blog meditation Psalms

Meditation 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.
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!

(Ps. 20:1-9 NIV)

Quite often you hear the comment, ‘Church is not that relevant for me, it doesn’t fit with my life!’ But the opposite is the issue in this Psalm, ‘Your life is not that relevant to church, it doesn’t fit with Christ’s church!’

The problem of getting something from church into life is an age-old problem. This Psalm is concerned with the preparation of the King and the people of God before they go to battle. They are coming into the sanctuary and they’re not asking if the prayers are relevant, if the sacrifices are relevant, or if the worship is relevant. Their primary concern is that they should receive from God, in order that they could take what God gives and bring it out to do battle in the world.

In Ps 20 we find this kind of reassurance that what we learn about God in church we can take out with us. That church is a kind of haven. What makes church a haven, a retreat, is that God is there. Church is relevant primarily because God is there. Our efforts to explain the relevance of church must explain that it is the presence of God that makes our time relevant. Whether we use a 1920 liturgy, or a 2020 liturgy is not of prime importance. The reaction that a casual visitor might have, will be to do with the question ‘do these Christians really believe that they are meeting with God?,

The concern of this Psalm is ‘can I take anything with me from the presence of God into the rest of my life?’ This is an important question because all too often we get the notion into our heads that what we do in church is theory, and what we do outside of church is real life. But the opposite is the truth. You are closer to reality when you are in church, in touch with the Maker, in touch with the planner, in touch with the one who sustains, in communication with the God that knows all things. You can’t get anything more real than that.

The psalm is divided into three parts.
(1) v1-5 Is an intercessory prayer
(2) v6 Is a declaration
(3) v7-9 Is a concluding praise

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.

Ps. 20:6 (NIV)

We have the idea of God answering at the beginning v1, God answering at the end v9, and right in the centre the affirmation that God answers from his heavenly sanctuary. What the people are looking for is answers, answers to life’s most important questions and they see those answers not in trite platitudes or contemporary topical sermons but as they meet with God in the sanctuary, as they meet with God in church, because the significance of the church gathering is that God is there.

In the first section from v1-5 the intercessory prayer has been leading up to this affirmation that God answers. Notice how this opening prayer is broken down into six or seven individual requests

  1. v1 May the Lord answer you
  2. v1 May the name of the God of Jacob protect you
  3. v2 May he send you help from the sanctuary
  4. v3 May he remember all your sacrifices
  5. v4 May he give you the desire of your heart
  6. v5 May we shout for joy over your victory
  7. v5 May the Lord grant all your requests

We see in this prayer the dependence that the people have on God. Their prayers are an evident sign that their trust is in God.

They’re looking for protection from God
They’re looking for help from God
They want their worship to be accepted by God
They want success with their desires and plans
They want to know joy and victory
They want to celebrate the name of their God
They sum up all their prayers by pleading that the Lord will grant all the requests.

This Psalm has actually got to do with a king and a people who are about to go out and fight a war. The issue is, ‘As we come to church, is there anything in church that we can take with us out to battle?’ The resounding answer is yes! The Lord will answer! As you go to face your battle, whatever that battle is, is there anything from church that you can take with you, the answer is yes, the Lord answers with the saving power of his right hand. That is the kind of God whom we meet with.

The battle is what is going on outside church, but the people of God are looking help from inside church.

May he send you help from the sanctuary
    and grant you support from Zion.

Ps. 20:2 (NIV)

The people of God are praying for the King. They want help sent from the sanctuary. That is the place were God dwells. In OT times God took up residence in the Tabernacle or later the Temple. Now please don’t misunderstand me here. God has always and will always be present everywhere at all times. This is a special presence that we are speaking about, and God was especially present in the tabernacle and later the Temple, and that is what is being referred to when this verse speaks of sanctuary. Send help from the place where you dwell. Now in NT times, or today with us, God has his special presence when the church is met together. So we could pray ‘send help from HWEC’. What we would mean would be ‘Lord when we meet with you, let us take from your presence so that we can go out there and fight battles’. Now let us notice an interesting development. In v2 the request is ‘send help from the sanctuary’, look where the answer comes from in v6 it is from his heavenly sanctuary.

Now is that not a bit confusing? Where is God’s special presence, where is He going to answer from? There is a sense that God is with His people, but there is also a sense that the people are brought to God. So when you go out from church and someone asks you where you were, you could say I was in Church, we meet in Hounslow and God promises to be there and meet with us, or you could say in a sense I was in Heaven, because we are enabled to enter the very presence of the Holy place in Heaven through the merit of the death of Christ. This alternating of the earthly sanctuary and the heavenly sanctuary shows us this ascending and descending, of God coming to be with us and God taking us to be with him. How blessed that Gods enables us to have this experience of a foretaste of heaven as we gather in his name. The point of seeing this interplay between Heaven and earth, is for us to appreciate that ours is not an earth-bound religion, and coming to church is not an earth-bound event, that heaven is involved. The prayer did not just contain a concern for victory in battle – there was the desire that their worship would be acceptable. Because success out on the battlefield, success outside of church was so closely linked with success of worship in the church. How do we measure success? Success is worship that is accepted by God and our worship is accepted when God’s presence is there.

Lord God we miss not being able to gather with the people of God in the name of Christ. Lord hasten the day when we will gather again with Your people. Until that day keep us close that we might worship you as we share in the same prayers and readings. Help us to see the significance of Your presence with us and let us go out from your presence to live for Your glory, in Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

C plr