PSALM 55 TALK: CAST YOU CARES ON THE LORD

PSALM 55 TALK: CAST YOUR CARES ON THE LORD

(Knowing that God is with us in both good and bad times to help and bless us

A talk that discuses what all Christian believers have in this life that non believers do not have without faith in God

THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973,

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INTRODUCTION

I recently was reminded of the story behind the well known Hymn, “Abide with me”.

Abide with me was written by Henry Francis Lyte in 1847 at the end of his life.

Lyte was the Anglican minister of a little fishing village in Devonshire England and for most of his life struggled with ill health. Only a few weeks before he died of Tuberculosis at the age of 54 he preached his final sermon at the church he had worked at for 23 years. That afternoon after taking a short walk along a lonely beach near his home he went into his study and within a couple of hours wrote the first draft of his famous hymn, Abide with me.

Lyte then went on a holiday in France to try and recover from his debilitating illness and within three weeks there he passed away. Lyte’s inspired hymn now serves as a comfort to all Christians especially those who feel weak and frail because of illness. The first verse reads:

Abide with me; fast falls the eventide;

The darkness deepens; Lord with me abide.

When other helper’s fail and comforts flee,

Help of the helpless, O abide with me.

In Psalm 55, David speaks again of the great conflict and difficulty he faced and how he was able to cast all his cares on God to find the help and blessing that only God can give us. It seems that this Psalm fits well in the time of the rebellion of his son Absalom and David’s trusted companion, friend and adviser, Ahithophel who turned on David and supported Absalom rebellion which is spoken about in verses 13 – 14 and verses 20 – 21.

I have pointed out in many of my Psalm talks of the Psalms in the first and second book of Psalms that the historical context that inspired them was predicted by God in Psalm 2: 2.

“The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather against the Lord and against his anointed one”.

 This is a prediction that presents the idea that because David was appointed by God to be his special king or leader all those who oppose God will oppose him.

This is true of The Lord Jesus Christ, God’s great-appointed King of the universe and because people oppose Jesus they will oppose his faithful followers as well.

This opposition to God and David caused lots of conflict and difficulty for David that came from both outside Israel and within Israel as well. You then might ask:

If God promises conflict and difficulty for his followers what is the value in being a follower?

David presented over and over again the answer to this important question, which is that only a true believer or follower can turn to God for help and blessing in their lives. David teaches that despite the problems and difficulties he faced he had a mighty loving God to turn to who never let him down and helped him through every problem and difficulty he faced.

The New Testament presents the same message and more to us, if we have faith or trust in God. Paul, who faced far more difficulty and problems in his life then we will ever face says to the Philippians 4: 6 and 7,

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus”.

 The structure or non- structure that some commentators speak of in Psalm 55 seems to be a problem. However looking closely at the first 9 verses seems to suggest to me that this was written in Jerusalem when David was being bombarded by the treacherous words and deeds of his son Absalom and his followers before the actual rebellion. Then from verse 9 onwards David seems to be speaking as though he is not in Jerusalem and is now caught up in the actual rebellion of Absalom. Maybe then verses 9 – 23 were written when David was out in the wilderness on the run from Absalom and his forces when he first heard the news of Ahithophel’s treachery (2 Samuel 15: 32 – 36) turning on David and supporting Absalom. Ahithophel had been a close friend and adviser of David and his painful treachery is a major part on the second half of this Psalm.

Finally verses 22 and 23 seem to be a good conclusion to what David learnt from his experience of Absalom rebellion. So maybe these last two verses of the Psalm were a reflection David wrote after he had written verses 9 – 21.

This breakdown of the Psalm and the theme of “casting our cares on the Lord”, form the basis of my suggested structure of this Psalm:

       1. FACING THE DIFFICULTIES OF LIFE (1- 8)

       2. DEALING WITH THE TREACHERY OF THE DEVIL AND HIS FOLLOWERS   (9 – 2)

       3. CASTING OUR CARES ON GOD (22 – 23)

1.  FACING THE DIFFICULTIES OF LIFE (1- 8)

Chapters 15 – 18 of the second book of Samuel form the backdrop of this Psalm. In 2 Samuel 15: 1 – 12 we read of the growing conspiracy Absalom ran against his father in Israel and its capital Jerusalem and the first 8 verses of this Psalm capture well what David would have been thinking and feeling as the Absalom conspiracy developed and affected him.

 I have broken this section down into two parts

         1. (1 – 5) The strain and stress of life’s difficulties

         2. (6 – 8) Learning to trust God and not run away

          1. (1 – 5) The strain and stress of life’s difficulties

 We read of a painful and vicious campaign of treachery by David’s son Absalom in 2 Samuel 15: 1 – 12 and David must have known what his son was doing and saying against him. David, by his silence seems powerless to stop his son’s sinful ways. The text tells us in verse 7 that Absalom conducted this evil and destructive campaign of disestablishing his father’s rule for four years. Verses 1 – 8 graphically capture how David would have been thinking and feeling during this time and also when he was on the run from his son who sought to destroy him.

