John T. Willis

Sunday, January 08, 2017

Confidence in God to deliver one from enemies--Psalm 55

Like most Psalms. the author and historical setting of Psalm 55 are unknown. The few clues about the situation assumed in Psalm 55 are these: this psalmist was living in Jerusalem because he alludes to "the city" in 55:9 surrounded by walls in 55:10 in which the "house," that is, the temple, was situated according to 55:14. A large number of wicked people (55:3, 11, 18) oppress the psalmist and his friends (55:20). This is a well-organized ban of ruffians, who carefully plan deeds of violence and strife in the city (55:9), who constantly roam the city walls in search for opportunities to cause mischief and trouble (55:10), and who practice oppression and fraud in the marketplace (55:11, 23). Every generation has included people of this character. This psalmist's best friend, his "equal," his "companion," his "familiar friend" (55:13, 20) has betrayed him and his companions, and had broken their covenant of friendship by casting his lot with malicious oppressors (55:20). The psalmist can remember when they had conversed together on the most intimate matter, when they had enjoyed each other's fellowship in God's house [the Jerusalem temple] (55:14). But now he realizes that all this show of friendship and loyalty was nothing but a sham. His friend was using an external show of religion and of communion to promote his own selfish goals and personal gain, and therefore he would not hesitate to betray his friend's confidence in him if this was to his best interest.
           "My companion laid hands on a friend
                     and violated a covenant with me:
             with speech smoother than butter,
                     but with a heart set on war,
             with words that were softer than oil,
                     but in fact were drawn swords" (55:20-21).
A person should be able to open his/her heart fully to his/her Christian brother/sister, but unfortunately there are those even in the church today who do not hesitate to betray a brother's/ sister's confidence to promote their own interests. Psalm 55 falls into two parts.

1. The Psalmist beseeches Yahweh to intervene and deliver him from his enemies who plot his destruction. Psalm 55:1-11.
     a. The psalmist begins by imploring Yahweh to hear his prayer and not hide himself from the psalmist's supplication. He beseeches Yahweh to answer him. 55:1-2a.
     b. This psalmist says he is troubled and distraught by the "noise" and "clamor" of his wicked enemies. They bring trouble on the psalmist and in anger they cherish enmity against him. The psalmist's heart is in anguish, the terrors of death have fallen on him, fear, trembling, and horror overwhelm him. 55:2b-5.
     c. The psalmist wishes he could escape far away from this terrible circumstance. He would like to fly away like a dove, rest, and lodge in the wilderness, a shelter from the raging wind and tempest. 55:6-8.
     d. The psalmist beseeches Yahweh to confuse and confound the speech of his enemies. His enemies cause violence and strife in the city; they go around on its walls to cause iniquity and trouble;  in the marketplace, his enemies cause oppression and fraud. 55:9-11.

2. This psalmist declares his confidence that Yahweh will deliver him from the schemes of his best friend who has betrayed him. Psalm 55:12-23.
    a. The psalmist says he could cope with the atrocities of his enemies,  but in this situation his "equal," his "companion," his "familiar friend" with whom he kept pleasant company and who walked together in the house of God [the Jerusalem temple] with the throng of worshippers, has stabbed him in the back, he has betrayed him vehemently. 55:12-14.
    b. Because of this, this psalmist implores Yahweh to let death come upon his vicious enemies and go down alive to Sheol, the grave because EVIL [SIN OF THE HEART] is in their homes and hearts. 55:15.
    c. Thus, this psalmist turns to Yahweh for help and deliverance. He is certain that Yahweh will hear his voice and intervene. God, who is enthroned from of old, will hear his cry and humble his enemies, because his enemies do not change and do not fear [revere, honor] God. 55:16-19.
    d. This psalmist's best friend, his "companion," laid hands on him and violated a covenant with him. The way he did this is pretending to be his best friend, when in reality he planned to destroy his so-called friend. 55:20-21.
    e. Finally, the psalmist turns to his audience and then to God. He beseeches his audience to cast their burdens on the Lord because he will sustain you; he will never allow the righteous to be moved. Then affirms that God will cast down his wicked enemies into the lowest pit because they are bloodthirsty and treacherous. This psalmist will trust in Yahweh. 55:22-23.

Every generation produces churches here and there in which so-called Christians will betray their fellow-worshippers. This is sad, but true. Be prepared to face this reality.

Share YOUR experiences and losses and anguishes and betrayals and reversals with others. Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis


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