The Sting of Betrayal

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Do you know the sting of betrayal? Do you know what it is like to have someone who once had your back now stab you in it? Do you know what it is like to have people who once trusted and supported you now turn against you? David knew this pain. It is the sting of betrayal that lies behind Psalm 55.

As you read this psalm, you might be forgiven for thinking that it is like Psalms 52 and 54, which were written when David was betrayed by enemies into the hand of Saul. As in those Psalms, he laments “the noise of the enemy” and “the oppression of the wicked” (v. 3) who “drop trouble upon me” and who, “in anger … bear a grudge against me” (v. 4). He pleads for deliverance from these enemies (vv. 1–2).

But as you read further, you discover that David is lamenting a completely different type of opposition here. Instead of opposition from those whom he might expect to be his enemies, here he faces opposition from those whom he trusted as his friends. “For it is not an enemy who taunts me—then I could bear it; it is not an adversary who deals insolently with me—then I could hide from him. But it is you, a man, my equal, my companion, my familiar friend” (vv. 12–13). The betrayer was one with whom David enjoyed godly fellowship (v. 14) but who now betrayed him. This was, in contemporary terms, a fellow church member, with whom David once enjoyed close fellowship, who now “stretched out his hand against his friends” and “violated his covenant” (v. 20).

Do you know the feeling? Do you know what it is to have those with whom you once worked in godly fellowship turn against you? You are not alone. David knew the sting of betrayal. Observing how he responded will help you if you feel the same way: “Cast your burden on the LORD, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved. But you, O God, will cast them down into the pit of destruction; men of blood and treachery shall not live out half their days. But I will trust in you” (vv. 22–23).

There are a couple of things to observe here.

First, David did not minimise the pain. He described what he was experiencing as a “burden.” He did not brush it off as if it had no effect on him. He was pained by the rejection of his former companion.

The sting of rejection cut deeply. While the source of his rejection seems to have been one particular individual, he felt it more deeply than that. The rejection was like a battle he waged against a great company (v. 18). In reality, it was only one friend who had betrayed him, but the sting made it feel as it everyone was against him.

It will help us to recognise that his pain was not the result of self-centred unbelief. We know this because Jesus also knew the burden of betrayal. The words of vv. 12–13 are quoted in the New Testament of Judas’s betrayal. Jesus felt the cut of Judas’s betrayal deeply, as David felt the cut of his friend’s betrayal. It is not evidence of mistrust to be burdened when your friends turn their back on you.

Second, however, observe that David knew where to place his trust: in the Lord. He knew that God cared for his burden as deeply as he felt it. He could cast the sting of rejection on the Lord because he knew that the Lord would never reject him. As Paul would write centuries later, “At my first defence no one came to stand by me, but all deserted me…. But the Lord stood by me” (2 Timothy 4:16–17).

Believer, be encouraged today that, despite the betrayal of others, God remains faithful and true. Your circumstances may be overwhelmingly dark, but you can still cast your burden on the Lord and trust him to sustain you.

Stuart