Faith comes hard to us when someone we love and trust hangs us out to dry.
If we’re honest, many of us who say we love the Psalms love the really positive ones. You know, “The LORD is my shepherd…” or “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in time of need” or “Lord, you have been our dwelling place in all generations.” Happy songs about creation or rescues or promises thrill us.
We are selective. Jesus’ most quoted book, the Psalms, go back and forth between dense poems of darkness and bright lights of hope. Aren’t the dour and dark ones for the scholars to figure out? No! Christlikeness, completeness, holiness, and peace don’t allow such a Pollyanna approach to following Jesus the Christ. “All Scripture is inspired and profitable” the Bible says of itself. The cheer Polly brings has its place when she visits, but the Psalms Jesus loved so much won’t allow her to be our only guest.
Along the way in our walk through the Psalms we come to Psalm 55. On the surface it sets a familiar, dour tone. Enemies and trouble abound, and David is tired of them and it. But the Song has a twist: The enemy is David’s former companion (vss. 12-15). Unnamed here, we know David’s own son turned on him as well as his counselor Athitophel. We expect “wounds” that will help us to come from “faithful friends” (Proverbs 27:6). But deception and attacks and threats and harmful words from “my companion, my familiar friend” (v. 13)?! Yet it happens. Stop now and pray for them.
“Help God!” we scream. “I want to escape to a deserted island (“Oh, that I had wings like a dove! I would fly away…” v. 6). We want the worst for our offenders (“Destroy, O Lord, divide their tongues…” v. 9). This person or group has really hurt us and we need to get them out of our system and life. Do you—will you—pray like David did?
David will help us pray from despair to faith. He begins with the great contrast in verse 15, “But I call to God, and the LORD will save me.” The Scripture’s most potent three-letter word is “But.” But—in spite of the hurt, in spite of cost it has brought to me—we go to God about it. He is our starting point. David recalls the person and works of God: God saves, hears, redeems, judges them, and sustains us (vss. 16-19, 22). Bitterness gives way to worship. He ends with a commitment, “But I will trust in You.” The unexplainable has become the undeniable. That is faith.
Jerome gave his Latin version of Psalm 55 the subtitle, “The voice of Christ against the chiefs of the Jews and the traitor Judas.” When faith comes hard see if you don’t hear and see Christ on the way to the cross in Psalm 55.
“What a [faithful] friend we have in Jesus.”