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Sunday, July 11, 2021

“You Have Raised A Banner” Psalm 60 [Matt's Messages]

“You Have Raised A Banner”
Lanse Evangelical Free Church
July 11, 2021 :: Psalm 60

Honestly, I picked Psalm 60 for today because it’s so weird.

It’s so exotic.

I don’t know how many times I’ve read this psalm, and I always think that verses 6 through 8, especially, are so poetic and powerful and esoteric and just plain weird.

And I’m drawn towards those weird parts of the Bible because I’ve learned over the years that if you read and study them long enough, and stare at them long enough and listen to them long enough, those weird parts of the Bible often become the most beautiful and precious parts of the Bible to you.

So while we’re still in this series on the fortifying truth of the Psalms, I wanted to get to this one and spend some time really listening to it.

Psalm 60 is a “miktam” attributed to King David and intended for teaching to others. So when you are in a similar situation, this prayer song of faith can be an instructive model for your own prayers.

David intended it to be used by the director of worship music in the temple and set to the tune that we have seen before in other psalms, “The Lily of the Covenant.” And some of those songs have been very happy (like the wedding song of Psalm 45) and some have been very sad like the lament of Psalm 69

So, I’m really not sure what this music might have sounded like.

This particular song starts out sad but ends all happy, faith-filled, and confident.

And the turning point of the song is verse 4, when King David prays to God saying, “But for those who fear you, you have raised a banner to be unfurled against the bow.”

So that’s our title for today, “You Have Raised a Banner.”


Life is a fight.

Life is a fight, is it not?

There are moments of peace, yes, but when we are honest and are telling ourselves the truth, so much of life is a fight. And like it or not, we have all been born into a world at war. An unseen war in the heavenlies. 

All around us rages a spiritual battle. And not only are we caught up in the middle of it, but we need to choose sides. 

Life is a fight.

For King David that was literally true. So much of his life was taken up by literally fighting.

David was a man of war leading a country at war.

And sometimes they won, but other times they lost.

When Psalm 60 begins, they have just lost. Israel has, apparently, lost a big battle. Maybe more than one.

And the nation is reeling from their defeat.

Remember two weeks ago when we read Psalm 124 and what a victory song that was?

“We have escaped! We have escaped!”

“The LORD was on our side!”

Well, this song is the opposite. When this song begins, the Lord had not been on their side. He had not shown up to deliver them. He allowed them to lose and to lose badly.

Let’s read. Psalm 60, verses 1 through 3.

“You have rejected us, O God, and burst forth upon us; you have been angry–now restore us! You have shaken the land and torn it open; mend its fractures, for it is quaking. You have shown your people desperate times; you have given us wine that makes us stagger.”

Last week, we looked at a song (Psalm 100) that started out happy and joyful and carried through happy and joyful and thankful to the end. But we said last week that we also need the sad songs of the psalter because not every day is a happy day, and this song, Psalm 60, starts out very sad.

David feels rejected.
David says that God has "burst forth” upon Israel.
David says that the land has been shaken and torn open and fractured and is quaking.

I don’t think that means literal earthquakes, though that is possible.

I think he’s using an earthquake as a metaphor for how shaken they all feel because God has let them lose.

And make no mistake, it is God who has allowed this disaster. Verse 3 again.

“You have shown your people desperate times; you have given us wine that makes us stagger.”

Perhaps the cup of God’s wrath (cf. Psalm 75:8). When you drink this cup, you can’t function any more, so you lose your sense, and you stagger around and lose, and lose, and lose every battle. You don’t want to go to war drunk.

But that was part of God’s discipline of Israel at this time.

David says that God was angry (v.1), “You have been angry.” That’s why Israel was on the ropes. They were under judgment. They were feeling God’s displeasure.

And when that sad and scary thing happens, it’s good and right to sing about it!

When you feel like this, sing about it! And pray about it! Take it to the Lord in prayer.

Sometimes we think that when we feel like this, we should just be quiet until the feelings pass.

But these are divinely authorized words to use when you feel like God has rejected you. When God has burst forth upon you. When God has let the earth shake and fall down around you. 

Talk to Him.

And, if you belong to Him, ask Him to fix it again.

Did you notice that? Did you hear how David mixes both his lament and his supplication in the same song? He both cries out in pain and asks in faith? Listen again.

