When Trouble Overwhelms You, Psalm 55

When Troubles Overwhelm You

What do you do when troubles drown you?

Psalm 55

By Don Ruhl


For David in Psalm 55, “Troubles around him (vv. 1–3), terrors within him (vv. 4–5), and treachery next to him (vv. 12–15, 21) combined to make David wish he could get away from it all (v. 6)” (Warren Wiersbe, Nelson’s Pocket Reference Bible: Bible Commentary Old Testament, page 343).

When you have troubles around you, terrors within, and treachery next to you, what do you want to do? Do you know what you should do? Read a song from David. He knew what you would think and feel.

Psalm 55.0

The Right Music for the Words

To the Chief Musician. With stringed instruments. A Contemplation of David. You would not sing the “Happy Birthday” song to a funeral dirge. So too, when the various psalmists wrote their pieces, they wanted appropriate tunes, and they wanted certain instruments with their poems, because as Paul said in First Corinthians 14, different instruments should make distinct sounds so you know what is played, “Even things without life, whether flute or harp, when they make a sound, unless they make a distinction in the sounds, how will it be known what is piped or played? 8 For if the trumpet makes an uncertain sound, who will prepare for battle?” (1Co 14.7, 8). Psalm 55 speaks of the betrayal of friends, and David thought that stringed instruments could bring on the mood that he wanted for the mood of his words.

Psalm 55.1–3

God, Please Hear Me

1–3 Give ear to my prayer, O God, And do not hide Yourself from my supplication… God wants to hear our prayers, but we cannot take that for granted. We need to let Him know how much we want Him to hear us! David had a huge problem, that made him restless, making him moan out loud, because someone and something oppressed him, bringing down trouble upon him. They hated the man of God and poured out wrath toward David. Does David sound like you? Do you know how he felt? If so, do you go to God in prayer about it? Do you plead for Him to hear you, explaining to Him the deep trouble in your heart?

Psalm 55.4–8

I Want to Fly Away

4–8 My heart is severely pained within me, And the terrors of death have fallen upon me… In verses 4 and 5, David continued to show the pain of his troubles. He had severe pain within. The terrors of death had fallen upon him. He feared and trembled. Horror overwhelmed him. Now consider how great this man David was. As a teenager, he boldly attacked a lion and a bear, and he fearlessly confronted the almost 10-foot tall warrior Goliath. As a man in his 20s, he led his personal army in victory against every enemy of Israel. As a king from 30 years old to 70 years old, he won every battle. Yet, that man trembled at an enemy’s presence. While David did mighty things, at times he feared. What he really wanted to do was flee like a bird. At the slightest whisper of danger, the bird flies away and no one thinks anything of it. David wanted to be that bird. He would just get away from the raging storm he saw coming his way. Yet, he knew he should not do that. Therefore, he prayed earnestly to God for Him to hear. David knew that the Lord could do all things. David still had not made his request.

Psalm 55.9–11

Divide Their Tongues

9–11 Destroy, O Lord, and divide their tongues, For I have seen violence and strife in the city… David knew how the enemy could be defeated. Therefore, David’s request to God was to divide their tongues. Even as the divided tongues at the Tower of Babel defeated the purpose of the world then, so, if the enemy had divided tongues, they could not unite against David. The enemy promoted violence and strife. Verse 10 says they were tireless, working day and night to accomplish their evil task. They filled the city with trouble and it did not bother them.

Psalm 55.12–14

When Friends Betray

12–14 For it is not an enemy who reproaches me; Then I could bear it… David revealed why this enemy troubled him so much. It was David’s friend. He expected support from his friends, not reproach. Not expecting it, he could not bear it. He did not know his friends as he thought he knew them. David had trusted this man for counsel. David treated this man as an equal. They worshiped God together. Those in leadership can be popular, then have friends turn against them when the leader becomes unpopular. David probably spoke of Ahithophel, who sided with Absalom. Second Samuel 16 shows the level of counsel Ahithophel gave to David, “Now the advice of Ahithophel, which he gave in those days, was as if one had inquired at the oracle of God. So was all the advice of Ahithophel both with David and with Absalom” (2Sa 16.23). President Bush had run into the same problem.

Psalm 55.15

The Great Silencer

15 Let death seize them; Let them go down alive into hell… For what they did to him, David made a second request. He wanted death to seize them, for more than one friend joined the conspiracy against David. God answered David’s prayer because they all died. David knew that if they died in their wickedness, they would go to hell.

Psalm 55.16–19

God Answers Prayer

16–19 As for me, I will call upon God, And the LORD shall save me… While his former friends filled their homes with wickedness, David would call upon God, knowing that He would save him. Therefore, at evening, morning, and noon, he prayed about the matter, even saying his prayers aloud. His feelings about the trouble became so strong that he could not whisper in his heart, but he opened his mouth, not being ashamed of what others might hear. God had delivered David in the past, and he knew that God would do so again, because David trusted in God, shown by his relentless prayers, and because the enemy would not change or because his life situation does not change, and his enemies would not fear God.

Psalm 55.20, 21

Butter and Oil, War and Swords

20, 21 He has put forth his hands against those who were at peace with him; He has broken his covenant… David had been at peace with these friends, yet, they put their hands against him, breaking their covenant. Oh, they could talk really nicely with words as smooth as butter, but inside, the friends plotted against David. Anyone else listening would say if the words of those men were softer than oil, why should David be all upset? Yet, David could see clearly that their words were unsheathed swords ready to cut him down.

Psalm 55.22

Never Be Moved

22 Cast your burden on the LORD, And He shall sustain you… Having said the words of verses 1–21 to God, David then turned his attention to us. He cast his burden upon the Lord and found deliverance and relief. Therefore, let us cast our burdens upon the Lord and we will find that He will sustain us and never let us be moved. First Peter 5 exhorts us to do the same thing, “Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you” (1Pe 5.6, 7).

Psalm 55.23

God’s Vengeance

23 But You, O God, shall bring them down to the pit of destruction; Bloodthirsty and deceitful men shall not live out half their days… David had peace, because he knew what God would do to David’s enemies. He would bring them down to the pit of destruction. They were bloodthirsty and deceitful. Therefore, their days would be cut short. In the face of it all, David would trust in God. David feared, which tempted him to flee, but his faith moved him to fight. Trust in God and you can have the same confidence as David.

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