For the director of music. With stringed instruments. A maskil of David.
Listen to my prayer, O God,
do not ignore my plea;
hear me and answer me.
My thoughts trouble me and I am distraught
because of what my enemy is saying,
because of the threats of the wicked;
for they bring down suffering on me
and assail me in their anger.
My heart is in anguish within me;
the terrors of death have fallen on me.
Fear and trembling have beset me;
horror has overwhelmed me.
I said, ‘Oh, that I had the wings of a dove!
I would fly away and be at rest.
I would flee far away
and stay in the desert;
I would hurry to my place of shelter,
far from the tempest and storm.’
Lord, confuse the wicked, confound their words,
for I see violence and strife in the city.
Day and night they prowl about on its walls;
malice and abuse are within it.
Destructive forces are at work in the city;
threats and lies never leave its streets.
If an enemy were insulting me,
I could endure it;
if a foe were rising against me,
I could hide.
But it is you, a man like myself,
my companion, my close friend,
with whom I once enjoyed sweet fellowship
at the house of God,
as we walked about
among the worshippers.
Let death take my enemies by surprise;
let them go down alive to the realm of the dead,
for evil finds lodging among them.
As for me, I call to God,
and the Lord saves me.
Evening, morning and noon
I cry out in distress,
and he hears my voice.
He rescues me unharmed
from the battle waged against me,
even though many oppose me.
God, who is enthroned from of old,
who does not change –
he will hear them and humble them,
because they have no fear of God.
My companion attacks his friends;
he violates his covenant.
His talk is smooth as butter,
yet war is in his heart;
his words are more soothing than oil,
yet they are drawn swords.
Cast your cares on the Lord
and he will sustain you;
he will never let
the righteous be shaken.
But you, God, will bring down the wicked
into the pit of decay;
the bloodthirsty and deceitful
will not live out half their days.
But as for me, I trust in you.(Ps. 55:1-23 NIV)
The proper use of our words is a recurring topic in the Psalms and in Wisdom literature. A major theme in wisdom literature is the matter of controlling our use of words so that we do no harm, and the wise use of words so that we do some good. In many of the lament Psalms the Psalmist is concerned about how words have been weaponised by the enemy. When words are the weapons of choice it usually comes from the enemy within. This could be within the royal household, within the government, or within the church. The enemy without was easier to identify and their weapons were usually visible. In this Psalm the enemy takes on a covert role. The enemy’s modus operandi is the rumour mill, sowing discord and generally sapping the life and energy out of the Psalmist. Some commentators have suggested that the Psalmist’s experience is reflected in the Lord’s experience as he is betrayed at the hands of Judas.
The problem is, how does one deal with this kind of problem? The answer, as always from the Psalmist, is to come to the Lord in prayer. It would appear that the injustices inflicted on the Psalmist have been active for some time. There is an element of despair in his cry for help. God has appeared silent while this persecution has progressed. The Psalmist pleads for God to listen. We should be able to identify with this because often we pray and we hear or see no answer. The Psalmist openly says that he does not want his plea to be ignored. He wants to be heard and he wants to be answered. His thoughts are constantly troubling him and he is now at the stage where he is distraught. Whether he can literally hear the voice of the enemy, or his fears are based on some things that he has been told is hard to determine. His knowledge of the things that are being said leaves him imagining what they are saying, and finding it odd why people are staring at him as if they have believed the rumours about him. The suffering brought down upon him is the animosity he senses from those around him. The enemy have so far been successful in their evil campaign against him.
The Psalmist piles on the synonyms for fear: anguish, terrors, trembling and horror. He describes his state of emotional and physical paralysis. So relentless is the bombardment that he just longs to get away from it all. The way we might describe the attacks on the Psalmist are of a constant sniping. All kinds of duties and responsibilities tie him to the role he is in, but nevertheless he longs to escape the feelings that are troubling him. He wishes that he had the wings of a dove – then he would fly away to a place to rest, somewhere far away where he could forget about it all. If he was granted wings he would go immediately to his place of shelter, far away from the emotional turmoil he finds himself in, away from the storm and the tempest. Jonah comes to mind as we think of him fleeing from the task he had called to. Many have fled jobs, churches, homes and even neighbourhoods as a result of this kind of pressure. It is important for us to understand that the Lord sees this kind of torment, and that we never have to go through this type of thing alone.
Heavenly Father, we thank You that You care about every area of our lives. Help us at work, at home, in our neighbourhood or in church whenever we suffer from this kind of pressure. Help us also to never play a part in inflicting this kind of harm on neighbours, fellow workers or brothers and sisters in the church. Deliver us Lord in Your mercy and forgive our sins in Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.