“You have rejected us, O God, and burst forth upon us; you have been angry–now restore us! You have shaken the land and torn it open; mend its fractures...”

David asks for help even though he knows that they don’t deserve it.

We don’t know all of the details about the situation in which David wrote this psalm.

There is a lot in the superscription, which we will look at in a minute, but there is also a lot we don’t know. For example, we don’t know what they had done wrong to earn the Lord’s displeasure so that he would discipline them with defeat.

What we do know is that they were feeling it.

But David wasn’t going to give up.

Instead, he was going to repent and try again.

Because David knew his God, and that gave him hope. Look at verse 4.

“But for those who fear you, you have raised a banner to be unfurled against the bow. Selah”

Just think about that.

God has raised a banner.

He has raised a signal flag.

Now that could be a flag signaling defeat and retreat so that verse 4 puts the sad cap on the sad song of verses 1 through 3.

But I think this banner is a banner of hope. It’s unfurled against the bow. That is, the enemies of Israel are aiming their bows at Israel, and this banner in defiance of the bows is unfurled.

Look at that! Look at that banner! 

God is giving them a rallying point.

God is identifying with His people and raising His banner over them.

And they can rally to Him.

Did you notice for whom this banner is raised? It’s not just Israel. Look closely again at verse 4.

“But for those who fear you, you have raised a banner to be unfurled against the bow.”

This banner is not for everyone; this banner, which indicates sure and certain victory, is for those who fear God.

“The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom.”

I have only two points of application for this message, and here’s the first one:

#1. REVERE THE RAISER OF THE BANNER.

Revere the One Who raises the banner.

In other words, “fear God.”

Fear God.

Obviously, Israel had failed to fear God. If they were walking in the fear of the Lord, they would not have received this loss, this setback sung about in Psalm 60:1-3.

In the Old Testament, the blessing of Israel was tied to their faithful obedience.

There were, of course, exceptions as we’ve learned from other psalms like Psalm 73. Times when bad things happened to them even when they were being faithful.

But David knew that this defeat had come because of their sins. God was angry with them (v.1).

They were not fearing the LORD.

But that was not the end.

That was the beginning of the story, but it did not have to be the end of the story.

That was the beginning of the song, but it did not have to be the end of the song.

And the same is true for you and me.

Perhaps you have not been living in the fear of the LORD.

Perhaps you have been living foolishly.

The neglect of the fear of the Lord is the beginning of folly.

Maybe that’s how your song has been going, but it does not have to end that way.

“But for those who fear you, you have raised a banner to be unfurled against the bow.”

Revere the Raiser of the banner.

Repent and fear God.

And cry out to Him for grace. Verse 5.

“Save us and help us with your right hand, that those you love may be delivered.”

If you have never trusted the Lord for your own salvation from your sins, I invite you to do so right now.

Jesus Christ Himself, the Son of God Himself, was raised up on a Cross to die for the sins of His people.

And that’s what saves us. He saves those whom He loves.

What a precious phrase that is!

Do you know, beloved, that you are beloved?

You are beloved.

If I’m not mistaken, I believe that the Hebrew there in verse 5 for “those you love” is linguistically connected to David’s own name “yahdid.” “Beloved.”

David knows that they don’t deserve to be saved. They don’t deserve to be rescued. They don’t deserve to be helped. They don’t deserve to be delivered.

But that doesn’t stop David from asking because He knows that God has called them, “Beloved.”

And he knows that God has raised a banner to be unfurled against their enemies’ bows.

What is that banner?

It could just be the name of God. It could just be a metaphor for God’s active presence to save them.

But I tend to think that it’s actually verses 6 through 8 that is the banner.

Some translations say in verse 5 that the banner is unfurled because of the truth.

And that’s a legitimate way of translating the Hebrew. So it would be a banner of truth.

Either way, I tend to think that verses 6 through 8 is the banner. And it’s the banner of God’s promises of ultimate victory for His people and His name.

Let’s look at them. Here’s where it gets all weird and tongue twisty. Verse 6.

“God has spoken from his sanctuary: ‘In triumph I will parcel out Shechem and measure off the Valley of Succoth. Gilead is mine, and Manasseh is mine; Ephraim is my helmet, Judah my scepter. Moab is my washbasin, upon Edom I toss my sandal; over Philistia I shout in triumph.’”

Well, that was clear, right?

Kind of sounds like an auctioneer doesn’t it?

