March 5: Psalm 60
Living in desperate times
Common meter 86.86 Dundee (God Works in a Mysterious Way), p. 40
St. Anne (O God, Our Help in Ages Past), p. 39
O God, Thou has rejected us, hast broken us once more.
As Thou with us hast angry been, O once again restore.
For Thou hast made the earth to quake, hast torn it fearfully.
O heal its gaping cracks, for, lo, it shakes in agony!
For Thou has made the people see the hardness of distress,
And Thou hast made them drink the wine of reeling drunkenness.
But those that fear Thee Thou didst give a banner in their sight,
That they might rally and be firm, made strong by truth and right.
O grant that Thy be-lov-ed ones may safe delivered be.
O save them with Thy strong right hand, and do Thou answer me.
God in His holiness declared let me exulting shout:
“The land of Shechem I’ll divide, and Succoth measure out.
“For all of Gilead is Mine; Manasseh, too, I own;
My head’s defense is Ephraim; I Judah made My throne.
“My washbowl I will Moab make, on Edom throw My shoe;
O Palestine, because of Me let shouts break forth from you!”
O who will bring me in the town besieged and fortified?
And who as far as Edom’s walls will there my footsteps guide?
But hast Thou not indeed, O God, rejected us once more?
And wilt Thou not again, O God, go forth with us to war?
Give help against the enemy for man no help bestows,
Through God we shall do valiantly, for He treads down our foes.
The very inscription of this psalm places it in the context of 2 Samuel 8, where David conquers the Edomites, and it is difficult to imagine a more probable setting or one that better explains all the particulars in these lines. The conquest of Edom was particularly hard: “Who will bring me into the fortified city? Who will lead me even unto Edom?” The Edomite capital is carved into the sides of an immense box canyon, offering access to an invading army only through a thin pass somewhat over a mile long and only about fifteen feet wide. The two sides overlooking this pass rise up to 300 feet. Narrow passes are notoriously easy to defend, but in this case, the invader would be harassed by boulders that the defenders, all along that mile and more, could hurl down on the attackers some 300 feet below. The psalmist says, “You have shown your people desperate times.” The psalm commences on a note of near despair, but all things are possible to God. David’s conquest of Edom will remain forever a symbol of what extraordinary things can be done when God fights on the side of His people. (Reardon, p. 118)
In battles God gives us to fight, sometimes we feel like He should be helping us more, and we ask why God seems to have abandoned us. While Psalm 60 asks this question, it also reminds us that God is sovereign in all our conflicts, and that God does His work in us in the very midst of hardship. It is a psalm of eschatological hope, assuring us that we are still God’s beloved, and we can trust in Him for ultimate victory in our lives.