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This psalm is the elaboration of the last call of the previous psalm: the “LORD my rock and my Redeemer” (Psa 19:14). After God’s testimonies in the life of a believer in Psalm 18 and in creation and the law or the Word of God in Psalm 19, this psalm gives us another testimony that God gives about Himself. Here we have God’s testimony concerning His Son.
This testimony comes from the mouth of the subjects of God’s anointed king, David, in whom we see a picture of the Lord Jesus. They wish David all the help and blessing of the LORD, Yahweh, to prevail in the wars he must fight. Like Psalm 2, Psalm 20 and Psalm 21 are kingly psalms.
Psalm 20 and Psalm 21 are closely connected. In Psalm 20 the king is the representative of the LORD and in Psalm 21 he is the representative of the people. Psalm 20 is an intercession, Psalm 21 is a song of thanksgiving. Psalm 20 is full of expectation and Psalm 21 is full of joy.
Psalm 20 beautifully expresses the solidarity between the people and their king. The reason is that they are both involved in seeking the favor of God. The people recognize in the anointed king the envoy of God by whom He wants to give His favor to His people. He represents God to the people. At the same time, he represents the people to God, which is further highlighted in the following psalm. What the king does for God is imputed to the whole people.
The historical reason for this prayer is not clear. This psalm has been adapted by the Holy Spirit to apply prophetically as much as possible to the Lord Jesus (cf. Acts 2:25-32; Psa 16:8-9). The picture here is not of a king with a mighty army, but of a king who, like David against Goliath, goes alone against the enemy. Thus, the Lord Jesus will fight the battle against the enemy alone (Rev 19:15; Isa 63:3) and gain the victory. This victory is based on the offering He brought on the cross. He is the King-Priest Who both achieves the victory and has brought the offerings to God.
Here in David we see another picture of God’s anointed King, the Messiah Jesus, who is also Yahweh Himself. No one but He is able to exercise God’s kingship in a way that the kingship fully responds to Who God is. It is a kingship that is exercised utterly righteously. In the process, all wickedness, the unbelieving mass, is judged. The result is that the righteous, the faithful remnant, are redeemed and enjoy the blessing of the realm of peace.
Wishes for the King
For “for the choir director” (Psa 20:1a) see at Psalm 4:1.
For “a Psalm of David” see at Psalm 3:1.
The psalm begins with “answer” and “in the day of trouble” (Psa 20:1b) and ends with “answer” and “in the day we call” (Psa 20:9). We can think of this psalm as a prayer of the people for the king as he goes to war. It is a prayer made in the form of a wish for the king – which we see from the word “may”, which is used over and over again. The king is addressed here by his people.
In the prophetic meaning, we hear here the faithful remnant speaking to the Messiah. They ask answering for Him “in the day of trouble” (Psa 20:1b). It shows the deep interest that there is in the heart of the God-fearing regarding Christ’s sorrow and suffering on earth. This prayer, this intercession, is laid by the Spirit of Christ in the heart of David as the representative of all who have waited for salvation, that is, the believing remnant.
All of Christ’s days on earth were days of trouble. He was a Man of sorrows (Isa 53:3). He had His own sorrows and He bore the sorrows of others (Isa 53:4). He was tempted by satan in the wilderness. He was continually harassed by the scribes and Pharisees and was grieved over the hardening of their hearts (Mk 3:5). He shed tears at the tomb of Lazarus because of the consequences of sin (Jn 11:35). His soul was greatly grieved at Gethsemane by the prospect of being made sin (Mk 14:33b-34).
When the remnant is in tribulation, they know that the Messiah is with them and intercedes for them. He has connected with them and knows their feelings and shares in them: “In all their affliction He was afflicted” (Isa 63:9). Therefore, they wish Him whatever serves for their deliverance. When they pray for an answer, it is through the Spirit of Christ praying in them.
Their wish and prayer is that “the name of the God of Jacob” will “set” Him “[securely] on high!” “On high” means a place that is unreachable by the enemy, a place where someone is ‘untouchable’. It is the high rock of Psalm 19 (Psa 19:14). The “name” of God (Num 6:27) is associated with the blessing and peace of God (Num 6:24-26). The “name of the God of Jacob” is LORD, Yahweh, “I AM WHO I AM” (Exo 3:13-14), the God of the promises.
Three times in this psalm the remnant appeals to “the name” (Psa 20:1b; 5; 7). Here is the first time. That God is “the God of Jacob” indicates that He will fulfill all the promises He has made to Jacob, despite the many times Jacob has been unfaithful. This is a great encouragement to the remnant who are also aware of their own unfaithfulness. It is also a great encouragement to us, who are also so often unfaithful, that God will fulfill all His promises. The place on high gives the assurance that no one can make His king or anyone of His own miss the fulfillment of His promises.
The wish or prayer for His protection indicates that the Lord Jesus is seen here as Man. Only as Man He can be associated with people. At the same time, He is and remains in His Person also the eternal God. He Who became Man is also the God of Jacob. We cannot fathom this mystery of His Person (Mt 11:27a), but we can accept, admire and worship it in faith. We encounter this mystery, which we have also seen before in Psalms, again and again. As Man, He is completely dependent on the help of God. He counts on that help in confidence. The remnant knows this through the Spirit of Christ working in them.
This also applies to the wish that help will be sent to Him “from the sanctuary” and that God will “support Him from Zion” (Psa 20:2). His help does not come from men, but from Zion, where He has made His Name dwell as an earthly representation of His heavenly dwelling place (Deu 12:5; Deu 14:23). God, by His help and support, shows His presence on behalf of His Anointed, His chosen King. In doing so, He at the same time shows His favor toward His people. Yahweh, the LORD, goes out before His people as in the days of old (Exo 15:13; 17).
