At the time that David wrote Psalm 60, he was king of Israel and his army was at war with the nation of Edom. Edom was descended from Esau (Genesis 25:30, 36:9), and the people of Edom and Israel were related through the father of Jacob and Esau – Isaac. Genesis describes how the rift between Jacob and Esau had been healed. However, animosity grew between the two nations from the time that Edom had refused to allow Israel to travel through their land when Moses and the people of Israel were trying to go from the Wilderness into the Promised Land.
For many centuries, Edom had made raids into the land of Israel. II Samuel and I Chronicles describe campaigns that were conducted against Edom. At time of Psalm 60, David’s army was again involved in a war to subdue Edom and secure the eastern flank of the kingdom from attack. Unfortunately, David’s psalm was written when Israel had suffered a major defeat at the hands of the Edomites, and the reason for the defeat was that the Lord was angry with the nation of Israel.
The exact reason for the Lord’s anger is not described in David’s psalm, but from Israel’s previous actions and successes, it is not hard to make an educated guess. David’s generals commanded a mighty military machine that had been very successful in the past. As they approached the Edomite forces, they may have been filled with a great confidence, even arrogance, in their abilities to defeat the enemy. Confidence is good if it is grounded in the Lord, but the Israelite army may have based their confidence upon themselves.
No matter what the sin may have been, the Lord’s actions were swift, and the proud Israelite army fled from the battlefield in confusion. In verses 1-3, the words of David are very vivid, “O God, You have rejected us You have broken us; You have been angry; O, restore us. You have made the land quake, You have split it open; Heal its breaches, for it totters. You have made Your people experience hardship; You have given us wine to drink that makes us stagger.” Trained soldiers had fled in panic, stumbling and falling as if the very ground was against them.
When David became aware of the defeat, he immediately knew that the Lord was angry with the people. The beauty of the psalm is how David went about presenting his petition before God. In the first three verses, he acknowledged that the Lord had punished them, and he wrote in verses 4-5, “You have given a banner to those who fear You, that it may be displayed because of the truth. Selah. That Your beloved may be delivered, save with Your right hand, and answer us!”
Sometimes bad things will happen because of events over which a Christian will have no control. But there are other times when actions of a congregation (such as Laodicea in Revelation), or an individual will lead to unpleasant consequences – punishment. Whatever the cause, any Christian, who is facing trials, must remain anchored in their faith in their Heavenly Father. If a person has done contrary to God’s will, and is suffering the consequences of those actions, then the only option is to seek God’s forgiveness in genuine repentance.
In facing the problems of life, people tend to focus on the moment instead of remembering to see the entire picture. David realized that his army had suffered defeat, and he realized that there was a reason for the defeat. But he also knew that God’s promises were true. Through God, David, and his people, had been successful. Enemies had been defeated and Israel would eventually be victorious over Edom. What had changed was not the promise of God.
Christians would do well to remember the promises the Father has given His children. Trials are a time for spiritual growth that will turn a spiritually immature Christian into a spiritually mature person that is strong in faith and who is capable to serving the Lord. But trials can also be a time for discipline – a time for reflection, repentance, and a renewed resolve to get back on the path.
Even though Israel had suffered a defeat, in verses 6-8, David reaffirmed his faith in that the Lord would lead him to victory over the hostile nations that surrounded his kingdom. “God has spoken in His holiness: ‘I will exult, I will portion out Shechem and measure out the valley of Succoth. Gilead is Mine, and Manasseh is Mine; Ephraim also is the helmet of My head; Judah is My scepter. Moab is My washbowl; over Edom I shall throw My shoe; shout loud, O Philistia, because of Me!’”
Finally, David asked, “Who will lead me to Edom?” He knew that victory would not come solely from the strength and power of men. It would only come through following God and doing His will. David ended Psalm 59, “O give us help against the adversary, for deliverance by man is in vain. Through God we shall do valiantly, and it is He who will tread down our adversaries.”
Today, worldly powers are again rising to the call of the prince of this world. There appears to be a growing hostility to God’s Word and Will. Good people of faith grow anxious and exasperated at the actions that happen almost daily. Evil is on the move. But who is the Creator? Who has power over His creation? Who can we turn to in times of distress? It is not the latest popular tele-evangelist or the current self-help book. David said, “Deliverance by man is vain.” God has always been in control. He was in David’s time and he certainly is today. Paul wrote about the ultimate weapon that the Devil has when he stated in 1 Cor. 15:55-57, “O Death, where is your victory? O Death, where is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law; but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” God has promised His help. That promise is true, the path is clear, and the goal is eternal life. What greater motivation can we have to follow the Lord? The victory is ours!