Who Can You Trust? - Psalm 55 Sermon May Prayer Service
Prayer Service May 4th Season of Easter - 2016. Pr. Ted Giese, Mount Olive Lutheran Church, Regina SK. Psalm 55 - Who Can You Trust?
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,
because of the noise of the enemy,
because of the oppression of the wicked.
For they drop trouble upon me,
and in anger they bear a grudge against me.
My heart is in anguish within me;
the terrors of death have fallen upon me.
Fear and trembling come upon me,
and horror overwhelms me.
And I say, “Oh, that I had wings like a dove!
I would fly away and be at rest;
yes, I would wander far away;
I would lodge in the wilderness;
I would hurry to find a shelter
from the raging wind and tempest.”
Destroy, O Lord, divide their tongues;
for I see violence and strife in the city.
Day and night they go around it
on its walls,
and iniquity and trouble are within it;
ruin is in its midst;
oppression and fraud
do not depart from its marketplace.
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.
We used to take sweet counsel together;
within God's house we walked in the throng.
Let death steal over them;
let them go down to Sheol alive;
for evil is in their dwelling place and in their heart.
But I call to God,
and the LORD will save me.
Evening and morning and at noon
I utter my complaint and moan,
and He hears my voice.
He redeems my soul in safety
from the battle that I wage,
for many are arrayed against me.
God will give ear and humble them,
He who is enthroned from of old,
because they do not change
and do not fear God.
My companion stretched out his hand against his friends;
he violated his covenant.
His speech was smooth as butter,
yet war was in his heart;
his words were softer than oil,
yet they were drawn swords.
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.
Let us pray: May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in Your sight O Lord. Amen.
Grace peace and mercy to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Good Christian Friends. King David stood on the Mount of Olives across the Kidron Valley from Jerusalem, from there he could see the city - the seat of his kingship over Israel. He was leaving it and he didn't know if he'd return. His son Absalom had stolen the hearts of the men of Israel and was making himself king in David's place and David worried that the favour of God may have left him, that he may no longer be fit to be king, that perhaps the Lord was allowing Absalom to take the kingdom of Israel for him as a punishment as chastisement. What was David to do? David needed to be patient and trust in the Lord even in his troubles; David knew that those closest to him would be invaluable, that his mighty men - the heroes of renowned, and the rest of his servants, were a gift from God. The loss of any of them would be a hard blow in his time of tribulation.
With word that Absalom was coming to Jerusalem and with no desire to do harm to his son David had given the command to all his servants who were with him at Jerusalem, “Arise, and let us flee, or else there will be no escape for us from Absalom. Go quickly, lest he overtake us quickly and bring down ruin on us and strike the city with the edge of the sword.” [His servants replied,] “Behold, your servants are ready to do whatever my lord the king decides.” So David went out, and all his household after him. And he left ten concubines to keep the house back in Jerusalem. David didn't know it yet but there was yet one more who was missing, his most trusted advisor Ahithophel, a man considered one of the wisest in Israel in those days, his word was as if it were the word of God, and he was a dear friend of King David.
As they were still leaving Jerusalem Abiathar the high priest came up and along with him was Zadok and all the Levites, bearing the ark of the covenant of God. They sat the ark of God down and waited until David and the people had all passed out of the city. David said to Zadok, “Carry the ark of God back into the city. If I find favour in the eyes of the LORD, He will bring me back and let me see both it and His dwelling place. But if He says, ‘I have no pleasure in you,’ behold, here I am, let [God] do to me what seems good to Him.” And with these words David had walked barefooted, weeping with his head covered across the Kidron Valley and up the Mount of Olives and on the Mount of Olives the news came, “Ahithophel is among the conspirators with Absalom.” And David said, “O LORD, please turn the counsel of Ahithophel into foolishness.” These events set the stage for Psalm 55. This prayer of David's, “O LORD, please turn the counsel of Ahithophel into foolishness,” and this coming trouble with his son gives rise to David's words in Psalm 55 when he prays, "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, because of the noise of the enemy, because of the oppression of the wicked. For they drop trouble upon me, and in anger they bear a grudge against me. My heart is in anguish within me; the terrors of death have fallen upon me. Fear and trembling come upon me, and horror overwhelms me." His son Absalom was bearing a grudge in anger over the tragic rape of Absalom's sister Tamar at the hand of their half brother Amnon, because Absalom believed that his father was unjust in how he handled the tragedy of Tamar and Amnon he took advantage of his father David's good nature and forgiveness and he campaigned for himself among the people saying publicly to all who would hear him, “Oh that I were judge in the land! Then every man with a dispute or cause might come to me, and I would give him justice.”
Of his trusted advisor Ahithophel - who had become a conspirator with Absalom - David laments in Psalm 55, "My companion stretched out his hand against his friends; he violated his covenant. His speech was smooth as butter, yet war was in his heart; his words were softer than oil, yet they were drawn swords." Standing at the crest of the Mount of Olives with Jerusalem behind him and uncertainty before him David dreams of flying away from it all; latter when he writes Psalm 55 David says, “Oh, that I had wings like a dove! I would fly away and be at rest; yes, I would wander far away; I would lodge in the wilderness; I would hurry to find a shelter from the raging wind and tempest.”
There's a gospel hymn called, "I'll Fly Away" written in 1929 by Albert Edward Brumley. You've likely heard this familiar song, you're likely sinning it in your head right now, it repeats a lot but here's the gist of the lyrics, the main parts of what Brumley was working to get across. Think about what King David wrote and then listen to these words from Brumley's song, they go like this, "Some glad morning when this life is o'er, To a home on God's celestial shore, When the shadows of this life have gone, Like a bird from prison bars has flown, I'll fly away ... Oh. How glad and happy when we meet, No more cold iron shackles on my feet, Just a few more weary days and then, To a land where joy shall never end, I'll fly away" ... the chorus goes, "I'll fly away, fly away Oh Glory, I'll fly away; (in the morning) When I die, Hallelujah, by and by, I'll fly away" Brumley's song is about looking forward to our death and the day when we individually will have flown the coup of this world, taken to be with Christ to await the day of resurrection. In his song Brumley wants to fly away like a bird to the happy heavenly reunion, to be with those who have gone on before him in the faith.