He starts with a desperate plea to God for help,

“Listen to my prayer, O God, do not ignore my plea; hear me and answer me,

(Verses 1 and 2a)

 Note first of all David does not take God’s listening and answering his prayers for granted. This is something David has shown us before, for instance, Psalm 28: 1 David says,

“To you I call, O Lord my Rock; do not turn a deaf ear to me. For if you remain silent, I will be like those who have gone down to the pit”.

 Why David prays like this and in fact why he is so inactive in the face of his son’s rebellion could be because he realised that this rebellion of Absalom was a result of his sins years before when he committed adultery and murder in the Bathsheba affair. This rebellion cause by his terrible sins is predicted by the prophet Nathan in 2 Samuel 12: 11a,

“This is what the Lord says: ‘Out of your own household I am going to bring calamity upon you”.

 However David knew that God had not deserted him because of his many sins but rather because he had repented of his sins and thrown himself on the mercy of God, God had forgiven him. Therefore David would face a terrible fall out owing to his sins but he could still pray confidently to God for help and assistance. David reveals this confidence in God’s help in passages like Psalm 27: 1 – 2,

“The Lord is my light and my salvation – whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life – of whom shall I be afraid? When evil men advance against me to devour my flesh, when my enemies and my foes attack me, they will stumble and fall”.

 The example of David should give us courage and hope when we face problems and difficulties in our lives even when those problems and difficulties are a result of our sins. We to, if we have repented of our sins and cast ourselves upon the love and mercy of God can have confidence that he will answer our prayers and help us in our problems and difficulties.

Even though Jesus did not sin he did face the same kind of temptations we face that leads to sin and he also faced great human suffering and therefore he understands and can identify with us when we pray to him.

This is what the writer to the Hebrews speaks of when he encourages us to pray with confidence to the Lord Jesus Christ in Hebrews 4: 14 – 16

“Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need”.

 So David faced the difficulties of his life with prayer, which we will see throughout this Psalm as casting our cares on God.

Next I want you to note the pain and anguish that David felt that led him to pray.

Calvin captures David’s state of mind well with these words,

“From the language with which the Psalm opens, we may conclude that David at this time was labouring under heavy distress. It could be no ordinary amount of it which produced such an overwhelming effect upon a saint of his distinguished courage”.

 In verses 2b he speaks of his thoughts,

“My thoughts trouble me and I am distraught”.

 Revealing that our greatest pain in life is often coming from our minds and the thoughts our minds produce.

David could not have not heard the divisive words and actions of his Son Absalom and his growing number of followers and the thoughts such actions would have brought David would have been very painful indeed.

David tells us that he certainly had heard the voices of dissent his Son and his followers were speaking when he goes on to say in verse 3,

“At the voice of the enemy at the stares of the wicked; for they bring down suffering upon me and revile me in their anger”.

Jesus suffered as a result of the many vicious enemies he constantly faced throughout his ministry. Even on the cross this kind of suffering continued for Jesus and even intensified. Listen to Matthews’s summary of the many voices of suffering Jesus would have heard as he hung on the cross, Mathew 27: 39 – 44,

“Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads and saying, “You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself! Come down from the cross, if you are the Son of God!” In the same way the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders mocked him. He saved others,” they said, “but he can’t save himself! He’s the king of Israel! Let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. He trusts in God. Let God rescue him now if he wants him, for he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’”  In the same way the rebels who were crucified with him also heaped insults on him”.

 All of the disciples and early Christians had to endure voices of suffering as well and this is recorded throughout the book of Acts and is commented upon by people like Paul and Peter in their letters to some of the early churches. I like Peters advice and encouragement on this in 1 Peter 3: 14 – 16,

“But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil. Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear their threats; do not be frightened.”But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behaviour in Christ may be ashamed of their slander”.

 David had the added burden as I mentioned before of suffering the voices of dissent because of his great sins a number of years before.

In verses 4 and 5 David spells out a bit more the trouble and anguish he felt during the Rebellion of his son Absalom, he writes,

“My heart is in anguish within me; the terrors of death assail me. Fear and trembling have beset me; horror has overwhelmed me.

 Spurgeon captures well what is going on in the heart and mind of David during the Absalom rebellion with these comments on verses 4 and 5,

“Like house breakers these robbers were entering his soul. Like one who feels a fainting fit coming over him, so the oppressed suppliant was falling into a state of terror. His fear was so great as to make him tremble. He did not know what would happen next or how soon the worst should come”.

