Psalm 55 – Bad Civilization

Bible opened to Psalm 55 with Equal Exchange Organic Very Dark Chocolate on green plate

Today’s passage: Psalm 55

Today’s chocolate: Equal Exchange Organic Very Dark Chocolate (71 % Cacao)

The city is a place of law and civilization. Humans exchange goods and services in the market, perform their day’s work, live in houses with their families, love and worship and celebrate together. The city is a place of safety in numbers, protection from the hazards of the wilderness. Or rather, it would be if it weren’t for all the wicked people.

That’s right: Psalm 55 is another psalm about David’s affliction by the wicked.

David prays for God to rescue him and thwart the intentions of his oppressors. He prays for a second Babel: “Confuse, O Lord, divide their tongues, for I have seen violence and strife in the city” (9). This is bad civilization: a common language allows people to coordinate their evil, maximize the effectiveness of their destructive acts, and deceive and conceal so that they get away with it. You’ve probably seen bad civilization in our own world, and perhaps you can identify with David.

It’s not until the middle of the psalm that he gets to what’s really got him agitated. David says, “For it is not an enemy who reproaches me; then, I could bear it. …But it is you, a man my equal, my companion and my familiar friend” (12-13). He’s been betrayed, stabbed in the back. It’s not just some government official lying and cheating, it’s not just violent crime or brutal abuses of authority. For David, it’s personal. He lost a friend and gained an enemy.

The psalm ends with a confident assertion of faith in God as judge: “But You, O God, will bring them down to the pit of destruction; men of bloodshed and deceit will not live out half their days. But I will trust in You” (23). David believes that the fair recompense for these men’s evil is the forfeit of their lives. Does David appear bitter to you? Does the evil of his oppressors merit the death penalty? I’m not sure what answers I myself would give, and I’m curious what yours are, so hey: looks like we’ve got ourselves a couple Questions of the Day.

 

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