Psalm 055


Today’s psalm is a psalm of lament in which the psalmist cries to the Lord because he’s in trouble. And he’s in trouble because of the wicked and the wicked things they’re doing. But he’s also in trouble, because a friend has betrayed him.

Verses 1 to 3

In verses 1 to 3 the psalmist asks the Lord to listen to his prayer. Don’t ignore my plea, he says, but hear me and answer me. When a believer is in trouble, the first thing we should do is to turn to the Lord in prayer and to seek his help. And the psalmist needs God’s help because his thoughts are troubling him and he’s distraught because of the voice of the enemy and the stares of the wicked. A more literal translation of ‘My thoughts trouble me’ is ‘I am restless in my complaint’. You know what he means, don’t you? When we’re anxious about something, we can’t sit still, but we pace the room. Or we can’t lie down and sleep, but we’re tossing and turning all night. Have you ever felt like that? And the word translated ‘distraught’ means ‘moan’. And so, because of his anxiety and fear, because of his mental anguish, he moan and groans. And he’s feeling this way because of his enemies who are bringing down suffering upon him; and they’re angry with him and they hate him.

Verses 4 to 8

He’s in a bad way, isn’t he? And he continues to describe his suffering in verses 4 to 8. He says his heart is in anguish within him. The word translated ‘anguish’ can be used of the pain of a woman in childbirth. When he refers to ‘the terrors of death’ he means he’s frightened to death. And fear and trembling and a sense of horror have overwhelmed him. And so, given this sense of dread and fear that has come upon him, it’s little wonder that he wishes in verse 6 that he could just fly away like a bird and make his escape. And you know what he means — don’t you? — because when we’re under pressure, when problems are piling up on top of us, when someone is giving us a hard time, we just want to flee. What is it they say? When we’re in danger, we either fight or take flight. We respond to danger by preparing to fight our attacker or we respond by taking flight and running away. And that’s how the psalmist is feeling.

Verses 9 to 15

And so, once more he turns to the Lord in verse 9 and he asks the Lord to confuse the wicked and to confound their speech. Think of the people at Babel who joined together to build their tower. But then, the Lord confounded their speech so that they couldn’t understand one another. And so, they abandoned the tower. Well, David wants the Lord to do the same to his enemies. Right now, they’re united in their opposition to David and in the terror they cause in the city of Jerusalem. Violence and strife is everywhere. So, confuse them and divide them so that they won’t be able to continue to do what they’ve been doing. Day and night — in other words, all the time — they prowl about on the walls of the city. They’re full of malice and they’re abusive, so that threats and lies never leave the streets of the city. Whatever is going on, it’s not just affecting David, but it’s affecting the whole population of Jerusalem. Everyone is suffering because of these wicked people who are causing so much violence and fear.

But look at verses 12 to 14 now, where David tells us how one of companions, a close friend, has betrayed him. They once enjoyed sweet fellowship together and they walked together in the house of the Lord. But this former friend has now turned on David for a reason which is not explained. Of course, we know how David’s son, Absalom, turned on him and forced him to flee from the city. And at that time, A-hi-tho-phel, David’s counsellor, sided with Absalom. Perhaps that’s the background to this psalm. In any case, it’s clear from the psalm that David has been betrayed by a close friend. And betrayal is hard to cope with, isn’t it? We expect an enemy to attack us, because that’s what an enemy does. But we don’t expect a friend to turn on us. And when it happens, we can’t understand why this person who once loved us has now turned against us.

In verse 9 David asked the Lord to confuse the wicked. And in verse 15, he asks the Lord to let death take them by surprise. He asks God to let them go down alive to the grave. He’s probably thinking of the story of Korah’s rebellion in the book of Numbers. Do you remember? Korah was a Levite who stirred up a rebellion gainst Moses and Aaron when the Israelites were in the wilderness. Korah complained: what right did Moses and Aaron have to rule over the rest of the people? And the Lord caused the ground to open up under Korah and his family so that they all went down alive into the grave. Well, David is now asking the Lord to do the same in his day, because evil dwells among them. And so, this is not a prayer for revenge, but it’s a prayer for justice. David is asking the Lord — who is the judge of all men — to consider the wicked things these wicked people have done and to ensure that justice is done. And whenever we hear of wicked people, doing wicked things, our prayer is the same, isn’t it? Of course, we pray for the wicked to repent and to trust in Christ for forgiveness. But if they will not repent, we pray that the Lord will frustrate their wicked plans and will ensure that justice is done so that the wicked are punished and the innocent are protected.

