“O God, You have cast us off; You have broken us down; You have been displeased; Oh, restore us again! You have made the earth tremble; You have broken it; heal its breaches, for it is shaking. You have shown Your people hard things; You have made us drink the wine of confusion” (Psalm 60:1-3).
How well do you endure God’s chastening? We are told not to despise God’s chastening (Hebrews 12:5-6). Thinking of God chastening me for some wrong which I have done in order to correct my behavior does not make me want to jump with joy. Like a child who is being disciplined by their parents, it is difficult to appreciate God when He chastens us.
In the beginning of Psalm 60 we are told this is a “A Michtam of David for teaching when he fought against Mesopotamia and Syria of Zobah, and Joab returned and killed twelve thousand Edomites in the Valley of Salt”. As one reads the accounts recorded in the other parts of the inspired Scriptures about David’s battles with these nations, nothing is mentioned about David feeling God had “cast us off” or “broken us down” before the battle as the opening verses above suggest (Psalm 60:1; cf. 2 Samuel 8:1-14; 1 Chronicles 18:1-13). This is a great example of how other Scriptures help shed additional light on what was really going on behind the scenes of these events.
For reasons we are not told, prior to his conquest of these nations, David felt God had shown His people “hard things” and made them “drink the wine of confusion” in His chastening of them (Psalm 60:3). As he is about to face these nations in battle, he knows he needs God’s help to fight against them, but wonders if God will help since He had recently chastened them: “Who will bring me to the strong city? Who will lead me to Edom? Is it not You, O God, who cast us off? …” (Psalm 60:9-10).
However, to David’s credit, he stills calls upon God to help even though he felt God had been displeased with His people and disciplined them so recently: “Give us help from trouble, for the help of man is useless. Through God we will do valiantly, for it is He who shall tread down our enemies” (Psalm 60:11-12). David did remember that God had spoken before in support of His people Israel and against these other nations: “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; over Edom I will cast My shoe; Philistia, shout in triumph because of Me’" (Psalm 60:8-10). In spite of His recent chastening of His people, David believed God still loved His people dearly. In faith, David says he will display God’s banner as he faces his enemies and look to God to save His people (Psalm 60:4-5).
As I consider these verses, I realize it is very difficult to know when God is chastening me. When I have to cope with “hard things” in my life it is difficult to know whether this is God’s chastening of me for some wrong I have done, God’s allowing me to go through this trial that my faith in Him may grow (cf. Romans 5:3-4), or Satan’s attacking me to try to discourage me from following God (cf. Job 1:9-12). Only God and I know what has been going on in my life and in my heart that might cause Him to need to chasten me to draw me closer to Him. Whichever of these it may be, I learn a great lesson here from David: continue to call upon God in faith. Today, if I feel I am being chastened by God, I will strive to embrace His chastening and not despise His chastening!
“My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord, Nor detest His correction; for whom the Lord loves He corrects, Just as a father the son in whom he delights” (Proverbs 3:11-12).