 Soon Absalom would strike and the worst of David’s fears would materialise and he would have to make a desperate flee for safety out of the city of Jerusalem.

  2.  (6 – 8) Learning to trust God and not run away

I can relate to what David proposes next in verses 6 – 8 because I hate facing conflict and would rather turn and run and hide then face the painful consequences of conflict especially physical conflict.

David shows us how human he was when he writes,

“I said, “Oh that I had the wings of a dove! I would fly away and be at rest – I would flee far away and stay in the desert; I would hurry to my place of shelter, far from the tempest and storm”.

 David, like most of us would rather flee than fight and there are only two choices anyone has when they face any form of human conflict. You can either run away or fight. Even those who do not run away from conflict still feel in their hearts and minds a sense of flight from the danger and difficulties they face.

David wrote earlier of this sense of wanting to fly away from danger in Psalm 11: 1 when he was probably writing about his all most certain fleeing from the wrath of King Saul who sort to kill him as well, he writes,

“In the Lord I take refuge. How then can you say to me: ‘Flee like a bird to your mountain”.

 David wanted to stay and fight on trusting in his God when he wrote those words but the danger of Saul’s threats over took him and he had to turn and run or ride for his life into the desert area’s of Israel.

Again 2 Samuel 15: 13ff. and the following two chapters will record how David had to run or ride for his life. This time David had to take hundreds of his family and friends. But we will see in this Psalm and in Psalms like Psalms 3 and 4, also written in the context of this flight from Absalom that even if we have to run from certain death, God is still with us to help and save us.

In Psalm 3: 1 – 4, David speaks of this when he writes,

“O Lord how many are my foes! How many rise up against me! Many are saying of me ‘God will not deliver him’.

But you are a shield around me, O Lord; you bestow glory on me and lift my head. To you the Lord I cry aloud, and he answers me from his holy hill.”

 What application can this have for us?

I like Kidner’s answer to this when he writes,

“It is some comfort to us to know there are spiritual giants who have had these urges whether they have succumbed to it like Elijah (1 Kings 19: 3ff) or withstood it like Jeremiah 9: 2 and 10: 19”.

David initially resists the urge to run away but as I have already said after four years of treacherous speech and action from Absalom he has to flee to the desert area’s to save not only his life but also the lives of his family and close friends.

  1. DEALING WITH THE TREACHERY OF THE DEVIL AND HIS FOLLOWERS (9 – 21)

How David speaks in this next section seems to indicate he is no longer in Jerusalem as he speaks of “strife in the city” verse 9, “prowling on its (Jerusalem) walls” vs. 10, “destructive forces are at work in the city” vs. 11 and former “fellowship as we walked with the throng at the house of God” in verse 13.

This means to me that David is writing part two of Psalm 55 outside of Jerusalem when he was probably on the run from Absalom and his dangerous forces.

The way he felt in his heart and mind when he was in the city hearing the treacherous words of Absalom and his followers would now be the same but probably would have been even more intense. In this section he also has the added pain of dealing with the treachery of a formally close and devoted friend.

I have broken this section down into three pa

       1. (9 – 11) The extent of the anarchy

       2. (12 – 15 and 20 – 21) The depth of betrayal 

       3. (16 – 19) The God who hears our prayers

 

  1.  (9 – 11) The extent of the anarchy

David now prays a prayer that he often prays in his Psalms, namely an imprecation, which is a prayer or request to God to call down God’s judgment on our enemies. I commented on this in my last Psalm talk on Psalm 54 and have also commented on this in many other Psalm talks.

Basically as followers of Christ we are called to a higher demand of how we should deal with our enemies. This way of Christ is to love and pray for our enemies. Christians who use their faith or the bible as a reason to wage war on their enemies are not following Christ.

Jesus made it clear by his actions and words at the time of his suffering for our sins how he wants all of his true followers to act. Here are just two passages that illustrate this:

Matthew 26: 47 – 52

“While he was still speaking, Judas, one of the Twelve, arrived. With him was a large crowd armed with swords and clubs, sent from the chief priests and the elders of the people. Now the betrayer had arranged a signal with them: “The one I kiss is the man; arrest him.” Going at once to Jesus, Judas said, “Greetings, Rabbi!” and kissed him. Jesus replied, “Friend, do what you came for.” Then the men stepped forward, seized Jesus and arrested him. With that, one of Jesus’ companions reached for his sword, drew it out and struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his ear.”Put your sword back in its place,” Jesus said to him, “for all who draw the sword will die by the sword”.

And

Luke 23: 33 – 34,

“When they came to the place called the Skull, there they crucified him, along with the criminals–one on his right, the other on his left. Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” And they divided up his clothes by casting lots”.

