Psalm 60: Lessons for Turning Setbacks into Spiritual Victories

PSALM 60-Prayer for National Victory after Defeat

Follow David’s example to become an intercessory prayer warrior1

Introduction: God used David to unite all of Israel and conquer the Philistines, Moab, Assyria, Edom, Ammon and the Amalekites. But before David prevailed, God’s anger burned against Israel because of its sins. As a result, God removed His hand of protection, and Israel suffered battlefield losses. As an intercessor, David led his people to repent, be restored, and prevail through God’s grace. When you suffer setbacks because of sin, you can also turn your setbacks into victories when you follow David’s example. When God disciplines you because of sin, you can prevail in your battles when seeking from God: (1) restoration, (2) growth, (3) hope, (4) you submit to Him, (5) seek His guidance, (6) have faith, and (7) give Him praise.

First, David lamented that Israel had lost important battles because it had angered God. As an intercessor, he cried out for God to restore Israel. When God disciplines you, He also wants you to seek His restoration. This begins with repentance. When a nation repents, God promises to restore it. Second, David lamented that Israel had so angered God that He shook the ground and brought judgment upon His people. As a man after God’s own heart, David always asked God to test his heart so that he could learn and grow from his mistakes. When God disciplines you, He also wants you to learn and grow from your mistakes. Third, despite losing initial battles, David professed his faith that God so loved His people that He would not forsake them. When God disciplines you, He also does not want you to lose hope in Him. Because God loves you, He will never leave you nor forsake you. Fourth, even though Israel had been unfaithful, David declared that God is holy and sovereign. Even when we sin, He will still ensure that His will and His Word are fulfilled. You should respond by submitting to Him and obeying Him. Fifth, David stated that no one else besides God could guide Israel to victory. Regardless of whether you are disciplined or not, God also wants you to seek His guidance. Sixth, David proclaimed that God would be faithful to grant Israel victory. God also wants you to have faith in Him to keep His promises to you. Finally, before winning the battle, David praised God for winning Israel’s future battles. Regardless of the outcome of a trial, God always deserves your praise. If you win a battle, you should also remember to give God the glory. Never seek to glorify yourself.

1. Restoration: When God Disciplines You, Seek His Spiritual Restoration. Ps. 60:1.

  • David sought God’s restoration after Israel sinned against Him. After angering God and losing His protection in battle, David cried out for God to forgive and restore Israel: “For the music director; according to Shushan Eduth. A Mikhtam of David, to teach; when he fought with Aram-naharaim and Aram-zobah, and Joab returned, and killed twelve thousand of Edom in the Valley of Salt. 1 God, You have rejected us. You have broken us; You have been angry; restore us!” (Ps. 60:1). Because of God’s faithfulness, David would eventually defeat the Philistines, Moab, Assyria, Edom, Ammon and the Amalekites (2 Sam. 8:1-8; 2 Sam. 10:1-19; 1 Chron. 18:11-13). Psalm 60 reveals that the Israelites experienced defeats on the battlefield because of its sins before God granted it victory. As soon as David learned of God’s anger at Israel, He cried out as an intercessor for God to restore His sinful people. This would have included a call to repentance.

  • Suffering can sometimes result from disobedience and rebellion. The psalmist previously professed his lament when God was responsible for the Jews’ battlefield defeats: “Yet You have rejected us and brought us to dishonor, and do not go out with our armies. 10 You cause us to turn back from the enemy; . . .” (Ps. 44:9-10). God had previously warned that rebellion can cause Him to lift His hand of protection and allow an enemy to temporarily prevail against you: “And I will set My face against you so that you will be defeated before your enemies; and those who hate you will rule over you, and you will flee when no one is pursuing you.” (Lev. 26:17). “The LORD will cause you to be defeated by your enemies; you will go out one way against them, but you will flee seven ways from their presence, and you will be an example of terror to all the kingdoms of the earth.” (Dt. 28:25). And God kept His Word and allowed the Jews to be defeated on many occasions when they rebelled against God: “Then the Spirit of God covered Zechariah, the son of Jehoiada the priest like clothing; and he stood above the people and said to them, “This is what God has said, ‘Why do you break the commandments of the LORD and do not prosper? Because you have abandoned the LORD, He has also abandoned you.’” (2 Chr. 24:20). “Therefore the wrath of the LORD was against Judah and Jerusalem, and He has made them an object of terror, of horror, and of hissing, as you see with your own eyes.” (2 Chr. 29:8). Rebellion eventually led to the Jews’ exile.

