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)
V9-15 forms a section within the Psalm. The Psalmist alludes to the Tower of Babel incident as he asks God to confuse the wicked and confound their words. As the situation was getting out of control at Babel so it is out of control in the city. The word translated violence suggests death by bloodshed. The problem is relentless, going on day and night. Violent words have incited violent action. A few weeks ago there was an article in the Spectator magazine that picked up on the Prime Minister’s analogy of the war against the coronavirus being like the Second World War. Mention was made of the British wartime spirit. The article developed this analogy to say that the difference was that in wartime the people had Hitler to hate and their anger was vented against him. The journalist warned that the people would need an object of hate. We need to pray for our nation over the coming months because the anger that was evident during Brexit talks is still there simmering and seeking an outlet. The Psalm describes such an attitude. People prowl about the city, destructive forces are at work, threats and lies never leave the city. Evil is opportunist, waiting for its moment like a boiling cauldron about to overspill.
On this occasion the fires under the boiling cauldron are stoked by someone in the church. If it had been someone on the outside, he could have endured it, he could hide from it. But it was a person just like himself, one of us. A companion and close friend, a fellow worshipper, who joined with the other worshipper and enjoyed sweet fellowship together. This person has turned against the Psalmist. Sadly this type of behaviour is all too evident today. A person causes havoc in one church and then disgruntled with the church moves to another church, only to cause the same havoc. It is with good reason that many churches have in their membership covenant a statement about keeping the peace of the church. Let us be careful that we don’t become that type of person. How do we deal with this type of thing? We follow the lead of the Psalmist and bring the matter to God in prayer. We need to pray for our churches that there will be unity and peace, and that we will be spared from the activity of those who would seek to undermine the peace and unity of the church. The devil is the great disrupter and an opportunist watching for occasion to bring harm.
The former friend is now numbered with the enemy. They are buoyant in their energy to oppose. The Psalmist asks God to take their life. Execution was the only way to remove a person from the covenant community in OT times. In NT times removal from the covenant community is by excommunication. However, the covert nature of the disruption is sometimes hard to establish so like the Psalmist these matters must be brought before the Lord in prayer, for God to deal with in His time.
The Psalmist has his confidence in the Lord renewed. He calls upon the Lord and the Lord saves him. As the enemy is active day and night, so the Psalmist is active in prayer, morning, noon and night. The order in the Psalm reflects the OT day that begins with evening, then morning and noon. The Psalmist is not setting an order for prayer three times a day, he just means all day. The Lord hears the cry of distress and delivers the Psalmist from the battle that is waged against him. God is on His throne and He hears, sees and understands what the enemy are doing. God will deal with them. These people have no fear of God nor do they care about the damage they might be doing to the Lord’s people. They attack the people of God, violating the covenant they have made to promote the peace of the church. The covert nature of their activity is referred to by describing their speech to be as smooth as butter. They speak peace but they intend war. They have the pretence of pursuing a noble cause, but they intend harm. Their words have a soothing effect yet their words are daggers or swords intent on damage.
The Psalmist has sage advice to offer
Cast your cares on the Lord(Ps. 55:22 NIV)
and he will sustain you;
he will never let
the righteous be shaken.
The Lord cares about His people and will deal with the person who sought to disrupt the peace of the covenant community.
The Psalmist’s confidence in the Lord has grown, and he expresses his intention in the sentence: ‘But as for me, I trust in the Lord’.
Lord God, we thank You that Christ is the Head of the church and the Chief Shepherd. Lord oversee the church in Hounslow that we will be kept free from harm. Help us all to humble ourselves before You and seek to walk in fellowship with You and with one another. Lord keep us from becoming a foothold for the devil to disrupt the fellowship of Your people. Help us to love one another as Christ has loved us. Keep us from actions, words or thoughts that would either intentionally or unintentionally bring harm to Your people. Help us to be one, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, for we pray in the name of our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.