To the chief Musician upon Shushan-eduth, Michtam of David, to teach; when he strove with Aramnaharaim and with Aramzobah, when Joab returned, and smote of Edom in the valley of salt twelve thousand.
O God, You have cast us off, You have scattered us,
You have been displeased; O turn Yourself to us again.
You have made the earth to tremble; You have broken it:
heal the breaches thereof; for it shakes.
You have shown Your people hard things:
You have made us to drink the wine of astonishment.
You have given a banner to them that fear You,
that it may be displayed because of the truth. Selah.
That Your beloved may be delivered;
save with Your right hand, and hear me.
God has spoken in His holiness: “I will rejoice.
I will divide Shechem, and measure out the valley of Succoth.
Gilead is Mine, and Manasseh is Mine;
Ephraim also is the helmet for My head;
Judah is My lawgiver;
Moab is My washpot;
upon Edom will I cast out My shoe:
Philistia, you triumph because of Me.”
Who will bring me into the strong city?
who will lead me into Edom?
Will not You, O God, who had cast us off?
and You, O God, who did not go out with our armies?
Give us help from trouble: for vain is the help of man.
Through God we shall do valiantly:
for He it is that shall tread down our enemies.
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Today I’d like to take you verse by verse through this psalm and show you what the Lord taught me from it.
About the Title
This was a psalm of David, written for the chief musician during the time when David was fighting in the East, in Aramea, seeking to conquer the region of Idumea. The time of its composition, according to the title, was that referred to in 2 Samuel 8 and 1 Chronicles 18. They faced a set-back, with the loss of a battle, but they sought the Lord and through His strength, they won the war.
The term “Shushan-eduth” literally means “Lily of Testimony.” Some say this refers to the beauty of the Law, but since this psalm does not specifically reference the Law, it more likely refers to a lily-shaped musical instrument, such as a trumpet, that was used in connection with the Law, which connection has since been lost to us.
A Prayer to God (vv. 1-5)
The psalm opens with a prayer of repentance.
1 O God, You have cast us off [because of our sin], You have been displeased; O turn Yourself to us again…. David does not pretend to be ignorant of the reason for their defeat in battle. He knows full well that God is judging them for sin, and he is ready to repent and return to fellowship with his God.
2 You have made the earth to tremble; You have broken it. Heal the breaches thereof, for it shakes. 3 You have shown the people hard things; You have made the people to drink the wine of astonishment…. Troubles come to shake us up, to make us lose our grip on that which cannot save or satisfy.
4 You have given a banner to them that fear You, that it may be displayed because of the truth. Selah…. The word banner refers to the flag or ensign under which the army would go out to battle, and the idea is that God had enlisted them to fight for His cause. They were His representatives on the battlefield, and therefore it behooved Him to help them. What was true then of the people of God is true now of the church. God has given us His banner that it may wage a war of justice, righteousness, and truth—and His banner over us is love. I’d like to take this a little further and tie it in with the Shushan-eduth from the title, the “Lily of Testimony.” Look at what I found in Song of Solomon 2:1-4…
I am the rose of Sharon, and the lily of the valleys. As the lily among thorns, so is my love among the daughters.
As the apple tree among the trees of the wood, so is my beloved among the sons. I sat down under his shadow with great delight, and his fruit was sweet to my taste. He brought me to the banqueting house, and his banner over me was love.
In the first part, the speaker is the husband [Christ, by application]; and the response in the second part comes from his bride [the church, by application]. Isn’t that beautiful!
5 That Your beloved may be delivered; save with Your right hand, and hear me…. This is the conclusion of David’s prayer. He has made his case, he has confessed his sin (as representative of the people), he has praised the greatness of God, and now he calls upon God to hear him.
God’s Answer (vv. 6-8)
6 God has spoken in His holiness: I will rejoice. I will divide Shechem, and measure out the valley of Succoth…. A holy God cannot lie, and God had already promised to give the land to Abraham and His descendants. He was going to make good on that promise. David’s mention of Shechem to the west of Jordan and Succoth to the east of Jordan represent all of the land of promise.
7 Gilead is Mine, and Manasseh is Mine; Ephraim also is the helmet for My head; Judah is My lawgiver…. The idea here is the same as in the other verse. David names certain regions which represent the whole of the land that God has promised to His chosen people, from “the Great Sea [Mediterranean] to the River Euphrates.”
8 Moab is My washpot…. To call Moab his washpot implied that Moab was already subdued but was of little value. Upon Edom will I cast out My shoe…. Edom, or Idumea, was still yet to be subdued. “I will cast out my shoe” signified that he fully intended to take possession of the land. In Hebrew times, it was customary to seal a transaction by casting one’s shoe across the room (Ruth 4:7). In the Middle Ages one would throw down a glove; in the time of Columbus, they would set up a cross; later a flag was used to stake a claim. The idea is the same. Philistia, you triumph because of Me…. This may be interpreted as irony, mocking Philistia because they no longer possess the strength to triumph over Israel.
Response to God’s Answer (vv. 9-12)
9 Who will bring me into the strong city? who will lead me into Edom? A reference to Petra, the capital city of Idumea. Humanly speaking, Joab and his brother Abishai ended up leading the command, but that’s not what David is asking.
10 Will not You, O God, who had cast us off? and You, O God, who did not go out with our armies? No doubt David remembered the stories of when Joshua led the people in battle in the early days of conquest of the land. By a miracle of God they had just defeated Jericho, and the people were all excited. So they went in search of another conquest right away. Nearby was the city of Ai. It was a small city, and Joshua thought he could take it with just a few soldiers—and without consulting the Lord. What he didn’t know was that there was sin in the camp, so the Lord did not go with them into battle. As a consequence, they were sorely defeated and humiliated. Only then did Joshua cry out to God. God told him about the sin, Joshua dealt with it, and then God gave him the victory over the city of Ai. Now David is faced with a similar situation. He too has had to regroup, confess sin, and ask the Lord to lead them into battle. Let this be an encouragement to you as well. You may be earnest in your desire to serve the Lord, but inevitably something will distract you, and you will fall into sin, be it large or small. (It’s all sin in God’s eyes.) Don’t stay down; don’t wallow in your defeat. God is always waiting to forgive, pick you up, and lead you into the next victory.
Proverbs 24:16 For a just man falleth seven times, and riseth up again: but the wicked shall fall into mischief.
11 Give us help from trouble: for vain is the help of man…. They must depend upon God alone. And so must we—for salvation, and for daily life as well. Remember what I said earlier: Troubles comes to shake us up, to make us lose our grip on that which cannot save or satisfy. We dare not put our trust in man or machine, but only in God, for He alone is worthy of our trust. God’s hand of punishment is never without a purpose. He desires to make us better, wiser, and more like His dear Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.
12 Through God we shall do valiantly: for He it is that shall tread down our enemies. Amen! I close with something my husband used to say. It’s a simple truth, and yet profound: “I can’t; God can; I think I’ll let Him.”
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Credit for some of these thoughts goes to Albert Barnes’ Notes on the Bible, SwordSearcher Bible Software, Deluxe Library Version 6.2, © 1995-2012.
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Photo taken in Outer Banks, NC, 2017.