  • When God disciplines a nation, the nation’s restoration begins with repentance. When a nation sins, God promises to forgive the people if they repent of their sins and return to Him: “and My people who are called by My name humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” (2 Chron. 7:14). It is the role of the Church to be God’s salt and light in society (Matt. 5:13-16). This means that it must be an irritant in the wound of sin (like salt) and then lead the nations to repentance as God’s light. Are you praying with others for your nation to repent of its sins and return to God?

  • God promises to restore those who repent and turn back to Him. God’s discipline is always designed to bring His people back to Him. His goal is always to restore His people: “You who have shown me many troubles and distresses will revive me again, and will bring me up again from the depths of the earth.” (Ps. 71:20). “Then we will not turn back from You; revive us, and we will call upon Your name.” (Ps. 80:18). “Will You not revive us again, so that Your people may rejoice in You?” (Ps. 85:6). “But now for a brief moment grace has been shown from the LORD our God, to leave us an escaped remnant and to give us a peg in His holy place, so that our God may enlighten our eyes and grant us a little reviving in our bondage.” (Ezra 9:8). “LORD, I have heard the report about You, and I was afraid. LORD, revive Your work in the midst of the years, in the midst of the years make it known. In anger remember mercy.” (Habakkuk 3:2). “For I will restore them . . .” (Jer. 16:15b). “For I will set My eyes on them for good, and I will bring them back to this land; and I will build them up and not overthrow them, and I will plant them and not uproot them.” (Jer. 24:6). Are you praying for your nation to repent, be restored, and then grow spiritually closer to God in obedience?

2. Growth: When God Disciplines You, Seek Spiritual Growth in Him. Ps. 60:2-3.

  • David sought to grow closer to God after He disciplined Israel. David lamented that Israel had provoked God to anger and brought judgment on itself: “You have made the land quake, You have split it open; heal its cracks, for it sways. You have made Your people experience hardship; You have given us wine to drink that makes us stagger.” (Ps. 60:2-3). “Then the earth shook and quaked; and the foundations of the mountains were trembling and were shaken, because He was angry.” (Ps. 18:7). “Pull yourself up! Pull yourself up! Arise, Jerusalem! You who have drunk from the LORD’s hand the cup of His anger; the chalice of staggering you have drunk to the dregs.” (Is. 51:17).

  • David always sought to grow closer to God from his mistakes. As a man after God’s heart, David frequently invited God to test his heart and expose his sins so that he could grow from his mistakes. “Search me, God, and know my heart; put me to the test and know my anxious thoughts;” (Ps. 139:23). “Who can discern his errors? Acquit me of hidden faults.” (Ps. 19:12). “You have placed our guilty deeds before You, our hidden sins in the light of Your presence.” (Ps. 90:8). “For My eyes are on all their ways; they are not hidden from My face, nor is their wrongdoing concealed from My eyes.” (Jer. 16:17). Are you inviting God’s testing so that He can expose your sins? When God does expose your sins, are you seeking to learn from your mistakes?

3. Hope: When God Disciplines You, Don’t Lose Hope in Him. Ps. 60:4-5.

  • Despite God’s discipline, David professed hope in God’s love for His people. Even though Israel had angered God, David maintained his faith in God’ love for His people: “You have given a banner to those who fear You, that it may be displayed because of the truth. Selah That Your beloved may be rescued, save us with Your right hand, and answer us!” (Ps. 60:4-5). A banner is a flag or a sign. God has made known His love for His people through His many signs and wonders recorded in His Word. If you or someone feels that they are in a hopeless situation, read God’s promises in His Word.

