MDB 88: Psalms 60-61
May 6, 2010
It's always fascinating to see the way the Psalms have been arranged since, more often than not, the thoughts of one flow into those that follow. That is certainly the case in this little cluster of psalms that are providing the focus for our meditations this week. They all revolve around the theme of facing opposition in the life of faith and the two before us today mark the nadir of such experiences.
For the Israelites, to be attacked by their enemies or opposed by their fellow-Jews was one thing, but to feel they had been rejected by God was the worst thing imaginable. Yet it is that thought that dominates the opening of Psalm 60: 'You have rejected us, O God...' (60.1). In terms of God's covenant, this represented the essence of covenant curse - being cast off by God. The language David uses in the first three verses of the psalm only serves to reinforce that thought. But that is not all David has to say.
He goes on immediately to express the hope of those who truly reverence God: 'But for those who fear you, you have raised a banner to be unfurled against the bow' (60.4). It's the image of a raging battle in which the enemy seems to have the upper hand; but then the regimental colours are raised and the troops are rallied. There may be times when the heat of spiritual warfare is such that it may feel as though we have been forsaken by God; but if we are indeed men and women of faith, there is a banner to which we can look for courage and strength to fight on. For David it was a forward-looking faith that gave him confidence that God would indeed triumph over Israel's foes (who he goes on to name). For us in the post-Calvary era, that battle standard is a blood-stained cross where the victory of the ages has been secured once-for-all.
In the next psalm David is still in extremis - 'the ends of the earth' (61.1) - but from there he prays that God would lead him 'to the rock that is higher than I' (61.2). He declares afresh his faith in God and longing to know his nearness and asks that God would so answer as to allow him to offer praise forever. True faith never lets go of God - even when it feels stretched beyond all limits. It never lets go of God because God has promised never to let go of us. How can we be sure? - Because his own dear Son was rejected in our place that we might ever know acceptance!