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Psalm 60: Divine Rejection Print E-mail
Sunday, 21 August 2016

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The feeling of being rejected by God can tempt us to look around for better options. When it seems like God does not care about us or has forgotten about us or worse has actually set Himself against, we can find ourselves in search of other comforts. ‘Maybe we have been wrong about God’s goodness or God’s sovereignty,’ we might think. ‘Maybe we were foolish to think that He would always satisfy. Maybe we should look for joy elsewhere.’ Our Christian friends will remind us: ‘God will never leave us or forsake us.’ But is that true? It sure seems like God does forsake us at times. So which is it? The truth is, the Bible teaches that God will ultimately never forsake His people. He is committed to saving His people and dwelling with them forever. Yet, that does not mean that there will not be times of ‘temporary forsaking’ or ‘divine rejection.’ The people of Israel experienced this on several occasions. Job faced this in His trials. And we see David going through this as well in Psalm 60 (and other psalms).

It is difficult to be certain about the background to this psalm. The note at the beginning says that it was written during a particular time in David’s life. When we look at the biblical account of those days in David’s life (found in 2 Samuel 8) it seems that all is well for David. Yet, perhaps the victories in battle were preceded by some defeats. Perhaps Psalm 60 gives us a glimpse into some struggles that were taking place in David’s life at that point. It is hard to be certain. But either way, we see from this psalm that David is experiencing divine rejection in his life, particularly on the battlefield. So then, what are some truths from this psalm that we can remember in these hard times that will help us fight against the temptation to look for better options? Let’s consider three this morning.

Only God can give salvation (v. 1-5)

The psalm begins with David’s description of God’s rejection. Look at verses 1-3. As we noted, it is probably that David is commenting on God allowing Israel to be defeated in battle. How does David describe that? You have rejected us...you have been angry...you have made the land to quake...you have made your people see hard things. What is interesting about these words is that David never seems to wonder if God is really in control. Whatever difficult circumstance that Israel is facing is from the Lord. David is not going to reject the Bible’s teaching on God’s sovereignty in order to feel better about the situation. He owns it. As we will see in a moment, David finds comfort in the fact that God is Lord over all. The rejection is real. The circumstances are hard. But God is just as sovereign over the hard things as He is over blessings. David does not waver from that conviction. But he also holds fast to the fact that God restores and repairs. The rejection in the moment is real, but God is still His hope for restoration and salvation.

Even in the midst of this real rejection, David cries out for God’s salvation. Look at verses 4-5. It is hard to know exactly what David was saying in verse 4, but it seems that he is using the banner imagery to encourage Israel’s trust in God. The Lord had spread a banner of truth over His people. They could trust that He would never completely forsake them. Such truth is a rallying point in the midst of the difficult battles of life. Run to the banner of truth which is found in the Word when the battle seems lost. Truth is, we are doing just that this morning. We read and study and preach the Word because it is the banner of truth that sustains us when all seems lost. The Word teaches us that He is the God of salvation and He will ultimately rescue His people by the power of His right hand. Only He can save. So when the rejection is real, flee to the banner of His truth that He will save.

Only God is Lord over all (v. 6-8)

Again we see the importance of His Word at the beginning of verse 6. Look at that with me. God has spoken!! Just that phrase alone should cause us to marvel. The Lord of all the universe has spoken to us! He has revealed truth to us! He has communicated with His creation! How could we not want to hear what He has to say? How could we not be hanging on every Word? How could we not be amazed that our God has spoken?!

So then, what does He say? Look at verses 6b-8. God has spoken to us about weird names that sound like cities or something that we are not very familiar with! Unfortunately, this can be our response at times. God has spoken to us (again) about things we do not understand or don’t care about. Yet, if we take the time to think about what He is saying, to meditate on His Words, then like David we would be greatly encouraged. These names can be broken up into two groups: Israel and the nations. The ones mentioned in verses 6-7 are all places in Israel and together represent the whole of the land. So what is God saying about Israel? It is mine! I will divide up the land and give it to whoever I want. I own the land. I give it to whom I please. All of it is mine. Not only that, but the second group of names in verse 8 represents the enemies that surrounded Israel: Moab and Edom and Philistia. And what does God say about them? They are my servants. They belong to me. They do whatever I say. I am the Lord over it all!