  • Pray for deliverance, and let God fight your battles. David prayed that his people could look upon God’s “banner” and “be rescued” “with Your right hand.” (Ps. 60:4-5). “So that Your beloved may be rescued, save with Your right hand, and answer me!” (Ps. 108:6). “Though I walk in the midst of trouble, You will revive me; You will reach out with Your hand against the wrath of my enemies, and Your right hand will save me.” (Ps. 138:7). Among His many names, God had the name “Jehovah-Nissi” (Ex. 17:15).  In Exodus 17, Moses built an altar to Jehovah Nissi after He defeated the Amalekites in battle.  The name means “the Lord my banner”.  It also means Lord my miracle.  This name refers to the fact that God is the source of our victories.  He is the one who fights for us.  This is a great name to invoke when you petition God in your prayers to fight your battles for you. Are you praying for God’s deliverance?

Jehovah Nissi – The Lord My Banner – Laced With Grace – Christian Devotions

Follow after Jesus’ example and love those in need around you2

  • Suffering never signals the absence of Jesus’ love. In the New Testament, the Apostle Paul quoted from a psalmist’s lament about the people’s suffering (Ps. 44:22) to caution that suffering does not mean that Jesus has ceased loving His people: “Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or trouble, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? Just as it is written: ‘For Your sake we were regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.’ But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Ro. 8:35-39). When others around you are suffering and feel trapped in darkness, share these words of encouragement.

  • Regardless of the reasons for your setbacks, find hope in God’s fellowship. If your suffering is because of sin, repent and turn back to God. If your suffering is unrelated to sin, seek out God’s fellowship and comfort: “God is faithful, through whom you were called into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” (1 Cor. 1:9). You can trust that God will never give you a trial that is beyond your ability to endure: “No temptation has overtaken you except something common to mankind; and God is faithful, so He will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.” (1 Cor. 10:13). If you are suffering, cry out for God’s comfort. This allowed David to find peace even in the face of death: “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.” (Ps. 23:4).

4. Submission: Submit to God, Your Sovereign and Holy Creator. Ps. 60:6-8.

  • David proclaimed God’s holiness and His sovereignty over all the nations. Even though Israel had failed to keep its vows, David declared that God is holy and sovereign. He would ensure that His will and His Word are fulfilled in conquering certain nations: “God has spoken in His holiness: ‘I will triumph, I will divide up Shechem, and measure out the Valley of Succoth. Gilead is Mine, and Manasseh is Mine; Ephraim also is the helmet of My head; Judah is My scepter. Moab is My washbowl; I will throw My sandal over Edom; shout loud, Philistia, because of Me!’” (Ps. 60:6-8). ]).” “These statements declare the reality that God rules over the nations. God rules over all the lands and peoples.”3 David did not expressly state what Israel was supposed to do in the face of its sovereign and holy Creator. But the implication was clear. All peoples must submit to Him and obey Him. If the Jews submitted to God, His holy name would also be glorified amongst the pagan nations: “So all the peoples of the earth will see that you are called by the name of the LORD, and they will be afraid of you.” (Dt. 28:10).

  • Regardless of the reasons for your suffering, stay obedient to God. You should never demand a blessing because of your obedience. You should also never allow your suffering to cause you to give up on following God’s Word: “The snares of the wicked have surrounded me, but I have not forgotten Your Law. . . Though I have become like a wineskin in the smoke, I do not forget Your statutes.” (Ps. 119:61, 83). “So that they would put their confidence in God and not forget the works of God, but comply with His commandments,” (Ps. 78:7). Even when he suffered, Job continued to obey God: “My foot has held on to His path; I have kept His way and not turned aside.” (Job 23:11).