So David prays out in the wilds of the desert area of Israel for God’s judgment to come on his enemies who are now secularly in charge of Jerusalem, he prays in verses 9 – 11,

“Confuse the wicked, O Lord, confound their speech, for I see violence and strife in the city. Day and night they prowl about on its walls; Destructive forces are at work in the city; threats and lies never leave the streets”.

If the people in Israel thought they would get a better deal in life from Absalom than David they were sadly very wrong. David has just escaped from the clutches of his smooth talking son and havoc and violence reigns down on the streets of the capital. Absalom is so much like many political leaders today, they promise much to gain power but when they get it they deliver little. In Absalom case he delivered tyranny and pain.

David must have quickly got a report of what was happening back in Jerusalem and it’s not pretty. The activities of Absalom and his followers is best summed up by the words in verse 11,

“Destructive forces are at work in the city”.

What does David actually ask God then to do to Absalom and his followers?

The words of verse 9 is the answer to this,

“Confuse the wicked, O Lord, confound their speech”.

This seems to be an echo of what happened to the people of the ancient city of Babel who are spoken about in Genesis 11. These people said this in Genesis 11: 4,

“Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves and not be scattered over the face of the whole earth.”

 It is though they are putting their fists up at God and saying we don’t need you any more because we can make a name for ourselves without your help.

This kind of speech got a swift reaction from God and the next four verses tell us what God did to the people of Babel,

“But the LORD came down to see the city and the tower that the men were building. The LORD said, “If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.” So the LORD scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city. That is why it was called Babel–because there the LORD confused the language of the whole world. From there the LORD scattered them over the face of the whole earth”.

 What did Absalom do to David?

Absalom used his smooth talking treacherous speech to bring down the Lord’s anointed King. It was as though he like the people of Babel said I don’t need you God as I want to rule this land of Israel now and will stop at nothing to do it. David wanted the speech of Absalom and his followers to suffer the same fate that the people of Babel suffered, namely confusion.

       2.  (12 – 15 and 20 – 21) The depth of betrayal

David, out in the wilds of the desert area with over 600 desperate people also gets a report of the depth of the betrayal. Verses 12 – 14 speak of a close and trusted friend who has joined the rebellion. The news of this cuts even deeper into David’s heart, so he writes, verse 12,

“If an enemy were insulting me, I could endure it; if a foe were raising himself against me I could hide from him”.

David faced many enemies and as I said he was warned by God in Psalm 2:2 that this would be his destiny. However his reaction to a close friend turning viciously on him reveals a painful depth of betrayal for David, he writes in verse’s 13 and 14,

“But it is you, a man like myself, my companion, my close friend, with whom I once enjoyed sweet fellowship as we walked with the throng at the house of God”.

Who is the man David is referring to here?

There are only three possible candidates for who this person is.

The first is King Saul who David loved and served faithfully in the early part of his life. We know from the book of Samuel that Saul turned on the young David and acted treacherously  towards him and this would have caused David great pain as verses 12 – 14 and verse 20 of Psalm 55 records. However verse 14 speaks of David going to the house or sanctuary of God with this person, which is in Jerusalem and this, was not set up during the time of King Saul.

The second candidate is Absalom who certainly is, “a man like myself” or David’s equal being David’s son and next in line to the throne. However as much as Absalom would have cause great pain and difficulty for David the expressions in verse 13, “my companion” and “Close friend” seems a doubtful way of David to speak about his son and definitely fits someone close but not his son.

The third candidate, and the one I prefer is the man named Ahithophel who is spoken about in 2 Samuel 15 and 16 as a major player in the Absalom rebellion. Ahithophel is part of the wider family of David, being his favoured wife, Bathsheba’s grandfather according to 2 Samuel 23:34, which speaks of Ahithophel as the father of Eliam and Eliam is the father of Bathsheba. In 2 Samuel 16: 23 we read this about Ahithphel

“Now in those days the advice Ahithophel gave was like that of one who inquires of God. That was how both David and Absalom regarded all of Ahithophel’s advice”.

So Ahithophel fits best the three requirements of Psalm 55: 13 and 14,

“But it is you, a man like myself, my companion, my close friend, with whom I once enjoyed sweet fellowship as we walked with the throng at the house of God.”

  1. Man like myself – Ahithophel was part of the royal family being Bathsheba’s father.
  2. My Companion – As the chief advisor of David as 2 Samuel 16: 23 tells us Ahithophel would have been a close friend and companion
  3. Of whom I enjoyed sweet fellowship – 2 Samuel 16: 23 suggests Ahithophel’s advise for both David and later his rebellious son Absalom were according to 2 Samuel 16: 23, “like of one who inquires of God”, meaning that the relationship between David and Ahithophel was of a spiritual or religious nature. We could well imagine both these men going to the Sanctuary in Jerusalem together and as they did they enjoyed sweet fellowship.

