The Book of Psalms

Friday: If God Does Not Go with Us


Theme: Asking for Victory
In this week’s lessons we see that even in times of blessing, when we feel closest to the Lord, there are nevertheless areas of our lives that will cause us trouble and need correcting.
Scripture: Psalm 60:1-12
Precisely when was Psalm 60 written? We know from 2 Samuel 8 that David eventually joined Joab and conquered Edom, placing garrisons throughout the country. In the last stanza of the psalm he is thinking about that final triumph, asking, “Who will bring me to the fortified city? Who will lead me to Edom” (v. 9)? It would seem, therefore, that David wrote the psalm while on his campaign near the Euphrates River after Joab was dispatched but before the final victories.
What is in David’s mind at this time? Or to put it differently, what lessons is he learning as he reflects, first on the people’s defeat by Edom and, second, on the promises of God to give an eventual victory? It seems to me that there are two of them.
Only God can give victory. There were a number of well-fortified cities in Edom, the source of the country’s strength and great pride. But when David speaks of “the fortified city” he can only mean Petra, the most inaccessible and apparently impregnable mountain stronghold of Edom. I had the privilege of visiting Petra many years ago. It is approached through a narrow cut in the limestone cliffs that winds inward for about two miles and is called a siq. The cliffs rise upward for thousands of feet on both sides, and in places the passage is so narrow that no more than two horses can pass abreast. A handful of brave men could defend this sig against an army. But even if the passage could be breached, the defenders could retreat into the mountains surrounding the hidden inner valley and defend themselves from there. 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” (v. 11).
We must ask for it. That is the second lesson David was learning from this defeat and God’s promise. He was learning that although only God can give victory, we must nevertheless ask for it. And so he did. That is what he is doing in the final stanza of the psalm. Moreover, because he is asking for help he anticipates God’s positive answer, saying, “With God we will gain the victory, and he will trample down our enemies.” Thus, “the psalm closes on a strong note of confidence which was engendered by the promises of God, which were grasped in faith.”1
You and I are not kings, as David was. We do not have military battles to fight, and we have never seen an Edomite. But I want to suggest that the lessons of this psalm are directly applicable to us in terms of the spiritual battles we are called to fight. We are members of the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ, and our task is to advance his kingdom in this spiritually hostile world. The Apostle Paul said, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Eph. 6:12). Compared to the conquest of these hostile spiritual forces, the victory over Edom and the overthrow of its mountain stronghold Petra was a piece of cake. How can we gain this greater victory? Not by ourselves, or even with the help of other Christians. In this battle “the help of man is truly worthless.” We need God to fight with us and on our behalf.
The second lesson applies to us too: We must ask for God’s help. The book of James says, “You do not have, because you do not ask God” (James 4:2). Jesus expressed the other side of James’ words when he said, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you” (Matt. 7:7). We can ask for many things wrongly and so fail to receive them. James speaks of that too (v. 3). But the one thing we can be sure of receiving is victory on behalf of the gospel. Do you remember Nebuchadnezzar’s vision, the one that he could not remember but that troubled him so much? It was a vision of a great statue representing in sequence all the many great kingdoms of this world. At the end of the vision a rock “not cut by human hands” struck the statue and destroyed it, and then grew up to become “a huge mountain” that “filled the whole earth” (Dan. 2:34, 35). That rock is the Lord Jesus Christ, and that mountain is his kingdom which is destined to triumph.
If you believe that, then this is the banner around which you must rally and on behalf of which you can confidently fight.
1H.C. Leupold, Exposition of the Psalms (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1969), p. 452.
Study Questions:

What two lessons might David have learned from this experience?
How are our prayers related to God giving us victory?

Reflection: What spiritual battles are you facing right now? Do you feel overwhelmed by these battles? How can we win them? What victory can we be sure God will give us?
Prayer: Remembering that only God can give us victory, spend time now committing your battles to him. Ask God to give you the victory.
For Further Study: Download and listen for free to James Boice’s message from Romans, “Victory! Through Jesus Christ Our Lord!” (Discount will be applied at checkout.)

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