“Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved.” (Psalm 55:22, ESV)
This is a great promise. But like many promises peddlers of Christian goods plaster on coffee mugs and the like, it can too easily become domesticated.
The other day I awoke with a cacophony of anxieties reverberating in my mind, from the modern-day holocaust of abortion to the judgment seemingly coming upon our country for its outright rebellion against God’s design for human life and sexuality—and caught up in it all, feelings of inadequacy over my chronic indifference. So much to pray about. So much to weep over.
As I approached the Lord in this somewhat frantic state, he began to minister to me through Psalm 55. I had burdens too heavy for me which needed to be cast upon the Lord. But what are these burdens, exactly, about which David, the psalmist, was speaking?
Was he speaking to our quaint, middle class stresses—the burden of a leaky car tire (check) and incessantly barking dog (check)? The answer is manifestly not. That is not to diminish the fact that the most trivial weights we carry must be committed into God’s sovereign care; in fact, sometimes it is the relatively trivial concerns to which we cling most tightly in worry.
But this promise is far more than a repudiation of #firstworldproblems. Seen in the passage’s context, the psalmist’s concerns were the stuff of desperate, heartbroken prayer—burdens worth casting upon the Lord indeed.
- He moaned “because of the noise of the enemy, because of the oppression of the wicked” (v. 3).
- He saw “violence and strife in the city” (v. 9).
- He saw “iniquity and trouble” (v. 10) within it and “oppression and fraud… from its marketplace” (v. 11).
- He was waging a battle (v. 18) with those who “do not fear God” (v. 19).
The danger of domesticating David’s dilemma is that we sever ourselves from a source of great comfort needed in the midst of moral decay and the destruction of culture’s foundations (note Psalm 11:3).
David’s burdens were heavier than the ones we tend to bemoan on Instagram—frizzy hair and the sort. They were much more like the societal ones over which we seethe on Twitter. Verse 22’s promise is strong enough to bear those massive weights, too.
And speaking of strength, note the second part of the promise: God will not only sustain us, but he “will never permit the righteous to be moved.” Moved in what sense?
Emotionally? Perhaps—certainly God supplies us with the peace that surpasses all understanding (Philippians 4:7) and the indestructible joy that is full of glory (1 Peter 1:8) to guard against the flittering fear of the flesh. But the most grounded believer is not immune from dismay. Earlier in the psalm, David himself remarked, “My heart is in anguish within me; the terrors of death have fallen upon me. Fear and trembling come upon me, and horror overwhelms me”—words not the makings of mugs or embroideries.
So in what sense is the believer promised immovability? Preservation through judgment.
God’s judgment is not only eschatological (as in 2 Thessalonians 1:7-10) and eternal (Revelation 20:12-15), but also oftentimes temporal (Romans 1:18). After remarking that the righteous will never be moved, David contrasts this with the wicked: “But you, O God, will cast them down into the pit of destruction; men of blood and treachery shall not live out half their days” (v. 23). Yahweh, being a God of justice, will not forever overlook the evil of mankind. There will be a reckoning. And when one day God’s wrath sweeps away the wicked, David knows that meanwhile, the righteous shall remain unmoved. The meek will inherit the earth (Matthew 5:5).
This is good news for us who, however unrighteous in ourselves, stand in the imputed righteousness of Christ through faith alone. And we can plead with the wicked around us to turn and find the same safety in Christ, who already swallowed up the flood of God’s wrath so that we would be sustained and unmoved.
If you’re burdened as you see the state of the world around you, cast that burden on the Lord. He will sustain you. He won’t let you be moved. We serve the King of Kings and Lord of Lords who mercifully rescues all who believe and who will one day enact justice on the whole earth. Jesus is the God who both died for his enemies and is subduing the rest. Take heart.