Read the Bible in 2011 ◊ Week 21: Wednesday
O give us help against the adversary,
For deliverance by man is in vain.
Through God we shall do valiantly,
And it is He who will tread down our adversaries.
All three psalms in Wednesday’s Bible reading of Psalms 60–62, are psalms of David. Psalm 60 is one of his ‘deliverance’ psalms, while 61–62 are two of his ‘refuge’ psalms. I call them that because these are two themes you’ll find over and over again in the book of Psalms.
Rejection is another theme found in Psalms (cf. Psalm 13), and you could also call Psalm 60 a ‘rejection’ psalm because as he prays, David says to God that God has rejected His people. M’Caw and Motyer have some very helpful commentary:
This psalm conveys the sense of national humiliation resulting from a wholly unforeseen military reverse…
1 In a typically biblical way, the psalmist regards God as responsible for every happening. Secondary causes, physical, strategical, cultural, etc., were not necessarily held to be significant. Hence this unexpected military reverse had struck a tremendous blow at the people’s morale. 2 It was like an earthquake which rends strong buildings. 3 Divine action had led to defeat; both led to demoralization; the nation reeled as a man who has just drunk drugged wine (cf. Is. 51:17; Je. 25:15ff.). Their defeat was all the more demoralizing in that they believed themselves to be the people of the Lord, 4 under whose banner (cf. Ex. 17:15, 16) they would experience security. The heart of their problem and distress was thus that God’s promises seemed to go unfulfilled….
5 What is the reaction to an unkept divine promise? Turn the promise into prayer and plead it before God. [See verses 6–8.]…
9, 10 The promises have been quoted; now they will be pleaded. Man cannot fulfill the promises of God; if God does not keep them, they fall to the ground. 11 Nor can man help if God withholds His help. All therefore depends on God, and all is summed up in the single plea, O grant us help. But it is the plea of faith. 12 notes that where human aid avails nothing, God can lead His people to victory, and the psalms concludes with a confident forecast of the victory He will win for His people.
I wrote in my post on Psalm 1–2: The Righteous & The Wicked, that Psalms is a book in which cries of the heart are poured out to God in words that echo our own feelings, yet with words that do not let our deep-felt reactions pull us away from Him, but draw us to Him. In other words, the Psalms give voice to our emotions in all of their widest ranges, yet give them expression without sin. Psalm 60 does that for us in our moments of distress when we feel as David did, “The heart of their problem and distress was thus that God’s promises seemed to go unfulfilled.” Psalm 60 teaches us to, “Turn the promise into prayer and plead it before God.” Remember as you do so, to look at God’s promises in the context in which He has made them, so that you do not presume.
Notice also M’Caw’s and Motyer’s comment on God’s sovereignty:
In a typically biblical way, the psalmist regards God as responsible for every happening. Secondary causes, physical, strategical, cultural, etc., were not necessarily held to be significant.
In Psalm 60, David believes God is sovereign (indeed, throughout the psalms you find this). As M’Caw and Motyer diagnosed, “The heart of their problem and distress was thus that God’s promises seemed to go unfulfilled.” I have mentioned God’s sovereignty several times when writing on Job in Job 7–8: Sovereign & Good; Job 9–10: Despair & Hope; and Job 23–24: Rebuttal & Understanding; and in Suffering & Lovingkindness. In the book of Job, Job did not doubt God’s sovereignty, but in the face of the accusations of his friends and overwhelmed by his pain, he lost hope. Job’s need was to believe in God’s goodness, benevolence and personal care for him in the face of God’s inscrutable sovereignty in allowing his suffering. He struggled to trust in God in the midst of excruciating affliction.
Assuring someone that God is sovereign is not necessarily a comforting thing. The person may already believe and know that—the spiritual battle may be believing in God’s love during a time of intensely feeling abandoned. This struggle with doubt can even be heightened in pain if the person previously knew continuous fellowship with God and worshiped Him as Job did, but now only knows and feels blow after blow from circumstances. The battle may be to trust in God and believe in His goodness, benevolence and personal care for him in the face of God’s inscrutable sovereignty in allowing his suffering. If you want to help, then you must lift the arms and soothe the wounds where the battle is. (See Suffering & Lovingkindness for more of my thoughts on this.). Part of the problem of Job’s friends was that they presumed to know what Job needed and did not take time to understand Job’s struggle to trust God and to know God in adversity. E. S. P. Heavenor writes:
We find two grave deficiencies in Bildad which make his words worse than useless from Job’s standpoint. First, he was tragically lacking in the sympathy for which Job craved. His assumption that the sudden death of Job’s family was the divine punishment for their sinfulness was a sword thrust into an agonized heart. Job knew that it was untrue. In the second place, he was totally hidebound by tradition. He was so busily engaged in looking into the past that he quite failed to realize that Job was feeling out for a richer and more intelligent experience of God than anything he himself had known.2
So as you find yourself in distress because God’s promises seem to go unfulfilled, read Psalm 60, and follow David’s example in taking God’s promises and making them your prayer and pleading them before God. If someone you know is suffering, do that for them—not just while you are alone, but with that person. He or she needs to hear your voice pleading with God on their behalf. And consider that a part of God’s answer to your prayer may be you acting on behalf of the one for whom you pray.
I have needed Psalm 60 this week because I had expressed to my husband only yesterday similar thoughts to David’s and Israel’s problem and distress. Then today I read Psalm 60, and next God helps me with M’Caw’s and Motyer’s wisdom and insight.
That’s why we read God’s Word. We are changed by God as in His mercy He helps us through His Word—we are changed through His Word because through His Word we know and meet the Living God.
Father, thank you.
Isaiah 42 Photograph: ChristianPhotos.net – Free High Resolution Photos for Christian Publications
1Leslie S. M’Caw, J. A. Motyer, “Psalms,” The New Bible Commentary: Revised, D. Guthrie, J. A. Motyer, eds., A. M. Stibbs, D. J. Wiseman, contributing eds., 486–487.
2E. S. P. Heavenor, “Job,” The New Bible Commentary: Revised, D. Guthrie, J. A. Motyer, eds., A. M. Stibbs, D. J. Wiseman, contributing eds., 427.
Original content: Copyright ©2011 Iwana Carpenter
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