Asaph opens Psalm 83 by outlining to God the way an alliance of enemy nations are conspiring against Israel. Ten nations which geographically surround Israel are listed in verses 6 & 7. They are described as hating God, planning together against God’s people (His ‘treasured ones’), wanting to wipe out the nation, name and memory of Israel, and making a conspiratorial covenant against God (vv2-5).
The psalmist therefore travels back into the history of Israel to the time of the judges and recalls two unexpected victories as a source of hope. Firstly, the psalmist prays,
‘Do to them as you did to Midian’ (v9a)
which refers to the victory God brought about through Gideon. Gideon was a scared nobody whom God raised up to lead the nation. He led a tiny group of ill-equipped men against the mighty Midianite army and God brought about a startling and comprehensive victory, completely destroying the enemy. As verse 10 says, the victory included the capture and death of Midianite leaders Oreb and Zeeb (Judges 7:25), and of two kings of Midian, Zebah and Zalmunna (Judges 8). Midian’s leaders were removed, her army overcome and Israel was feed from oppression. ‘Midian’ became a shorthand for complete and total victory wrought by God on behalf of His people. Hence he prays, ‘Do to them as you did to Midian’!
The second example the psalmist uses refers to when Deborah led Israel to victory over Jabin the king of Canaan and his army (see Judges 4&5). This victory involved Jael the wife of Heber using a tent peg and a hammer to stop Sisera, the leader of the army, in his tracks! As in the first example, the enemy was overcome. The victory was total. And the means of victory entirely unexpected.
These two recollections of unexpected victories lead the psalmist to ask for a repeat performance (vv13-18)! He calls on God to deal with the enemy alliance and produce another victory to rank alongside the others. He wants peace and freedom for his nation to be the outcome of the intervention of God. He knows that only God can do it.
When God intervenes and brings about an impossible victory it builds our faith and gives us the assurance the He can do it again. When we then face other times of difficulty and opposition we can recall these unexpected victories and call on God to do it again. Our faith is bolstered by remembering what He has accomplished in the past. God’s interventions in our circumstances can give us unexpected victories in the present and hope for the future.
But above all, unexpected victories brought about by the intervention of God should focus our attention on God and, in turn, point other people’s attention to Him ‘that they may know that you alone, whose name is the Lord, are the Most High over all the earth’ (v18)
Whatever you are facing at the moment, God can bring about an unexpected victory! Why not spend some time recalling when He has intervened in the past and ask Him to do it again?