The Living Word
While this psalm is titled ‘A Song or Psalm of David’, it is more likely to have been written by Jews returning from exile, being re-gathered back to the land.
As these exiles journey from northern Babylon, they face danger and persecution on all sides, but turning to the living Word of God, they find two passages that seem to speak directly to their current situation: Psalms 57 and 60.
These two psalms are Davidic, and were born out of difficult circumstances, when David was on the move.
Praise in Persecution
Psalm 57 hails from the days of David’s rejection, when he feels cornered in a cave. The first half of that psalm is David’s prayer for deliverance, but verses 5-9 sound a note of praise and thanksgiving – God has answered.
What confidence these words now bring to a later generation, as they take up David’s song of praise, almost verbatim, and giving him the credit, they apply it to their own present circumstances.
Truly, God’s Word is a Living Word.
‘O God, my heart is fixed; I will sing and give praise, even with my glory. Awake, psaltery and harp: I myself will awake early. I will praise thee, O LORD, among the people: and I will sing praises unto thee among the nations. For thy mercy is great above the heavens: and thy truth reacheth unto the clouds. Be thou exalted, O God, above the heavens: and thy glory above all the earth’ (v1-5)
The one change of note, is the use of LORD, (Jehovah or Yahweh) instead of David’s use of Lord (Adonai). This is appropriate for a returning people in this Deuteronomic section, for God’s Covenant is brought to remembrance, and Jehovah is the divine name especially linked with Covenant.
And so, while Psalm 57 began with a cry for help in uncertain circumstances, leading to praise, the psalmist’s experience is for our learning. We, like these exiles, can take up the living Word, and immediately enjoy confidence in the faithfulness of our Covenant keeping God, whose ‘mercy is great above the heavens: and truth reacheth unto the clouds’.
This note of praise is also appropriate for the faithful remnant of Israel in our day and yonder. As they begin to re-gather, and in the face of increasing anti-Semitic persecution they will be able to say ‘O God, my heart is fixed … I will sing praises to thee among the nations’.
Prayer in Peril
But as the prophetic clock moves into the time of Jacob’s trouble, the persecution will grow into great peril as the nations circle in menacingly.
The returning exiles in Nehemiah’s day knew something of this, but again they found solace and help from the Living Word of God.
Turning to Psalm 60, they found a prayer of David, now King and himself facing the attack of surrounding nations, and under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, they fittingly apply the sentiments of verses 5-12 to a greater use.
The Beloved’s Want
The prayer begins beautifully stating the relationship of the people to their God. They are his ‘beloved’.
‘That thy beloved may be delivered: save with thy right hand, and answer me.’ (v6)
We remind our hearts that we too are ‘beloved of God’ (Roms 1:7), yet we marvel at this. It is easy for us to conceive of the eternal Son being designated ‘beloved’, He who was perfect in every way. But us …? We who were ‘alienated and enemies in our mind by wicked works’ (Col 1:21)?
O the deep, deep love of Jesus, vast, unmeasured, boundless, free!
Rolling as a mighty ocean in its fullness over me![S.T.Francis]
But, of course, we cannot enjoy such a privileged position and live how we like. We must endeavour to live like our Lord. We must ‘put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved: bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye. And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness.’ (Col 3:12:14)
However, let us never think that our status as ‘beloved’ is due to, or dependent on, how we live. As Paul would make clear when giving thanks for the Thessalonian believers, we are beloved by God’s sovereign choice: ‘brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation’ (2 Thess 2:13).
And so, from such a privileged position, we cry out to the Lord, confident of His help.
The Battle’s Won
This is likely what appealed to the exiles as they took up David’s prayer. For having made his cry for help, the Lord responds immediately, and his answer brings assurance and hope to the beleaguered people of God … victory is certain; the enemies will be defeated; the battle is won!
‘God hath spoken in his holiness; I will rejoice, I will divide Shechem, and mete out the valley of Succoth. Gilead is mine; Manasseh is mine; Ephraim also is the strength of mine head; Judah is my lawgiver; Moab is my washpot; over Edom will I cast out my shoe; over Philistia will I triumph. Who will bring me into the strong city? who will lead me into Edom?’ (v7-10)
The Beleaguered’s Worry
It was no doubt comforting to these exiles, as it is to us, to see the great King David himself struggling to overcome fear with faith. The reality of the walk of faith is that we are so often beset by doubts. Perhaps you’re struggling with this presently. Let these words encourage you that you’re not alone.
Whilst David and the exile had heard the sure response of the Lord, yet seeing the circumstances they are not content, and petition God for further re-assurance.
‘Wilt not thou, O God, who hast cast us off? and wilt not thou, O God, go forth with our hosts? Give us help from trouble: for vain is the help of man.’ (v11,12)
The Believer’s Valour
FAITH explained in acrostic form: ‘Forsaking All, I Trust Him’, points us to the answer for our doubts, and this is just the conclusion that David came to, in which the exiles being re-gathered were, and will be, able to rest.
‘Through God we shall do valiantly: for he it is that shall tread down our enemies.’ (v13)
The answer is to get our eyes off of the circumstances, no matter how intimidating they are, and to get our eyes upon the greatness of our God. He will give us the valour to keep going, knowing that He will ultimately face the foe Himself: ‘tread down our enemies’.
For us, we have further reason for valour, for as we look back to the cross, we see that the Lord has already bruised the serpent’s ‘head’ (Gen 3:15).