So often the problems in our lives lead others to refer to us as victims, which seems to suggest a sense of helplessness and an inability to help oneself. But, many people, including me, have overcome the obstacles in our lives, and we see ourselves as victors and survivors, individuals who, through God’s mercy and grace and with His help, have triumphed over the brokenness that once characterized our lives. In the two psalms today, Psalms 20 and 21, we learn what it takes to be victors and not victims. I am examining them together, because in Psalm 20, the people and the king asked for God’s help against their enemies, and in Psalm 21, they appeared to celebrate that God heard the prayers in Psalm 20.
Psalm 20: 1-5 In times of trouble, may the Lord answer your cry. May the name of the God of Jacob keep you safe from all harm. May he send you help from his sanctuary and strengthen you from Jerusalem. May he remember all your gifts and look favorably on your burnt offerings. May he grant your heart’s desire and make all your plans succeed. May we shout for joy when we hear of your victory and raise a victory banner in the name of our God. May the Lord answer all your prayers.
The first five verses of Psalm 20 represent a prayer by the people of God that He would bless the king in the times of troubles. David recognized that no human being could triumph over their trials, not even the king, except with the help, strength, and blessings of Almighty God.
The prayer is offered in hopes that God will hear the cries of His people and then grant the king the desires of his heart, making all of his plans succeed, as God answers all of his prayers in a favorable manner. Their hope is that a celebration is imminent that includes raising the victory banner, demonstrating that God looked favorably on the king’s obedience in worshiping God through gifts and burned offerings.
It is a lesson for us today: just because someone attends church and participates in many ministries, if that person is not obeying the commands of God’s words, particularly in regards to loving others, then all the other stuff does not matter when you pray. God prefers obedience over any sacrifices.
Psalm 20:6-9 Now I know that the Lord rescues his anointed king. He will answer him from his holy heaven and rescue him by his great power. Some nations boast of their chariots and horses, but we boast in the name of the Lord our God. Those nations will fall down and collapse, but we will rise up and stand firm. Give victory to our king, O Lord! Answer our cry for help.
The king agreed that the Lord rescues his anointed one, and believed with the people that God would answer from Heaven and rescue His people. God would not need chariots and horses, for Isaiah 31:1 reminds us, “What sorrow awaits those who look to Egypt for help, trusting their horses, chariots, and charioteers and depending on the strength of human armies instead of looking to the Lord, the Holy One of Israel.”
And in 2 Chronicles 14: 11, King Asa, when his army of 580,000 men was attacked by the army of an Ethiopian names Zerah, who had 1 million men and 300 chariots, he did what he knew would help get him victory: Then Asa cried out to the Lord his God, “O Lord, no one but you can help the powerless against the mighty! Help us, O Lord our God, for we trust in you alone. It is in your name that we have come against this vast horde. O Lord, you are our God; do not let mere men prevail against you!” The Ethiopians were defeated, not because of King Asa’s military might, but because of his faith and trust in the name of the God who created him.
Psalm 21: 1-4 How the king rejoices in your strength, O Lord! He shouts with joy because you give him victory. For you have given him his heart’s desire; you have withheld nothing he requested. You welcomed him back with success and prosperity. You placed a crown of finest gold on his head. He asked you to preserve his life, and you granted his request. The days of his life stretch on forever.
There is definitely a victory celebration happening here. The king triumphed, and it is obvious that God heard and answered the prayers of the people and the king from Psalm 20. It appears to have been quite a celebration, as the people praise God with music and singing for the king’s victory, fully understanding that the king cannot boast that he won on his own not strength. Everything must have went as the king planned, for the people acknowledged that God withheld nothing from the king, including allowing him to live.
I have written about how close I came to death, and of how I asked God to not let me die like a dog in the street. God heard and saved me, and I count every day afterwards as a bonus. But, I know that it was only grace and mercy that saved me, not anything that I deserved.
Psalm 21: 5-7 Your victory brings him great honor, and you have clothed him with splendor and majesty. You have endowed him with eternal blessings and given him the joy of your presence. For the king trusts in the Lord. The unfailing love of the Most High will keep him from stumbling.
The people are still praising God for the honor, splendor, and majesty of their king, acknowledging that it was the king’s faith and trust in God that bestowed such blessing on him and resulted in joy when in the presence of God. It is because of His unfailing love of God that God allows us to feel His presence in our lives. Furthermore, in Matthew 18:10, Jesus taught that the angels of His “little ones” were always in the presence of God. We are those little ones when we have the trust and faith of a small child in our Savior and Lord Jesus Christ.
Psalm 21: 8-13 You will capture all your enemies. Your strong right hand will seize all who hate you. You will throw them in a flaming furnace when you appear. The Lord will consume them in his anger; fire will devour them. You will wipe their children from the face of the earth; they will never have descendants. Although they plot against you, their evil schemes will never succeed. For they will turn and run when they see your arrows aimed at them. Rise up, Lord, in all your power. With music and singing we celebrate your mighty acts.
The praises never stopped, as the people related their beliefs that God would always conquer His enemies, devouring them in a flaming furnace. No evil schemes would ever be successful, because God is greater and above all things and people. In the Lord’s Prayer, we ask God to deliver us from evil, and He does, for we are more than conquerors through Jesus Christ our Lord, whose mighty power is eternal.
In these two psalms we learn that we must learn to pray for victory, believing in the God who sees us and hears us. He alone gives the victory, not anything that humans do. And when victory comes, whatever form it takes, let us celebrate with singing and music, giving God all the glory, keeping none for ourselves. Victors are created in the loving grace and mercy of Christ Jesus, whom God has given victory over Satan, assigning Jesus the seat of greatest honor, at God’s right hand.
Today, let us remember that God is the Source of all victories in our lives. We must continue to pray for His help in our times of trouble. Do not think like I once did: “Because of my own wrong choices, I am in this mess, so I won’t call on God for help now.” No! God wants us to pray and call on Him, placing our faith and trust in Him to answer our prayers, in His own ways and in His own time. So, let’s party! Don’t wait for the battle to end, shout now, for the battle is not yours, it is the Lord’s (2 Chronicles 20:15).