Unfortunately, the sixtieth psalm is the last of the psalms with a historical setting from the life of David. Psalm 60 also has one of the longest descriptive titles given to it. We are told that this psalm’s background is when David “fought with Aram Naharaim and Aram Zobah, and when Joab returned and struck down twelve thousand Edomites in the Valley of Salt.” This descriptive title points us to the events of 2 Samuel 8:1-14. After reading the psalm and reading the background found in 2 Samuel 8:1-14, we immediately find something strange in reading these. The psalm begins by talking about how God had rejected David and the people of Israel. However, 2 Samuel 8 describes the numerous victories of David and his armies against the surrounding nations.
The only way to reconcile this situation is to assume that while David is away defeating the Philistines and the Syrians, the Edomites make an invasion into Israel. The Valley of Salt seems to be the border area between the nation of Edom and the nation of Israel. This leads us to believe that this psalm was written during good times and bad times. While it seemed to be good times as David is able to subdue the surrounding nations, the Edomites took this as an opportunity to “backdoor” Israel while the armies were off fighting. It is with this background in mind that we ought to read this psalm.
I. Lament From Great Defeat (60:1-4)
A. You have rejected us
- The first verse contains a startling beginning to the psalm. “God, You have rejected us; You have broken out against us.” The psalm’s beginning describes a particularly significant defeat that came to Israel. This defeat was being interpreted by David as a divine judgment on Israel.
- This divine judgment is depicted in a couple of ways. First, in verse 2 this judgment is depicted as an earthquake: “You have shaken the land and split it open.” We have seen on the news recently how damaging and devastating an earthquake can be. Therefore, earthquakes are used in the Old and the New Testaments as symbols of God’s judgment (Revelation 6:12; 8:5; 11:13,19; 16:18).
- The second image is in verse 3: “You have given us a wine to drink that made us stagger.” The imagery of drunkenness is also commonly used in the scriptures as describing divine judgment. “This is what the Lord God says: You will drink your sister’s cup, which is deep and wide. You will be an object of ridicule and scorn, for it holds so much. You will be filled with drunkenness and grief with a cup of devastation and desolation, the cup of your sister Samaria. You will drink it and drain it, then you will gnaw its broken pieces, and tear your breasts. For I have spoken, declares the Lord God” (Ezekiel 23:32-34).
- Therefore, we recognize that David is describing a crushing defeat and he believes the reason this devastation has taken place is that God has rejected them. God gave very clear reasons why rejection would take place. God never becomes fickle and suddenly decides to no longer be with his people. God does not wake up on the wrong side of the bed deciding that he no longer wants these people. We know why God rejects and that is due to sin. “My people are destroyed from lack of knowledge. “Because you have rejected knowledge, I also reject you as my priests; because you have ignored the law of your God, I also will ignore your children. The more the priests increased, the more they sinned against me; they exchanged their Glory for something disgraceful. They feed on the sins of my people and relish their wickedness. And it will be: Like people, like priests. I will punish both of them for their ways and repay them for their deeds”(Hosea 4:6-9, NIV).
- The likelihood of sin being the reason for God’s rejection is increased because 2 Samuel records that David was successful in all his military battles, showing that God was with him. There must have been some unmentioned event that caused the Edomites to be successful in their invasion into Israel.
B. You have raised a banner
- 1. In the midst of this crushing time, David is calling upon God for restoration. In verse 1 David says “restore us.” In verse 2 David says “mend its fractures.” David is asking the Lord to mend them as a broken body needs healing. They are in need of the Lord to make them whole.
- Then David makes a single declaration: “But for those who fear you, you have raised a banner to be unfurled against the bow” (vs. 4). The banner was a type of flag used during war by the army as a signaling device and a rallying point.
- In trying to put these images together, I believe David is saying this: We were attacked and devastating by the opposing army. They were broken down and found it to be desperate times. But God raised up his banner to signal to the people that there was the place to rally together. David then declares that the banner and the cause to be rallied around is truth. God has raised the banner calling for his people to come back to the truth.
II. Appeal To God & God’s Answer (60:5-8)
A. Save us
- 1. After recognizing the need for the people to rally under the banner of truth, David calls out to God for deliverance and salvation. In the midst of this turmoil, David is calling out to God for divine intervention. David needs God to act “so that those whom you love may be rescued.”
