David is clearly distraught as he writes this Psalm, a very personal look into when friends betray. At first David describes an incredible danger, one that threatens his existence—he expresses fear and terror and pain and deceit and oppression and destruction! He cries that if it were an enemy bringing these things upon him he could bear it, could fight back or hide somehow. But it is not—no, it is a friend, someone that he trusted dearly. Look at the description David gives—“We took sweet counsel together, and walked to the house of God in the throng” (v. 14). This was a brother in the Lord! As a result, David calls some pretty intense destruction upon them. Why? Because no one likes a traitor—no one is equipped to deal with the emotional strain of broken trust on their own. Clearly David understood that their plans were not God’s, that they only sought his destruction and death, yet he asks God to turn their plans against them—fittingly, they deserve to receive what they plotted against him.
Apparently, this situation was not a one time event, for David says this: “Because they do not change, therefore they do not fear God” (v.19). This was a brother who turned his back both on David and on the Lord, and it was a pattern of behavior—they did not change. This line leads me to believe that David was dealing with someone who knew the truth and refused the opportunity to turn from his sin and make things right with both God and David. God’s desire is not for us to cut off our brethren at any moment he makes a mistake or hurts us—there should always be an opportunity for forgiveness and repentance. But when a deliberate choice is made to turn from God’s way, deny His truth, and betray His people, it angers God. This is an intentionally destructive person who has his own selfish desires in mind, and God will not allow him to prevail at the expense of His own people.
Notice again in this Psalm that David is not interested in pursuing his own revenge, but places the matter of retribution squarely in God’s hands. Instead of seeking his own way, David once again turns to the Lord for deliverance and comfort. It is not our place to take revenge. However, if God leads us, we may be required to dissolve that relationship for our own good, for that person “has broken his covenant” (v. 20). But first we must follow the example of David and turn to God first for His guidance. One of the most beautiful prayers of dependence on God came as a result of this situation, found in verse 22: “Cast your burdens on the Lord, and He shall sustain you; He shall never permit the righteous to be moved.” No matter what else others may do to us, this is the promise that God has given His people—we can trust Him, and He is big enough and strong enough to handle all those things that we cannot.