Ahithophel’s switch of allegiance form David to Absalom, which we read in 2 Samuel 15 and 16 was a major factor in the initial success of Absalom’ rebellion. It seems he was well thought of not only by David and Absalom but by the people of Israel as well.

David states clearly the depth of betrayal he felt by his former friend’s actions in verse 12,

“If an enemy were insulting me, I could endure it; if a foe were raising himself against me I could endure it”.

He speaks of it again in verses 20 and 21,

“My companion attacks his friends, he violates his covenant, His speech is smooth as butter, yet war is in his heart; his words are more soothing than oil, yet they are drawn swords”.

Ahithophel really did turn on David as we can see in his first piece of advice Ahithophel  gave to Absalom in 2 Samuel 16: 20 – 22,

Ahithophel answered, “Lie with your father’s concubines whom he left to take care of the palace. Then all Israel will hear that you have made yourself a stench in your father’s nostrils, and the hands of everyone with you will be strengthened.” So they pitched a tent for Absalom on the roof, and he lay with his father’s concubines in the sight of all Israel”.

His second and final piece of advice is for Absalom to strike David down while he still on the run and not yet ready to fight. This is sound advice but this is counted by David’s double agent Hushai who had wormed his way back into the Absalom camp and advised him to wait so that he could really be ready to strike with an even greater force. This is the advice Absalom takes and Ahithophel realises the rebellion is lost and goes home to commit suicide by hanging himself.

Ahithophel’s betrayal mirrors that of Judus in the New Testament who turned over the Lord Jesus Christ for 30 pieces of silver and when he realised he had made the wrong decision suffered the same fate as Ahithophet.

David’ prayer in verse 15 is another example of an imprecation, which is a prayer or request to God to call down God’s judgment on our enemies.

“Let death take my enemies by surprise; let them go down alive to the grave, for evil finds lodging among them”.

Leupold sees a parallel to the story in Numbers 16 where we read of the result of the treachery to Moses of the Korahites who God caused the ground to open up at their feet to fall to their deaths and graves in Number 16: 32.

When a close friend or member of our family turns against us it can prove to be a devastating experience but it is even worse when that friend or family does this owing to our commitment to The Lord Jesus Christ.

However such is the depth of opposition to Jesus and God in the great spiritual battle we are all caught up in Jesus warned us that it would come owing to who he is and what he has done. We read in Matthew 10: 34 – 40,

“Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn

“‘A man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law—a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.

“Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.

“Anyone who welcomes you welcomes me, and anyone who welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me”.

In David’s case a grandfather in law against his grandson.

We cannot avoid the possibility of this kind of conflict happening to us and like David the best thing we can do when it comes is turn to God in prayer and as we will see from the key verse of this Psalm, verse 22,

“Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous fall”.

As I said before David’s prayer is for judgment to suddenly come upon his enemies.

However I think Jesus would want us to pray for our enemies both inside our family and outside of it. I wonder how the early Christians prayed for Saul or Paul as he became known when he became a Christian. Paul is recorded in Acts 9: 1 as,

“Still breathing our murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples”.

Yet as Paul rode his horse to Damascus to put Christians in jail there Jesus met Paul in a great light and the great enemy and persecutor of the faith became one of its greatest missionaries who also wrote a large portion of the New Testament scriptures.

3.(16 – 19) The God who hears our prayers

My theory that prayer and casting our cares or problems on the Lord is the major lesson David learnt from the Absalom affair can be seen in David’s words in this next section. He writes in verse 16,

“But I call to God and he saves me”

So David at the very point of acknowledging the pain and problems caused by deep horrible betrayal speaks of doing just one thing, “Calling on God” or as we see in verse 22, “Casting his cares on the Lord”. David is confident his prayers are not just a waste of breath but he confident says, “He (God) saves me”.

David now teaches us three things about praying or casting our cares on the Lord,

     1.  How often we should pray (vs. 17)

     2. The effectiveness prayer (vs.18)

     3. The mighty power of the God he prays to (vs.19)

 

  1. How often we should pray (vs. 17)

David speaks about how often he prayed in verse 17,

“Evening, morning and noon I cry out in distress, and he hears me”.

Some commentators believe that David is speaking about his daily practice of praying regularly three times a day, like it seems it was Daniels practice in Daniel 6: 10, 13. However I think David is using the Evening, morning and noon terms as a way of saying he prayed to God at any time of the day particularly at a time like the Absalom rebellion when he would have been in great danger and distress.

What he is saying here is similar to Paul’s advice to the Thessalonians in 1 Thessalonians 5: 16 – 18,

 “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus”.

