It’s a sad fact of life that at some time or another, you’ll be the victim of a personal attack. It might be angry words. Or gossip about you behind your back. It might be some sort of ACTION – like vandalism or robbery.
It doesn’t matter how nice you are. Or how much you want people to like you. At SOME time, ALL of us will be attacked.
And being a member of a church doesn’t protect you. In fact, some of the WORST sorts of attack come from people who are SUPPOSED to be brothers and sisters in Jesus.
Unfortunately, most churches have people who are discontented, or angry, or hurt, or bitter, or malicious/ gossips, slanderers, back-stabbers and betrayers.
Perhaps YOU’VE been on the receiving end of that sort of treatment.
It’s a terrible situation when people personally attack you. When there’s disagreement and conflict. And it’s even worse when it’s in the church.
But there’s a level of attack that’s at a COMPLETELY DIFFERENT LEVEL. And that’s when the attack comes from SOMEONE CLOSE. When you’re betrayed and wounded by someone you trusted completely.
Many of you have experienced it. Perhaps it was a SPOUSE—someone who promised to love you until the day they died. But they BETRAYED you. And that wound is deeper than any wound you’ve ever known.
Or perhaps it was another family member – a son or daughter who abused your trust. And took advantage of your love, or your generosity. And cut your heart in two.
For others it might have been a long-term friend, or a business partner. Our dentist is a friend – a Christian – and a number of years ago he was ripped off by his accountant. Cheated him out of tens of thousands of dollars. It took him years to recover. He’d trusted this guy. And he’d been betrayed.
You can cope with it when it’s someone you don’t know very well. It’s not that hard to move on. Not nice, but it doesn’t cut that deep.
But when it’s someone CLOSE, it shakes your whole world. Because their opinion of you matters far more than what OTHER people think. And so their rejection or betrayal hurts a lot more.
They’re the ones you EXPECT to support you. It’s the worst sort of attack because it shakes your whole world. It impacts your trust of EVERYBODY. If you can’t trust your friends or family – the people you LOVE- then who CAN you trust?
So what do you do? How do you respond? Let’s learn from King David. Who was in the exactly the same situation.
The cause of the problem – betrayal (12-15; 20-21)
The SPECIFICS of Psalm 55 might be a little difficult to work out, but the GENERAL IDEA is clear. David’s been betrayed by a close friend. Look there in v12.
12 If an ENEMY were insulting me, I could ENDURE it;
if a FOE were raising himself against me, I could HIDE from him.
13 But it is YOU, a man like myself,
my companion, my close friend,
14 with whom I once enjoyed sweet fellowship
as we walked with the throng at the house of God.
He was a mate. Someone David had TRUSTED. They’d even WORSHIPPED together. But not any more. Now, he’s ATTACKING him in some way.
We get another hint down in v20 about how this guy works.
20 My companion attacks his friends; he violates his covenant.
21 His speech is smooth as butter, yet war is in his heart;
his words are more soothing than oil, yet they are drawn swords.
Seems like David’s not the only one. This guy says ONE thing. PROMISES it. SIGNS THE CONTRACT. Then does something DIFFERENT. You can’t trust him. A salesman. A con-man. Says whatever he thinks people want to hear.
We don’t know the exact details. Perhaps a rebellion. One of his army officers, or close friends, trying to overthrow him. It might even have been about his son, Absalom, who lead a rebellion to try to claim the kingship.
- David’s situation (1-8)
But whatever the SPECIFICS, it’s obvious how much it’s affecting David. Scan across the first 5 verses and look at the sorts of phrases he uses. My thoughts TROUBLE me I am DISTRAUGHT SUFFERING ANGUISH the TERRORS OF DEATH FEAR AND TREMBLING HORROR. David, piling up phrase after phrase about how DREADFUL things are. So bad, all he can think of doing is to ESCAPE. In v6, he wishes he had wings like a dove and could fly off into the desert where none of this could affect him. Get out of the city, into the country. He’s desperate for a TREE CHANGE.
Have YOU ever felt like you’d like to do that? Things are just so overwhelming you can’t deal with them. You’d love to just go somewhere you can get some peace and quiet. Sometimes a break can be good. It can give you a chance to clear your head. And be able to make a good decision. As long as you’re not trying to escape the problem.
