The dictionary gives a few definitions for the word, “to deliver or expose to an enemy by treachery or disloyalty; to disappoint the hopes or expectations of; be disloyal to; to reveal or disclose in violation of confidence.”1 Nothing hurts more deeply than betrayal by people you thought were your friends. For there to be betrayal there must have been first trust. All of us have experienced the arrows to the heart of betrayal. Oscar Wilde describes the way of betrayal,
Yet each man kills the thing he loves
By each let this be heard
Some do it with a bitter look
Some with a flattering word
The coward does it with a kiss
The brave man with a sword2
If anyone experienced the bitter look, the flattering word, and the sword, at the intensity of shock and despair it was David. In 1 Samuel 22, after being fired from his job and running for his life, David is holding out in the Cave of Adullum. In verse 5 Gad, a prophet who will play a key role in David’s life, advises him to leave the cave and enter into the vast dangerous wilderness.
It is in this setting (1 Samuel 23) that David comes to the rescue of the people of Keilah, driving off the Philistines. Saul hears that David is holding up there and gathers an army to attack, and upon inquiring of the Lord, David hears from God that if he stays, the people of Keilah will betray him to Saul. David takes to the mountains for safety.
Worst betrayal will follow. Upon leaving the garrison and safety of Keilah, David flees back to the wilderness only to be betrayed by the Ziphites in order to gain back the king’s favor (verses 19-20). (On a side note, betrayal is always related to gaining favor and reward from someone else or the circumstance.)
What can David teach us about navigating betrayal? Psalm 54 is a poem David wrote after being betrayed by the Ziphites and from this we can gain a godly perspective to the bitterness that erupts within our hearts after being betrayed.
In this great poem of deliverance, David takes his eyes off of his betrayers and cries out to God for help, “Save me, O God, by Your name, And vindicate me by Your strength. Hear my prayer, O God; Give ear to the words of my mouth.”3 We must take our eyes off of our circumstances and the people who have hurt us and focus our hurt and sense of betrayal toward God. Cry out to Him. If you begin with God, our enemies grow small. If you begin with your enemies, you may never get to God!
Ah, and then the word, “Selah” after verse 3. The word means rest. Rest in His eventual deliverance. Begin with God and your problems will dwindle. Rest in God’s deliverance.
David then preaches to himself! Yes, he preaches a great sermon to himself,
Behold, God is my helper;
The Lord is with those who uphold my life.
He will repay my enemies for their evil.
Cut them off in Your truth.4
Don’t listen to yourself. Preach to yourself. Preach truth. Speak to your spirit about God. Acknowledge your feelings but don’t stay there; rather make a choice to preach truth to your heart. Choose truth over feelings.
Deliverance will come. “For He has delivered me out of all my trouble and my eye has seen its desire upon my enemies.” (verse 7) The great theme of the poem is the intimacy of God in the midst of treachery.
May we enter into the fellowship of His suffering even in the treachery of betrayal by crying out to the Lord and preaching a good sermon to ourselves. This is the root of our healing.
On the Road,
2 The Ballad of the Reading Gaol
3 The New King James Version. 1982 (Ps 54:1–2). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.
4 The New King James Version. 1982 (Ps 54:4–5). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.