  • Your faith should produce the fruit of obedience. When Moses gave God’s Law, he urged the Jews to commit to following all of it, not just the parts that they agreed with: “So you shall observe to do just as the LORD your God has commanded you; you shall not turn aside to the right or to the left.” (Dt. 5:32). “and do not turn aside from any of the words which I command you today, to the right or to the left, to go after other gods to serve them.” (Dt. 28:14). “Only be strong and very courageous; be careful to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, so that you may have success wherever you go.” (Josh. 1:7). “Do not turn to the right nor to the left; turn your foot from evil.” (Prov. 4:27). King Josiah was later celebrated because his faith produced the fruit of complete obedience. “He did what was right in the sight of the LORD, and walked in the ways of his father David and did not turn aside to the right or the left.” (2 Chr. 34:2; 2 Kgs. 22:2). Do you follow all of God’s Word? Or, do you choose only the parts of God’s Word that you agree with?

  • Jesus is not your Lord if you refuse to do what He says. Without works, a person’s faith is dead: “Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself.” (Jam. 2:17). A believer may proclaim Jesus as Lord. But Jesus is not your Lord if you disobey Him: “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter.” (Matt. 7:21). “Why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?” (Lk. 6:46). “But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves.” (Jam. 1:22). “Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock.” (Matt. 7:24). “Everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not act on them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand.” (Matt. 7:26). Is your faith evidenced through obedience to Jesus?

5. Guidance: In All Circumstances, Seek His Guidance. Ps. 60:9.

  • David sought God’s guidance to move from defeat to victory. David used rhetorical questions to show that Israel could not conquer the nations unless it followed God’s will: “Who will bring me into the besieged city? Who will lead me to Edom?” (Ps. 60:9). David knew that it was not by his skill that Israel would turn defeat into victory. Israel could only hope to prevail against their more numerous enemies if God guided them.

  • Consult the Holy Spirit through the Word and prayer in all major decisions.  Believers are also warned against the sin of presumption  (Jam. 4:13-17).  “There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.”  (Prov. 14:12).  Today, Jesus has left you with His Word to guide your feet: “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.”  (Ps. 119:105; Prov. 6:23).  “I know, O LORD, that a man’s way is not in himself, nor is it in a man who walks to direct his steps.”  (Jer. 10:23).  He has also left you the Holy Spirit to apply His Word:  “I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever;”  (Jo. 14:16, 26; 15:26; 16:7; Ro. 8:26).  He will also guide you in prayer when you seek wisdom:  “But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.”  (Ja. 1:5.)  Are you seeking His guidance through the Word and prayer?

6. Faith: In All Circumstances, Never Lose Your Faith in Him. Ps. 60:10-11.

  • David proclaimed that God alone would rescue Israel from its defeats. David again used rhetorical questions to demonstrate that God would never leave nor forsake His people: “10 Have You Yourself not rejected us, God? And will You not go out with our armies, God? 11 Oh give us help against the enemy, for rescue by man is worthless.” (Ps. 60:10-11). Even when you have sinned, you can still have faith in God’s promises.

  • Faith in God requires trust in Him, not in your own strength. David knew not to place his trust in himself or in his own armies: “for rescue by man is worthless.” (Ps. 60:11). “The king is not saved by a mighty army; a warrior is not rescued by great strength.” (Ps. 33:16). “For I will not trust in my bow, nor will my sword save me.” (Ps. 44:6). “and that this entire assembly may know that the LORD does not save by sword or by spear; for the battle is the LORD’s, and He will hand you over to us!” (1 Sam. 17:47). If you face a difficult situation, don’t rely upon your own strengths and abilities.

  • When you sin, have faith in God’s promises. This psalm provides an example for how believers can find hope in even a self-created crisis: “When believers experience a serious disaster, they should immediately examine themselves to see if it is disciplinary, and if so they should pray for healing. Then, recalling the promises of God, they should pray more earnestly for divine intervention so that they might be delivered from their adversaries. They will find confidence in their prayers from the word of God that guarantees the victory, whether that is realized in part immediately, or fully in the future . . . we, too, wait for the divine warrior to arise and fulfill His promise to overcome the powers of this world.”4 But having faith in God’s Word requires that you know it.

