PSALM 55 Title: When Sorrows Like Sea Billows Roll

by John Lowe
(Woodruff, S.C.)

October 9, 2015
Tom Lowe

PSALM 55

Title: When Sorrows Like Sea Billows Roll
(To the chief Musician on Neginoth, Maskil, a Psalm of David.)

Theme: A Cry of Faith in the Time of Antichrist

Psalm 55 (KJV)

1 Give ear to my prayer, O God; and hide not thyself from my supplication.
2 Attend unto me, and hear me: I mourn in my complaint, and make a noise;
3 Because of the voice of the enemy, because of the oppression of the wicked: for they cast iniquity upon me, and in wrath they hate me.
4 My heart is sore pained within me: and the terrors of death are fallen upon me.
5 Fearfulness and trembling are come upon me, and horror hath overwhelmed me.
6 And I said, Oh that I had wings like a dove! for then would I fly away, and be at rest.
7 Lo, then would I wander far off, and remain in the wilderness. Selah.
8 I would hasten my escape from the windy storm and tempest.
9 Destroy, O Lord, and divide their tongues: for I have seen violence and strife in the city.
10 Day and night they go about it upon the walls thereof: mischief also and sorrow are in the midst of it.
11 Wickedness is in the midst thereof: deceit and guile depart not from her streets.
12 For it was not an enemy that reproached me; then I could have borne it: neither was it he that hated me that did magnify himself against me; then I would have hid myself from him:
13 But it was thou, a man mine equal, my guide, and mine acquaintance.
14 We took sweet counsel together, and walked unto the house of God in company.
15 Let death seize upon them, and let them go down quick into hell: for wickedness is in their dwellings, and among them.
16 As for me, I will call upon God; and the Lord shall save me.
17 Evening, and morning, and at noon, will I pray, and cry aloud: and he shall hear my voice.
18 He hath delivered my soul in peace from the battle that was against me: for there were many with me.
19 God shall hear, and afflict them, even he that abideth of old. Selah. Because they have no changes, therefore they fear not God.
20 He hath put forth his hands against such as be at peace with him: he hath broken his covenant.
21 The words of his mouth were smoother than butter, but war was in his heart: his words were softer than oil, yet were they drawn swords.
22 Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and he shall sustain thee: he shall never suffer the righteous to be moved.
23 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.

Introduction

There seems little doubt that David wrote this psalm when Absalom’s rebellion was coming to a head in Jerusalem. In his Commentary on the Holy Bible, Dummelow denies David’s authorship of Psalm 55 stating “The author of this psalm can hardly be David for he speaks as a citizen of a distracted city rather than as its king, and the friend of whom he complains is his equal and not his subject. At that time, several of David’s trusted comrades deserted him. One of note is Ahithophel— “While Absalom was offering sacrifices, he also sent for Ahithophel the Gilonite, David's counselor, to come from Giloh, his hometown. And so the conspiracy gained strength, and Absalom's following kept on increasing” (2 Samuel 15:12)—perhaps the wisest advisor in the nation who, after Absalom fails to take his advice, realizes David will eventually regain the throne and commits suicide (see 2 Samuel 16:20-17:13, 23). The background of this psalm was Absalom’s rebellion and Ahithophel’s treachery.

If we have been tempted to give up, to run away from our problems, then this is the psalm for us. Most of us have been where David was in this psalm—hard pressed by circumstances that are partly our own making but which have gotten beyond our control. The only thing to do is to fling ourselves into the arms of God, as David did at the close of this psalm. Psalm 55 is a prayer for God’s help when threatened by a powerful conspiracy in Jerusalem under the leadership of a former friend.

This psalm pictures what I believe to be the darkest moment of the Tribulation period. The Antichrist, the Man of Sin, is portrayed here in a remarkable way, a way that many who are students of prophesy have never considered.

Commentary

What David Felt (55:1-3). David felt what so many of us have felt when things which have overtaken us are largely the result of our own past foolishness. He tells us in verses 1-2 that he feels ABANDONED BY GOD; in verse 3 he says that he feels ABUSED BY MEN.

