(H) For the director of the choir, set to “The Lily of the Covenant,” a Miktam of David for instruction when he struggled against Aram Naharaim and Aram Zobah and when Joab returned and struck down twelve thousand Edomites in the Valley of Salt. (1) God, you have rejected us. You have broken through our defenses. You have been angry. Now restore us. (2) You have caused the land to quake. You have split it open. Repair its breaches, for it totters. (3) You have shown your people hard things. You have given us wine to drink that made us stagger. (4) You have set up a banner for those who fear you that they may flee to it from before the bow. (Selah) (5) So that your beloved ones may be delivered, save with your right hand and answer us.
One commentator has written, “The psalm is plagued with difficulties, and all interpretation is tentative” (Word Biblical Commentary, Vol. 20, Marvin E. Tate, 103). The superscription is one of the longest found in the Psalms. The events to which it refers may well be those described in 2 Samuel 8 when David was consolidating his rule over Israel’s neighboring territories.
While there are no word repetitions to observe in this segment of the psalm, we should note David’s use of nine short sentences in the opening three verses, statements that fall like hammer blows as they describe the effects of God’s chastening hand upon the nation he ruled.
I. What God does: chastens us by means of adversity (1-3)
II. Why God does it: so that we learn to trust in him (4 & 5)
God uses adversity to chasten us so that we may learn to trust in him.
No one in their right mind would ever search for adversity. In fact, we do everything in our power to avoid it and settle into a place of security where our lives are free from struggle. However, it is often during troubled times that we grow most rapidly. Adversities are normally more effective in motivating our spiritual development than times of prosperity. The reason for this should be obvious. When we are doing well, our hearts tend to become self-reliant. Why look to Yahweh when we have everything we need? However, in times of adversity, we find our prayer lives revitalized and our devotion to God deepened because we more acutely sense our need for him.
When David feared that God might allow Israel’s enemies to triumph, he turned to him in earnest prayer seeking his deliverance (vs. 1). When God allowed his people to experience hard times, they were motivated to seek his favor (vss. 2 & 3). This is the very process James wrote about in the opening of his epistle: “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” (Jas. 1:2-4). When we face difficulties as Israel did when her enemies threatened, we need to be reminded that such adversity in the Master’s hand may well be the means he uses to draw our hearts back into fellowship with himself and to produce in us the kind of spiritual maturity that we need.