# 93 A journey through the Psalms. Psalm 20 & 21. Prayer: Not wishful optimism but realistic faith.

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Blaiklock calls psalm 20 “a fine, rich hymn, full of courage, but courage born of faith.” (see references # 37)

 Psalm 20

For the director of music. A psalm of David.

May the Lord answer you when you are in distress;
may the name of the God of Jacob protect you.
May he send you help from the sanctuary
and grant you support from Zion.
May he remember all your sacrifices
and accept your burnt offerings.[b]
May he give you the desire of your heart
and make all your plans succeed.
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.

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.
Some trust in chariots and some in horses,
but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.
They are brought to their knees and fall,
but we rise up and stand firm.
Lord, give victory to the king!
Answer us when we call!

 

Psalm 20 is an unusual psalm as compared to most others in the Psalter. It is called a Royal Psalm and is basically a prayer for the king (possibly just before he is going out to battle against an enemy).

 

A prayer that the Lord would:

  • answer the King’s prayers, particularly in a crisis and protect him when in danger (verse 1)
  • send help/support from heaven when he needs it (verse 2)
  • find the King’s sacrifices and offerings acceptable (verse 3)
  • give to him the desires of his heart and enable him to be successful (verse 4)
  • in granting all the Kings requests, cause his people to shout for joy at answered prayer (verse 5)

 

The praying one then changes course in his prayer. He turns from petition for the King to a prayer of affirmation (“now this I know”) that his God does answer prayer (verse 6b) and is the One who gives the ultimate victory (verse 6a).

 

Then that great verse (7) we considered last time about those who trust in “the weapons of the world”, unlike the people of God who “have divine power to demolish strongholds” (2 Corinthians 10:4), And that divine power is “in the name of the Lord our God”.

 

He continues, (in verse 8) to inform us of the fate of those who “trust in chariots” as compared to the one who trusts in God – “they are brought to their knees and fall, but we rise up and stand firm”.

 

And in summary he again addresses God and simply prays: “Lord, give victory to the king! Answer us when we call” Amen!

 

Who says prayer needs to be complicated?

 

Along time after this psalm was written and this prayer was prayed for the first time, the Apostle Paul wrote to his young disciple the following instructions:

 

I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Saviour, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. (1 Timothy 2:1-4)

 

This still applies to us today and Psalm 20 may be a useful prayer to adapt for the leader(s) of your nation, particularly asking that his/her faith will be in God, that his/her dependence will be on God and that his/her wisdom will come from God.

 

In summary, Kidner suggests that “the fact that the time of trouble has been made the time of prayer makes the buoyant spirit of verses 6-8 a matter not of wishful optimism but of realistic faith.”  (see references # 29)

 

And Longman says:

 

“The battlefield was the original setting for this psalm which confidently asks God for victory in the face of an enemy. Today, the people of God are a spiritual entity (the church), not a nation state with armies and physical enemies that attack it with swords, spears and other physical weapons. Even so, the church and individual Christians are in a battle, ‘not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms’ (Ephesians 6:12). Against these enemies, ‘the weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world’, but rather we need ‘divine power to demolish strongholds’ (1 Corinthians 10:4). It is in the context of spiritual warfare that Psalm 20 retains its relevance in the life of God’s people today.” (see references # 30)

 

Thank you, Father, that in your powerful Name we have victory and protection. We are reminded of David when, on that memorable occasion he faced Goliath on the battle field and he said to the Philistine, “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. (1 Samuel 17:45) And of the writer of Proverbs 18:10 who declared that “The name of the Lord is a fortified tower; the righteous run to it and are safe”. Amen

# 92 A journey through the Psalms. Psalms 20 & 21. “Some trust in Chariots”

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A key verse in Psalm 20 is:

 

Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.

 

 This verse became well known amongst Christians in the early 1970s when a book was published called, Chariots of the Gods? Unsolved Mysteries of the Past, Memories of the Future:, authored by Erich von Däniken. “It involved the hypothesis that the technologies and religions of many ancient civilizations were given to them by ancient astronauts [i.e extra-terrestrial beings] who were welcomed as gods.” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chariots_of_the_Gods%3F)

 

This was followed up and refuted by author, Barry B. Thiering,  who published a book called, Some Trust In Chariots: Sixteen Views On Erich Von Däniken’s Chariots Of The Gods?  And also by Clifford Wilson, when he wrote Crash Go The Chariots: An Alternative To “Chariots Of The Gods”?

As one reads these books, it seems to be that if trusting in the God of the Bible is not acceptable for some people, then even the strangest of alternatives will do!

But this was not true for the psalmist who wrote Psalms 20 and 21. His trust was “in the name of the Lord” and there was, for him and his people, no other alternative.  And why not? As the writer of Proverbs declares: The name of the Lord is a fortified tower; the righteous run to it and are safe.  (Proverbs 18:10)

So, we now turn to some quite different psalms than what we have  recently been studying. They are known as Royal Psalms, and the reason for this will soon be obvious as we read them.

According to most commentators Psalms 20 and 21 go together, as Phil Moore suggests: “Psalm 20 is traditionally viewed as the marching anthem which the Israelite army sang before a battle, and Psalm 21…as the marching anthem on the way home after winning. We can see this in the symmetry between the two psalms. Israel’s troops bless their king before battle by praying in 20:4-5 ‘May he [God] give you [the King] the desire of your heart…May the Lord grant all your requests’, and they bless the Lord on the way home by singing 21:2, You [God] have granted him [the King] his heart’s desire and have not withheld the request of his lips’…his army sang these two psalms because the Lord is the all-powerful victor…” and it was Him in whom they put their trust.” (see references # 36)

Trust in God alone has often been challenged by those who don’t possess such faith, and the book mentioned earlier by Erich von Däniken reveals just how many people “clutch at straws” (i.e. seek solutions, ideas, or hopes that are insubstantial) to find an alternative to trusting in God. Believe it or not, “Chariots of the Gods’ was on “The New York Times bestseller list and has sold 70 million copies as of January 2017.” (Wikipedia).

Incredible, considering, also according to Wikipedia, that “Many scientists and historians have rejected his ideas, claiming that the book’s conclusions were based on faulty, pseudoscientific evidence, some of which was later demonstrated to be fraudulent or fabricated, and under illogical premises.” It continues that he was also “accused of stealing the ideas of [a] French author…[and] plagiarized many of the book’s concepts from [other authors].”

But such is the way of the world!  Paul explains why it is so in  2 Corinthians 4:4

The god of this age [Satan] has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.

Sad but true!

Earlier in this chapter Paul also says,

[But] we do not lose heart. Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God.

Jesus said “I am the truth” and He alone is the answer to the world’s “clutching at straws”, and in his wisdom and mercy, God has called us to proclaim the wonderful news of the gospel. As Paul also says,

 

For what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.

But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.

Some, sadly, may trust in their “chariots”, but in the end it will be revealed that only those who “trust in the name of the Lord” will be saved.

 

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. Some trust in chariots and some in horses,     but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.

Father, I pray that the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ will be revealed to my friends, families and others who at this time in their lives trust in “chariots”. May they know that you, Jesus, are the only “way, truth and life” and so put their trust in you, and you alone. Amen.