Hope in Defeat
Save us and help us with your right hand that those you love may be delivered . . . . Give us aid against the enemy, for the help of man is worthless. Psalm 60:5,11
Defeat. I don’t always respond well to it. Unsavory companions usually accompany defeat: doubt, discouragement, disappointment, and sometimes denial. They plant potentially destructive questions in my mind: What’s wrong with me? Why did this happen? Is God angry with me?
David knew a lot about defeat. His high position in King Saul’s court was ripped away from him. He was exiled from his homeland. Innocent people died because of his poor decisions. Family belittled him. Friends betrayed him. All before he turned 30.
So when David writes about responding to defeat, I pay attention. The military defeat mentioned in Psalm 60 occurred at a high point in his life: when he reigned over both Israel and Judah (2 Samuel 8:1-14). Through God’s power, the army had been consistently defeating their enemies—God’s enemies—the Edomites, Philistines, and Moabites. In this one instance, however, God’s army had lost the battle. Israelites died.
David begins the psalm with the mindset of “you have rejected us, O God . . . you have been angry” (v. 1). That happens to me too. But immediately David counters with “now restore us” (v. 1). That’s the attitude I also need to embrace.
Verse 4 indicates that although some had disobeyed God, some had remained faithful: “But for those who fear you, you have raised a banner to be unfurled against the bow.” In ancient times, banners identified armies. David reminds himself, and maybe his soldiers, that Israel’s army marches under God’s authority and protection. He therefore prays, “Save us . . . help us . . . that those you love may be delivered” (v. 5). Then David lists the nations God had said His people would destroy (vv. 6-10). He asks God to honor those promises by giving the army victory again (vv. 11-12).
David understood that defeat is a pause, not an end—a time for evaluation, perhaps redirection, but never an indication that God is finished with us.
God can turn every defeat into a victory if we follow David’s example: seek God’s guidance in prayer, claim His promises, and commit ourselves to His leadership. We march under His banner; therefore defeat can never vanquish us.
Feeling defeated? Respond by modeling your prayers after these psalms, written during David’s fugitive years: Psalm 55, 56, and 59.
Read Exodus 17:8-16. David may have been referring to this battle in Psalm 60:4. Moses named his altar of thanksgiving Jehovah-Nissi—the LORD is our banner. How can knowing that God is our banner help us in our daily battles?
What unsavory companions does defeat bring into your life? Combat them with these promises: Psalm 34:17-22, Isaiah 54:17, Romans 8:35-37, and Revelation 3:21.
Denise K. Loock