  • All things are possible with God when you have faith. There is no request that is beyond God’s power: “Is anything too difficult for the LORD?” (Gen. 18:14(a)). “Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh; is anything too difficult for Me?” (Jer. 32:27). “I know that You can do all things, and that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted.” (Job 42:2). “‘With people this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”’ (Matt. 19:26(b); Mk. 10:27(b); Lk. 1:37; Ro. 8:31). With faith, God can deliver you from any evil.

  • God calls upon you to be patient as He molds you for His greater plans. The Bible is filled with examples of believers having to wait before God would fulfill His promises. For example, Sarah and Abraham waited 25 years in the Promised Land before He transformed her 90-year-old womb to allow her to conceive Isaac (Gen. 17:17). David also had to wait to become king as God molded Him as a servant within Saul’s court. He would then suffer under Saul’s rule. If we are patient, God uses suffering to mold believers for His greater glory: “Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction.” (Is. 48:10; Ps. 66:10; Zech. 13:9(a); Dt. 8:2-3). God also wants you to be patient as He molds you: “Rest in the LORD and wait patiently for Him; do not fret because of him who prospers in his way, because of the man who carries out wicked schemes.” (Ps. 37:7). “I waited patiently for the LORD; and He inclined to me and heard my cry.” (Ps. 40:1(b)). “I wait for the LORD, my soul does wait, and in His word do I hope.” (Ps. 130:5). Even when you don’t know God’s plan for you and things seem hopeless, will you patiently wait for God and His timing?

7. Praise: In All Circumstances, Give God the Praise For Your Victories. Ps. 60:12.

  • David praised God for the victories that He would deliver. Even though Israel had lost its initial battles, David praised God because He would be faithful in His promises of victory: “12 Through God we will do valiantly, and it is He who will trample down our enemies.” (Ps. 60:12). “David understood that it wasn’t God’s desire for Israel to leave off fighting and passively see what God would do. Instead, they would fight, but fight through God. Their fighting through God would be brave and valiant, and in it they would see God tread down our enemies. The psalm that began in defeat would end in victory.” (David Guzik on Ps. 60) (emphasis original).5

  • David regularly praised God before He responded. As our example, David praised God before God intervened on his behalf: “We will sing for joy over your victory, and in the name of our God we will set up our banners. May the LORD fulfill all your desires.” (Ps. 20:5). “But know that the LORD has set apart the godly person for Himself; the LORD hears when I call to Him.” (Ps. 4:3). “Leave me, all you who practice injustice, for the LORD has heard the sound of my weeping.” (Ps. 6:8). “In my distress I called upon the LORD, and cried to my God for help; He heard my voice from His temple, and my cry for help before Him came into His ears, . . . He also brought me out into an open place; He rescued me, because He delighted in me.” (Ps. 18:6, 19). “Blessed be the LORD, because He has heard the sound of my pleading.” (Ps. 28:6). “By this I know that You are pleased with me, because my enemy does not shout in triumph over me.” (Ps. 41:11). “Then my enemies will turn back on the day when I call; this I know, that God is for me.” (Ps. 56:9). “Though I walk in the midst of trouble, You will revive me; You will reach out with Your hand against the wrath of my enemies, and Your right hand will save me.” (Ps. 138:7). When you do God’s will, no enemy can stop you: “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us?” (Ro. 8:31). Do you also praise God for answering your prayers before He responds?

Psalm 60 - Believe Trust

When you serve God, He will protect you6

  1. James M. Hamilton Jr., Evangelical Bible Theology Commentary Psalms (Vol. I: Psalms 1-72) (Lexham Academic 2021) p. 557.↩︎

  2. Allen Ross, A Commentary of the Psalms: Volume 2 (42-89), Kregel Academic (2013) p. 353.↩︎