- The call for the right hand of God comes from the victory that God delivered against Egypt on behalf of Israel in the days of Moses. After destroying the Egyptians in the Red Sea and delivering Israel from slavery, they sang these words in Exodus 15: “Your right hand, O Lord, was majestic in power. Your right hand, O Lord, shattered the enemy. In the greatness of your majesty you threw down those who opposed you. You unleashed your burning anger; it consumed them like stubble…. You stretched out your right hand and the earth swallowed them” (Exodus 15:6-8,12).
- This is what is entailed by David asking God to act with his right hand. David is asking God to strike down the enemies of Israel. The nation’s deliverance will come through the judgment against the nations who are attacking.
B. God speaks
- 1. Verse 6 David records the words of God speaking from the sanctuary. The sanctuary was a symbol of God’s presence and holiness. He was dwelling with his people, but still must be worship and honored for his holiness. Listen to the words of the Lord:
“In triumph I will parcel out Shechem and measure off the Valley of Succoth. Gilead is mine, and Manasseh is mine; Ephraim is my helmet, Judah my scepter. Moab is my washbasin, upon Edom I toss my sandal; over Philistia I shout in triumph”(Psa. 60:6-8, NIV).
- God’s response takes the reader back to the days of Joshua and the conquest of the land of Canaan. The Lord is declaring that he will divide up the land and give it to the tribes. God declares that he will triumph just as he did before. Remember that the Canaanites were far better equipped to win against the Israelites when they invaded the land in the days of Joshua. However, through the power of the Lord, the Israelites quickly conquered the land. God will subdue the enemies and give the spoils to his people. In verse 7 God is describing all of Israel’s territory and stating that it is all the Lord’s. But notice that God is using images that show a special relationship between his people. Judah and Ephraim are symbols of God’s power and kingship.
- But in verse 8 God describes the nature of the surrounding nations. “Moab is my washbasin; on Edom I throw My sandal. Over Philistia I shout in triumph.” Essentially the Lord is saying that Moab is in servitude to you and Edom is subjected under foot. The point is that god is powerful and in control, even in the face of enemy threats.
III. Lessons Drawn (60:9-12)
A. Only God can give victory
- 1. David sums up this psalm by declaring that only God can give victory. We cannot find the victory in ourselves. We cannot be true successes without God’s help. We have no hope unless God is willing to act on our behalf. God will fulfill his covenant promises. Only with God’s help can the seemingly impossible take place.
- Too often we see the physical challenge and forget that all things can be accomplished through the power of God. Too often we see the difficulty ahead and know that it is something we cannot do ourselves. But we forget to turn to the one who can bring help.
- David also reminds us of a very important principle in life. God will reject us when we are not under his banner of truth. God will not remain with us simply because we call ourselves Christians if we are not following his lead and are rallying for his cause.
B. Spiritual analogy
- 1. So much of the Old Testament was a shadow of a spiritual reality. Things that took place in the physical world of Israel were spiritual parables or representations of a spiritual realities with God. I think this is certainly true in what we learn in this psalm.
- Psalm 60 may be passed off by some as a lesson pertaining in the days of the New Testament for what to do when the nations attack with armies. But there is a spiritual reality is the battle we are engaged in with Satan. There are many times that we endure very hard times in our lives when we feel that we are rejected by God. It is during those times that we need to remember rally under God’s banner and run to his word of truth.
- Sin is the great element that interferes with our relationship with God. If we could only see how sin separates us from God it would maybe help us flee from temptations. How badly we need to see that God rejects us when we are choosing to go down the roads we want to go down without any consideration for God! When we become selfish and give no concern for the things of God, we are put into a position of being without God as we go through life.
- It is time for us to have our eyes wide open and be aware that we may struggle and find ourselves in difficult circumstances because of our own foolish choices. Too many decisions are not based upon our own spiritual wellbeing, but our based upon physical wants and needs. Far too many of our decisions are based on the lust of our own eyes, the lusts of our flesh, and our own personal pride. We have separated ourselves from God by our own foolish mistakes and it is time for us to get ourselves out of the physical things and look for God’s banner and rally to it. It is time to seek out God’s answers and God’s truth for our lives. God has the victory but we cannot win by ourselves.