I remember Caron giving birth to one of our kids, and some time during the labour Caron said, “I don’t want to do this. Can we just go home?” It would have been NICE, but it wouldn’t have HELPED. The baby was coming, and it didn’t matter WHERE we were.
And it’s a bit like that when we want to escape OUR problems rather than deal with them. If we go somewhere else, the problem doesn’t change. It’ll still be there when we get back.
We might try GOING ON A HOLIDAY from work. But the pile of papers will be twice as high when we get back. We might try softening the pain with ALCOHOL OR DRUGS. But the problems will still be there when we come down. They’ll probably be WORSE.
We might try and solve a problem-marriage by WITHDRAWING EMOTIONALLY. Living separate lives. So you can’t be hurt any more. But that fixes nothing. It’s no life at all if you won’t allow yourself to love, and be loved.
- David’s prayer (9-23)
David thinks about escape. But in the end, it’s only a daydream. He needs to deal with the problem. And so, he prays for God’s intervention. v9,
9 CONFUSE the wicked, O Lord, CONFOUND their speech,
It’s WORDS that have done the DAMAGE. So make their words POWERLESS. Discredit them. Or silence them. Or take away their audience, or their influence.
And then, as David thinks about these personal attacks. (How they’re affecting the whole city, v9-11. And how the betrayal’s from trusted friends, v12-14). In v15, he prays something that’s pretty hard for us to accept.
15 Let death take my enemies by surprise;
let them go down alive to the grave,
for evil finds lodging among them.
To us, it sounds fairly vindictive and hateful. And perhaps you wonder how it fits with Jesus’ teaching in the New Testament to turn the other cheek. And his example on the cross of asking God to forgive the sins of those who are crucifying him.
And verse 23 gives us a similar feeling, I suspect.
23 But you, O God, will bring down the wicked
into the pit of corruption;
bloodthirsty and deceitful men
will not live out half their days.
It doesn’t seem right to be praying that God will kill our enemies.
But I wonder if we’d feel the same way about these verses if we were Christians in North Korea or China. And a family member, or our church pastor, had been arrested and beaten up for being a Christian. Or perhaps been killed, if we were in Saudi Arabia or Pakistan or Libya.
I think we’d probably find them COMFORTING and REASSURING. Because they’re not about PERSONAL revenge. It’s asking GOD to bring justice. It’s asking for God to stand up for his people, and protect and vindicate them.
There’s a hint in that strange idea in v15 “let them go down ALIVE to the grave.” How can you do THAT? It seems like David’s thinking of what happened to Korah’s rebellion in the wilderness. It’s in Numbers 16. A small group, led by Korah, undermining Moses’ leadership.
And to cut a long story short. The next day, God tells Moses he’s going to destroy THE WHOLE NATION. But when Moses pleads that it’s only the sin of the ONE GROUP. God agrees to destroy only the rebels. Listen to what happened. Judgment that AFFIRMS Moses’ leadership, at the same time as removing the rebels. Numbers 16.
28 Then Moses said, “This is how you will know that the LORD has sent me to do all these things and that it was not my idea: 29 If these men die a natural death and experience only what usually happens to men, then the LORD has not sent me. 30 But if the LORD brings about something totally new, and the earth opens its mouth and swallows them, with everything that belongs to them, and THEY GO DOWN ALIVE INTO THE GRAVE, then you will know that these men have treated the LORD with contempt.”
31 As soon as he finished saying all this, the ground under them split apart 32 and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them, with their households and all Korah’s men and all their possessions. 33 THEY WENT DOWN ALIVE INTO THE GRAVE, with everything they owned; the earth closed over them, and they perished and were gone from the community.
A pretty unusual way of dying. But that was the point. To show that it was GOD’S judgment, and not an accident. And to support God’s appointed leadership.
And that’s the sort of thing David’s praying that God will do with THESE rebels. These traitors against God’s people. These insiders attacking from behind the walls. “Deal with them according to how you’ve shown justice BEFORE. KEEP the unity of your people, and support your leader. Like you did with Moses.”
So I think that means it’s a different situation to our personal betrayals. It’s NOT right for us to be praying that God would be DESTROYING them.
But we SHOULD be praying for God’s deliverance, and for him to silence our betrayers. And take away their power.
And when we DO, we can be confident that he’ll do it JUSTLY. He might do it IN THIS LIFE. Or he might only do it on Judgment Day. But he WILL do it. And it will be JUST.
