In this psalm, David describes the distress he is under because of ongoing attack by his enemies. His circumstances have worsened because one in whom he trusted has betrayed him and joined his opponents (vv. 12-14, 20-21). From a human point of view such a defection would discourage David’s loyal followers and cause them to wonder if his caused was doomed. Therefore it is not surprising that David was greatly disturbed.
Such an experience however,, has certain benefits. An obvious one is that it is similar to what happened to Jesus when he was betrayed by Judas. This means that Jesus understands when his followers are disappointed when a previous supporter ceases to be with them. Not only does Jesus understand the distress, he is able to provide spiritual comfort from his Word by assuring them that he will never forsake them.
A second benefit from such an experience is that it reminds us not to put our faith in men, no matter how important they are in society or how friendly they seem. Many think that the person David has in mind is Ahitophel, a counsellor who initially supported David but later became an adviser to Saul. Church history is littered with persons who initially seemed favourable to Christ’s cause but later reduced their support because it did not seem prudent to do so. Such fickle supporters were marked by a failure to take the long-term view of the prospects of Christ‘s kingdom. The same type of support may re-appear today and this psalm tells us what to do when it is withdrawn.
The third benefit from such a depressing circumstance is that it increased David’s dependence on God. Of course, this is the ultimate test of every providence, whether it be a difficult one or a pleasant one. David realised that although his burden was now bigger he could still cast it on the Lord (verse 22). We, too, discover that the Lord is always more than capable of dealing with our concerns.
One reason why David wrote the psalm was to encourage his followers as they sang it together. As the psalmist of Israel he had the responsibility of composing songs that would express their fears and disappointments to God and yet express their mutual faith in him. And we do the same when we sing the psalm.