Weds 20 July - Psalm 20
1 May the Lord answer you when you are in distress;
may the name of the God of Jacob protect you.
2 May he send you help from the sanctuary
and grant you support from Zion.
3 May he remember all your sacrifices
and accept your burnt offerings.
4 May he give you the desire of your heart
and make all your plans succeed.
5 May we shout for joy over your victory
and lift up our banners in the name of our God.
May the Lord grant all your requests.
6 Now this I know:
The Lord gives victory to his anointed.
He answers him from his heavenly sanctuary
with the victorious power of his right hand.
7 Some trust in chariots and some in horses,
but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.
8 They are brought to their knees and fall,
but we rise up and stand firm.
9 Lord, give victory to the king!
Answer us when we call!
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Meditation on Psalm 20
In his commentary on the psalms Michael Wilcock introduces Psalm 20 with these words: ‘The Church of England’s 1662 Book of Common Prayer contains, as its title indicates, forms of words – liturgies – for communal worship when God’s people meet. It includes for use ‘upon several occasions’ a prayer ‘In the Time of War and Tumults’ and a thanksgiving for ‘Peace and Deliverance from our Enemies’. Repeatedly down the ages such gatherings have used such prayers, not least in the period of Bible history in which the psalms are written. Psalms 20 and 21 relate to a time of warfare, the first as the ‘Tumults’ are beginning, the second to celebrate the ‘Deliverance’ as hostilities are brought to an end.’
As we come to Psalm 20 we notice, on a quick read through, the changing pronouns that are used: ‘you’; ‘your’; ‘he’; ‘his’; ‘him’; ‘we’; ‘our’; ‘I’; ‘they’.
Let’s unpack these at the beginning.
Here is a prayer for the king as he engages in battle. ‘you/your’ refers to the king. ‘he/his/him’ refers to the LORD. ‘we/our’ refers to the praying congregation. ‘I’ refers to the priest. ‘they’ refer to the enemy.
There is another example of prayer being offered for the king as he goes out to battle.
Come back to 2 Chronicles 20:1-30. Jehoshaphat was the king of Judah and he was told that the Moabites, the Ammonites and some of the Meunites were coming to wage war against him.
How did he respond. ‘He resolved to inquire of the LORD.’ But he wasn’t on his own because, ‘the people of Judah came together to seek help from the LORD; indeed, they came from every town in Judah to seek Him.’
Here was a praying congregation praying with and for the king as he went out into battle and the LORD gave Jehoshaphat the assurance that he was going to win. ‘This is what the LORD says to you, “Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s …. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Go out to face them tomorrow and the LORD will be with you.’
And the result? ‘Then, led by Jehoshaphat, all the men of Judah and Jerusalem returned joyfully to Jerusalem, for the LORD had given them cause to rejoice over their enemies. They entered Jerusalem and went to the temple of the LORD with harps and lyres and trumpets.’
- Verses 1-5 O LORD, HEAR OUR PRAYER
As David goes out to war, the people pray to God for victory and deliverance. They recognise that going into battle is stressful. They recognise that the king will need divine protection – ‘the God of Jacob’. They recognise that the king will need divine help – ‘from the sanctuary’. They recognise that the king will need divine support – ‘from Zion.’ Zion is the city in Jerusalem which David had taken. Zion is the city of God where He dwells on earth. They long that the king will be blessed and encouraged by his ‘sacrifices and burnt offerings.’ They long that the LORD will give him success and ‘the desire of your heart.’
They look forward to the sound of victory.
They look forward to bringing praise to God who gives the victory.
We may not face the physical battles that David faced but we may be facing all kinds of situations and circumstances which require the Lord’s intervention.
Do we pray for each other?
Do we pray for our church leaders?
Do we pray for those in mission ministry around the world?
Do we pray for those who are in the middle of war?
Do we thank God for answered prayer?
- Verse 6 THE LORD DOES HEAR OUR PRAYER
The ‘speaker’ here is most likely one of the priestly leaders – probably a Levite. He is in no doubt that the prayers of the people are not only being heard in heaven but are being answered from heaven.
Here is the faith that believes and trusts God – ‘Now this I know...’ The LORD gives victory and the LORD answers.’
This should give us confidence as we bring our prayers to God. ‘He answers from His heavenly sanctuary.’ We pray, as Jesus taught us to pray… “Our Father in heaven…” Our prayers are going to His ‘heavenly sanctuary.’
- Verses 7-8 THE LORD CAN BE TRUSTED
When we look at, or listen to, the news today, we are made aware of the weapons of war that are being used in Ukraine and in other parts of the world where there is conflict. Today’s weapons are the up-to-date equivalent of ‘chariots and horses’ that the psalmist refers to. And those at war call out for more weapons, for more powerful weapons to crush the enemy. But the psalmist challenges us to ‘trust in the name of the LORD’ because the enemy, with all their firepower, ‘are brought to their knees and fall.’ As for us, we ‘rise up and stand firm.’
How is this possible? Because the Lord Jesus has won the victory at Calvary and this gives us confidence. This doesn’t mean that everything will turn out as we had planned and hoped – tragedies still happen – but we don’t give up.
Do you remember the story of the 5 missionaries who went to share the good news of Jesus with the Auca Indians in Ecuador in the 1950’s?
As they went to meet them on the banks of the Curaray River in 1956, the 5 missionaries sang that great missionary hymn ‘We rest on Thee’. The third verse has these words:
‘We go in faith, our own great weakness feeling,
Yet needing more each day Thy grace to know.
Yet from our hearts a song of triumph pealing,
We rest on Thee and in Thy name we go.’
And yet, all 5 were murdered on the banks of the river. End of story? No. Some years later, Elizabeth Elliott, the widow of Jim Elliott, one of the 5 missionaries, went back into the tribe. The Lord blessed her and through her sharing the gospel, many of the Auca Indians, including the killers of the missionaries, came to faith in the Lord Jesus.
The Lord can be trusted.
- Verse 9 DON’T GIVE UP PRAYING
The psalmist comes back to where he started and where we continue as we say, ‘Lord, hear our prayer … Lord, answer us when we call.’