As the title says this is the third installment of our study of the stewardship of the tongue. First, we considered just how cutting our flesh-ripping tongue can be by considering ever so briefly Psalm 55:20-21, Psalm 57:4, Psalm 59:7, and Psalm 64:3. Second, by taking a close look at Psalm 59 we considered what God thinks about how we use this “sword” which unfortunately we are much to quick to unsheathe.Today, by looking at David’s personal example in Psalm 55 we will ponder one way how we should react when we have been pierced by someone’s reckless dagger.
He Prays – Psalm 55:22
Psalm 55:22 says, “Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous fall.” This is near the end of the psalm and is intended to be its primary lesson. The “care” or “burden” of David in this lament psalm is the hypocrisy and deceit of one whom he counted as his friend. Note in particular how David describes his friend’s treachery in verse 21, “His speech is smooth as butter, yet war is in his heart; his words are more soothing than oil, yet they are drawn swords.” A perfect example of this in the Bible is King Herod who upon sending the wise men to Bethlehem said, “Go and make a careful search for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him” (Matthew 2:8). Did Herod really want to go and worship King Jesus? Absolutely not for just a few verses later we are told when Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and “gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under” (Matthew 2:16). King Herod had honeyed words but war in his heart! Of course Jesus himself was no stranger to such treacherous talk. In Matthew 22 the Pharisees tried to trap Jesus in his words saying, “Teacher, we know you are a man of integrity and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. You aren’t swayed by men, because you pay no attention to who they are.” Talk about “speech smooth as butter” and words “more soothing than oil!” As a Christian, wouldn’t you like similar things said about you? I know as a preacher and teacher of God’s Word I would be very happy to hear such things said about my ministry! But Jesus knew their evil intent and was not tricked. And of course I cannot fail to mention Judas who betrayed Jesus with a kiss saying, “Greetings, Rabbi!” Truer words than Proverbs 27:6 were never spoken, “Wounds from a friend can be trusted (a subject I plan to tackle in this series), but an enemy multiplies kisses.”
So how do you react when someone who you thought was your friend spreads lies about you? How do you react when you are the victim of unfair criticism, gossip, judgments or slander? How do you react when someone says something very hurtful about you? Do you get angry? Are you tempted to return the favor and speak badly of that person? What is your immediate reaction?
What did David do in this instance? Take a moment and read the entire psalm and see for yourself.
No really, do it. It shouldn’t take more than a few minutes so if you don’t have your Bible open yet than go get it, open it up and read Psalm 55.
You’re back? I’m sure it didn’t take you long to notice that virtually the entire psalm itself is a prayer to God! In fact, prayer saturates the psalm showing that prayer is the proper response to pressure, stress and trouble. Again, Psalm 55:22 is the main lesson or point of the psalm – cast your burdens on God and he will sustain you! Is someone committed to hurting you with their words? If so, commit yourself to prayer. Why? One could give a whole host of reasons but I will provide just three thoughts (feel free to comment with your own thoughts on why):
First, as David says in the verse itself, “he will sustain you.” Over the holidays my family and I went on vacation and were able to visit both sides of our family. While visiting with my wife’s family we made plans to have a Christmas party with her aunt and uncle. For various reasons (Ok…one big reason…cats…I am extremely allergic to cats) we decided to have the Christmas party at a neutral area – her aunt and uncle’s church basement. When we arrived we had several heavy bags to carry into the church and so did her relatives. Thankfully, the church had an elevator going to the basement. When we stepped onto the elevator we all put our bags down until we reached the destination. In other words, the elevator carried both us and our “burdens.” That is what prayer does for us. Imagine stepping onto the elevator with many heavy packages but instead of putting them down on the floor we held onto them until we arrived at the destination. That would be rather self-defeating wouldn’t it? That is what prayer is for! We need to put our burdens down and let God carry both us and our burdens. Prayer sustains us.
Second,we must be committed to prayer because Psalm 55:22 implies you will need constant help. It says, “he will sustain you.” Prayer is not a magic wand that makes the trouble all go away but it is the anchor that keeps us from being tossed all over the place. Consistency in prayer is also very explicit in Psalm 55:16-17, “But I call to God, and the LORD saves me. Evening, morning and noon I cry out in distress, and he hears my voice.” Pray constantly!
Third, prayer gives us perspective. It does this in at least four ways: (1) Prayer recognizes that our burden, whatever it is, is not an accident but an appointment from God designed to help us exercise the muscles of our faith. It therefore builds trust for as God has said, “he will never let the righteous fall.” (2) When we are wounded by the cutting words of others we tend to focus on self and begin to pity ourselves and this is where we go very wrong. I don’t say that to marginalize what has happened to you or to imply that the sting of the cutting words isn’t real. I say that to point out that we are quick to be self-centered and prayer teaches us to be God-centered. It reminds us that as Christ hung on the cross he was mocked, slandered, and spit upon but he made no reply. Instead, he entrusted himself to the Father. Prayer takes your eyes off self and puts them where they need to be in times of stress – on Christ. There is a hymn titled, “How Deep the Father’s Love For Us” and in one of the stanza’s we sing, “Behold the man upon the cross, my sin upon His shoulder. Ashamed I hear my mocking voice, call out among the scoffers.” Prayer reminds us how we have offended the eternal Godhead with our sin and yet how God in his rich grace has forgiven us and because of this overwhelming kindness we are released from self-pity, thoughts of anger or vengeance and poised to forgive others. My voice rang out with the mockers on the day of Calvary and yet God through Christ has forgiven me. I can therefore easily and willingly forgive others. (3) Prayer reminds us that there is nothing anyone can say (or do for that matter) that will change our status before God. As Paul so powerfully wrote it in Romans 8:33-34, “Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died – more than that – who was raised to life – is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.” In light of this, there is no condemnation toward us and we are at peace with God! This is particularly helpful when we think of the truth that no matter what others might be saying about you, Satan is saying far worse. He hates you intensely and slanders you constantly. He is the great accuser but none of them stick because by God’s sovereign grace you are justified and nothing can separate you from his love. (4) Prayer acknowledges that God hears our affliction and will rightly judge all things and frees us from having to justify ourselves (see Psalm 55:19 and Psalm 55:23).
For our future posts we will consider:
- A second way David teaches us to respond to reckless words
- How “swords from their lips” can be useful not reckless
- Jesus is said to have a sword protruding from his lips.