Sir Godfrey Gregg D.Div
“But thou, O God, shalt bring them down into the pit of destruction: bloody and deceitful men shall not live out half their days; but I will trust in thee.” Psalm 55:23
The value of a word and the power that it has over our hearts depends largely upon the man who speaks it and on the circumstances of its utterance. When Paul said to the Philippians, “Rejoice in the Lord, and again I say rejoice,” how inexpressibly these words are deepened by the circumstances of the Apostle–no longer young nor free, but a prisoner in a Roman cell with his life-work seemingly shattered at his feet. Living words have the quality of life. They are born and bear the fashion of their birth. They may be robbed of meaning or may be filled with meaning, by the hour in which the spirit utters them. So it seems to me the only way to enter into the grandeur of our text is to learn the circumstances of the Psalm. What kind of man was this who said so confidently: “But I will trust in thee?” What were his circumstances? Was he happy? Was everything going very well with him? A study of the psalm will show us that.
The Psalmist Was a Man Unanswered
First, note that he was a man unanswered. He knew the bitterness of heaven’s silence. His opening cry in our deep psalm is this: “Hide not thyself from my supplication” (Psalm 55:1).
It is an easy thing to trust in God when swiftly and certainly our prayers are answered. There are some who read this column whose life is a compact of answered prayer. But when we pray and the face of God is hidden, and we are restless because heaven is silent–it is often difficult to trust Him then. Especially is that true of intercession when we have been praying for someone who is dear, that God would spare a life or kill a habit or bring the beloved prodigal home again. To continue trusting when we have prayed like that and the prayers have seemed to go whistling down the wind, is one of the hardest tasks in human life. The splendid thing is that the psalmist did it. He refused to regard silence as indifference. He knew that a thousand days are as one day to God and that sometimes love delays the chariot wheels. Heaven might be silent and the face of God averted and all the comfort of fellowship withdrawn, but “I will trust in thee.”
The Psalmist Was Afraid
Observe next, he was a man afraid. “The terrors of death are fallen upon me. Fearfulness and trembling are come upon me” (Psalm 55:4-5). Now if the writer of this psalm was David, he was one of the bravest souls who ever lived. As a shepherd lad, as an outlaw, as a king, he had given most conspicuous proofs of gallantry. Yet that gallant and courageous heart cries out: “The terrors of death are fallen upon me; fearfulness and trembling come upon me.”
Such hours come to the businessman when he has grappled with some big concern; to the lawyer on the eve of a very important case; to the mother, brooding in the quiet night on the responsibilities of her home and children; or to the pastor, praying for his flock. Suddenly our courage fails for reasons that are often quite inexplicable. Things are not different, duties are not different, but in a strange and mysterious fashion, we are different. And men who faced the lion and the bear and were quick to answer the challenge of Goliath experience the fearfulness of David. All of us have fainting fits, even the strongest and the bravest; hours when the strong men bow themselves and when the keepers of the house to tremble. David had them in their full intensity, and the good thing is that when they fell on him, he lifted up his heart and cried, “But I will trust in thee.”
The Psalmist Was Imprisoned
Observe next, he was a man imprisoned. “O that I had wings like a dove! for then would I fly away and be at rest” (Psalm 55:6). Now, this does not mean that he was in a dungeon. It is evident from the psalm that he was not. It means that he was weary of his lot; he was dead-sick of it; he loathed it. The meanness of things to that great heart had grown intolerable. He would have given worlds to fly away, but that was the one thing he could not do. In the providential ordering of heaven, he was bound, as it were, by fetters to his place. And I believe there are few people anywhere, whatever their lot or calling, who have not known the longing to escape. To escape from the bondage of ourselves–what a craving we often feel for that! To get away–just to get right away–from the routine which meets us every morning, how overpowering at times is that desire! It was then that David rose to a better way. The wings of a dove would never give him rest. The thing he needed was to find his rest under the overshadowing wing of God–right there, just where he was, amid the burdens and the cares of kingship, “I will trust in thee.”
The Psalmist Was Deceived
Observe lastly, he was a man deceived. Somebody he trusted had proven false, and it had almost broken David’s heart (Psalm 55:12-14). A man his equal, his guide and his acquaintance to whom he used to turn for loving counsel; a man with whom, on quiet Sabbath mornings, he used to walk into the house of God; a man whose friendship he had never doubted and on whose loyalty he would have staked his life had played the part of Iscariot to the Psalmist. What a devastating revelation! What a tragic and desolating hour! How many people have lost their faith in God when they have lost it in a man or woman? Yet David, amid the ruins of that friendship, deserted by one he clung to as a brother, says, “But I will trust in thee.”