The theme of Psalm 55 continues from Psalm 54. It opens, however, on a bizarre note – “Give ear to my prayer, O God, and hide not yourself from my plea for mercy! Attend to me, and answer me; I am restless in my complaint and I moan” (vv1-2). This is very different from the confidence in Psalm 54; however, this is the raw heart of David. Even his own faith in God, his own confidence in Him, wavers. We therefore cannot even have faith in our own faithfulness – only He can sustain us in that respect.
Just as Jesus pleaded that the cup be passed from him (Matthew 26:39), so also David wishes to escape the fear and trembling by imagining flight as a dove (v.6). Again, another moment for pause and meditation brings David’s focus back to the true deliverance; he is not to run from circumstance, but to run to the Lord who delivers (vv.9, 16).
Yet the cause of his pain isn’t the atheist as in Psalm 54; the cause of his pain is his companion; his familiar friend; a friend whom he used to take sweet counsel together, within God’s house (vv.13-14). This is a betrayal that only Jesus knew in the name of Judas. A companion who would stretch out his hand against his friends, violating the sacred covenant of fellowship (vv.20-21).
This is the pain that causes David to waver, sharply in contrast with the strikes of clear enemies which David could more easily bear (v.12). But the acts of betrayal are worthy of nothing less than Sheol, the pit of destruction (vv. 15, 23; see also Numbers 16:32). Such is the eternity of betrayal, of the sons of the chief liar, versus He whose eternal love is enthroned from of old – the unchanging nature of the deceiver and the reliever (v.19). Spurgeon says in his Treasury of David:
Religion had rendered their intercourse sacred, they had mingled their worship, and communed on heavenly themes. If ever any bonds ought to be held inviolable, religious connections should be. There is a measure of impiety, of a detestable sort, in the deceit which debases the union of men who make profession of godliness. Shall the very altar of God be defiled with hypocrisy? Shall the gatherings of the temple be polluted by the presence of treachery? All this was true of Ahithophel, and in a measure of Judas. His union with the Lord was on the score of faith, they were joined in the holiest of enterprises, he had been sent on the most gracious of errands. His cooperation with Jesus to serve his own abominable ends stamped him as the firstborn of hell. Better had it been for him had he never been born. Let all deceitful professors be warned by his doom, for like Ahithophel he went to his own place by his own hand, and retains a horrible preeminence in the calendar of notorious crime. Here was one source of heart break for the Redeemer, and it is shared in by his followers. Of the serpent’s brood some vipers still remain, who will sting the hand that cherished them, and sell for silver those who raised them to the position which rendered it possible for them to be so abominably treacherous.