Beckett: Jesus, Our Good Friend

Psalm 55:12-23
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 hearts.
But I call to God, and Yahweh 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.
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 Yahweh, 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.

At this point in the psalm, David describes a close betrayal. We don’t know who the traitor is, and the point is not that we try to identify the traitor, but the point is that such adversity is far worse than a normal kind of enemy. Some random person who hates us for whatever reason that might be—whether racism, sexism, ageism, bullying among kids; or in David’s case, for being king—this kind of enemy is easy to bear.

But a friend who betrays you? Someone who was a companion and whom you considered to be your equal? This type of enemy is difficult to bear, and indeed, unbearable in some cases.

Then there is a change in subject—from this adversarial former companion to “them,” which the context provides the subject to be the wicked (v. 3), David’s enemies. David pleads for the death of these enemies since evil is deep in their hearts.

Interestingly, David does not make such a plea for the traitor. Even when he addresses the traitor again in verses 20-21, he does not plead for his destruction. He merely reflects on the hidden character of his former companion. He violated the covenant shared between friends. He spoke peace and kindness, but within his heart was war. His words appeared to be kind, but they stabbed like swords.

In the midst of these enemies—whether other people or a close friend—David advises to “cast your burden on Yahweh” (v. 22). David will trust in God’s promise to deliver him from evil.

The betrayal of a friend can be unbearable, as can the betrayal of your own people in your land, especially when it’s your leaders. Nehemiah had to deal with the latter. There was “a great outcry of the people and of their wives against their Jewish brothers” (Nehemiah 5:1). Nehemiah discovered the people were heavily taxed to the point that they lost property, and in order to live, their sons and daughters had to become slaves (vv. 3-5).

This was a deep betrayal among the people of Israel. Angry, Nehemiah confronts their leaders and demands them to return their fields, vineyards, property, and everything else they had lost to the people at no cost of the people, and the leaders do as Nehemiah says.

Have you ever faced betrayal? Has a friend or relative betrayed you before? Do you feel betrayed by our leaders in government in some way, whether real or imagined? I remember a time when I was betrayed.

During my sophomore year in high school, I began experiencing severe depression. I had already built a close relationship with my marching band director, and I told him what was going on. A couple days later, for whatever reason, he felt the need to tell the entire marching band at the end of practice—over 200 teenagers—about my depression. I told him that in confidence! He betrayed my trust! The betrayal was difficult to bear!

Even though our friends, relatives, and leaders might betray us, we always have a friend in Jesus. I know, that might sound corny and cliché, but it’s true. As Jesus said to His disciples, “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” (John 15:15).

Jesus is our Friend because He has revealed the will of God the Father—salvation in Christ alone, who Himself was betrayed by a close friend, Judas Iscariot. Therefore, when we suffer betrayal from friends and the like, we can take it to Christ in prayer. Meditate on the words to LSB #770 What a Friend We Have in Jesus:

What a friend we have in Jesus,
All our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry
Ev’rything to God in prayer!
Oh, what peace we often forfeit;
Oh, what needless pain we bear—
All because we do not carry
Ev’rything to God in prayer!

Have we trials and temptations?
Is there trouble anywhere?
We should never be discouraged—
Take it to the Lord in prayer.
Can we find a friend so faithful
Who with all our sorrows share?
Jesus knows our ev’ry weakness—
Take it to the Lord in prayer.

Are we weak and heavy laden,
Cumbered with a load of care?
Precious Saviour, still our refuge—
Take it to the Lord in prayer.
Do thy friends despise, forsake thee?
Take it to the Lord in prayer.
In His arms He’ll take and shield thee;
Thou wilt find a solace there.

LSB #770 What A Friend We Have in Jesus

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