Formal set times of prayer might help many people but they can turn into a slavish cold formal practice that lack sincerity and intent. I try to at least find a time in the morning to pray committing my day to the Lord. However this should and does not replace sending quick prayers to God during the day when things come up that I believe I need to commit to the Lord.

David did not practice a slavish set form of prayer but rather prayed to God as he needed to as we saw from Psalms 3 and 4 written early in David’s flight from Absalom. Psalm 4 recording David’s prayer as he went to bed on the first night on the run from Absalom and Psalm 3, David’s prayer the next morning.

Note finally David’s confidence in his words, “and he (The Lord) hears my voice” David did have to endure a number of weeks of further pain and difficulty when he was on the run from his son Absalom. However if you read carefully the story of this rebellion in 2 Samuel 15 – 18 you can see the hand of God answering step by step the prayers of David.

David’s distress does not immediately end with the death of his son as David almost disintegrates into deep mourning at the news of his son’s demise.

We too can have confidence that God hears our voice in prayer with New Testament verses like 1 John 5: 14,

“This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us”.

 

       2. The effectiveness of prayer (vs.18)

To add to the confident words of David at the end of verse 17 David writes in verse 18,

“He ransoms me unharmed from the battle waged against me, even though many oppose me”.

David claims, by faith, God’s victory over his enemies even before that victory has been won. Spurgeon writes,

“Faith sees as well as foresees; to her foresight is sight. He is not only safe but serene, delivered in peace – peace in his inmost soul”.

In Psalm 3: 2, David states,

“Many are saying of me, God will not deliver me”

And immediately David’s rock hard immovable confidence in God can be seen in the next verse, when he writes,

“But you are a shield around me, O Lord; you bestow glory on me and lift up my head”.

David in verse 18 uses the “ransom” word but this is in David’s context could be translated, “delivered” but for us this word, “ransom” means so much more than simple everyday deliverance form our enemies. Through the work of the Lord Jesus Christ for us on the cross, Jesus can say in Mark 10: 45,

 “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

     3. The mighty power of the God he prays to (vs.19)

David knew clearly who his God was and what he was like when he writes in verse 19,

“God, who is enthroned forever, will hear them and afflict them – men who never change their ways and have no fear of God”.

It is very easy for Christians to over emphasize the power of personal faith as though if we could summon up enough courage and conviction then our faith will be powerful. However a closer look at what the bible really says about faith is that it is not the believer who makes the difference but who the believer is seeking to connect to.

Here in verse 19 David sought to connect by faith to a God, who is,

“Enthroned forever”

This God then is mighty and powerful and because it is said he is enthroned forever then it means he reigns forever.

David did not just get this idea of God from his fertile imagination but rather from the revelation of God from the past recorded for David and us in what the Jews came to call, “The Torah” or law, which are the first five books of the bible.

Let me share one great bit of the Torah that David and all his people would have known. It is part of a song Moses wrote after God opened up the red sea for the Nation of Israel to pass through safely while the enemies of Israel, the Egyptians drowned as God closed the waters of the sea over them, Exodus 15: 1 – 11,

“I will sing to the Lord, for he is highly exalted.

Both horse and rider he has hurled into the sea.

“The Lord is my strength and my defence he has become my salvation.

He is my God, and I will praise him, my father’s God, and I will exalt him.

The Lord is a warrior; the Lord is his name.

Pharaoh’s chariots and his army he has hurled into the sea.

The deep waters have covered them; they sank to the depths like a stone.

Your right hand, Lord, was majestic in power.

Your right hand, Lord shattered the enemy.

In the greatness of your majesty you threw down those who opposed you.

You unleased your burning anger; it consumed them like stubble.

By the blast of your nostrils the waters piled up.

The surging waters stood up like a wall;

The deep waters congealed in the heart of the sea.

The enemy boasted, I’m will pursue, I will overtake them.

I will divide the spoils; I will gorge myself on them.

But you blew with your breath, and the sea covered them.

They sank like led in the mighty waters.

Who among the gods is like you, Lord?

Who is like you- majestic in holiness awesome in glory, working wonders?

Moses was inspired by God’s great act of salvation and judgment. Salvation for the Israelites who believed in God and judgment for the Egyptians who refused to believe in him.

So David makes the connection to this God of Salvation and Judgment of God in verse 19 and he says it is judgment for his enemies, who are,

“Men who never change their ways and have no fear of God”

 Today there is a new and growing form of aggressive atheism, which is full of men and women who could be best described by David description of his enemies in verse 19,

“Men (and women) who never change their ways and have no fear of God”

 On a recent “Facebook” discussion about the reality of God many atheists wrote God off as nothing more than a myth; I posted the words of a car bumper sticker that says,

“Eternity is a long time to be wrong”

Sadly many atheists made jokes of my comment and dismissed it as a non – sense. Unfortunately judgment will not be a joking matter and the fear of God these people lack will sadly come with force when they face the God of Heaven and earth on his throne in heaven in judgment.

