“‘You, O God, will cast them into the pit of destruction, but I will trust in you.'”
JULY 7, 2022
Justin Holcomb: You, O God, will cast them into the pit of destruction, but I will trust in you. Let’s talk about it, on Key Life.
This is Key Life. We are here to let you know that because of what Jesus has done. God will never angry at you again. Justin Holcomb has been teaching us all this week. Justin is an Episcopal priest, an author, and he teaches at Reformed Theological Seminary.
Justin Holcomb: Thank you Matthew. My name is Justin Holcomb, and we have been exploring some Psalms this week, and it has been a joy to peer into the songbook of God’s covenant people. And to look at some of the songs that we are invited and even expected to sing as worship and as our prayers. We’ve looked at Psalm 88 previously, then Psalm 18 and Psalm 22. Now we are looking at Psalm 55. One of the most common laments in Scripture include prayers to God to protect the writer from enemy and harm. And Psalm 55 follows this literary pattern, but it has a unique twist from all of the other Psalms that pray like that, because here the enemy poses harm to the Psalmist and is called a companion and a familiar friend in verse 13. Psalm 55 is a Psalm of betrayal by some one close to the writer. Many times when David is referring to his enemies, he’s referring to armies and groups of people that are hunting him down. Psalm 55 is an individual who has betrayed and humiliated and harmed David. It’s theme can help provide a way forward for those who have faced this unique pain. The Psalmist’s distress is particularly sharp because of the betrayal by a person who at one time had been seen as a best friend, yet the Psalm is also hopeful. Even admits despair as David turns to God and trusts knowing that it is he who fights for him and who sees all injustice and promises to right all wrongs in God’s own time. The prayer is earnest and its occasion is desperate. It starts out like this.
God give ear to my prayer, 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. They drop trouble upon me, and in anger they bear a grudge against me.
The first section of the Psalm begins with a plea to God to not hide himself. When the Psalmist asked God to answer him, this does not mean an answer in response to a question, but rather it refers to an answer in terms of action on behalf of the distressed, because things only seem to be getting worse. In other words, this friend is treating the Psalmist in the exact opposite way that one would expect treatment from a friend. This is a deep betrayal indeed. Verses four through eight provide consolation that we’re not alone in our pain and our desire to flee from trouble. Listen to how David describes his desire to flee this betrayal, the extra sting, when it’s not just an army, which is threatening, but an individual friend who has betrayed, verses four through eight.
My heart is in anguish within me; the terrors of death have fallen upon me. Fear and trembling come upon me, and horror overwhelms me. And I say, “Oh, that I had wings like a dove! I would fly away and be at rest; yes, I would wonder far away; I would lodge in the wilderness; I would hurry to find a shelter from the raging wind and tempest.”
And then he gets specific in verses 12 through 14 and verses 20 through 22, where he says that he’s being betrayed by his own friend. In this section the pain sharpens. It’s not a nameless adversary who’s seeking to harm the pious singer, but whoa, my companion, my familiar friend. The Psalmist now speaks of a former friend who has betrayed. The worst thing about the Psalmist’s situation is that he is being reviled and mocked by one who used to be an equal, a companion, a familiar friend. This evokes closeness and trust, a shared experience. The betrayal stings so much because the perpetrator was in a close relationship of trust with David. The evil perpetrated was a violation and harm of closeness. This is what the Psalm says.
For it is not an enemy who taunts me- then I could bear it; it is not an adversary who deals insolently with- 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. 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.
That’s an amazing description of, a few things that come to mind. One, is Jesus is being betrayed by those that were close. He was sold for silver. So Jesus has an experience of this, but many of us have experienced this kind of betrayal. And I want you to just to hear those words, go back and read them and recognize that God is not just responding to the suffering broadly of abstract groups or entities or armies, but individuals who because of their closeness, their harm stings that much more. Verse 16 signals in the midst, right after some of this description of the pain, a pivotal moment.
But I call to God, and the Lord will save me.