Why would this be an encouraging Word when things are going bad? Why would David take comfort in these words from God? Remember the situation. He has apparently just lost a battle to perhaps one of these nations. He feels forsaken and lost and defeated. And how does the Lord comfort Him? He comforts him by reminding him that He is still the Lord over all. The land belongs to me David and I give it to whoever I want. All your enemies are my servants. They do what I please. I may have rejected you for a season, but I am still on the throne and I still have great plans for your good.

And you know what? This is what the Lord speaks over our lives as well. Are you a losing a battle with cancer? Are you struggling to deal with a hurtful situation at work? Is the budget just not adding up? God says to you: ‘I own cancer. I am sovereign over every human being on this planet. I not only own the cattle on a thousand hills, I own all the cattle on all the hills! All of it is mine.’ Of course, if we believe that God is an evil god or that He has no plans for our good, then such truth might not encourage us. But if His banner over us is love, then our souls cannot help but be strengthened by such truth! I can have great hope in the pit if I know that the Lord who loves me owns the pit. I may not know what He is doing, but I can trust that He will use it for my good. His sovereignty is my shield. Why would I be tempted to turn anywhere else when I know that only He is the Lord over all!

Only God can help us (v. 9-12)

In those dark moments we may be tempted to turn to something else. We might look for hope in a relationship, maybe just a friend or maybe something more scandalous. Surely another human can give us what we need. But such trust will fail us. Look at verses 9-12. The salvation of man is vain. Looking for ultimate joy in relationships will never satisfy us. Not that relationships are bad, but just that they cannot take the place of God. Only He can help us in the darkest of nights. Remember when Jesus told the disciples that they would have to drink His blood and eat His flesh if they wanted to have eternal life (John 6:52ff)? John tells us: After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. The teaching was hard to understand and they just got tired of trying. But not all of them left. Some stuck around. And when Jesus asked them why they stayed, Peter responded: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God” (John 6:68-69).

This is David’s conclusion in Psalm 60. Even when the Lord forsakes us for a season, where else can we go to find help? We cannot go to men. Their salvation will fail. We cannot look to ourselves. The situation has already proven too difficult for us. So what do we do? We turn to the Lord for help. We trust that even though things may be hard for a season, the Lord has not given up on us. As David notes: With God we shall do valiantly. We may lose a battle or two, but we will not lose the war! He will take down our enemies and give us victory in the end.

It is hard to think that God would ever forsake His people. We know that He will never do that ultimately, but there are times when He seems so far away. We might be tempted to look around when that happens, but we should hold fast to the truth that David teaches us here. Only God can save us. Our salvation belongs to Him. Only He is the Lord of all. His sovereign goodness extends over all, including whatever situation that we are facing. And only He will help us. We dare not for men to do what only God can do. These are good truths to remember in hard times.

We should also remember that Jesus knew what it was like to be forsaken. Remember what He prayed from the cross: “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46). How do I know in those dark moments that God will not ultimately forsake me? Because He forsook His Son in my place. Jesus knew the Father’s plan (it is why He prayed the way He did in the Garden). He knew that He would die and that the grave would not be able to hold Him. He knew that His sacrifice for our sins would be enough to save us from all of our enemies. And He knew in that moment that God the Father would not forsake Him forever. But for a moment, He tasted the bitter wrath that my sins deserved. He knew that it would not last, but the difficulty of the moment was real. Jesus endured that for us. He did that so that when we face those dark moments, whether they were caused by our own sin or the sins of others or just by living in a sin-cursed world, that we are not alone and they will not last forever. Jesus was forsaken for a moment so that I don’t have to be forsaken forever. Such truth is a great comfort on difficult days. May that banner of truth fly over us all! Amen.

~ William Marshall ~

Last Updated ( Wednesday, 31 August 2016 )

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