A Psalm a Day: Psalm 55

Throughout September 2022, I managed to read and reflect – briefly – on a Psalm each day. For December 2022, attempted to pick up the discipline. I got part-way through that month, and so after a long hiatus, am determined to get going. I’ll read the Psalm, pray, and then ponder a few questions:

  • What is this Psalm about?
  • What does this Psalm teach about God?
  • How does this Psalm connect to God’s people today?

I’ll close the post with a simple prayer, trying to draw the themes together.

psalm 55

On the 11th of October, here’s Psalm 55:

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.
10 Day and night they prowl about on its walls;
    malice and abuse are within it.
11 Destructive forces are at work in the city;
    threats and lies never leave its streets.

12 If an enemy were insulting me,
    I could endure it;
if a foe were rising against me,
    I could hide.
13 But it is you, a man like myself,
    my companion, my close friend,
14 with whom I once enjoyed sweet fellowship
    at the house of God,
as we walked about
    among the worshipers.

15 Let death take my enemies by surprise;
    let them go down alive to the realm of the dead,
    for evil finds lodging among them.

16 As for me, I call to God,
    and the Lord saves me.
17 Evening, morning and noon
    I cry out in distress,
    and he hears my voice.
18 He rescues me unharmed
    from the battle waged against me,
    even though many oppose me.
19 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.

20 My companion attacks his friends;
    he violates his covenant.
21 His talk is smooth as butter,
    yet war is in his heart;
his words are more soothing than oil,
    yet they are drawn swords.

22 Cast your cares on the Lord
    and he will sustain you;
he will never let
    the righteous be shaken.
23 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.

What is this Psalm about?

Psalm 55 is a ‘lament Psalm’, with a significant part of the lament being about betrayal by a close friend. Commentators don’t seem to agree on who this friend is/was, but it’s a betrayal that compounds the general pain and persecution of the author, likely David. The Psalm starts with an introduction to prayer, is filled with the plea and pain, and ends on a note of hope.

What does this Psalm teach about God?

Firstly, Psalm 55 shows us that God is a God who can be cried out to, prayed to, and is listening. I’m reminded of Genesis 4:26, where people began to ‘call on the name of The Lord’ – prayer is at its simplest the cry of a heart to God. Verse 14 is interesting in that it refers to the house of God – probably in context the temple – reminding us that God is concerned with the gathering of his people, their worship, and His presence. Verse 16 is a reminder that God saves – with verses 17 and 18 unpacking that in some detail. Verse 19 teaches some dense and important theological truths: God is enthroned, God is immutable (That is, He does not change), and God hears and humbles people. The closing verses of Psalm 55 make it clear that God is one we can bring our cares/concerns to, ‘he will sustain’ us, ‘he will never let the righteous be shaken’. There is then the challenging words of verse 23 – contrasting the security of the righteous (God’s people) and the end of the wicked (not God’s people. The last phrase of Psalm 55 reminds God’s people that they can and should trust in Him.

How does this Psalm connect to God’s people today?

Some of God’s people are in conflict zones, or being actively physically persecuted – Psalm 55 speaks directly to them, encouraging them to trust in God, to cry out to Him, secure in the knowledge that he will ultimately act. Some of God’s people are betrayed – even by those closest to us – and Psalm 55 gives us words to use even in pain we cannot find words for. For those of us living in relative comfort, Psalm 55 should prompt us to pray for our brothers and sisters who are not, and for those reeling from betrayal.

A prayer drawn from Psalm 55

Lord, help me to cast my cares on you, because you will sustain me. Lord, help me to trust in you, because you will not ultimately let the righteous be shaken. Help me to be a person who does not betray those close to me – and give me grace in relationships that you want restored. Show me what justice and righteousness looks like, in all the ways and days of my life. Amen.

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