Psalm 55
Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown. David felt this. Often had he been in trouble, but never perhaps had he been brought so low before. Evils dreaded had become realities. The dark clouds, long gathering, had now burst over him in furious tempest. Absalom, his dearly loved son, has risen in revolt, and multitudes flock to his standard. Even old companions in arms desert, and the very friend most trusted turns traitor. It was a terrible time. The aged monarch, sad and dispirited, his name traduced, his tenderest feelings outraged, his life and kingdom threatened, is compelled, with the few found faithful, to seek safety in flight (2 Samuel 15.). But even then there was no rest for the king. His mind is in a turmoil; his heart is borne down by cruel doubts and fears, and the sorrows of death compassed him about. But in the dark hour he found rest and hope in God. The good man is presented in this psalm as -

I. THE SUBJECT OF GREAT MENTAL DISTRESS. (Vers. 1-8.) The cares of a divided house and the complaints of a disaffected people pressed heavy on David's soul. But worse things still troubled him - private sorrows, which he could tell only to God. Human nature is not changed. Trials are much the same now as they were three thousand years ago. How thankful should we be for such a record as we have in this psalm! We are taught that when sorrow comes it is not as if any strange thing happened to us. We see as in a glass how others have suffered, and we learn from them not only how to be patient, but where to find sure relief. How many, in all ages, since the days of David, have found, in his confessions and prayers, words wherewith fitly to express the surging feelings of their hearts!

II. THE VICTIM OF SOCIAL TREACHERY. We mix with our fellow-men. We have our friends and, it may be, our enemies. However it be, we cannot live long without knowing something of the bitterness of disappointment and the pain of betrayal. In such circumstances we have need to walk circumspectly. We must watch and pray, lest our grief should pass into unholy passion, and our just resentment rise to cruel revenge. There is a better way. Bather let the sense of injury breed in us a hatred of all injury. Bather let the feeling that we suffer wrongfully move us to sympathy with all others suffering in like manner. Bather let the faithlessness of man make us rejoice the more in the faithfulness of God, whose care of us never ceases, and whose love never fails.

III. THE OBJECT OF DIVINE DELIVERANCE. "As for me" (ver. 16) marks the difference between the godly and the ungodly, and points the way to the true Resource in every trouble. Help comes largely from prayer (ver. 17). Recollection of past deliverances is reviving (ver. 18). There is also comfort from a clearer insight into the purposes and doings of God (ver. 19). But the great relief, even when face to face with the most grievous trials, is in casting all our cares upon God, who careth for us (ver. 22). The burden which is too heavy for us, and which is crushing us to the earth, we roll upon God, and therefore enter into rest and assured hope. The last words of the psalm are a fit watchword for life and for death ' "But I will trust in thee." - W.F.

Sorrow, danger, and terror had come upon the psalmist with the force of a tempest. He thinks of two ways of escape - casting himself upon God and flight. Suggests the true and the false way of encountering the difficulties of life.

I. TAKE THE FALSE FIRST. "Oh that I had wings," etc.! (vers. 6-8). We must conquer difficulties, not fly from them:

1. Because the post of difficulty is often the post of duty. And we find no rest in flight, because we have sought to evade or neglect our duty.

2. The post of difficulty is the post of discipline. Difficulty is one of the Divine instruments of our training; gives health and strength.

3. Solitude brings an exchange of difficulties, and does not free us from the power of the world. It is better to fight the battle of life than for the heart to prey upon itself apart from the fellowship of men and women.

II. THE TRUE WAY OF ENCOUNTERING THE DIFFICULTIES OF LIFE. By seeking the help of God. (Vers. 1, 2.)

1. God will help us to a greater faith. "This is the victory that overcometh the world, even your faith' faith in Divine help, and faith in the good and righteous cause.

2. God will inspire us with a truer courage. "In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world."

3. God will give to those who are faithful all needed strength. Will fulfil the promise, "As thy day'[or, 'need'] is so shall thy strength be."

4. Victory is easier to us than to the psalmist, through Christ. Faith in God through faith in Christ will give every believer the victory. - S.

Oh that I had wings like a dove! David was not the first nor the last to utter this cry. Men in all ages have suffered. Everywhere we find the game unconquerable desire for rest. This longing underlies all religions and philosophies. And there are times when the cry rises instinctively, and presses for an answer. Who is there who has not, in sorrow or in pain bodily and mentally, or when sick and weary and overborne by earthly troubles, been moved to cry, Oh for rest! And yet the wish may be vain. We need to examine and try ourselves. There is a wrong as well as a right way of seeking rest.