1 Give ear to my prayer, O God; and hide not thyself from my supplication.
2 Attend unto me, and hear me: I mourn in my complaint, and make a noise;

The psalmist opens up with an eager plea to God that his prayer may be heard. The “noise” he makes is the sound of weeping. He is a type of Christ, and like Christ, he is a “man of sorrows.” The appeal, “hide not thyself” is used here to mean “do not withhold thy help.”

It is a dreadful thing when heaven seems so far away that our prayers cannot be heard; when we have a lurking fear that our sins have separated us from God. David felt himself “abandoned by God.” But he knew what to do; he prayed aloud and in agony for God’s help.

3 Because of the voice of the enemy, because of the oppression of the wicked: for they cast iniquity upon me, and in wrath they hate me.

The word translated “oppression” means “outcry”. David was concerned for his circumstances; he could hear the approaching baying of the hounds.

The word translated “enemy” is rendered “lawless one” by one Bible commentator. It’s a very illuminating word when applied to Absalom. It was Absalom, David’s beloved son, who was inciting the outcry against David. Absalom wanted the kingdom and did not care whether or not his father was killed in the process. In fact, the death of David was essential to his plans. David knew that his own negligence as a father had turned Absalom against his father, the Lord, and the nation. He also knew that the revolt was part of the discipline that Nathan the prophet promised because of David’s adultery and the murder of Uriah (2 Samuel 12:9-12).

David had to vacate his throne and leave Jerusalem “because of the voice of the enemy,”—Absalom’s party—for they falsely accused him of many crimes, saying that he was the cause of all his calamities. They stirred up the people to cry out against David, and shut him out of his palace and capital city, and afterwards the chief priests stirred up the mob to cry out against the Son of David, “Away with him—Crucify Him.” Yet it was not the voice of the enemy only that brought tears to David’s eyes, but their oppression, and the hardship he was thereby reduced to. They hate me; their anger and rage against me did not happen suddenly, but boiled up into malice and hatred over time. He felt like everything was falling apart and there was no hope. It’s natural to look at our feelings and express our fears, but that isn’t the way to solve the problems.

What David Feared (55:4-5).

4 My heart is sore pained within me: and the terrors of death are fallen upon me.
5 Fearfulness and trembling are come upon me, and horror hath overwhelmed me.

The phrase “my heart is sore pained within me,” has been rendered by at least one commentator as, “my heart continues writhing within me.” David is still haunted by the ghost of Uriah and by the horror of his past sin. He wonders when he will stop paying for those sinful days.

“The terrors of death” refers to either (1) deadly terrors, the kind that take hold of men who are in the “agonies” of death; or, (2) fears of death, which in David’s case is more severe and foreboding, because his death will reflect dishonor upon God, and bring many miseries upon the people. His “heart” (v. 4) is in anguish because danger is everywhere, a danger so great that it is as if “death” itself were stocking him. David longs for a quiet retreat away from treacherous and conniving people.

The fact is that while God freely forgives us and removes our accountability for our sin, He nearly always lets us live with the consequences of our sin. Everything that is happening to David can be traced back step by step to his sin. The trouble with his kinsmen and the trouble with his kingdom were directly related to his sin. Nothing but divine intervention could prevent his sins from finding him out as a prince, just as they had found him out as a parent.

If I feel sorry for David, it is because “fearfulness” filled his mind, and his body trembled at the thought of the hardships and danger that lie ahead, and “horror” controlled him and overwhelms him.

Sin is a terrible thing. We think we’ll have just this one little fling. But it doesn’t end there. We set in motion the forces of the wind and we will reap the whirlwind. We are going to see in this psalm how terrible the whirlwind was in David’s case. His whole world was crumbling around him.

All people fear death. The “horror” of its inevitability may hit us quite suddenly, especially if an “enemy”—whether he is an individual person, a group, a cancer, a fire, a flood—overwhelms us unawares.

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