Sometimes the warrior of God will go into a battle and experience defeat. This can be not only a painful experience, but also a very confusing experience. It can be difficult to rationalize why God would allow us to suffer defeat at the hands of our enemies.
David experienced this type of defeat at the hands of his enemies and turns to God in an attempt to understand what has happened. Giving up and retreating were not in David’s nature. Giving up and retreating should not be a characteristic of any Christian.
Urgent Prayer for the Restored Favor of God (Psalm 60)
To the Chief Musician. Set to “Lily of the Testimony.” A Michtam of David. For teaching. When he fought against Mesopotamia and Syria of Zobah, and Joab returned and killed twelve thousand Edomites in the Valley of Salt.
1 O God, You have cast us off;
You have broken us down;
You have been displeased;
Oh, restore us again!
2 You have made the earth tremble;
You have broken it;
Heal its breaches, for it is shaking.
3 You have shown Your people hard things;
You have made us drink the wine of confusion.
From reading the first few verses of the psalm, we know that David and the armies of Israel have fought against the armies of other nations and have been defeated. David knows that when the Lord fought on behalf of Israel… they would be victorious. Since Israel had experienced defeat, David believed that, in some way, God was displeased with them.
This is a very “uncomfortable” place for a warrior to find himself. David is in the midst of the battle and suddenly comes to the conclusion that the God he fights for, the God that is the source of his strength, has removed himself from the battle. David has placed all of his faith in God for victory… and now, God is no longer fighting on their behalf.
VanGemeren comments: “God’s people live a meaningless existence without his presence. They take defeat seriously, because divine abandonment is the most miserable condition.”
David cries out… Oh, restore us again! David is a warrior. There is a battle to be fought. The thought of “packing up the swords and heading home” never crosses his mind. He doesn’t take the defeatest attitude here. No. Instead, he appeals directly to God.
Spurgeon comments: “To be cast off by God is the worst calamity that can befall a man or a people; but the worst form of it is when the person is not aware of it and is indifferent to it. When the divine desertion causes mourning and repentance, it will be but partial and temporary.”
I’ve known individuals who were trudging through life with the belief that God was with them every step of the way. When, in reality, they were on a self-guided path. They were on a mission that in no way reflected God, yet they had convinced themselves that they had to do this to please God. The battle was all uphill and filled with defeat after defeat. Door after door was closed, yet they continued to break the doors down as they trudged forward with their last bit of energy.
Here, David does not fit into this category. He recognizes that something is amiss and he takes steps to correct it. David had experienced the defeat and knew that God was not fighting for them. He declares, in verse 2… You have made the earth tremble; You have broken it; Heal its breaches, for it is shaking. David is declaring “Okay God, you have have our attention. You have shaken our world. We have stopped and we are paying attention.” Sometimes God has to shake our world to get our attention. We get so busy, maybe even busy doing righteous work, that we don’t notice that we have veered off of the course that God had us on. God shakes our world to get our attention so that we will stop and look to Him again.
David continues this thought process in verse 3… 3 You have shown Your people hard things; You have made us drink the wine of confusion. David cannot understand why they have suffered defeat. He has probably discussed the battle with his generals and evaluated all of their actions trying to figure out what decision had been made in err or what action may have been inappropriate. The more that they replay the battle in their minds and their discussions, the more confused they become. They are sure that they were thorough in their planning and that each of their actions was justified in the situation. They have fought valiantly and are left utterly confused with the cause of their defeat.
Despite feeling that God had cast off and broken Israel, David’s allegiance to God remains constant. David Guzik comments: “David felt that God had cast off and broken Israel, yet he would not stop flying the banner of allegiance and trust in God. The truth about God – who He is and what He has done – demanded that this banner be displayed.”
The psalm continues…
4 You have given a banner to those who fear You,
That it may be displayed because of the truth. Selah
5 That Your beloved may be delivered,
Save with Your right hand, and hear me.
In his present defeat and confusion, David still knows that Israel is a nation set apart for and loved by God. Israel is a nation chosen by God to be his people and He promised to be their God. David will not forsake the truths that he knows in the midst of defeat and confusion that he is experiencing.
Morgan comments: “When Amalek fought against Israel in Rephidim, victory came to the people of God as Moses, supported by Aaron and Hur, prayed on the mount and Joshua went forth to battle. After the victory Moses built an altar, and called the name of it ‘Jehovah Nissi,’ that is, Jehovah our Banner.”
David appeals to God’s love for Israel as he petitions God to hear his plea and save them… (verse 5) That Your beloved may be delivered, Save with Your right hand, and hear me. David acknowledges that the only hope Israel has is for God to hear his plea and save them. All of their hope is placed in God… who is able to save.
One of my favorite verses, and promises, in the bible is Isaiah 41:10… Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.’
Even when we feel that God is displeased with us, the safest action that we can take is to place all of our hope in Him.
6 God has spoken in His holiness:
“I will rejoice;
I will divide Shechem and measure out the Valley of Succoth.
7 Gilead is Mine, and Manasseh is Mine;
Ephraim also is the helmet for My head;
Judah is My lawgiver.
God answers David. However, God’s perspective does not seem to be the perspective that David had expected. David had come to the conclusion that God is displeased with Israel. God begins by telling David “I will rejoice”. Then He proceeds to list out the different lands within Israel and declaring the lands as belonging to Himself (God). God calls out specific geographic areas, reminding David that He knows very well what is going on in these lands.
These lands belong to God and He has purposes for these lands according to His own choosing. Every victory and every defeat that occurs within and between these lands will be in accordance with God’s will. Kidner comments: “It is no longer a matter of rivals fighting for possession, but of the lord of the manor parceling out his lands and employments exactly as it suits him.”