I. IT IS VAIN TO HOPE FOR REST BY SEEKING THE IMPOSSIBLE. Man was made "but a little lower than the angels;" and yet, though all things are said to have been put under him, there are points in which the "beasts of the field and the fowls of the air" have the advantage of him. Hence they may become objects of envy. We are limited beings; but we can conceive ourselves endowed with powers beyond what we possess. There is danger in such fancies. The dove flies past, and all seems peace. But this may be a delusion. We know not what fate awaits it. Besides, we cheat ourselves with a silly thought. We know we have not, and cannot have, "wings." Wishing for the impossible only leaves us the more weak and discontented. Better face difficulty manfully. Better do what God has made us capable of doing, if we are willing, than waste time and strength in idle fancies of what cannot be. The doubter wants a "sign." The anxious sinner craves some sensible proof of acceptance. The troubled mind, tossed to and fro amidst the endless strife of controversy, longs for some infallible guide. There is what Wordsworth calls, "the universal instinct of repose - the longing for confirmed tranquillity." But this is not God's way. "Every man shall bear his own burden" (Galatians 6:5).

III. IT IS VAIN TO HOPE FOR REST BY MERE CHANGE OF OUTWARD CONDITIONS. Place has much to do with feeling. What is near seems more real than what is far off. What we see touches us more keenly than what we only hear of from others (Lamentations 3:15). So with respect to "rest." We are prone to blame circumstances. We delude ourselves with the thought that, if things were altered, all would be well The "imagined otherwise" is the heaven of many. So it is with many of the sick, the poor, the oppressed, the discontented. Absalom played cunningly upon this feeling (2 Samuel 15:4). But "rest" is a state of the mind. It does not come from without, but from within. It is not won by change of condition, but by change of heart. So Paul learned (Philippians 4:11).

III. IT IS VAIN TO HOPE FOR REST BY FLIGHT FROM THE IMMEDIATE CAUSES OF DISTRESS. There are times when flight may be expedient (Matthew 10:23; 2 Timothy 2:22). Again, there are times when flight would be a sin (Nehemiah 6:11; 2 Timothy 4:10). Besides, flight may be a vain resource (Amos 5:19). The question is - What is our duty? Then, when we have settled that, like Paul, we should stand firm (Acts 20:24). There are people who would quiet conscience by silencing the preacher, like Herod; or get rid of an unpleasant duty by flying, like Jonah; or hasten their escape from trouble, like David. But this will not avail. It is better to stand than to fly; to do our duty humbly and quietly in the place where God calls us, than to seek an easier lot. Elijah was a nobler figure confronting singly the hosts of Baal, than hiding in the desert. Peter and Paul and Stephen were truer men, and did a grander work by not holding their lives dear, than if they had cared more for themselves than for Christ. The true way of rest is the way of self-sacrifice. It is when we surrender ourselves wholly to Christ, to be his and his only, and to love and do his will for evermore, that we enter into rest (Matthew 11:28-30). The psalmist in his better moments felt this. If his first impulse was "to flee away," when he came to himself he turned to the Lord as his sure Refuge (ver. 9). And what he learned for himself he commends with confidence to others: "Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and he shall sustain thee" (ver. 22). - W.F.

I. CORRUPT CITY LIFE. (Vers. 10, 11.)

1. Corrupt in every part, on the walls and in the interior. Violence and strife reign unchecked universally.

2. Falsehood and deceit ruled in the market-place. (Ver. 11.) In the square, or market-place, near the gates, where was the general place of concourse, men cheated and deceived each other in their ordinary intercourse.

II. PICTURE OF CORRUPT PRIVATE LIFE. The sanctities of friendship were openly violated and renounced. The offence was aggravated by two things.

1. That he who had become the psalmist's enemy had been a closely intimate friend. Love had turned to hate, because of the triumph of evil designs or passions, or of "the whispering tongues that can poison truth."

2. Their friendship had been consecrated by religious associations. (Ver. 14.) A depraved life can sweep out of the mind the tenderest memories and the most holy associations, human and Divine.

III. THE PSALMIST PRAYS FOR GOD'S JUDGMENTS UPON THIS CORRUPT LIFE. The two forms of judgment which he imprecates are:

1. The judgment that fell upon the builders of Babel. (Ver. 9.) Discord among themselves and their counsels, so that they might destroy one another.

2. That they might go down to the grave alive. (Ver. 15.) Like Korah and his company, let them be carried away by death in the fulness of life and strength. The psalmist knew of none but violent means and temporal judgments by which such wickedness could be removed. - S.


1. His life is a continued exercise of prayer and faith. Calls upon God, evening, morning, and at noon. Carries all his anxieties and fears to God; casts upon him his burden (ver. 22). And he does all this with an assured faith (vers. 16, 17). "And he shall hear my voice." "The Lord shall save me."

2. He has been already delivered from great dangers. (Ver. 18.) "Many were against him." Every good man has a past full of such experiences.

3. He has confident assurance of future protection and guidance. "He shall sustain thee: he shall never suffer the righteous to be moved." God is good and righteous. and this is the foundation of his assurance.


1. Generally, they have no fear of God. Without God in the world; living, therefore, without restraint.

2. They are traitors to former vows of friendship. They violate without compunction former oaths and covenants.

3. They are guilty of the most cruel deceit. (Ver. 21.) Bloody and deceitful men.

4. God shall afflict and humble them. (Ver. 19.)

5. They shall die a premature death. (Ver. 23.) - S.

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