Verse 18 declares incredible hope.
He redeems my soul in safety from the battle that I wage, for many are arrayed against me.
These verses highlight the need to call to God for help in the midst of this kind of pain and betrayal. In our most raw and wounded state, this might not be possible. And then we simply need to be honest and lament our suffering before God as David did, but eventually if we’re to continue forward with God, there will most likely come a time when a ray of light breaks in that allows us to surrender our hearts to the only one who can actually help. It is often at this point that hope begins to dawn more fully, as our prayers mysteriously work with a purpose of God to bring about our deliverance. Even while we wait in patience and endurance. And the beauty of this Psalm is that it has a long view on what God is doing and when he will do it. The singer addresses his fellow singers first. And then. God himself as Psalm 55 ends like this.
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 treasury shall not live out half their days. But I will trust in you.
Cast your burdens on the Lord can be translated in numerous ways. Leave your trouble with the Lord. Give the Lord your troubles. Put on the Lord your troubles. Cast all your cares on him, because he cares for you. As we learn in the New Testament. Other ways of capturing this idea are the Lord will be troubled for you. The Lord will have worries in your place. All of these are so beautiful and hopeful. However, these words are translated, these words carry powerful comfort in our dark times. The reason the faithful can cast their burden on the Lord, is that he can be trusted to bring judgment upon evil doers. The Psalms do not say when God will cast them down, but the faithful will wait for God’s timing because justice is mine says the Lord. Therefore we can get off the hamster wheel of revenge. I’m encouraging you and myself, not to pray for the death of those who harm us. I’m encouraging ourselves, like David to entrust judgment of the one who harms us and trust judgment of them to God. Maybe you relate to the intensity of David’s fear and pain after being betrayed and harmed by a close companion. If anything, the Psalmist’s honesty should encourage us that have been harmed to, to be honest with God in the same way. God knows. He sees. He will bring justice as he sees fit. That is what we can take away from this Psalm. And in the meantime, God sustains, he sustains those who wait on him. He offers support, provides for one’s needs. Acknowledging this. David is able to close the Psalm with a final resounding phrase.
But I will trust in you.
No doubt. Your situation looks like David at some times. However, we have much to learn from David’s prayer to God in the midst of crisis. In the end, this Psalm provides a very helpful expression of emotion and lament for anyone facing suffering like this. But especially for those who have been harmed by someone who used to be a friend and trusted companion. The Psalm begins with a despairing cry and ends with a statement of trust. The desperate singer by the end of the song, turns his gaze away from the violence to look to God for future and hope. The end of the Psalm, but I will trust in you is not a humiliating declaration of defeat at the hands of harm, rather it is the discovery of an identity found in God, who’s on the side of those who suffer. It is the letting go of an identity formed according to harm perpetrated against us. I will trust in you is a call to God as an advocate of the afflicted, as the deliverer and refuge. And in so doing the afflicted gain strength to resist and are given back the identity that harm has stolen from them. The hope of finding a place of safety is fulfilled in real because God is on the side of the harm and is a refuge for them. Let’s close with the last sentence of this Psalm.
But I will trust in you.
And with that, we wrap up an amazing week of teaching on the Psalms. Thank you Justin Holcomb for bringing that to us. And remember that if you missed any episodes this week, or if you’d just like to re-listen, you can find all of them at keylife.org. And don’t forget, Steve will return tomorrow alongside our friend Pete Alwinson for Friday Q&A. Hope you’ll join us for that. Well, as you know, the church is changing. And in a way it always has been in the, see I am doing a new thing since. So, what does the church of tomorrow look like? Well, whatever it looks like, we know that God has called us to put new wine into new wineskins. But what does that entail? Well, Steve spoke about that in a sermon called The Sound of Exploding Wineskins based on Matthew 9. Get your free copy of that sermon on CD by calling us right now at 1-800-KEY-LIFE. That’s 1-800-539-5433. You can also e-mail [email protected] to ask for that CD. If you’d like to mail your request, send it to
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