David's song is a bit different, while people sing Brumley's song in times of trouble and grief David's song of flying away in Psalm 55 is not one where he is looking to his death or grieving the death of someone close to him, it's not about his final removal from the world to live with his fathers and with God in Heaven. No David is looking for an escape of a different sort. His prayer is for escape from the mess that his life had become, escape from his friend Ahithophel who'd turned on him who David describes as an equal, his companion, and familiar friend. Who David used to take "sweet counsel" with within God's house as they walked together in the throng. The whole thing had become a disaster and for a moment David just wanted to fly away. Have you felt like this? Have you wanted to just fly away? For David the path ahead was uncertain, he could die at the hands of his son, or he could be restored. He did not know which it would be. What he needed was to trust in the Lord. Either way Ahithophel, who he had trusted, was betraying him to his son.
It was on the Mount of Olive on that first Maundy Thursday of Holy Week that Jesus was praying to His heavenly Father, not David's prayer of, “Oh, that I had wings like a dove! I would fly away and be at rest," but, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.” The future for Jesus was not murky, Jesus knew that death was before Him, that the Cross of Good Friday awaited Him. Jesus knew that His betrayer was working against Him, that Judas who was one of His handpicked disciples, who had eaten with Him, who had sat at Jesus' side, who had - along with the other disciples - walked with Jesus together in the Temple, God's House, among the throng, that this one who Jesus would have counted as a Friend was turning Him over to men who wanted Him dead. Again, for the second [and a third time Jesus] prayed, “My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, Your will be done.” And with a friendly greeting of a kiss on the cheek Judas who had come with guards from the Temple, under cover of darkness, took Jesus into their custody and lead Him down from the Mount of Olives across the Kidron Valley back towards Jerusalem. Jesus died in David's place just as He died in yours.
What happened to David? David was given an escape, as David reached the summit of the Mount of Olives, "Hushai the Archite came to meet him with his coat torn and dirt on his head. David said to him, “If you go on with me, you will be a burden to me. But if you return to the city and say to Absalom, ‘I will be your servant, O king; as I have been your father's servant in time past, so now I will be your servant,’ then you will defeat for me the counsel of Ahithophel. Are not Zadok and Abiathar the priests with you there? So whatever you hear from the king's house, tell it to Zadok and Abiathar the priests. Behold, their two sons are with them there, ... , and by [their sons] you shall send to me everything you hear.” So Hushai, David's friend, came into the city, just as Absalom was entering Jerusalem." This escape for David was the answer to David's prayer that the Lord would destroy and divide their tongues in Absalom's ear that Absalom would choose the advice of Hushai over the advice of the wise Ahithophel and that to the ears of Absalom the LORD would have turn the counsel of Ahithophel into foolishness. And so it was: Ahithophel had offered to take twelve thousand men and go out and find David while he was still weary from travel and personally kill David, what a great friend; Hushai suggested that Absalom should gather Israel to himself and personally go to battle in person against his father David. Absalom took this advice and it was the beginning of his end, "For the LORD had ordained to defeat the good counsel of Ahithophel, so that the LORD might bring harm upon Absalom."
As Psalm 55 comes to its conclusion king David says to you, "Cast your burden on the LORD, and He will sustain you; He will never permit the righteous to be moved." In your Baptism into Christ Jesus you are the righteous and it is for you, His righteous, that "God, will cast [your enemies] down into the pit of destruction;" It is at the Cross where Jesus ultimately does this, with His blood Jesus casts sin, death, the devil, the world down into the pit of destruction and on The Last Day He will raise you up to have a resurrected body like His resurrected Body, you David and all the faithful. For David, in the midst of the events that swirled around Psalm 55, the LORD saw fit that men like Ahithophel and Absalom, "men of blood and treachery [would] not live out half their days," just like the Psalm says. When Absalom spurned Ahithophel's advice Ahithophel saddled his donkey and went back to his home town, settled the affairs of his house and hung himself, when Judas realised that he had betrayed an innocent man in Jesus Judas too attempted to settle his affairs with the High Priest at the Temple, but was turned away, and he like Ahithophel hung himself.
At the end of Psalm 55 David prays to the LORD, "I will trust in You," and it's the LORD who hears his prayer who redeems David's soul in safety. Again David was assured of the favour of God for him, even in the midst of trouble. This is not only for David, this is for you today, like we sang before the Sermon, "If thou but trust in God to guide thee and hope in Him through all thy ways, He'll give thee strength, whate'er betide thee, and bear thee through the evil days. Who trusts in God's unchanging love builds on the rock that naught can move." Amen.
Let us pray:
Lord have mercy on us, Christ have mercy on us, Lord have mercy on us, “take our minds and think through them, take our lips and speak through them, take our hearts and set them on fire; for the sake of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, Amen.
 2 Samuel 15:6
 2 Samuel 15:14-16
 2 Samuel 15:24
 2 Samuel 15:25-26
 2 Samuel 15:31
 2 Samuel 15:4
 Matthew 26:39
 John 15:15, "No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you."
 Matthew 26:42
 2 Samuel 15:32-37
 2 Samuel 17:11
 2 Samuel 17:14
 "If Thou But Trust in God to Guide Thee" Lutheran Service Book, Concordia Publishing House 2006, #750