SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSON/Kicked by a friend
Wednesday, June 18, 2014 1:00 PM
"Even my close friend in whom I trusted, who ate my bread, has lifted up his heel against me." (Psalm 41:9)
The Reformer, John Calvin, spoke of this as "the height of all [David's] miseries" and if you have ever been hurt and betrayed by a close friend, then you may agree with that assessment. While this "close friend" is unnamed, many commentators agree that David might have had Ahithophel in mind - a friend who turned on David to side with Absalom in his treacherous revolt (2 Samuel 15). David had loved Ahithophel. They had worked side by side. In Psalm 55:13-14 David wrote that he counted Ahithophel an equal - "my companion and my familiar friend." They had enjoyed "sweet fellowship" together and had walked together to the House of the Lord to worship Him together. It never would have occurred to David that this close friend was capable of such evil - but he was.
And in the New Testament Book of John we find our Lord Jesus making reference to this very passage as He spoke of the betrayal of Judas Iscariot. In John 13:18 we read: "I do not speak of all of you. I know the ones I have chosen; but it is that the Scripture may be fulfilled, 'He who eats My bread has lifted up his heel against Me." This is followed by what we find in verse 26 as we read: "Jesus then answered, "That is the one for whom I shall dip the morsel and give it to him." So when He had dipped the morsel, He took and gave it to Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot."
Truly there never is a pain that we endure of which Jesus is not personally acquainted - never a sorrow that He has not also shared. The suffocating, nauseating pain that David must have felt to learn that his closest friend had betrayed him surely broke his heart. But he knew that even that pain was something he could take to God for in verse ten he prays: "But You, O Lord, be gracious to me and raise me up." And the words of Jesus (as recorded by John) are proof that God heard and that He remembered and in the betrayal of Jesus (by one of His own disciples) God showed that even our deepest hurts can be used by Him to bring glory to Himself.
"Blest be the tie that binds our hearts in Christian love; The fellowship of kindred minds is like to that above." Perhaps you've been in congregational worship where this chorus was sung. It is a beautiful song that reminds us of the union we, as Christians, enjoy in Christ. And yet, even as we sing it we must be mindful of the fact that the visible church, as it is this side of glory, is far from perfect. The corruption and treachery of David's counselor and friend has been experienced often by countless others throughout church history. Personally, I don't believe a greater pain exists than that which one Christian brother can inflict upon another. It rattles us. It shakes us to our core when one upon whom we have counted for "sweet fellowship" suddenly disappoints by action unbecoming a true brother or sister in Christ. But what a blessing to know that God is sovereign even over such heart-rending pain and can bring about great good in spite of the behavior of that individual who has proven himself or herself to be untrue and unfaithful. Ahithophel may have lifted up his heel against David but God lifted up David by His own righteous hand. Judas may have lifted up his heel against Jesus, but God raised Jesus up from the grave and gave Him a name which is higher than all names.
These betrayals, therefore, are designed to teach us to put our trust in God and not in men. Many times the tie that seems to bind our hearts together in Christian love, in fact, may become broken in this life. However, there remains One to whom we are eternally bound by His great love for us. In the midst of all our broken relationships and severed earthly fellowships we can remain hopeful of that oneness which is ours with Christ - and therefore, with the Father as well. He is our comfort and our peace. He is able to lift us up from the depths of sadness following the breakup of that marriage. He can restore joy to our broken hearts in the absence of that one we once counted as our friend. He certainly can lift us up to greater heights of fellowship in the midst of corporate worship even when there is an empty space on the pew beside us once occupied by the one we earlier had considered a dear companion.
But, before I conclude, let me extend to you one other related thought. It's easy to read today's passage and feel great sympathy for David -- and perhaps even a measure of justified pity for ourselves as we recall individuals who have hurt us. But Matthew Henry was at least one commentator who included in his work a profitable warning when he asked: "Have we not ourselves behaved thus perfidiously and dishonestly towards God? We share His bread daily, and yet we lift up our heels against Him." It's true, isn't it? Often we engage in the very same treacherous and vile behavior towards God, proving over and over again our unfaithfulness. We take of His goodness and withhold our thankfulness. We receive of His grace and then continue on in our sin. We sing His praises on Sunday and then live for self on Monday. We read today's Scripture and identify readily with abused David, failing to see ourselves in the despicable actions of Ahithophel - when he is the figure that most accurately represents us most of the time. How wonderful, then, to know that even when we are unfaithful to Him, Christ Jesus remains faithful to us.