The Valley of Salt

Keep Calm and Read a Psalm 60:1-4:

“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.
You have given a banner to those who fear You,
That it may be displayed because of the truth. Selah.”

I’ve always liked to ask friends to give me one word that defined their past semester of college. But this past semester, when the question was flipped on me, I had to answer “Disappointing.”

“Wow, Matt. What an Eeyore! You must be hanging out with Grumpy Cat or something!” Only on Mondays. But to be perfectly honest, so many things I tried to do fell through, leaving a crushed heart and a flipped smile. What about you? What heart-felt expectations have you been denied these past months? Maybe a project you’ve invested years into is rejected. Maybe a friend or more than a friend has broken the relationship. Maybe your family hasn’t been there or a debilitating health problem has crept up on you. Or even your blog hasn’t gotten the number of views you hoped for (hint, hint). It doesn’t matter. Lump them all together and tack a sticky note on them that says, “Disappointment.”

What a vile, evil creature he is! I battle him often. Even now, I try to parry his moves as he pushes me to write paragraph upon paragraph of complaint. The sound of clanging metal echoes this cry, “God isn’t fair! Why is He blessing those people, giving them all those opportunities, while I sit here empty and broken!”

Read the title of this battle Psalm, and you’ll realize that’s what David was facing. Who knows, perhaps he held the pen to parchment in the heat of the battle, scribing these words as he watched his friends fall in bloody heaps on the salty sand of the valley.

“No!” he cried, shaking a bloody sword at the sky, “God, I thought you were going to give us victory!” Instead, a displeased God had “broken” them as spear after spear shattered in the army of Joab. The very earth seemed to be breached open—yes, all of David’s life seemed to shake as he heard the chariot wheels thunder over the mountains. God was showing him some “hard things”—sound familiar? Indeed, the “wine of confusion” that David had to drink to the dregs is still being chugged by many of us today.

As you finish verse three with all its “hard things,” you find verse four kinda jarring. The whole Psalm seems to turn, just as the feet of the Hebrew warriors turned in the salt and faced their pursuing enemies. Do you see it? In the blazing sun, a banner is raised on a desert crag, surrounded by broken arrows and broken lives—“You have given a banner to those who fear You.” The battle turns.

What banner? While we don’t know for sure, it does seem to be symbolic. Banners in those days were rallying points, meant to instill courage and provide a summoning spot from which to fight for final victory. Here, warrior David uses it to talk about God’s gift to those who “fear Him.” Why this gift? “That it may be displayed because of the truth.” That’s the key. The truth that conquers disappointment.

Recently, I have had a phrase stuck in my head. Indeed, you’ll find it in my last blog post: “God’s Presence is more than enough.”

That thing you had your hope so set on. That project, that relationship, that health, wealth, or whatever it is! God—He is more than enough. More than enough for whatever you feel you’ve “lost” by serving Him. More than enough for your dreams, your heartaches, and your pain. You don’t have to turn to that bottle, that lust, or that entertainment for comfort from menacing disappointment. God hasn’t betrayed you. I promise you—He has something better in store for you. And His Presence, His truth is more than enough to get you through this. Look to the Word of Truth. See all that God is and see all that God has promised you. Pick out a verse—a promise you can repeat to yourself over and over again as you do battle with disappointment.

Draw your sword into defensive position against disappointment’s strike—and look up. On that desert crag, basked in the evening sun descending into the Valley of Salt, Someone Who holds all truth, all comfort looks to you. And he holds a banner, inscribed with the words “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5).

-Matthew W., SC

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