Daily Family Worship

Psalm 60: A Victory Song

by | May 12, 2024

psalm 60

The title of this Psalm tells us that David composed it “when he strove with Aram-naharaim and with Aram-zobah.” An insult offered to his ambassadors by King Hanun of the Ammonites led to a serious war between them and Israel. Hanun obtained mercenaries from Syria to reinforce his army; and David’s generals, Joab and his brother Abishai, gave them battle. Joab gained the victory over the Syrians; and the Ammonites, seeing their allies defeated, fled into their city. But this defeat provoked a great coalition, involving all the people between the Jordan and Euphrates Rivers. David, however, fearlessly marched against them at the head of his army. He vanquished all his enemies and made himself master of the Aramaean kingdoms of Damascus, Zobah, and Hamath; and he also subjugated the Edomites through a terrible trouncing in the Valley of Salt.

In our own language, we possess many fine songs of patriotism. It would be impossible to overestimate the value of such songs as a means of keeping alive patriotic sentiments in the hearts of the people. What a treasure it would be if we had many more incidents from the great epochs of our history, embalmed in immortal verse and sung at every fireside! The Hebrews had their history thus set to music; and the poetical commentary on their national victories and failures reaches down to the very bottom of the meaning of those victories and failures, for it reads them in the light of eternal truth.

Verses 1-5 start off with a mournful note that comes from the depressed and discouraged spirit of the patriot-poet. The enemy had invaded his people’s country; and the worst of the matter was that it was a triumph of the heathen over the people of the true God, to whom a banner of truth had been given so that they might publicly display it (verse 4). Our personal success or defeat is nothing, but the victory of the truth of Jehovah is everything!

In verses 6-8, the Psalmist recalls to mind the Lord’s promises and a change comes over his spirit. Prayer has brought him to his senses. It seems that his memory was quickened by a sudden inspiration, causing him to recall an ancient Word from God – given in some similar crisis – in which He promised to His anointed king the complete possession of the Holy Land. In this Divine decree, God promised to divide Shechem and to measure out the Valley of Succoth. Then, in verse 7, Gilead and Manasseh – which represent the part of the country on the eastern side of the Jordan River – are claimed by God to belong to Him. And of Ephraim and Judah, which represent the division of the land west of the Jordan, it is said that the one shall be His helmet (“the strength of mine head”) and the other His scepter (“my lawgiver”). After the different portions of the Holy Land were thus represented by these well-known parts, the hostile nations which were also to be subjugated are represented by Israel’s three well-known foes: Moab, Edom, and Philistia. And just as the positions which Ephraim and Judah were to occupy are depicted by saying that they are to fulfil the honorable offices of helmet and scepter to God; so also, the fate of the hostile nations is similarly depicted by representing them as fulfilling to Him the most lowly and humiliating offices (verse 8). Moab was to be the vessel in which He washes His feet after coming home from a journey, Edom was the servant to whom He flings the dusty sandals which He has taken off, and Philistia is to grace His triumph. With these figurative expressions, the Psalmist rallied his spirit in his hour of distress. And as we fight the Lord’s spiritual battles in our own times, we can similarly fall back upon the promise that is recorded in the second Psalm – namely, that the heathen shall be given to Christ, and that the uttermost parts of the earth shall become His possession! And even the humblest Christian can rest himself on the Savior’s promise that none shall ever be able to pluck him out of His Shepherd’s hand, and that the good work which God has begun in him shall surely be brought to perfection.

The last four verses show the return of the Psalmist’s hope. In verse 9, in the strength of the Lord, he turns to face the crisis which he had bewailed in the first part of the Psalm. Only God could help him overcome the difficulty of the situation with the Edomites. When the Lord’s servants have learned to trust in God alone, nothing can stand in their way; and hence this Psalm, which began in panic and tears, ends with the trumpet-note of hope!

Lord Jesus, we praise You for continually expanding the boundaries of Your spiritual Kingdom and for defeating Your and our spiritual enemies! Amen.

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