In this psalm we see David singing about God as the master strategist, according to ‘Shushan Eduth’, the lily of testimony. Spurgeon explains,
Shushaneduth. The lilies of the testimony—means, that this Psalm has for its chief subject something very lovely and cheering in the law; namely, the words of promise quoted in the beginning of verse six, according to which the land of Canaan belonged to the Israelites, upon which is thus established the confidence expressed in Ps 60:6-8, with respect to their right of property over the land, and their possession of it. This promise, not to cite many other passages, which occur in the Five Books of Moses, and even so early as the patriarchs, is contained in Genesis 49, and Deuteronomy 33. It is evident of what value and importance this promise was, and particularly the remembrance of it at this time
The psalm is broken into three portions:
- The opening verses exclaiming God’s rejection of the Israelites; that they are made to “see hard things” and “given … wine to drink that made [the Israelites] stagger“. David has no doubt that the breach in the land, though it may immediately be caused by the military might of foreign nations, is in reality caused by God alone.
- Immediately before the Selah, David writes, “You have set up a banner for those who fear you, that they may flee to it from the bow“; following Selah, “That your beloved ones may be delivered, give salvation by your right hand and answer us!“. This bears similar vein to Romans 8:28, that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love Him, and are called according to His purpose. God then speaks, explaining how he intends to divide up the lands, all within his sovereign will. Most importantly, Shechem is the center of geographical attention – for it is in his piece of Canaanite land that Abram built an altar to the LORD who appeared to him (Genesis 12:6-7). It is here that the Lord proclaims Israel’s rightful ownership of the land, in face of Moab His washbasin, Edom for casting His shoe, Philistia the object over which God is triumphant.
- The chapter then ends on a question, in relation to David facing the fortified city, Edom – “Have you not rejected us, O God?” It is no longer as certain as when the chapter opened. David ends the chapter with some hope – “grant us help against the foe, for vain is the salvation of man! With God we shall do valiantly; it is he who will tread down our foes“.
History tells us that God is indeed with he who flees to God’s banner. David was, indeed, eventually victorious: 2 Samuel 8; 1 Chronicles 18. Vanity is in man’s strength; even the strength of Joab and the smiting of 12,000 of Edom in the Valley of Salt could not give David the confidence of victory.
Do we trust in our previous victories? In our armies? In our confidants? In our experiences? In our history? Or do we view every opportunity of life and death as a fresh moment of turning to the eternal security of the gospel truth?
The truth of God was involved in the triumph of David’s armies, he had promised them victory; and so in the proclamation of the gospel we need feel no hesitancy, for as surely as God is true he will give success to his own word. For the truth’s sake, and because the true God is on our side, let us in these modern days of warfare emulate the warriors of Israel, and unfurl our banners to the breeze with confident joy. Dark signs of present or coming ill must not dishearten us; if the Lord had meant to destroy us he would not have given us the gospel; the very fact that he has revealed himself in Christ Jesus involves the certainty of victory.
The chapter is but a model of how God intends to redeem His beloved ones. However, we are His beloved ones only because He is His eternal beloved one. The circumstance of us seeing hard things, of us given wine to drink, is but a shadow of the Christ who had suffered first. He was the first to be rejected; to be broken; to experience hardship; to drink the cup of wrath (see Matthew 26:36-46) that would make Him stagger — all to pave the way for our own salvation. That we can proclaim a baptism through His suffering into His glory. David is not capable. Joab is not capable. However it is through Christ the beloved, that the Father’s love transforms Israel as a kingdom. Spurgeon furthermore recognises the centrality of Christ’s salvation, given it is imputed to us:
Here is one suppliant for many, even as in the case of our Lord’s intercession for his saints. He, the Lord’s David, pleads for the rest of the beloved, beloved and accepted in him the Chief Beloved; he seeks salvation as though it were for himself, but his eye is ever upon all those who are one with him in the Father’s love. When divine interposition is necessary for the rescue of the elect it must occur, for the first and greatest necessity of providence is the honour of God, and the salvation of his chosen.