Posted by: stpowen | August 23, 2009

Moab is my Washpot

From a sermon preached at Scott Drive Church, Exmouth

Please read Psalm 60.

At first reading this seems a rather strange Psalm.  Parts of it may even appear faintly ridiculous to unsanctified eyes.  The English comedian, Stephen Fry, entitled his autobiography, Moab is my Washpot (v8 ), presumably because he found the words quaint or humorous.  But if we look further into this Psalm, remembering that God inspired David to write it, we shall find instruction and encouragement, and something deeply comforting to all God’s people.

The first place to look is at the extended title.  The Psalm is a Michtam or ‘teaching’ of David.  It was written to teach us something.  We also know something of the occasion on which it was written.  It was probably composed on the eve of battle (we can read more about that in 1Chronicles 18 ) and published afterwards.  This battle occurred early in David’s reign.  David had inherited a weakened kingdom.  The death of Saul and his sons came about in a defeat by the Philistines.  Following that, there was civil war between David and Saul’s last surviving son, Ishbosheth and his general, Abner.  You can read about it in 2Samuel 2-4.  These were dark days for Israel.

However, I don’t want to concentrate on history.  I want to look at what these verses mean for us.  We are told that we may draw application for ourselves in the Old Testament Scriptures.  Indeed, Paul tells us that David and the other O.T. writers were not writing so much for their own times as for ours.  ‘For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we, through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope’ (Rom 15:4 ).  Also, we are to find the Lord Jesus Christ in the Old Testament.  Our Lord tells us, ‘These are [the Scriptures] that testify of Me’ (John 5:39.  cf. also 1Peter 1:10-12 ).  So with these thoughts in mind, let us look at this wonderful Psalm and see what it has to say to Britain, to America, to our churches and to each one of us personally.

The Psalm divides itself into four sections:-

Verses 1-3 reveal God’s displeasure towards His people.

In verses 4-5, God’s Banner is displayed.  It is a banner of Truth and a banner of Salvation.

In verses 6-8, God expresses His sovereignty over the whole world;  not only over His own people but also over His enemies.

In verses 9-12, the truth is revealed that in David’s strength or in our strength, we can do nothing, but with God’s aid, we can do all things.

Vs 1-3.  ‘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.’

Israel had been brought low.  The death of King Saul, the defeat by the Philistines and the civil war that followed had weakened the land.  Now there were two armies threatening her very existence.  Times could hardly have been more desperate.  Matters were so unsettled that it seemed as if the very earth was shaking.  Things that had once appeared solid and reliable suddenly seemed insecure.  ‘You have broken it.’  As fissures and cracks appear in the ground during a powerful earthquake, and walls crack and threaten to collapse, so it was in the kingdom.  King Saul, who had had such a promising start to his reign, had shown himself to be devoid of any spiritual worth.  He killed the Priests of Jehovah when they crossed him (1Sam 22:18 ), and consulted a medium rather than the Living God (1Sam 28:7; Isaiah 8:19 ). And so it is in the Church of Jesus Christ today.  I realise that most of my readers will perhaps be American and circumstances there are rather different, but the Churches in Britain are in a dreadful state.  Attendances almost everywhere are down.  In 1905, 50% of all children went to some sort of Sunday School;  today it is 3 or 4%.  Not many years ago, politicians had at least to pay lip service to Christianity as the established religion of the country; more recently, a Home Secretary felt free to couple evangelical Christians with Islamic terrorists.  Comedians and playwrites feel free to publish the vilest blasphemies angainst Christ.

‘You have made us drink the wine of confusion (or ‘astonishment’:  literally, ‘wine of staggering’).  Our afflictions have made us stagger like men drunk with some potent and bitter wine.  Crime, violence and immorality and sexual diseases are running rampant in the land and no one has the least idea how to restrain them, but instead stagger from one quack remedy to another without avail.  David knows that this is the Lord’s doing- God is sovereign.  It is He who has given us this wine to drink.  If trouble comes to a nation God has permitted it.  ‘You have broken us down;  You have been displeased.’  If we have sinned against Him, as Israel sinned, then He has sent these trials to chastise us, but also to purge us from our sins and to call us back to Him (2Chron 7:13-14 ).  Our churches too have been shown hard things, with internal divisions and falling congregations.  Yet if we are truly the Lord’s people, these things are ultimately for our own good, and the Lord will bring us back again.  There is a wonderful promise in Hosea 6:1-2.  ‘Come, and let us return to the Lord;  for He has torn, but He will heal us;  He has stricken, but He will bind us up.  After two days, He will revive us;  on the third day He will raise us up, that we may live in His sight.’


Vs 4-5. ‘You have given a banner to those who fear You, that it may be displayed because of the truth.  That Your beloved may be delivered, save with Your right hand, and hear me.’

