Unlike Psalms 52 and 54, there is nothing in the superscription of Psalm 55 that hints of the exact historical context of this Maschil. That David has been recently betrayed is unmistakable: “my heart is severely pained within me…horror has overwhelmed me…it is not an enemy who reproaches me; then I could bear it. Nor is it one who hates me who has exalted himself against me; then I could hide from him. But it was you, a man my equal, my companion and my acquaintance. We took sweet counsel together and walked to the house of God in the throng…He has put forth his hands against those who were at peace with him; he has broken his covenant. The words of his mouth were smoother than butter, but war was in his heart; his words were softer than oil, yet they were drawn swords” (vv. 4, 5, 12-14, 20-21).
Like a wise doctor, David thoroughly cleanses the wound of betrayal, then carefully dresses it so that this fiery dart of the devil does not leave any lingering poison of deadly bitterness in his heart and soul. Because the stated purpose of this psalm is for it to be ingested with deliberate contemplation, David has given us the protocol for performing spiritual triage when we have been wounded by the harsh and potentially fatal blow of betrayal.
Step # 1: Thoroughly cleanse the wound. “Cast your burden on the Lord, and He shall sustain you; He shall never permit the righteous to be moved” (v. 22). Honestly state your pain. “Give ear to my prayer, O God and do not hide Yourself from my supplication. Attend to me and hear me; I am restless in my complaint, and moan noisily, because of the voice of the enemy, because of the oppression of the wicked; for they bring down trouble upon me, and in wrath they hate me. My heart is severely pained within me, and the terrors of death have fallen upon me. Fearfulness and trembling have come upon me, and horror has overwhelmed me. So I said, ‘Oh, that I had wings like a dove! I would fly away and be at rest. Indeed, I would wander far off and remain in the wilderness. I would hasten my escape from the windy storm and tempest’” (vv. 1-8). Then, honestly express your desire for their just punishment. “Destroy, O Lord, and divide their tongues, for I have seen violence and strife in the city…Let death seize them; let them go down alive into hell, for wickedness is in their dwellings and among them” (vv. 9, 15).
Step # 2: Carefully dress the wound. Explicitly state how you are determined to live, regardless of how others have treated you. “As for me, I will call upon God, and the Lord shall save me. Evening and morning and at noon I will pray, and cry aloud, and He shall hear my voice. He has redeemed my soul in peace from the battle that was against me, for there were many against me. God will hear, and afflict them, even He who abides from of old. Because they do not change, therefore they do not fear God” (vv. 16-19).
Step # 3: Exercise your faith. Live confidently in God. “But You, O God, shall bring them down to the pit of destruction; bloodthirsty and deceitful men shall not live out half their days; but I will trust in You” (v. 23).
Betrayal is extremely painful. But, as demonstrated by David, when it is treated promptly and properly, it does not have to be deadly.