Avenge Our Mistreatment
(9) Do to them as you did to Midian, to Sisera and Jabin at the river Kishon, (10) who were annihilated at Endor, who became as dung for the ground. (11) Make their nobles like Oreb and Zeeb, all their princes like Zebah and Zalmunna, (12) who said, “Let us take possession for ourselves the pastures of God.” (13) God, make them like whirling dust, like chaff before the wind. (14) As fire consumes a forest and as the flame sets mountains ablaze, (15) so may you pursue them with your tempest and terrify them with your storm. (16) Fill their faces with shame so that they may seek your name, Yahweh. (17) Let them be confounded and dismayed forever. Let them be ashamed and perish (18) that they may know that you alone, whose name is Yahweh, (are) the Most High over all the earth.
The proper names mentioned refer to six leaders and two localities where the Midianites, some of Israel’s most implacable enemies, were defeated (vss. 9-11). The record of God’s triumph over Midian is found in Judges 4-8. In this history, God’s hand was clearly at work to give Israel the victory when they were greatly outnumbered by a far stronger enemy.
The urgency of the psalmist’s prayer is conveyed by four imperatives (vss. 9, 11, 13, & 16) and by six consecutive jussives, verbal forms which carry an imperatival force (vss. 16-18). In essence, the psalmist pleads with God to work another miracle in Israel’s present distress like the one he did when the nation was almost overwhelmed by Midian so many years ago.
I. As God dealt with Midian in the past... (9-12)
II. ...so may he destroy and disgrace our enemies today. (13-18)
By calling to mind how God delivered his people in the past, we are encouraged to trust him to deliver us in the present.
What Psalm 83 fails to mention regarding Israel’s deliverance from the Midianites is that God involved two faithful women to accomplish the nation’s rescue. First, it was Deborah, a prophetess and judge of the nation, whom God used to motivate a reluctant general, Barak, to lead Israel’s army to victory over the Midianite forces that were led by Sisera. Then it was Jael whom God used to kill Sisera with a tent peg which she drove through his skull while he lay asleep in her tent, exhausted from the battle. In a day when women were considered to be the weaker and inferior sex, both Deborah and Jael taught Israel that it was “‘not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ declares the Lord Almighty” (Zech. 4:6).
The same principle holds true in the present day. It is the Lord who must fight our battles if we are to win them. It is the Lord who will give us the victory over our enemies, often in unexpected ways. We need to learn to apply Paul’s winning strategy to every challenge we face: “But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ” (2 Cor. 2:14). He alone can deliver us. He has promised to triumph through us, whatever opposition we face, if we will simply trust in him.