“Gilead is mine, and Manasseh is mine; Ephraim is my helmet, Judah my scepter. Moab is my washbasin, upon Edom I toss my sandal...SOLD! Over Philistia I shout in triumph!”

What is all of that?!

All of that is a promise.

All of that is a prophecy.

This is what God has said will most certainly happen. 

And it can be a banner unfurled for those who fear Him.

Let’s go a little slower. Verse 6 again.

“God has spoken from his sanctuary [At some point, He had given them these divine words. This is an oracle. This is a prophecy. God has sad it, and it will happen. What did He say?] ‘In triumph I will parcel out Shechem and measure off the Valley of Succoth.”

God has said that He will triumph. Believe that? Okay good.

And He has said that He will parcel out Shechem. Where is that?

It might be good for you this afternoon to get out some Bible maps. Most paper Bibles have them in the back. They are always multi-colored, and they can be fascinating.

Shechem is the first place that Jacob started to settle down after he left his Uncle Laban in the book of Genesis. It’s in the North. And it’s on the West side of the Jordan.

Shechem is also the place where Joshua met with all Israel at the end of the book of Joshua to parcel out the Promised Land. Read Joshua chapter 24. 


How about the Valley of Succoth? Where is that? It’s on the East Side of the Jordan. 

And here’s something else on the East side of the Jordan. The land of Gilead. V.7

“Gilead is mine.”

“Manasseh is mine.”

What about Manasseh? What side of the Jordan was the tribe of Manesseh on?

Trick question. It was on both sides! Manasseh (son of Joseph) straddled the Jordan River.

And what was the name of Manasseh’s brother (Joseph’s other son, double portion for those tribes).

Ephraim, right? V.7

“Ephraim is my helmet.” A sign of military power and might.

Ephraim was a nickname for the whole northern area of Israel. When the nation was eventually split into two kingdoms, the northern kingdom was often called “Ephraim.”

What was the southern kingdom called?

Judah. 

Verse 7, “Ephraim is my helmet, Judah my scepter.”

And why is that? Because who came from Judah?

King David and the Davidic line.


Is there anything missing? North, East, West, South.

I think that’s everything.

And the key word here is “mine.”

Who keeps saying, “Mine?” Is that the psalmist? Is that David.

No, it’s the Lord! “God has spoken from his sanctuary, “In triumph I will parcel out the North and the South and the East and West. Because they are mine, mine, mine, mine, mine, mine.”

I think that’s the banner.

God has said that this land would be His no matter what and nothing is going to stop Him.

And He’s going to give it to those who fear Him, to His beloved.

And David knows that is a fact even though it has hasn’t fully happened yet, so he prays accordingly.

God has said that this land would be His no matter what and nothing is going to stop Him.

And that includes all of Israel’s enemies. They are, in a real sense, His, as well. Look at verse 8.

“Moab is my washbasin, upon Edom I toss my sandal; over Philistia I shout in triumph.’”
Moab is an enemy to the East.

Edom is an enemy to the South. They are probably the ones who just defeated Israel.

And Philistia was an enemy that infiltrated from the West.

Will any of these bad guys stop God’s plans and purposes and promises?

“Moab is my washbasin...”

I think that’s a bowl for washing His feet. Moab is my footbath.

“Upon Edom I toss my sandal...”  Edom is my shoe-rack.

And Philistia, "I will shout in triumph." Or the Hebrew actually indicates that Philistia will do the shouting. They will one day shout in victory that He is their Lord.

And if that is the banner that God is raising, then what should we do?

Here’s point number two of two:

#3. RALLY TO THE RAISED BANNER.

Get back up and fight again. By faith, fight again.

Because God is not going to lose.

That’s where David goes with this as he rounds out his prayer song. Listen to the rhetorical question in verse 9.

“Who will bring me to the fortified city? Who will lead me to Edom?”

It’s time to go back to war, and it’s not going to be easy.

The city is fortified, and they beat us last time. Who will lead us back? V.10

“Is it not you, O God, you who have rejected us and no longer go out with our armies? [Help us to see Your banner! And rally to Your banner. And fear You!” v.11] Give us aid against the enemy, for the help of man is worthless. [If we trust in ourselves, we’re in big trouble. If they trust in me, King David, then they are in big trouble. But what if, what if we trust in You? V.12] With God we will gain the victory, and he will trample down our enemies.”

Don’t put your trust in mere humans.