Verses 16 to 19

There’s a change of tone from verse 16, isn’t there? He writes that he calls on the Lord and the Lord saves him. Evening, morning and noon, he cries out in distress. Do you remember how Daniel prayed three times a day? Well, perhaps it was normal for the Israelites to pray every evening and every morning and every afternoon. But perhaps David also means that he prayed continually throughout the day. And so, he prayed and the Lord heard his voice; and the Lord ransomed him unharmed from the battle waged against him. The word ‘ransomed’ is the word for ‘redeemed’. So, God redeemed or delivered him from his enemies.

And he then says that God, who is enthroned for ever, will hear them. That is, he will hear David’s enemies — the threats they have made, the lies they have told, the wicked things they have planned — and the Lord will afflict them, because look: they’re men who will not change their ways and who do not fear the Lord. Whoever repents and believes will be saved, because the Lord is gracious and merciful and he’s willing to pardon whoever confesses their sins and asks him for his forgiveness. But whoever continues in their rebellion and unbelief will be punished.

Verses 20 and 21

Once more he refers to his former friend who has attacked him. When he refers to the covenant in verse 20, he’s not referring to God’s covenant with his people, but to a personal covenant between David and his friend, which his friend has now violated. And we’re to imagine his friend, speaking to David with smooth and soothing words, but in his heart there’s war. Have you ever come across that? When someone is with you, they say all kinds of nice things to you. But then you discover later, they have been speaking against you and talking behind your back. And it’s so very painful.

Verses 22 and 23

When we’re in trouble, we must follow the advice of the psalmist who tells us to cast our cares on the Lord, because he will sustain you and he will never let his people fall. Well, this is such a comfort that the Apostle Peter quoted this verse in his first letter, when he was writing to Christians who were suffering persecution for their faith. Casting means praying, doesn’t it? So, in prayer we throw our problems onto the Lord; and while he may not remove our burdens from us immediately, because he sends them to us for a reason, nevertheless he will give us the strength we need to bear them until he has fulfilled his purpose in us.

So, God will sustain his people, all who are righteous by faith. But the wicked, all those who refuse to believe, will be brought down by the Lord into the pit of corruption. God may very well punish them in this life with all kinds of temporal punishments. And he will certainly punish them in the life to come with all kinds of eternal punishments. That’s what will happen to all those who refuse to believe. But David: he trusts in the Lord. He trusts in the Lord for this life and for the next. He trusts in the Lord to help him in this life; and to give him eternal peace and rest in the life to come.


As I’ve said before, David was able to trust in the Lord and he was able to expect good things from the Lord, because of Christ the Saviour, who is our mediator with God, and who has made a lasting peace between us by his death on the cross as the once-for-all sacrifice for sins. By giving up his life, Christ has paid for our sins in full and he has satisfied the justice of God forever, so that God will not hold our sins against us, but will pardon us for all that we have done wrong. And so, when we turn to him in prayer, when we ask him to hear us, when we call on the Lord and cast our cares on him, he’s willing to hear our prayers and to answer us, because we have been reconciled to him through the sacrifice of his Son and we have peace with him forever. David could look to the Lord for help, because he had been reconciled to God through faith in the Saviour who was to come into the world. And believers today can look to the Lord for help, because we have been reconciled to God through faith in the Saviour who has come.

And if ever you’re tempted to think that God does not understand what you’re going through, and if ever you’re tempted to think that God cannot sympathise with your predicament because he never had to face what you have to face, then remember that God the Son became one of us and he faced wicked and malicious enemies who hated him and who plotted against him and who wanted to take his life; and remember that his heart was in anguish within him and the terrors of death assailed him when he was in the Garden of Gethsemane and he prayed for the cup to pass from him; and remember that he was betrayed by one of his close friends, whenever Judas betrayed him with a kiss. Because of what he suffered when he was on the earth, he’s able to sympathise with us in our weakness and in our temptations and our troubles. And therefore, when he intercedes for you at his Father’s right hand in heaven, he’s able to ask the Father to give you exactly what you need in every trial and trouble. And because Christ died to reconcile you to God, then God the Father is willing to hear his Son and give you what you need.