August 10, 2010 David Balzer

Psalm 55: A Song of the Betrayed

It’s a sad fact of life that at some time or another, you’ll be the victim of a personal attack. Someone will make up there mind that you deserve it. And they’ll let rip. Lash out. Give you a gob full. Or back-stab you. Or betray you.

And being a member of a church doesn’t make you immune from this sort of thing. In fact, it seems like some of the WORST sorts of attack come between people who are SUPPOSED to be brothers and sisters in Jesus.

Some of the stories I hear sound like churches are just a whole bunch of people with the giant red bulls eyes painted on their chests. Targets for all sorts of discontented, or angry, or hurt, or bitter, or malicious/ gossips, slanderers, back-stabbers and betrayers.

Perhaps YOU’VE been on the receiving end of that sort of treatment.

But from what I hear from other ministers, God’s been very good to us here by comparison. I haven’t been attacked or accused in any significant way since I’ve been here at Western Blacktown. At least, not that I’m AWARE of. Which I guess is all that matters. And I hope no one else has either.

But that can’t be said of EVERY CHURCH. Just last week Dad was telling me about a retired minister who’s visited Dad’s Crookwell church a couple of times. Apparently, he’s moved into the area. This guy hasn’t served in a church for more than twenty years. But he still felt confident enough to wait until Dad had left. And then start criticising the state of the Presbyterian Church these days, and the training college – the PTC. And complaining about how good the good old days were.

And how things were so much better when people weren’t so dogmatic about things like the truth of the Bible, or that Jesus was the only way to be saved. And how more people would be coming to church if Dad wasn’t so strict on preaching those sorts of fanatical and fundamentalist opinions.

Dad heard about it later from another member of the congregation.

Probably the last thing Dad needs at the moment. But he went to see the guy last week. And told him to pull his head in. That he was out of line.    Not sure if he’ll come back to church or not – Dad thinks he’ll end up at the Uniting Church – he’ll probably feel a lot more comfortable there anyway.

Now, Dad’s big enough and ugly enough to stand up to guys like that. Although I think it affects him more than he lets on. But what about if you WEREN’T quite so experienced and confident? Mike O’Connor, who used to be at this church, was straight out of college. And he had a similar experience in the short time he was at Wauchope a few years back.

ANOTHER retired minister – one of the pillars of the denomination – who’d occupied a number of significant positions over the decades, and been the minister at a number of large churches in different states. Rather than SUPPORT, encourage, and guide Mike in his first appointment. Take him under his wing. Felt it was his duty to UNDERMINE him, build opposition against him, publicly and personally attack both Mike and Corinne, then run them out of town.

He succeeded. He drove Mike into a deep depression, and almost ran Mike and Corinne out of THE MINISTRY into the bargain. I hope he felt proud!

It’s a terrible situation when people personally attack you. When there’s disagreement and conflict. And it’s even worse when it’s in the church.

But there’s a level of attack that’s at a COMPLETELY DIFFERENT LEVEL. It knocks the wind out of you. It brings you to your knees. It makes you feel like your whole world is coming unraveled. And that’s when the attack comes from A CLOSE FRIEND – someone you trusted completely. When you’re betrayed and wounded by someone you deeply loved and cared about.

Many of you have been there. For some of you, it was a SPOUSE—someone you stood beside as they pledged they’d love you until the day they died. But your spouse BETRAYED you, and that wound is deeper than any wound you’ve ever known.

For some of you it was another family member – a son or daughter who abused your trust. And took advantage of your love, or your generosity. And cut your heart in two.

For others it might have been a close friend, or a business partner. Our dentist is a friend – a Christian – and a number of years ago he was ripped off by his accountant. Cheated him out of tens of thousands of dollars. It took him years to recover. He’d trusted this guy. And he’d been betrayed.

It shakes your whole world. It’s the worst sort of attack because it impacts your trust for EVERYBODY. If you can’t trust your friends who CAN you trust? Normally it’s friends who support you when you’re copping it from OTHERS. But who do you turn to when it’s FRIENDS doing the damage?

So what do you do? How do you respond? Let’s learn from King David. Who was in the exactly the same boat. And the lesson he learned is down there in v22 of Ps 55.

22 Cast your cares on the LORD

and he will sustain you;

he will never let the righteous fall.

Everyone else might let you down. But God can ALWAYS be relied on.

The cause of the problem – betrayal (12-15; 20-21)

Now, in Psalm 55 there’s plenty of things going on here. And it’s a bit difficult to work out exactly. But the cause of the problem’s clear. David’s been betrayed by a close friend. Look there in v12.

12 If an enemy were insulting me, I could endure it;

if a foe were raising himself against me, I could hide from him.

13 But it is you, a man like myself,

my companion, my close friend,

14 with whom I once enjoyed sweet fellowship

as we walked with the throng at the house of God.

He was a mate– a peer. Someone David had TRUSTED. Opened himself up to.