They will always disappoint you at some point.

Don’t put your hope in politicians or pastors or any other people.

“The help of man is worthless” as a banner. Don’t rally to the banner of man.

But, instead, rally to the raised banner of the promises of God.

Because God will not lose.


And if we rally to Him, then we, too, will experience the ultimate victory.

Romans 16:20 says, “The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet.”

Life is a fight.

But I’ll tell you a secret: God wins.

And He’s raised a banner that says it.

Now, let’s go back up to the top of the psalm and look at the superscription.

It might surprise you.

You might think it will say, “When David fought such and such a king and lost so badly he had to write this song.”

But it actually says:

“When he fought Aram Naharaim and Aram Zobah, and when Joab [on his orders] returned and struck down twelve thousand Edomites in the Valley of Salt.” 

“With God we will gain the victory, and he will trample down our enemies.”

Now our enemies today in the New Covenant era are not flesh and blood. They spiritual enemies: the world, the flesh, and the devil.

And we fight them with spiritual weapons, especially weapons of prayer and of love.

But the ultimate victory is just as assured.

Rally to His raised banner!

You know, it’s interesting. You might think the banner verses of Psalm 60 were just for David and just for that particular moment in his life.

But the superscription says that this psalm is for teaching. It’s actually the only psalm with that particular designation. 

And David really meant it.

Because he uses these words again. Read Psalm 108 when you have a chance.

It ends like this:

“God has spoken from his sanctuary: ‘In triumph I will parcel out Shechem and measure off the Valley of Succoth. Gilead is mine, Manasseh is mine; Ephraim is my helmet, Judah my scepter. Moab is my washbasin, upon Edom I toss my sandal; over Philistia I shout in triumph.’ Who will bring me to the fortified city? Who will lead me to Edom? Is it not you, O God, you who have rejected us and no longer go out with our armies? Give us aid against the enemy, for the help of man is worthless. With God we will gain the victory, and he will trample down our enemies.”

You know, maybe it’s not so weird after all.

Maybe it’s just what we need to remind ourselves every single day.

“With God we will gain the victory.”


***

Fortifying Truth - Psalms - Fall 2020 to Summer 2021

01. Majestic and Mindful - Psalm 8
02. All Our Days - Psalm 90
03. "The LORD on High Is Mighty!" - Psalm 93
04. "The LORD Is My Shepherd" - Psalm 23
05. "Praise the LORD, O My Soul!" - Psalm 103
06. "The Blessing of Aaron's Oily Beard" - Psalm 133
07. "A Dying Thirst for the Living God" - Psalm 42
08. "Our Fortress" - Psalm 46
09. Unrestless - Psalm 131
10. "Sun and Shield" - Psalm 84
11. "With Songs of Joy" - Psalm 126
12. "His Love Endures Forever" - Psalm 136
13. "How Many Are Your Works, O LORD!" - Psalm 104
14. "My Soul Waits for the Lord" - Psalm 130
15. "Remember David" - Psalm 132
16. "My Son" - Psalm 2
17. "Search Me" - Psalm 139
18. "Cleanse Me" - Psalm 51
19. "A New Song" - Psalm 96
20. "Hear My Prayer, O LORD." - Psalm 86
21. "May All the Peoples Praise You" - Psalm 67
22. "A Wedding Song" - Psalm 45
23. "My Feet Had Almost Slipped" - Psalm 73
24. “Rejoicing Comes in the Morning" - Psalm 30
25. 'The Waters Have Come Up To My Neck" - Psalm 69
26. "Cast Your Cares on the LORD" - Psalm 55
27. "“My God, My God, Why Have You Forsaken Me?" - Psalm 22
28. "You Will Not Abandon Me To the Grave" - Psalm 16
29. "He Will Rule" - Psalm 72
30. "Taste and See That the LORD is Good" - Psalm 34
31. "Since My Youth" - Psalm 71
32. "Your Statutes Are Wonderful" - Psalm 119
33. "The LORD Our God Is Holy" - Psalm 99
34. "Not To Us, O LORD" - Psalm 115
35. "Blessed" - Psalm 32
36. "Sit At My Right Hand" - Psalm 110
37. "Your Love Is Better Than Life" - Psalm 63
38. "Blessed Is the Man Who Fears the LORD" - Psalm 112
39. "If the LORD Had Not Been On Our Side" - Psalm 124

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