From v16, we see something of David’s confidence in God.
16 But 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 ransoms me unharmed from the battle waged against me, even though many oppose me.
19 God, who is ENTHRONED FOREVER, WILL hear them and afflict them–
Enemies are CERTAIN to attack you. And friends can’t be trusted either. But God can. He DOESN’T change. He CAN be trusted to deliver.
And that’s the point of the Psalm. The comparison between GOD, and PEOPLE. One, can ALWAYS be trusted. And the OTHER, CAN’T. It might SEEM like earthly powers rule. But it’s GOD who’s enthroned forever. No one ever deposes HIM.
And so we come to David’s conclusion. The lesson he’s learned. There in v22.
22 Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous fall.
And what are the cares that David’s unloading onto God? The very next verse.
23 But you, O God, WILL bring down the wicked into the pit of corruption; bloodthirsty and deceitful men will not live out half their days. But as for me, I trust in you.
And that’s where David finishes. He’s cast his burdens onto God. And he’s going to LEAVE them there. He’s going to TRUST God. He’s not sure what the future holds, but he’s stepping into it with the CONFIDENCE that God will SUSTAIN him. The future’s God’s. Let HIM deal with it.
Whether it’s cares about the terrible betrayal of A CLOSE FRIEND. Or cares about WORK, or childlessness or illness. Leave them with him.
If it’s cares about your CHILDREN, leave them with him. Cares about their salvation. Cares about their safety. Cares about their future. Cares about their choices, and their character.
If it’s worries about GUIDANCE – where God wants you, and what he wants you to do. LEAVE IT WITH HIM.
But what does that LOOK like? How does someone who’s leaving their cares with God/ BEHAVE DIFFERENTLY from someone who ISN’T? How are they THINKING differently?
At the very least, casting our cares onto God will mean PRAYING. Praying about everything. Praying longer. Praying with lists. Praying with others.
To cast you cares onto God means to ask him to deal with your situation. Make that your FIRST option, not your last resort. That’s the example David gives us. To PRAY about our cares.
David knew the confidence of trusting God. But we have even MORE confidence. Because we know JESUS. And Jesus suffered the rejection and betrayal of those who loved him. Just like WE do. He UNDERSTANDS.
And so we can come to him with our cares, CONFIDENT that he knows and understands. He knows what it is to be abandoned. And he weeps with us. Hebrews 4:15 puts it like THIS
15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are-yet was without sin. 16 Let us then approach the throne of grace with CONFIDENCE, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.
Bring your cares to God CONFIDENT that you’ll receive a warm welcome.
But here’s ANOTHER way we cast our cares on God. We SHOW we’re trusting him in THE WAY WE LIVE. In NOT responding with vengeance and anger when we’re betrayed. That’s a positive, constructive, concrete expression of trusting God. And laying our cares on him.
That’s the advice we get in 1 Peter. Peter’s talking to a group of people who are suffering persecution. And at the end of Ch 4 (v19) he sums up what their lives should look like.
19 So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should COMMIT THEMSELVES TO THEIR FAITHFUL CREATOR AND CONTINUE TO DO GOOD.
Commit yourself to your faithful Creator. In other words, cast your cares on the God who is faithful, and who’ll sustain you. And SHOW that commitment, not by seeking revenge, or by worrying. But by CONTINUING TO DO GOOD. As if nothing was wrong.
That’s how we show we’ve cast our cares on God. In the face of huge burdens, to behave in a way that people can’t understand. “How can you keep going when life is so tough? How can you seem so NORMAL?”
And the answer is/ because you’ve cast your cares onto God. He’s carrying them.
Peter continues into Ch 5, describing what doing good looks like. For the elders in the church, they’re to keep looking after the sheep. Then, v5, for the young men, doing good will mean being submissive to their elders. To clothe themselves in humility. And then Peter gets to v6. HUMBLE YOURSELVES, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, THAT HE MAY LIFT YOU UP IN DUE TIME. 7 CAST ALL YOUR ANXIETY ON HIM BECAUSE HE CARES FOR YOU.
To cast our anxieties on him is to humble ourselves under God’s care. To recognise that WE are weak, and HE is strong. That HE controls tomorrow, and we don’t. To trust that, while others will abandon us, God NEVER will. And to SHOW that trust by living obedient and godly lives.