(H) For the director of the choir, a psalm of David. (1) God of my praise, do not remain silent, (2) for the mouth of the wicked and the mouth of the deceitful have opened against me. They have spoken against me with a lying tongue, (3) and with words of hatred they have surrounded me and attacked me without a cause. (4) In return for my friendship, they act as my adversaries, but I (give myself to) prayer. (5) Thus, they have repaid me evil instead of good and hatred instead of friendship.
Four repetitions in the opening segment of this psalm point us to its message. In the second verse, David uses a figure of speech called “metonymy” in which the repeated word, “mouth,” represents the verbal attacks David suffered from his wicked and deceitful adversaries (vs. 2). Two instances of the Hebrew term for “word” first used as a verb, “have spoken” (vs. 2), and then as the noun, “words” (vs. 3), refer to the slander David’s enemies were directing against him.
The author then uses “hatred” twice to describe the antagonism of his enemies (vss. 3 & 5). We also find “friendship” twice (vss. 4 & 5), describing how David had originally treated those who later repaid him with “evil instead of good” and with “hatred instead of friendship” (vs. 5). The word for “friendship” can be translated “brotherly love,” the Hebrew counterpart to the Greek word “phileo.” In this situation, David deliberately avoids using “hesed,” the Hebrew word for “steadfast love,” the kind of selfless love God shows his undeserving children.
I. Petition: requesting God’s response (1)
II. Problem: the betrayal of those who were my friends (2-5)
When treated with contempt by those whom we thought were our friends, our only recourse is to turn to God for support.
Few things hurt more than an unexpected betrayal. When those with whom we have a family relationship or friendship respond with scorn and abuse, we feel utterly devastated. The Scriptures contain several examples of such behavior. Think how Joseph felt when his brothers plotted to kill him and then sold him as a slave into Egypt. Think how the father in Jesus’ parable felt when the prodigal son contemptuously asked for his portion of the estate and left home. Think how Jesus felt when Judas betrayed him into the hands of the religious leaders in exchange for thirty pieces of silver.
We are not told the precise circumstances in David’s life which produced this wrenching psalm, but we can hazard a guess. Without doubt the most painful betrayal of David’s life took place when his beloved son, Absalom, rebelled and tried to seize the kingdom by force (2 Sam. 15). It is always the betrayals of those closest to us, our own flesh and blood, that wound us most deeply.
In this psalm, David shows us the way to recovery if ever we endure such a breach of relationship. If we turn to God in prayer and commit our cause to him, he has promised to supply us with his sustaining grace. He will protect and restore us if we commit our grief and pain into his gracious hands and trust the judge of all the earth to do what is right (Gen. 18:25).