayal – No one comforts like God.
Do YOU need his comfort this morning? Have you recently felt like running away from it all?? The only escape you need is Jesus. Throw yourself into His arms – He loves you and is determined to meet your needs.
The temptation we face is to feel alone and helpless. But you are NEITHER. David even said in v. 18, “there were many WITH me.” Not everyone had forsaken him. There WERE those who cared and stood with him. And YOU have a network that cares and stands with you too. You are not alone.
If you need to throw yourself into the arms of the Lord, you are among friends who understand and care. And we are going to give you that opportunity right now.