David still has the deliverance from his enemies in mind that he has just spoken about because he returns in verses 20 and 21 to the theme of Ahithophel’s betrayal, which I commented upon in the first section under the heading of “The depth of betrayal”.

I will simply add that in verse 21 the speech or counsel of Ahithophel, which was a major part of David’s relationship with Ahithophel, had now changed. David here notes that Ahithophel speech has become slippery like butter or oil owing to its current use in his betrayal to the rebellious son Absalom. Verse 21 reads like this,

“His speech is smooth as butter, yet war is in his heart; his words are more soothing than oil, yet they are drawn swords”. 

3.CASTING OUR CARES ON GOD (22 – 23)

 We come now to David’s great summary verse of this Psalm, which I have, hinted at lays behind much of what David has said already in this Psalm. The verse reads,

“Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you: he will never let the righteous fall”.

 He started the Psalm doing just that, where he pleads with God to listen to his prayer for help in the midst of the threatening speech from his enemies who have joined forces with his rebellious son Absalom to discredit him and overthrow him.

He casts on God the pain he felt when he had learnt that one of his most trusted friends. Ahithophel had turned against him and was now giving council to his son Absalom.

He speaks in verses 16 and 17 how he called on God which is another way of saying cast on God his need for deliverance at every stage of the day during his terrible run for his life from the vengeance of Absalom and his followers.

Finally he looked ahead with the eye of faith on the time when God would deliver him from his enemies, which meant that in this seemingly hopeless situation God would sustain him.

I will answer three questions concerning this summary of what David learnt from the Absalom affair, which will include the final verse as well.

1. What does it mean to cast your cares on the Lord?

       2.What does it mean he will sustain you?

       3. What does it mean to trust in God today?

 1.  What does it mean to cast you cares on the Lord?

This verse has no doubt been a comfort and help to many Christians throughout the ages and has been utilized by many as they face the trials and difficulties of life. However the verse has even more to offer once a better understanding of it is gained.

The major issue to come to terms with is what is David really saying when he speaks of cares?

The problem most commentators raise here is the translation of the Hebrew that comes up with “burdens” or “cares”. Calvin for instance explains the literal meaning of the original Hebrew words and writes,

“The Hebrew verb, “yahab”, signifies to give, so that, “yehobcha”, according to the ordinary rules of grammar, should be rendered thy giving, or thy gift”.

 Kidner clears up what this means to the translation, with these words,

“Burdens or “Cares” here actually means whatever is given you, your appointed lot, your fortunes”.

 David’s appointed lot in the context of Psalm 55 was the rebellion of Absalom and the painful and dangerous consequences of that. All of us will have a different “lot” in life and that “lot” will include both good things and bad things or burdens.

Calvin points out about what we should do when our “lot” is burdensome with these words,

“There is no other method of relieving our anxious souls, but by reposing ourselves upon the providence of the Lord”.

 The real meaning of what, “Casting our cares on the Lord” is best explained by the following words of Peter in 1 Peter 5: 6 and 7,

“Humble yourself, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you”.

 Jesus put it this way, in Matthew 11: 28 – 30,

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light”.

 To cast our cares, or better still, our lot on the Lord is to give God everything and then to rely on the promised providential care and help of God for us.

This is what David has been doing throughout this Psalm even in the face of great pain and difficulty caused by the rebellion of his son Absalom.

2.  What does it mean he will sustain you?

The second half of the verse and the promise is,

“And he will sustain you”

 Again the expert commentators who know Hebrew point out that the original Hebrew word for “Sustain” means literally ‘feed you’. With this translation in mind Spurgeon writes,

“Thy bread shall be given thee, they waters shall be sure. Abundant nourishment shall fit thee to bear thy labours and trials”.

 David in his younger days was shepherd and as a shepherd in his day he knew that the sheep relied solely on the shepherd to provide nourishment and protection. This is what David is referring to in Psalm 23: 1 – 3,

“The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me besides quiet waters, and he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name sake”.

 For God to “sustain” us literally means he will provide whatever we need, not what we want but what we need. This is what Jesus taught in Matthew 6: 33 – 34,

“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own”.

 David needed God’s protection and help as he faced the enormous might and danger of Absalom and his many followers. This is why he puts what being sustained by God meant to him in the words of the final part of verse 22,

“He will never let the righteous fall”

 David again either looked ahead with the eye of faith or looked back after the overthrow of the Absalom rebellion to write these words in the final verse of the Psalm.

“But you, O God, will bring down the wicked into the pit of corruption; bloodthirsty and deceitful men will not live out their lives”.

