The Blessing of Betrayal (Part 1)
My companion stretched out his hand against his friends; he violated his covenant. His speech was smooth as butter, yet war was in his heart; his words were softer than oil, yet they were drawn swords. (Psalm 55:20-21)
His name was Ahithophel, he had been a friend and counselor of David (I Chron. 27:33). But when Absalom sought to overthrow his father, David, he joined in the attempted coup of the king. When David is informed that Ahithophel had joined the conspiracy against him, it must have been a heavy blow to David. This man knew the heart and mind of David. He knew how David thought. He would know, because of his friendship with David, what his next move would be. That is why David prays upon hearing this devastating news, “O LORD, please turn the counsel of Ahithophel into foolishness” (II Sam. 15:31). Some scholars surmise it was Ahithophel, whom David is referencing in Psalm 55, and it seems that it well could be.
In addition, this psalm is messianic in that it points to the betrayal of Jesus by Judas Iscariot (Matt. 26:47-56). Judas, who for three and a half years, had been a disciple of Jesus. One with whom Jesus had broken bread. One who had sat around the fire at night and listened to Jesus tell His stories. Jesus had entrusted Judas with the finances for the group. Judas had witnessed the many miracles that Jesus had performed. He was there when Jesus walked on the water. He was an eyewitness to Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead. Jesus had washed the feet of Judas that night before the sharing of the Passover meal.
But it was Judas Iscariot that betrayed Him. It was Judas, who went to the chief priests and said to them, “What will you give me if I deliver him over to you?” (Matt. 26:14). It was Judas, who lead the soldiers and the chief priests to the Garden of Gethsemane. It was Judas, who betrayed Jesus with a kiss. It was Jesus, who called Judas “friend.”
Throughout the Bible we read of betrayal at the hands of our friends. It appears in various forms and under a variety of circumstances. It may arise from the actions of a son, a brother, or a friend. It may involve the spreading of lies, deceptive scheming, or the plotting of our physical harm. Abel was betrayed by his brother, Esau by his twin, Jacob, Isaac by his wife and son, Jacob by Laban, Joseph by his brothers, Uriah by his king, David by Absalom, Jesus by His disciple Judas, and Paul by “false brethren.” All this to name but a few. It seems as if betrayal was the common experience for many of those whom God chose for His service.
I am using this word “betrayal” to encompass those situations where the trust one placed in another was violated. When we are “betrayed” we often say such things as, “they stabbed me in the back.” It is not something that an enemy does to us, it is something that a “friend” does to us. It is something that only those intimate with us can do. Those whom we have allowed to become close to us. Betrayal is not the attack of one we regarded as an enemy, it is the wounding we receive from one we regarded as a friend.
The psalmist, David expresses it this way:
“For it is not an enemy who taunts me— then I could bear it; it is not an adversary who deals insolently with me— then I could hide from him. But it is you, a man, my equal, my companion, my familiar friend. We used to take sweet counsel together; within God's house we walked in the throng.” (Psalm 55:12-14)
Betrayal is an experience we are told we will encounter in our journey with the Lord. Jesus tells us in Luke 21:16 that “You will be delivered up (Greek word – paradidomi - translated as “betrayed” over 30 times in the New Testament) by parents and brothers and relatives and friends, and some of you they will put to death.” Therefore, it is not something that should surprise us. It is one of the implications of following Jesus. Our Master traveled the road of betrayal, and in following Him, I should expect to encounter the same.
The Blessing of Betrayal
Why have I entitled this article “The Blessing of Betrayal?” How can betrayal be viewed as a blessing?
First and foremostly, we must recognize the providential hand of God for us as believers. Nothing touches our life that does not pass through the hand of God. He is the one who allows us to be betrayed. It is God who allowed Joseph’s brothers to betray him and sell him into slavery. They wronged their brother, but God was the One who orchestrated the events toward a redemptive purpose. The summation of the story is expressed by Joseph when he tells them, “You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good” (Gen. 50:20). Joseph did not absolve his brothers of having evil intent, but he recognized the hand of God in using their betrayal to work His divine will.
This same message is stated by Paul in Romans 8:28 when he says, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose.” This is the perspective we need to have in all situations. Our trust must be in the goodness of God and the power of God to work His will redemptively. Benjamin B. Warfield, the great champion of Biblical theology in the 19th century, wrote in his classic Biblical and Theological Studies: “In the infinite wisdom of the Lord of all the earth, each event falls with exact precision into its proper place in the unfolding of His eternal plan, nothing, however small, however strange, occurs without His ordering, or without its peculiar fitness in the working out of His purpose; and the end of all shall be the manifestation of His glory, and the accumulation of His praise.”
Only as I view the betrayal as an act that God will bring forth good from, can I respond properly. Consider for a moment the blessing betrayal brings when we recognize the faithful loving hand of our Father in heaven. Not the devil, to whom we give far too much credit, but God. This allows me to say, like Jesus, concerning those who have betrayed me: “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). Jesus knew that those crucifying Him were unaware of the fact that they were instruments in hand of a sovereign Father, carrying out His divine will that day.
Consider David, when he was cursed by Shimei, as he fled the city of Jerusalem. He stopped Abishai from doing harm to Shimei, because David saw one hand behind it all, the hand of God.
We must see our betrayal in light of the sovereign hand behind it.
[To be continued]