And they’d worshipped together. Just like with my Dad, and also with Mike O’Connor. Enjoyed sweet fellowship. But not any more. Now, he’s ATTACKING him in some way.

We get another hint down in v20 about how this guy works.

20 My companion attacks his friends; he violates his covenant.

21 His speech is smooth as butter, yet war is in his heart;

his words are more soothing than oil, yet they are drawn swords.

Seems like David’s not the only one. This guy says ONE thing. PROMISES it. SIGNS THE CONTRACT. Then does something DIFFERENT.. You can’t trust him as far as you can throw him. He’s the sort of con-man Today-Tonight LOVES to chase after.

We don’t know the exact details. It could have been a rebellion. One of his army officers, or close friends, who tried to overthrow him with the help of some rebel soldiers. That’s the SORT of situation that seems to fit. Because there’s also A GROUP of people creating havoc. In v10 and 11, they’re prowling around on the city walls. Just ripping the city apart. With malice and abuse and threats and lies. And perhaps David’s ex-friend is the RING-LEADER.

1. David’s situation (1-8)

But whatever the SPECIFICS, we CAN see that it’s greatly affecting David. And he wants God to DEAL WITH IT. In the first 8 verses, we see DAVID’S SITUATION. Look from V1.

Listen to my prayer, O God, do not ignore my plea;

2 hear me and answer me.

My thoughts TROUBLE me and I am DISTRAUGHT

3 at the voice of the enemy, at the stares of the wicked;

for they bring down SUFFERING upon me and revile me in their anger.

4 My heart is in ANGUISH within me; the TERRORS OF DEATH assail me.

5 FEAR AND TREMBLING have beset me; HORROR has overwhelmed me.

David’s just piling up phrase after phrase about how DREADFUL this situation’s making him feel. And things are so bad all David can think of doing is to ESCAPE. In v6, he wishes he had wings like a dove and could fly off into the desert where none of this could affect him.

Have YOU ever felt like you’d like to do that? Things are just so overwhelming you can’t deal with them. You’d love to just go somewhere you can get some peace and quiet.

I remember Caron giving birth to Elyse, and some time during the labour Caron said, “I don’t want to do this. Can we just go home?” It’d be NICE, but it wouldn’t have HELPED. Elyse was coming out, and it didn’t matter WHERE we were.

And it’s a bit like that when we want to escape OUR problems rather than deal with them. If we go somewhere else, the problem doesn’t change. It’ll still be there when we get back.

We might try GOING ON A HOLIDAY from work. But the pile of papers will be twice as high when we get back. We might try softening the pain with ALCOHOL OR DRUGS. But the problems will still be there when we come down. They’ll probably be WORSE.

We might try and solve a problem-marriage by WITHDRAWING EMOTIONALLY. Living separate lives. So you can’t be hurt any more. But that fixes nothing. It’s no life at all if you won’t allow yourself to love, and be loved.

2. David’s prayer (9-23)

David thinks about escape. But, in the end, it’s only a daydream. And so, instead of getting away, he decides to go on the attack. To pray for God’s intervention.

In v1 he asks for God to LISTEN to his prayer. Now, from v9, here it is.

9 CONFUSE the wicked, O Lord, CONFOUND their speech,

for I see violence and strife in the city.

10 Day and night they prowl about on its walls;

malice and abuse are within it.

11 Destructive forces are at work in the city;

threats and lies never leave its streets.

Bring their plans to nothing. Frustrate them. Just like you did at the Tower of Babel. Undermine THEIR schemes – just like their schemes are about undermining ME.

And what’s happening in the city is mirrored, on the small scale, by the betrayal by David’s friend. That’s v12-14. Two sorts of betrayal – but on a much different magnitude.

The city’s got walls to stop OUTSIDERS from attacking. But they’re no use when the enemy’s WITHIN. All they do then is provide a nice high place for the traitors to hunt for their next victim.

A city’s useless against an INTERNAL attack.

And David feels the same way. He can cope with EXTERNAL opposition (that’s v12). But when the attack comes from a friend, his defences are down, and the damage is much greater.

And as David thinks about these internal attacks – both on the city and the personal level. He prays something in v15 that’s a little difficult for us to swallow.

15 Let death take my enemies by surprise;

let them go down alive to the grave,

for evil finds lodging among them.

To us it sounds like a fairly vindictive and hateful thing to be saying. But it’s really nothing worse than what he’s done up in v9. In v9, he was thinking of God’s judgment against the Tower of Babel. And his prayer was “Do what you did THEN, LORD – confound their speech”.

And it’s the same here in v15. He’s thinking of what happened to Korah’s rebellion in the wilderness. It’s in Numbers 16. Israel are in the desert being led to the Promised Land by Moses. But a group of about 250 people start REBELLING against Moses’ leadership.

To cut a long story short, Moses sets up a challenge. And the next day, God tells Moses he’s going to destroy the whole nation. But when Moses pleads that it’s only the sin of the one group. God agrees to destroy only the rebels. Listen to what happened.