 This is how David needed to be sustained when he faced the great opposition of his son’s rebellion, the bringing down of the wicked and this is what God did. The Absalom rebellion was over in the matter of weeks not months and he and his key conspirators were overtaken and destroyed at the hands of David’s faithful general Joab. Absalom did not live out the life he could have had owing to his deceit and rebellion and David had the tragic experience of burying his son.

The whole messy and dangerous affair affected David deeply and left him as a sad and grieving father. It took Joab to forcefully snap David out of his emotional meltdown after the death of his son Absalom with these words in 2 Samuel 19: 5 – 7,

“Then Joab went into the house to the king and said, “Today you have humiliated all your men, who have just saved your life and the lives of your sons and daughters and the lives of your wives and concubines. You love those who hate you and hate those who love you. You have made it clear today that the commanders and their men mean nothing to you. I see that you would be pleased if Absalom were alive today and all of us were dead. Now go out and encourage your men. I swear by the Lord that if you don’t go out, not a man will be left with you by nightfall. This will be worse for you than all the calamities that have come on you from your youth till now.”

 David’s lot or what he had to bare was difficult but he had laid this on the Lord, he had cast his lot on the Lord and he was sustained and delivered by the Lord.

We hear today tremendous persecution of Christians who are dying simply because they are determined to stay loyal to the God of the bible.

How can I say that the Lord has sustained them?

Paul faced the same problems persecuted Christians face today and he wrote to Christians who lived in Rome who also faced the same problems and difficulties and this is what he said to them in Romans 8: 31 – 39,

“What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written:

“For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord”.

 

 3.  What does it mean to trust God today?

David quickly pulled himself together after the words of Joab and 2 Samuel 19: 8 tells us:,

 “So the king got up and took his seat in the gateway. When the men were told, “The king is sitting in the gateway, they all came before him”.

David seemed to have lived an emotional roller coaster sort of life but he did what he always did which is expressed so well by the final words of the Psalm,

“But as for me, I trust in you”.

 What does it mean for us to trust in God today?

I think my best answer to this is to point you to David’s wonderful words of verse 22 of this Psalm,

“Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous fall”.

 To trust God is to give God our lot, that is to trust God no matter what life brings us knowing that God promises to work everything for our good as  Romans 8: 28 says,

“And we know in all things God works for good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose”.

 In handing our lives over to God, which is what casting our cares on the Lord really means. This means our lives are in God’s hands and his promise is:

“He will sustain you”

 God will guide and direct us and even if our lot is to live in one of the fifty or so countries in the world today where Christians are persecuted for their faith then even in death God,

“Will never let the righteous fall”

 So the big and central difference between a believer and a non believer in this life is when life’s difficulties come upon the believer they have a great and loving God to turn to and he will help and bless us all the days of our lives.

Some atheists say that we believe in God only because we want a crutch to lean on in life. The truth is that in one way they are correct we do have a crutch to lean on in life but this is not why we believe. We believe because God demonstrated his love for us in sending Jesus to this world to deal with what causes us to need a crutch in life, sin which pays only death and destruction to this world.

We have more than a crutch to lean on we have a God who promises to sustain us and never let us fall.

I close with a poem and a prayer.

CAST ALL YOUR CARES ON THE LORD

(Based on Psalm 55)

 Listen to my prayer O God above

Answer my plea because of your love

I am troubled by those who oppose you

Help me to remain faithful serving you true.

 

Fear and trembling I feel O Lord

Sometimes I want to fly like a bird

Fly from the troubles my enemies cause

Flee and be safe from life’s spiritual wars.

 

Chorus:

God will sustain, God will sustain

God will sustain you when you fall

Cast all your cares on the Lord

And he will sustain you through it all.

 

Day and night Satan seeks to bring down

God’s children who are heaven bound.

I hear of Christians who face death each day

Keep them safe Lord, help them I pray.

 

Sometimes we find our friends let us down

This can sometimes cause us to frown

Those who are close to us can cause us much pain

When they are not faithful to the Lords name.

 

Chorus:

I call on the Lord to always help me out

To help me with trials and sometimes doubt

Jesus has saved me by dying for me

He rose to heaven in great victory.

 

Bring down O Lord those who oppose your word

Help them to see its great reward

As for me I will trust God all my days

Living my life to serve and to praise.

 

Chorus:

God will sustain, God will sustain

God will sustain you when you fall

Cast all your cares on the Lord

And he will sustain you through it all.

 

PRAYER:

 Dear father in heaven we thank you for your great promise to sustain us if we cast our cares on you. Help us Lord to trust in you even when we face persecution or any other form of difficulty. And when we encounter those who oppose you help us to be an effective witness to them so that they can come to know your great love and help in their lives as well. In the name of Jesus our Lord and Saviour we pray. Amen.

 

 

 

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