The Righteous One’s Prayer
for Victory for His People

a brief study of Psalm 60, adapted from PCC Prayer Meeting Exhortation on 25 July 2008

Psalm 60 may be known as a didactic psalm as its title suggests. A didactic psalm is psalm that is designed for teaching. But Psalm 60 is not the usual kind of didactic psalm such as Psalm 1, 19 or 25 which are not founded upon any particular occasion. Rather it is written as a prayer at a time of war.

There was war in Israel during the days of Judges up to the days of king Saul. In particular, under the reign of king Saul, the man after the people’s heart. The people suffered massive defeat in the hand of the Philistines, so much so that Saul and his son were killed in battle and the troops were scattered.

But things were looking better under the leadership of David, the man after God’s heart. Under David, the people were able not only to repel foreign powers, but actually to fight against them in their own turf. On one occasion, recorded in 2 Samuel 8, David led his men up North to Syria to fight against the army of Zoba and the Syrian army which had come to help the king of Zoba. David and his man won a convincing victory.

But while they were away, the Edomites began to gather themselves to invade Judah. David and his generals Joab and Abishai returned and fought against them in the Valley of Salt, SSW of the Dead Sea and North of Edom. The Edomites were soundly defeated. 12,000 of their troops were killed.

Having defeated the Edomite army, David and his generals began to prepare to march into Edom to conquer the land (cf. v. 9).

Apparently another 6,000 Edomites were killed in the invasion so altogether, 18,000 of the Edomite army were killed (cf. 1 Kgs 11:15-16; 2 Chr 18:12).

David probably wrote this psalm during the days before they marched into Edom. He wrote it, perhaps, to encourage his troops to trust in the Lord who has turned the tide against their enemies and begun to restore the glory of Israel.

But David wrote, no doubt, in the spirit of Christ so that this psalm is not only his word, but the word of Christ; and the praying singer of this psalm is not merely David, but the greater David united to His people. Therefore, this psalm may be used by God’s people united to the greater David, the Righteous One of God as we attempt great things for the Lord (cf. Ps 126:2-3).

We may entitle this psalm, “The Righteous One’s prayer for victory for His people.”  

This psalm has 3 parts: First, there is a Petition for deliverance (v. 1-5). Secondly, there is an Assurance of victory (v. 6-8); and thirdly, there is note of Confidence (v. 9-12).

1. Petition for Deliverance

Every prayer for victory and restoration must begin with an acknowledgement of the cause of defeat. So our psalm begins with such an acknowledgement. 

1 O God, thou hast cast us off, thou hast scattered us, thou hast been displeased; O turn thyself to us again.   2 Thou hast made the earth to tremble; thou hast broken it: heal the breaches thereof; for it shaketh. 3 Thou hast shewed thy people hard things: thou hast made us to drink the wine of astonishment.

During the days of Saul, Israel was in disarray. The people were divided and scattered. But why? Because God was displeased. Why was God displeased? Because God’s people have turned aside from following Him and every man did that which was right in his own eyes. We need only to read the book of Judges to know how bad the situation had become.

So the Lord brought disasters upon his own people. He made them suffer defeat, hardship and astonishment.

But as the Lord brought defeat, so he can bring victory to his people. So let us cry with the Psalmist, “O turn thyself to us again” (v. 1); and “heal the breaches thereof” (v. 2).

But on what basis should the Father heal and restore the people? The answer, I believe is found in verses 4-5—

 4 Thou hast given a banner to them that fear thee, that it may be displayed because of the truth. 5 That thy beloved may be delivered; save with thy right hand, and hear me.

What is this banner? The banner is none other than Christ Himself!

In Numbers 21:9, we read:

“And Moses made a serpent of brass, and put it upon a pole, and it came to pass, that if a serpent had bitten any man, when he beheld the serpent of brass, he lived.”

The brass serpent represented Christ. But do you realise that the words translated ‘it upon a pole’ translates a Hebrew word that is translated ‘banner’ in our text. What Moses essentially did was to lift the brazen serpent up as an ensign to represent Christ.

Similarly, in Isaiah 11:10, we read:

“And in that day there shall be a root of Jesse, which shall stand for an ensign of the people; to it shall the Gentiles seek: and his rest shall be glorious.” (Isa 11:10)

The word translated ‘ensign’ is the same word as that translated ‘banner’ in our text. The ‘root of Jesse’ is none other than Christ. So the banner that is given to them that fear God, is no doubt, a reference to Christ.

4 Thou hast given a banner to them that fear thee, that it may be displayed because of the truth.

Now, the word ‘truth’ here is not the usual word for ‘truth’. Rather it is a word that literally means ‘bow’ as in ‘bow and arrow.’ The truth is that Israel deserved God’s wrath and curse for their sin. And so God’s wrath’ was as it were arrows primed on a bow ready to shoot at His people.

But God has given them a banner, even Christ, to be lifted up against the attack. Christ stands as a representative of all them that fear the LORD. He stood in our place to take all the arrows of God’s wrath shot at us.

So Christ our mediator, the only mediator between God and man, petitions the Father on our behalf:

5 That thy beloved [i.e. thy beloved people] may be delivered; save with thy right hand, and hear me.

The ‘beloved’ is in the plural in the Hebrew, so it is a reference to God people. Our Lord is pleading on behalf of His people for a powerful deliverance for His sake.

Thank God for Christ our banner. For His sake, though the Father will try the church because of her sin, He will always preserve her and save those who fear His name.

Therefore, as we petition the Father for deliverance, we can always have the assurance of victory.

