When human help is worthless
How can we trust God and fight on for good when he’s left us wounded and shaken? David turns to God here because he knows he is the gracious one whose word cannot fail.
A David psalm. When he clashed with Aram-Naharaim and Aram-Zobah, and Joab returned and struck down 12,000 Edomites in the Valley of Salt.
1 O God, you’ve rejected us
and wrecked our defences.
You were angry, but now revive us.
2 You rocked the land and ripped it open.
Heal its wounds before it founders.
3 You made your people suffer hardship
and drink a brew that sent us reeling.
4 Raise up a banner for those who revere you
where they can rally out of bow-shot.
5 Stretch out your right hand and help us
so your loved ones may be rescued.
6 God has spoken in his holiness:
“In triumph I’ll parcel out Shechem
and measure off the Valley of Succoth.
7 Gilead is mine and Manasseh mine too.
Ephraim is my helmet, Judah my scepter!
8 Moab is my washbasin
onto Edom I toss my shoes
and over Philistia shout triumphant!”
9 Who will take me to the fortified city?
Who will lead me to Edom
10 if not you who rejected us, God?
You no longer lead our armies to battle.
11 Help us fight against our foes
for human help is worthless.
12 With God’s help we’ll fight courageously
and he’ll trample down our enemies!
David needs to strike enemy nations preemptively on their home turf, which gives their enemies the natural advantage. What makes it even harder is that the Israelites have suffered a defeat. He describes this in cataclysmic terms, of God’s having wrenched and torn the land apart. David sees this as God’s abandoning them, making them down a medicine that made them stagger.
Demoralized and facing a stronger foe, military strategists always look for more soldiers, better weapons, smarter strategies. However, David knows those things won’t ever do for the battles they have to fight. So he cries out for God to heal the nation and lead them into battle. It’s hard to trust God after he’s roughed you up. That’s David’s struggle: how to trust God after he’s sent them reeling. But David knows God had good cause to do so. He knows that, being gracious, God won’t hold onto his anger forever, and that, being holy, he will honor his word.
The psalm’s middle section has God declaring that he owns the entire region. Since it’s all home turf to him, he can do what he likes with it. Moab is his laundry room. Though Edom’s capital, Sela (Petra), is arguably the best fortified city anywhere, it’s God’s mud room! And tossing your sandal on a piece of land was an ancient legal gesture of taking possession. He calls Ephraim his helmet and Judah his scepter because he reigns through them. This reassessment of David’s situation leaves him confident that the same God who wounded his people will now heal them, lead them, and make them triumph. Interestingly, the psalm’s heading gives details not about the events that prompted David to write his prayer, but only about the victory that came in answer to it.
It’s hard to believe you’ll come through for me, Lord, when you’ve deserted me—though it was self-reliance that messed me up. But my foes are way bigger than me. You’re my only hope, and all my battles belong to you. So I trust you now to heal me and reign through me. Amen.
Meditate on this during your free moments today: