Theme: When God Speaks
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
The second section of the psalm contains an appeal to God to help those who have been attacked by the Edomites (v. 5), followed by God’s answer in the form of an oracle (vv. 6-8). The oracle follows so closely upon the appeal that we know that faith has already won a victory.
There are two ways verses 6-8 may be understood. They are introduced as a word which “God has spoken from his sanctuary.” The sanctuary is the tabernacle precinct in Jerusalem, so it is possible that this was a special revelation from God that could have been brought to David by Nathan or one of the other priests or prophets. In that case, it is a statement that God has given the land of Israel to the Jewish people and a promise that he would give them victory over the enemies that were trying to take it from them. If this is that kind of oracle, it may have been preserved in writing separately from the psalm, which might explain why verses 5-12 also appear as the latter half of Psalm 108, verses 6-13.1
The other way of looking at these verses is suggested by the fact that the place names are not what we might expect at this point in David’s career—we would expect the names of the tribal territories perhaps—and by the fact that they seem to come from and trace the early history of the occupation of the land from the time of the patriarch Jacob onward. Shechem was the place Jacob settled after his return to Canaan from Paddan Aram where he had lived for twenty years with his uncle and later father-in-law Laban (Gen. 33:18). Succoth was the last place he had been prior to that (Gen. 33:17). These two places represent the eastern and western sides of the Jordan River. Gilead and Manasseh represent larger areas of the eastern side of the Jordan River occupied by Israel at the time of the conquest under Joshua. Ephraim and Judah represent the most prominent tribes to the west.2 If these names are meant to remind us of this early history and of the fact that God had given the land to the people from the time of the patriarchs, then verses 6-9 are not necessarily an oracle from David’s own time but rather a new phrasing of these older promises.
But notice this: In either case, as H.C. Leupold writes, “The word of God (vv. 6-8) is made the basis of [the faith expressed in verse 5]. Thus faith should always seek the foundation of the Word of God.”3
Biblical faith is not optimism, as some think. Nor is it a positive mental attitude worked up to help us through tough times. According to the Bible, faith is believing the word of God and acting on it, which is what David expresses in this psalm and what he apparently did in actuality. That is, because God had promised him victory over Edom, as well as over Moab and Philistia, David sends Joab to fight the armies of Edom in the Valley of Salt. Wouldn’t we be more active in gospel work if we believed God’s promise to bless it? Some have believed God and have won nearly whole cities, even whole continents to Christ. What about us?
1The first part of Psalm 108 is adapted from Psalm 57:7-11.
2For a helpful study of these place names and their significance see H.C. Leupold, Exposition of the Psalms (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1969), pp. 450, 451, and J.J. Stewart Perowne, Commentary on the Psalms, 2 vols. in 1 (Grand Rapids: Kregel, 1989), vol. 1, pp. 472, 473. Original edition 1878-1879.
3H.C. Leupold, Exposition of the Psalms, p. 448.
What are the two ways that Psalm 60:6-8 may be understood?
What is the sanctuary? What is its purpose?
Reflection: If biblical faith is believing the Word of God and acting on it, how does your own faith measure up?