The remnant reminds God of all the offerings His King has offered Him (Psa 20:3). Offerings are the basis for victory. In the offerings, the LORD first receives His portion and then He gives the victory (1Sam 7:10). The Lord Jesus did not offer literal offerings. David did. With respect to the Lord Jesus, these offerings speak of Himself. These offerings are fulfilled in Him (Heb 10:5-9).
The meal offering, a non-bloody, voluntary offering (Lev 2:1-16), represents His life on earth that was fully committed to God. The burnt offering, a bloody, voluntary sacrifice (Lev 1:1-17), represents His perfect surrender to God on the cross. His offering in all its aspects is the basis for the answer to prayer.
It says “meal offerings”, plural. This indicates that every single act, every single word, every single thought of the Lord Jesus is utterly dedicated to God. He can say at the age of twelve that He is always in the things of His Father (Lk 2:49). The “burnt offerings” – also “burnt offerings” is literally in the plural – indicate that also all aspects of His work on the cross are perfect before God. He offered the offering of His life once for all, so that we are sanctified once for all (Heb 10:10).
The remnant knows the desire of the Messiah’s heart and wishes that this desire will be granted (Psa 20:5). In Psalm 21 we see the answer to this prayer (Psa 21:2). They can ask because they know that the only desire of which His heart is full is the glorification of God. They pray to God to fulfill all the purposes that the Messiah has to achieve that goal. All that the Lord Jesus has done and will do has been fulfilled. He has glorified God and will continue to do so until the complete will of God is accomplished and also always thereafter.
Assurance of the Answer
In Psa 20:5, it is evident that the believing remnant does not doubt that their prayer will be answered, which was inspired in them by the Spirit of Christ. They see by faith that the Messiah will return from His battle as Victor (cf. Isa 63:1-6). Therefore, they set up the banners as a sign of victory. A banner is placed on a conquered territory. Here they are many banners, for the victories will be numerous. The reign of God’s King will be established everywhere.
The banners are set up “in the name of our God”. The remnant is thereby saying that the God of their King is also their God. They give God all the glory for all the victories of their King. This means that they will also give their King that honor, for He is their God (cf. Psa 44:4). In connection to that, they do not ask the LORD for victory for His chosen King, but that He will fulfill all His petitions. All His petitions have the glorification of God as their goal.
In Psa 20:6, the psalmist speaks as the mouth of the believing remnant. Based on the prayer and desires in his heart, he expresses his confidence that the LORD will save His Anointed. The expression “now I know” means “I have come to the conclusion that” (cf. Exo 18:11; 1Kgs 17:24). The word “save” is closely related to the word for victory. It means that David or the believing remnant is convinced that the LORD gives His Anointed the victory.
The Anointed is given victory on the basis of His prayer to God in “His holy heaven”. His LORD will answer Him by fighting for His King “with the saving strength of His right hand”. Thus God has heard His Anointed by raising Him from the dead by the power of “His right hand”. This is His first mighty act of salvation. Countless more mighty acts of salvation will follow as He raises all who belong to Christ from the dead by the power of His right hand (1Cor 15:20-23).
In Psa 20:7, the remnant speaks again. They speak the same language of faith as the Messiah and join in what He has just said. First, they point to the resources that the opponents rely on. The Israelite kings may not own many horses (Deu 17:16). They must learn to rely on God’s strength, for in themselves they are weak. God’s power is accomplished in weakness (2Cor 12:9). The faithful call to mind and make mention of the name of God, which means that God is with them (Psa 121:2). The word “[boast]” is not in the original text, but has been added for the sake of readability, indicated by the square brackets. It is derived from the word “boast” in Psa 20:7b, which literally is “make mention of”; or “praise the name”.
There are those who make mention of their trust “in chariots”, while others make mention of their trust “in horses” (cf. Isa 31:1-3). These are poor, not to say ridiculous means compared to the One in Whom they trust. Pharaoh experienced this (Exo 15:1; 3-4).
But “we”, the remnant says emphatically, “will make mention of the name of the LORD our God” (cf. 1Sam 17:45). It involves remembering or thinking about “the name”, which is all that that Name contains.
The opposite result of trust is described in Psa 20:8. The two parties are sharply contrasted by an emphatic “they” and an emphatic “we”. “They”, that is, those who trust in chariots and horses, are forced to bow down, that is, bend their knees, before Him Who has overcome them (Phil 2:9-11). Then they fall down, without ever getting up again. It is written here in the prophetic past tense, which means that it is stated as an accomplished fact, while in reality it still has to happen. That is how certain the outcome is.
The same applies to ‘we’, that is the faithful remnant, but in complete contrast to the enemies. They seemed to have bowed down before the enemy and have fallen down. They also felt as though they were doomed, but they “have risen and stood upright”. It gives the picture of a resurrection from the dead and entering into life.
The Call for Salvation
As this last verse reads here, is a possible translation is. Yet it might be better to translate it with: “Save the king, O LORD. Answer us in the day we call” (this is how the Septuagint has translated this verse). Here we hear the remnant calling to the LORD. They are asking the LORD to deliver Him, their Messiah, by giving Him the victory (Psa 20:6). This brings us back to Psa 20:1b-4, where the people are interceding that the LORD will help the King in His battle.
Kingcomments on the Whole Bible © 2021 Author: G. de Koning. All rights reserved. Used with the permission of the author
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de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Psalms 20". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 9 / Ordinary 14