2. Assurance of Victory

Indeed, the Father Himself has given us assurance: “God has spoken in his holiness” (v. 6) What did God say?

Most modern translations including the NIV, NASB and even the NKJV translate the second part of verse 6 all the way to verse 8 as the direct speech of God. In other words, they would take the punctuation after “God hath spoken in his holiness” as a colon rather than a semi-colon.

Which version is correct? Well, personally, I think the way that our translators have it makes more sense. The ‘I’ in verse 6 is the same as the ‘me’ in verse 5.

If this is right, and I believe it is, then we must ask: What did God say in His holiness?

Well, the answer is found in another psalm, in Psalm 89:35—

35 Once have I sworn by my holiness that I will not lie unto David.  36 His seed shall endure for ever, and his throne as the sun before me” (Ps 89:35-36)

God has sworn in His holiness that David’s throne will be established and his seed will endure forever.

On the basis of this, David writes:

6 …I will rejoice, I will divide Shechem, and mete out the valley of Succoth. 7 Gilead is mine, and Manasseh is mine; Ephraim also is the strength of mine head; Judah is my lawgiver; 8 Moab is my washpot; over Edom will I cast out my shoe: Philistia, triumph thou because of me.

Israel was at war. The nation was unstable. The Northern tribes just recently acknowledged David as king. And the Syrians, the Edomites, the Moabites and the Philistines all wanted a piece of the land.

David, on the basis of God’s promise could confidently assert that all the tribes and cities in the North and East— Schechem, Succoth, Gilead, Manasseh, Ephraim are his to rule and to apportion as king. Ephraim would be the strength of his head. It would provide military might. And he would rule from Judah. “Judah is my lawgiver” he says.

And David claimed victory over Moab, Edom and Philistia. Moab would be like a washbasin given to the conqueror to refresh himself. Edom would pick up his shoes like a slave and the Philistines will look to him for success.

But wait a minute! Is this all about David? Is this all about the tribes and cities in the Old Testament? Is this all about Edom, Moab and Philistia?

No, no, beloved brethren and children, if it is all about David and the tribes and enemies of Israel, then this song would not be very meaningful for New Testament singing.

But no; we noted that the ‘I’ of verse 6, is also the ‘me’ of verse 5. Who is the ‘me’ of verse 5? Not just David, but the greater David. The lesser David no longer intercedes for his people; but the greater David continues to do so at the right hand of the throne of God.

Indeed, what God has sworn in His holiness pertains to the Greater David, for as Dr Luke, citing Psalm 89, puts it: “Of this man’s seed hath God according to his promise raised unto Israel a Saviour, Jesus” (Acts 13:23).

Christ, more than David of Old, had the right to claim ownership and sovereignty over His people and victory over His enemies.

Christ has secured the victory. He secured it at the Cross. But it pleases God to leave the complete and final victory for a future day. “For he must reign,” says the apostle Paul. “till he hath put all enemies under his feet” (1 Cor 15:25).

But victory is certain. Christ has laid claim to His people and all the heavenly blessings that the Promise land typifies. Christ has declared victory over enemies. His word will not fail.

Spiritual Gilead, Succoth, Manasseh, Ephraim and Judah are His to apportion. And the people signified by the people who dwelled in this land are His to rule. He who has begun a good work in every congregation in the Israel of God will perfect it unto the day of His revelation. Spiritual Edom, Moab and Philistia will be conquered, for He has conquered and is conquering (cf. Rev 6:2). He is conquering sin by His Spirit. He is conquering sinners by His Gospel. One day every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord and King. God has spoken in His holiness. It will happen.

And so our King would have us to join hHim to sing the words of His confidence…

3. Hope of Confidence

9 Who will bring me into the strong city? who will lead me into Edom?  10 Wilt not thou, O God, which hadst cast us off? and thou, O God, which didst not go out with our armies? 11 Give us help from trouble: for vain is the help of man.  12 Through God we shall do valiantly: for he it is that shall tread down our enemies.

David of old could have confidence that the Father would restore the glory of his people and lead him into Edom. He understood that vain is the help of man, but through God he would do valiantly.

How much more does the greater David have the confidence!  As man he must pray unto the Father, as God he must fulfill the prayer. He is the God-Man. “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth” (Mt 28:18), He says. Our Lord will not fail because God is on His side.

So as His people we too will not fail if we are fighting His battles. We must be sure that we are fighting His battle and not our own battle. But if we are sure, and we fight in His strength and confidence, we can have every reason to believe that He will grant us success.


Beloved brethren and children, I look at our church, and indeed the church at large, and I feel like we are at the early days of David. God has given us victory, but things are unsettled, and there are many battles to fight. Do we need to feel weak and discouraged? No, no; let us rely on the Lord. Vain is the help of man; but through God we shall do valiantly. If the Lord be for us, who can be against us? If we are seeking to do His work, in His ways, in obedience to our King, we can have the firm confidence that we shall have the victory.

Let us, therefore, sing this psalm to encourage each other in our battles together. And likewise, let us individually find encouragement in this psalm.

I don’t know about you, but sometimes I feel that my life can be full of uncertainty like Israel in the early days of David. And there are battles to be fought and conquests to be made. Is this how your life is at the moment? If it is, cry unto the Father in the words of this psalm. As our Lord used this psalm, so we who are united to Him may use it. Cry unto the Father for His help! He will send his Son and His Spirit, for says our Lord, “I will be with you always, even unto the end of the world.”

Vain is the help of man, but with God you will do valiantly. You will tread down your enemies, be they your sin and weakness, or be they obstacles that stand in the way of holiness and the enjoyment and glory of God by your life. Amen.

—JJ Lim