David has associated the defeat that was experienced as a deviation from God’s plans due to some kind of failure on Israel’s part. God makes it clear that He is in complete control of what is happening and rejoicing in the outcome. His joy is not because He takes pleasure in seeing His children suffer defeat. His joy is in establishing His lands and His people according to a plan that is much larger, and much greater, than what we are able to comprehend.
Sometimes, our individual victories are not in alignment with God’s greater plan for our eternal destiny.
8 Moab is My washpot;
Over Edom I will cast My shoe;
Philistia, shout in triumph because of Me.”
God continues by addressing His dominion over David’s enemies. He declares Moab to be His washpot… providing a picture of a servant with a washbasin for washing their master’s feet. God declares that He will cast His shoe over Edom. Or, according to the NLT translation… “I will wipe my feet on Edom”. How is that for declaring them to be servants. And, regarding Philistia… “shout in triumph because of Me.” God is declaring that He will give Israel reason to celebrate regarding Philistia.
The follower of God must be reminded from time to time that our enemies are no match for God. We may struggle against them, but God will not struggle against them. God will place them into servitude any time that it serves His grand plan to spread the gospel and to establish His eternal kingdom.
I would imagine that God’s words were not exactly what David had been looking for in an answer. David was probably expecting God to reveal some sin within Israel that had gone unnoticed. He would then address the sin, offer sacrifices at the alter for forgiveness, then go back to battle… reaping countless victories.
Like David, we can interpret defeat in a battle as a deviation from God’s plan. It’s difficult for us to accept that God’s perfect plan doesn’t revolve around our perspective of situations and their outcome.
To help us understand, God addressed this very idea in Isaiah 55:
8 “For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
Nor are your ways My ways,” says the LORD.
9 “For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
So are My ways higher than your ways,
And My thoughts than your thoughts.
10 “For as the rain comes down, and the snow from heaven,
And do not return there,
But water the earth,
And make it bring forth and bud,
That it may give seed to the sower
And bread to the eater,
11 So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth;
It shall not return to Me void,
But it shall accomplish what I please,
And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.
12 “For you shall go out with joy,
And be led out with peace;
The mountains and the hills
Shall break forth into singing before you,
And all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.
13 Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress tree,
And instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle tree;
And it shall be to the LORD for a name,
For an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.”
Our ways of thinking are based solely on a temporal, earthly perspective. God’s way of thinking is based on an eternal, heavenly perspective. Our way of thinking will always be inferior to God’s way of thinking based on our limited perspective and incomplete understanding. Once we recognize this, we are drawn to develop a greater dependence on God for His guidance and direction in our lives
David has to accept, even while he cannot understand, that God’s plan is superior and will not always align with his personal desires and victories in battles.
Having already declared his willingness to fly the banner of allegiance and trust in God, David is willing to serve God despite his own limited understanding of God’s ways.
9 Who will bring me to the strong city?
Who will lead me to Edom?
10 Is it not You, O God, who cast us off?
And You, O God, who did not go out with our armies?
11 Give us help from trouble,
For the help of man is useless.
12 Through God we will do valiantly,
For it is He who shall tread down our enemies.
God declared that he would make Edom His servants. David expresses his eagerness to serve God in that endeavor. David asks… “Who will lead me to Edom? Is is not You, O God, who cast us off?” David had complete faith in God to lead them to victory where He has declared that He will make the enemy His servants.
Boice comments: “When David speaks of ‘the fortified city’ he can only mean Petra, the most inaccessible and apparently impregnable mountain stronghold of Edom. Only God could give victory over a fortress like that, and David knew it. So he cries to God, acknowledging that ‘the help of man is worthless.’”
In his eagerness to serve God, David is willing to follow God into battles that seem impossible to win. David has complete faith in God. If God will command it, David is willing to take on the giants in the land… whether it be Goliath or the fortified city. David is no stranger to taking on giants. He finds joy in bringing glory to his God through fighting (and winning) impossible battles.
As the young David, armed with a slingshot and five small stones, declared to the Philistine giant… “45You come to me with a sword, with a spear, and with a javelin. But I come to you in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. 46 This day the LORD will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you and take your head from you. …. 47 Then all this assembly shall know that the LORD does not save with sword and spear; for the battle is the LORD’s, and He will give you into our hands.” (1 Samuel 17:45-47)
While David had no doubt fought alongside many valiant men on the battlefield, he knew that the help of man is useless… unless God is present in the battle. Man alone cannot accomplish victory when God is not in the battle. David and Israel will only be victorious in the battles that God chooses to fight. This didn’t mean that they were to abandon the battlefields and leave them for God alone.
David understood this and declared… Through God we will do valiantly, For it is He who shall tread down our enemies. God doesn’t desire that we vacate the battlefields for Him alone. On the contrary, God enjoys leading His warriors into battle. The point to note is that God is to be in the lead. While it is not specifically stated, it appears that the battle in which Israel was defeated was not lead by God. It would appear, that David and the other warriors made the decision to go into the battle on their own.
Looking forward, David states that “through God we will do valiantly”. David and the other warriors will continue to fight with all that they have… when God leads them into the battle… “For it is He who shall tread down our enemies.”
The warrior must be able to trust in his leader and accept His plan. When we put our faith in God and allow Him to lead we will always be victorious… even when we don’t understand.
“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” says the LORD. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts. (Isaiah 55:8-9)
May your steps be aligned with God’s perfect plan for your life; neither lagging behind, nor running ahead of Him.