Psalm 55

Psalm 55

 

The psalm before us today is one as heart-rending as any in the Psalter.  Here is a man whose distress is deep and will not depart from him.  He is in the agony of knowing that his suffering comes not from an adversary who has managed to wound him; no, his heart is in his boots because he has been betrayed by his friend.  So, all the emotional distress and discouragement that a human being experiences, with this critically hard burden to bear, is weighing upon him.  This is the Judas moment for Jesus, the realisation that the time of trial is being orchestrated by one who at another time was a close friend.  In verse 14 we read that they walked together in the house of God, talking together - enjoying a sweet fellowship.

 

Psalm 55 has a lasting appeal, for there is an experience within it that no one wants but all can imagine.  The author brings us with him as he appeals to God in this situation.  He needs to unburden himself and leave his troubles somewhere, and a place in the heart of God is just what is longed for.  In passing, the best known line in the poem, “O that I had wings like a dove to fly away and be at rest”, though beautiful and poignant, one might say, is not quite what the psalm as a whole is expressing.  It is not an escapist piece.  It is dark and exploring the depths, but with a heart set on deliverance and salvation in God’s presence, not in escape and denial.  It begins in trust and ends in trust, and who cannot but imagine how the thought of a dove in flight is not bringing a certain comfort as well.  But at its core, today we face with this psalmist the reality that is human relationships.  They can be wonderful and hold us together harmoniously in the most inspiring places, but can also tear from us the hope and trust that we had given freely to another, as we need in God’s mercy to build our life again, facing new challenges and fresh risks, whilst bearing the scars of betrayal.  Ultimately the psalmist, through all his weaving and wandering thoughts, ends with these simple words: “O Lord, I will trust in you.”

 

John Mann