Sunday, April 8, 2012

Defeat Before Victory

[To the chief Musician upon Shu'shan–e'duth, Michtam of David, to teach; when he strove with A'ram–nahara'im and with A'ram–zo'bah, when Jo'ab returned, and smote of Edom in the valley of salt twelve thousand]

1 O God, thou hast cast us off, thou hast scattered us, thou hast been displeased; O turn thyself to us again.

2 Thou hast made the earth to tremble; thou hast broken it: heal the breaches thereof; for it shaketh.

3 Thou hast shewed thy people hard things: thou hast made us to drink the wine of astonishment.

4 Thou hast given a banner to them that fear thee, that it may be displayed because of the truth. Selah.

5 That thy beloved may be delivered; save with thy right hand, and hear me.

6 God hath spoken in his holiness; I will rejoice, I will divide Shechem, and mete out the valley of Succoth.

7 Gilead is mine, and Manasseh is mine; Ephraim also is the strength of mine head; Judah is my lawgiver;

8 Moab is my washpot; over Edom will I cast out my shoe: Philistia, triumph thou because of me.

9 Who will bring me into the strong city? who will lead me into Edom?

10 Wilt not thou, O God, which hadst cast us off? and thou, O God, which didst not go out with our armies?

11 Give us help from trouble: for vain is the help of man.

12 Through God we shall do valiantly: for he it is that shall tread down our enemies.

—Psalm 60 KJV Bible

This is a psalm of David. The psalm superscription says it is about the time that David was fighting in the north with “A'ram–nahara'im” (Mesopotamia) and “A'ram–zo'bah” (located between Damascus and the Upper Euphrates). During the battle, “Edom” invaded from the south and defeated David and his troupes. Joab, nephew of King David and captain of David’s army, was then dispatched to the battle and achieved an important victory over the Edomites. The details of the battle are told in 2 Samuel 8 and 1 Chronicles 18. This song focuses on David’s initial defeat and his prayer to God for help. In the psalm, David expounds on the predicament of the nation with this defeat, the promise of God, and the petition of David.

The psalm superscription says that it is according to “Shu'shan–e'duth”—Hebrew, meaning “the lily of the testimony.” It is thought to be the title of a melody to be used with the psalm.

The psalm superscription states it is a “Mikhtam.” The Hebrew meaning is disputed. Some suggest it is derived from a verb meaning “to cover,” and may indicate psalms dealing with protection (covering) from one’s enemies or psalms recited silently—for example, with lips covering the mouth. Others translate the term as "golden," i.e. precious. In the Septuagint it is translated by a word meaning "tablet inscription." Still others suggest the term is a musical notation of some kind. This word is used in the superscriptions of Psalms 16 and 56 through 60.

The Hebrew "selah" is used in verse 4 of the psalm. The word is thought to be a musical notation to the choir director and musicians. It loosely translates as a break in the song or an instruction to pause and reflect, perhaps with a musical interlude. Some translators suggest the phrase "stop and listen." Others say that a more concise translation would be "let those with eyes see and with ears hear." The word "selah" has been compared to the word "amen" in that it stresses to the listener the importance of the preceding passage. The word "selah" is used in thirty-nine of the psalms.

In verses 1 through 5, David explains the predicament of the nation with this defeat. David interprets the defeat as a sign of God's disfavor. The earth seems to quake and buckle with God's anger. The people reel from the shock of the defeat as if they were drunk on strong wine. In verse 4, David remarks that God seemed to have raised a banner under which Israel can be victorious. Some interpret this as David expressing dismay that they had been defeated. Others interpret the verse as David's realization that God is now with Israel for the coming battle.

In verses 6 through 8, David remembers the promise of God. David speaks for God, assuring that He who apportioned the land is still in control of it. The other nations are put in their places. God uses Moab to wash His feet. Edom is the servant to whom God throws His sandals. Philistia is the topic for a victory song.

In verses 9 through 12, David asks God for help. David affirms that while Israel's army may fight the battles, only God can truly bring to Israel the victory. Without God, Israel's struggle is pointless.

Father, sometimes I'll take on a task for Your glory, certain that You desire it, but then I am set back. When this happens, remind me that You are not through yet. Help me to refocus on You and seek Your direction. Remind me that the victory to come is not mine, but Yours.


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