28 Then Moses said, “This is how you will know that the LORD has sent me to do all these things and that it was not my idea: 29 If these men die a natural death and experience only what usually happens to men, then the LORD has not sent me. 30 But if the LORD brings about something totally new, and the earth opens its mouth and swallows them, with everything that belongs to them, and they go down alive into the grave, then you will know that these men have treated the LORD with contempt.”

31 As soon as he finished saying all this, the ground under them split apart 32 and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them, with their households and all Korah’s men and all their possessions. 33 They went down alive into the grave, with everything they owned; the earth closed over them, and they perished and were gone from the community.

…Tough, but fair!  And that’s the sort of thing David’s praying that God will do with THESE rebels. These traitors against God’s people. Deal with them according to how you’ve shown justice BEFORE.

So, when it comes to how we deal with a prayer like this – that’s something to keep in mind. He prays the sorts of things that are TRUE to God’s character.

And he prays it CONFIDENTLY because of what he knows of God’s character. Look in v16.

16 But I call to God, and the LORD saves me.

17 Evening, morning and noon I cry out in distress,

and he hears my voice.

18 He ransoms me unharmed from the battle waged against me,

even though many oppose me.

19 God, who is ENTHRONED FOREVER, WILL hear them and afflict them–

Enemies are CERTAIN to attack you. And friends can’t be trusted either. But God can. He DOESN’T change. He CAN be trusted to deliver.

And so we come to David’s conclusion. The lesson he’s learned. The truth he speaks to himself. There in v22. And it’s passed down through the ages as a wonderful lesson for US, TOO. Whatever OUR cares are.

22 Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous fall.

And what are the cares that David’s unloading onto God? The very next verse.

23 But you, O God, WILL bring down the wicked into the pit of corruption; bloodthirsty and deceitful men will not live out half their days. But as for me, I trust in you.

And that’s where David finishes. He’s cast his burdens onto God. Dumped all his load with God. And he’s going to LEAVE it there. He’s going to TRUST God. He’s not sure what the future holds, but he’s stepping into it with the CONFIDENCE that God will SUSTAIN him. The future’s God’s. Let HIM deal with it.

As Jesus says in Mt 6:25 (to 34)

27 Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? …31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Don’t worry. Give tomorrow over to God. Cast your cares onto God for he’ll sustain you. Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given us as well.

Whether it’s cares about the terrible betrayal of a close friend. Or OTHER cares. Cares about food and drink and clothing. Leave them with him. And pursue righteousness.

Whether it’s cares about employment, or cares about health. Leave them with him.

When it comes to your CHILDREN, leave your cares with him. Cares about their salvation. Cares about their safety. Cares about their future.

When it comes to your worries about GUIDANCE – where God wants you, and what he wants you to do. Leave it with him.

Don’t worry. Give tomorrow over to God. Cast your cares onto God for he’ll sustain you. Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given us as well.

But what does that LOOK like? How does someone who’s leaving their cares with God/ behave DIFFERENTLY from someone who ISN’T? How are they THINKING differently? How is their approach to tomorrow DIFFERENT?

At the very least, casting our cares onto God will mean PRAYING. Praying about everything. Praying for longer. Praying with lists. Praying with others.

To cast you cares onto God means to ask for him to deal with your situation.

But we SHOW that confidence in the way we live. It’s what Jesus was getting at when he said to SEEK FIRST God’s kingdom and his righteousness. That’s a positive, constructive, concrete expression of what it means not to worry. And to lay our cares on him.

And we can see the same sort of advice in 1 Peter 5. Flip over there with me (p859). It’s where we’ll finish today. Peter’s talking to a group of people who are suffering persecution. And at the end of Ch 4 (v19) he sums up what their lives should look like.

19 So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.

Commit themselves to their faithful Creator. In other words, cast their cares on the God who is faithful, and who’ll sustain them. And SHOW that commitment, not by seeking revenge, or by worrying. But by continuing to do good.

That’s how we show we’ve cast our cares on God. By seeking first righteousness. In the face of huge burdens, to behave in a way that people can’t understand. “How can you keep going when life is so tough? How can you seem so NORMAL?”

And the answer is/ because you’ve cast your cares onto God.

Peter continues into Ch 5, describing what doing good looks like. For the elders in the church, they’re to keep looking after the sheep.

Then, v5, for the young men, doing good will mean being submissive to their elders. To clothe themselves in humility.

And then Peter gets to v6.

6 HUMBLE YOURSELVES, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, THAT HE MAY LIFT YOU UP IN DUE TIME. 7 CAST ALL YOUR ANXIETY ON HIM BECAUSE HE CARES FOR YOU.

To cast our anxieties on him is to humble ourselves under God’s care. To recognise that WE are weak, and HE is strong. That HE controls tomorrow, and we don’t. And to SHOW that trust by living obedient and godly lives.

A few verses further on Peter prays this wonderful doxology. Which gives us a clear perspective in whatever burdens WE carry around. And we’ll close with THESE words. V10

10 And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. 11 To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen.

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