For the director of music. A psalm of David.
The king rejoices in your strength, Lord.
How great is his joy in the victories you give!
You have granted him his heart’s desire
and have not withheld the request of his lips.
You came to greet him with rich blessings
and placed a crown of pure gold on his head.
He asked you for life, and you gave it to him –
length of days, for ever and ever.
Through the victories you gave, his glory is great;
you have bestowed on him splendour and majesty.
Surely you have granted him unending blessings
and made him glad with the joy of your presence.
For the king trusts in the Lord;
through the unfailing love of the Most High
he will not be shaken.
Your hand will lay hold on all your enemies;
your right hand will seize your foes.
When you appear for battle,
you will burn them up as in a blazing furnace.
The Lord will swallow them up in his wrath,
and his fire will consume them.
You will destroy their descendants from the earth,
their posterity from mankind.
Though they plot evil against you
and devise wicked schemes, they cannot succeed.
You will make them turn their backs
when you aim at them with drawn bow.
Be exalted in your strength, Lord;(Ps. 21:1-13 NIV)
we will sing and praise your might.
Ps 20 was a prayer for victory, Ps 21 celebrates the victory already achieved and anticipates yet further victories. When we pray and the Lord answers, it is important to return into His presence with thanksgiving. If you compare v1 and v13 you will see that the Psalmist picks up a similar theme. V1 The king rejoices in the strength of the LORD and v13 the people sing and praise because of the strength of the LORD. This is called an inclusio (like bookends). That should be a clue about the structure of the Psalm and that the main idea of the Psalm will be in the middle. We find the main idea in v7, it is covenant love, unfailing love (Hesed). The response to covenant love is trust in the covenant LORD. Every joy and victory that we receive (v1) is a gift from the covenant LORD. The victories and joys we receive are not as a result of our own skills, abilities or strengths (Ps 20:7, not in chariots or horses) but are achieved in the strength of the LORD. The LORD’s presence was one of the central promises of the covenant. The people bring their thanks for God’s presence with them and the second half of the Psalm anticipates further victory over the LORD’s enemies.
V2 What was in the Psalmist’s heart is expressed by his lips and the LORD has granted an answer to his prayer. What is in his heart is consistent with what was expressed by his lips. Both the meditation of his heart and the words of his mouth have been accepted by the LORD (Ps 19:14).
In v3 the NIV says the LORD came to greet the king. In the context the translation is correct, but the word used for greet has already been seen in a negative sense in Ps 17:13, 18:5, and 18:18. There in Ps 17 and Ps 18 the LORD confronted with judgement, or the snares confronted the Psalmist, but here the LORD confronts with blessing. The crown he receives is not the coronation crown, but a crown of honour. V4 does not mean eternal life, but long life, and also refers to the succession of kings upon the throne, ultimately leading to the King of kings, the Lord Jesus Christ. Victory, glory, splendour, majesty, unending blessings and joy are all products of the presence of the LORD. When we come to worship it is the LORD’s presence that transforms the gathering. We experience fleeting moments (CS Lewis says stabs of joy) of this when we gather together, but when in God’s presence in heaven this will be unending blessings.
V7 is the centre point of the Psalm, and covenant love is the basis for all other blessings. God is faithful to His covenant, He will be our God and we will be His covenant people, loved with everlasting love. Covenant love means covenant relationship and results in covenant blessings. Surrounded with such manifestation of covenant love and covenant relationship we are compelled to trust in the LORD and we can never be shaken.
Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe(Heb. 12:28 NIV)
The presence of the LORD is a two-edged sword. For the covenant faithful, there are covenant blessings but for the enemies of the LORD’s people and covenant breakers there are covenant curses. As the covenant blessings are expressed in a series of superlatives in the heights of God’s presence, so the curses of God in their depths are dreadful and damming. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. God’s presence means judgement for the lost.
V9 The theothanic glory of God appears as a consuming fire, removing all trace of the enemy and their progeny from the face of the earth.
‘Surely the day is coming; it will burn like a furnace. All the arrogant and every evildoer will be stubble, and that day that is coming will set them on fire,’ says the Lord Almighty. ‘Not a root or a branch will be left to them.(Mal. 4:1 NIV)
The Psalmist here has an apocalyptic image in his mind and comes back to the present in v11 and exclaims that the enemy cannot succeed. The triumph of the church is that God’s presence is with us. The destiny of the wicked is settled because God’s presence is with them. The divine warrior sets His aim on the wicked with His bow.
The Psalmist and the people of God have been encouraged by this tour de force of the Kingdom of God and they exalt in the strength of the LORD and sing and praise the might of Almighty God.
Covenant LORD we thank you for the love and relationship that we enjoy. We thank you that Your Word brings us to a place of joy and rejoicing and trust in You. Keep us safe under the shelter of Your wing. In these days help us to abide in You for Christ our Saviour’s sake in whose Name we pray. Amen