Psalm 20 is a prayer by the people for their king. Charles Spurgeon called in a, “National Anthem, fitted to be sung at the outbreak of war, when the monarch was girding on his sword for the fight”. This psalm for the king is for his prayers and sacrifices to be accepted by God. It is believed by many that this prayer was sung specifically before David went to war with the Ammonites (Samuel 10:6-8). But seeing as how Israel was constantly at war during this time period it is difficult to pinpoint an exact time.
Psalm 20 is however a good example of intercessory prayer and the importance of it. The Apostle Paul entreated us all to do the same:
“I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour” (1 Timothy 2:1-2)
To the chief Musician, A Psalm of David.
1) The Lord hear thee in the day of trouble; the name of the God of Jacob defend thee;
This is an exhortation by the people for God to not only “hear” their King when in distress but to respond to his pleas as well. Much weight needs be given to the “name of God”. The name is representative of all of the character, attributes, sovereignty, omnipotence and omnipresence of the one true God Jehovah. The 1599 Geneva Bible adds, “The virtue, power and grace of God”.
“defend thee“ in a literal sense means to set on-high, uplifted and inaccessible. Used here it is a metaphor for made strong and powerful.
2) Send thee help from the sanctuary, and strengthen thee out of Zion;
The sanctuary was from between the cherubim over the mercy seat of the Ark of the Covenant. This was the access point of God for the people, where the people directed their prayers. The sanctuary now for all of us can be found embodied in Jesus Christ.
Zion, the hill in which the city of Jerusalem was built.
3) Remember all thy offerings, and accept thy burnt sacrifice; Selah.
There are two offerings being made here. First was the “minchah” which was a gift offering without blood. The other was an “`olah” which was a blood offering laid up on the altar.
“The olah here mentioned was a bloody sacrifice. The blood of the victim was spilt at the altar, and the flesh consumed. One of these offerings implied a consciousness of sin in the offerer; and this sacrifice he brought as an atonement: the other implied a sense of mercies already received, and was offered in the way of gratitude” (Adam Clarke).
Turning an offering to ashes was the sign of acceptance by the Lord. We have a good example of this in Leviticus:
“And there came a fire out from before the Lord, and consumed upon the altar the burnt offering and the fat: which when all the people saw, they shouted, and fell on their faces” (Leviticus 9:24).
4) Grant thee according to thine own heart, and fulfil all thy counsel.
Desires and purposes are granted when we are in one accord with the Lord.
Jesus said, “If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you” (John 15:7).
If we are in Christ and in prayer then the Holy Spirit will be in us. The Spirit will guide us not only in our actions but in our questions and desires. God knows what we need and will motivate us towards the result via the Holy Spirit.
5) We will rejoice in thy salvation, and in the name of our God we will set up our banners: the Lord fulfil all thy petitions.
“Rejoice” comes from the Hebrew “ranan“. It is an interesting word meaning to “emit a tremulous and stridulous sound. Of the tremulous sound of a mast or tall pole shaken by the wind” (Gesenius’ Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon).
Is our salvation so great to us that we shake and shout for joy? Does the being and presence of our God inspire a physical manifestation of energy and joy? Will we be conspicuous in our devotion to God as to carry around a banner for Him, to pick up our cross and follow Christ?
6) Now know I that the Lord saveth his anointed; he will hear him from his holy heaven with the saving strength of his right hand.
Do we know down deep in our hearts that God, “saveth his anointed”? We are delivered or more to the point, liberated from the bondage which is sin and unrighteousness. The devil is of no lasting hold. The mortal coil of man on earth is temporary when saved by the Lord. The effects of sin, death, disease and the devil are short term.
God always hears, He always sees.
“The eyes of the LORD are in every place, beholding the evil and the good” (Proverbs 15:3).
“If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there” (Psalm 139:8).
The, “saving strength of his right hand” can be thought of as Jesus Christ. It can be also thought of in terms of righteousness. Salvation is found in both.
7&8) Some trust in chariots, and some in horses: but we will remember the name of the Lord our God. They are brought down and fallen: but we are risen, and stand upright.
Action is the acid test of value. Put more simply, we do what is important to us. In times of emergency, pressure or in any situation when time is precious and seems to be gone, we act instantly and according to our inner self. We resort to our default condition and do so without thought or premeditation.
Sometimes during critical situations in our lives we do things that we never thought we would. Sometimes when things become personal they become real and our viewpoint changes. Pressure and duress tend to alter what we thought was our reality.
For example, some have a pro-life stance until they or someone very close to them has an unexpected pregnancy. Although their words say life their actions deviate from what has been professed.
This is one of the purposes of tithing. It’s one thing to say and think we are totally devoted to God but are we willing to put our money where our mouth is? Does our thinking change or reality alter when faced with reaching into our wallet and giving up hundreds possibly thousands of dollars each month? Does the reality of bills or desire for some “thing” outweigh our faith and obedience to God?
The point of all of this is to ask ourselves what is inside. What do we really think, believe and feel? What do we really put our faith in? Do we rely on God until the going gets tough then take matters into our own hands?
“Some trust in chariots, and some in horses: but we will remember the name of the Lord our God. They are brought down and fallen: but we are risen, and stand upright” (Psalms 20:7-8).
Pressure and time critical situations are sure ways of finding out what principles we hold and what foundation we stand on.
Here is a question to ask ourselves. Are we a rat or a captain? The first to evacuate a burning ship are the rats, but the captain will stay on and go down with the ship if he has to. How dedicated are you to your ship?
Let’s add another element to the above mentioned burning ship. What if you knew that the ship was going to burn? What if you knew that there was no such thing as perpetual smooth sailing that at some point in time turbulent seas, storm, engine failure, ship wreck or fire was inevitable? Well guess what, it is!
Jesus said, “In the world ye shall have tribulation” (John 16:33). Jesus said we “shall” have troubles not that we “may” have troubles. So how are we preparing for the eventuality?
“Therefore thus saith the Lord God, Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation: he that believeth shall not make haste” (Isaiah 28:16).
The sure foundation for us to stand on is Jesus Christ.
“For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is. If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire” (1 Corinthians 3:11-15).
Jesus said, “In the world ye shall have tribulation”. The Apostle Paul at Corinth said, “The fire shall try every man’s work”.
Problems will come. We all will be tested. That is not the issue. The real issue is a matter of reliance. Who are you going to rely on when the inevitable happens in this world? Are you going to rely on self when life gets bad or on the sure foundation in Jesus Christ?
“But be of good cheer; I have overcome the world”, Jesus Christ.
9) Save, Lord: let the king hear us when we call.
God appoints rulers for our benefit and correction.
“Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same: For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil” (Romans 13:1-4).
The Psalmist in one verse shows the order and priority of things. First he prays to the Lord Jehovah. He asks for deliverance and liberation from unrighteousness. He then asks for the king to have the ability, under power of God to act on His behalf. Like judges of old, present day rulers are to be Godly men. Our government is to operate within the hierarchy so ordained by God. Societal order and civility is by prescription of God is the charge of the ruler. All things are to come from God and all people, the ruler and the ruled are to follow.
“Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord; and the people whom he hath chosen for his own inheritance” (Psalms 33:12).
“Righteousness exalteth a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people” (Proverbs 14:34).
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