May 14th 2020 – Psalm 21

"To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David.

1 Lord, in your strength the king rejoices,
    and in your salvation how greatly he exults!
You have given him his heart's desire
    and have not withheld the request of his lips.     Selah
For you meet him with rich blessings;
    you set a crown of fine gold upon his head.
He asked life of you; you gave it to him,
    length of days forever and ever.
His glory is great through your salvation;
    splendour and majesty you bestow on him.
For you make him most blessed forever;
    you make him glad with the joy of your presence.
For the king trusts in the Lord,
    and through the steadfast love of the Most High he shall not be moved.

Your hand will find out all your enemies;
    your right hand will find out those who hate you.
You will make them as a blazing oven
    when you appear.
The Lord will swallow them up in his wrath,
    and fire will consume them.
10 You will destroy their descendants from the earth,
    and their offspring from among the children of man.
11 Though they plan evil against you,
    though they devise mischief, they will not succeed.
12 For you will put them to flight;
    you will aim at their faces with your bows.

13 Be exalted, O Lord, in your strength!
    We will sing and praise your power."

Psalm 21

The third lesson of the Psalm underlines the many blessings won by prayers (3-7). And they are manifold, indeed - the blessings of goodness with which God goes before the praying soul, that is, the heart that goes out in prayer encounters a God Who is al- ready there to help: 'Before they call, I will answer; and while they are yet speaking, I will hear' (Isaiah 65:24). The victor's crown (3) speaks of the coronation of the conqueror (cf 'made us kings and priests unto God', Revelation 1:6); the 'life' and 'length of days' in 4 affords a good example of Paul's words, 'He is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think' (Ephesians 3:20); the 'glory, honour and majesty' in 5 speak of the dignity that falls on a man who is drawn into fellowship with the living God, and reminds us of the Psalmist's words in Psalm 90:17, 'Let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us' (cf also the New Testament counterpart in Acts 4:33, 'Great grace was upon them all'). In 6, the blessedness referred to, speaks, according to Alexander Maclaren, of both the possession and the communication of God's blessing. The man who is blessed of God becomes a fount of blessing to all around. This, then, is the fruit of prayer, and this is what a praying people can do for a minister, particularly in terms of making and keeping him steadfast (7) amid all the pressures of life.

Finally (8-13), the victory which has been won (through prayer and its answer) is now taken as a token and earnest of even greater victories in the future. The Psalmist 'takes off', as it were, in a fierce exaltation as he views the ongoing conflict as it be- comes clearer and more starkly defined as time goes on. More and more it becomes plain that the 'enemies' are fighting against God Himself, and God would not be God if He allowed their opposition to continue with impunity. This is what explains the fierce- ness of tone in the final verses of the Psalm. The gospel divides men, and sets them over against one another. Those who do not give their allegiance to God will soon hate those who do (8), and will set themselves against God's work. And, apart from their repentance, there is nothing left but judgment upon their opposition against Him.