Here the theme takes a sudden turn.  The Lord has given us a banner.  Now to be any use, a banner has to be displayed.  In a battle, the banner was entrusted to the bravest men and when it was unfurled, the army would rally to it.  It would show where the king or the general was, and when the banner was raised, soldiers would gain fresh heart because they knew that their leader was still with them.  The banner that God has given to us is the Lord Jesus Christ.  ‘As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should have eternal life’ (John 3:14-15 ).  A banner must be lifted up so that friend and foe alike can see it.  In Numbers 21:4-9, we read that God commanded Moses to made a bronze serpent, to nail it to a pole and lift it up.  Whoever looked at the serpent was healed.  1.500 years later, men took the Lord Jesus Christ, nailed Him to a cross and lifted Him up for all to see.  He is our banner.  Our task today is to lift up the Lord Jesus in our witness and in our preaching so that all men can see Him and say, “Look, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29 ), and whoever will look and believe on Him will be saved (Isaiah 45:22 ).   We display our banner ‘because of the truth.’ just as the Apostles did.  Peter declared, “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12 ).  Psalm 20:5 declares, ‘And in the Name of our God we will set up our banners!’  We must set up our banner in the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ so that whoever looks to Him will be saved.

‘….That Your beloved may be delivered.’  God’s beloved people, His elect will be delivered, but they will only be saved as we, the Church, lift up the Lord Jesus Christ..  He Himself declared, ‘And I, if I am lifted up from the earth will draw all peoples to Myself.’  Have you, the reader, looked to the Lord Jesus Christ?  Do you know that you are one of God’s elect?  Do you say to yourself, “Perhaps I’m not one of the elect;  perhaps, whatever I do, God won’t save me”?  Look to the banner!  Look to the Lord Jesus Christ!  Everyone who trusts in Him will be saved. ‘The one who comes to me I will by no means turn away’ (John 6:37 ).  But when you look, when you trust in Him, it will be because God has known and loved you from all eternity, drawn you to Him and caused you to look upon Jesus Christ (Jer 31:3; John 6:44 ).  Therefore, if God is sovereign in salvation, how important is prayer!  Should we not be in constant prayer for our friends and family, for those perishing souls all around us?  “Save with Your right hand and hear me!”


Vs 6-8. ‘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 cast My shoe;  Philistia, shout in triumph because of Me.”’

Again, God expresses His sovereignty.  He also speaks ‘in His holiness.’  He does not lie.  “I will rejoice,” He declares (cf. Zeph 3:17; Heb 12:2 ).  God will accomplish all His will and He will rejoice over it.  His people will be saved.  In David’s time, it looked as if parts of Israel might be lost to the enemy.  God says, no!  Shechem and Succoth were areas of Israel where David was not yet ruling.  God declares, “These places will come under My rule, they will be divided up among My people.”  Today it looks as if Britain has shaken off God’s rule;  again, God says, “No!  The world is Mine to divide up as I will.  Gilead, Manasseh and Ephraim (v7 ) were parts of Israel, and God says that no one is going to take them from Him.  ‘Judah is My Lawgiver.’  Judah was the tribe of David, and David was to be the one who should rule over Israel.  Of course this also speaks of David’s greater Son, the Lord Jesus Christ who was of that tribe (Heb 7:14 ).  He rules today in the hearts of believers, but one day the whole world shall bow the knee before Him (Psalm 2:8; Phil 2:10-11 ).

‘Moab is My washpot.’  The Moabites hated God’s people;  the imagery here is of them being reduced to the position of the basest slave who held the basin for his master to wash in.  ‘Over Edom I cast My shoe.’  The Edomites were descended from Esau who despised his godly birthright as worthless (Heb 12:16 ).  Christ will figuratively place His foot on the neck of the ungodly as a sign of conquest and of judgement (cf. Josh 10:24; Psalm 110:5-6 ).  Then, suddenly, the tone changes.  ‘Philistia, shout in triumph because of Me.’  The Philistines fought against God’s people for centuries, yet they will ‘shout in triumph.’  God will be merciful to many who have resisted Him.  Even now the Gospel is coming to parts of the world that have hated and opposed it to this very day.  Moslems, Hindus and others are finding the Saviour.  What separates Philistia in this Psalm from Moab or Edom?  Sovereign grace!  ‘I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion’ (Exod 33:19 ).  No one deserves God’s mercy, and if it was doled out according to merit, no one would receive it.  That is why it is called grace.  It is mercy in the face of active demerit.  ‘If You, O Lord, should mark iniquities, who could stand?  But there is forgiveness with you’ (Psalm 130:3 ).

Vs 9-12.  ‘Who will bring me to the strong city?  Who will lead me to Edom?  Is it not you, O God, who cast us off?  And You, O God, who did not go out with our armies?  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,’

Who will melt the hard hearts in Britain?  Who will break down the walls of intolerance and persecution keeping out the Gospel from Saudi Arabia and North Korea?  Who else but the Lord, the very One who has been hiding His face from us?  If He has not been with us recently, then we need to be beseeching Him to return to us.  ‘Oh, that You would rend the heavens!  That You would come down!  That the mountains might shake at Your presence!’ (Isaiah 64:1 ).  Prayer is the Christian’s greatest weapon in times of declension.  ‘Give us help from trouble, for the help of man is useless.’  If a football team is failing, it can change its manager or transfer in new players.  When the Lord’s cause appears to be in dire straits, it is because God is chastising His people.  To be sure we need godly people, just as Israel needed David, the man after God’s own heart (Acts 13:22 ), but first and foremost we need our God.  ‘Through God we will do valiantly.’  How we need His aid today, and how we need to be in prayer.


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