(All bible quotes from The Holy Bible, New International Version)
TALK ON PSALM 21
PRAISE TO THE VICTORIOUS KING
(A FRAMEWORK OF HOW TO PRAISE AND WORSHIP OUR KING)
The famous Westminster confession of faith’s shorter catechism starts with this question, “What is the chief end of man?” and its surprising and amazing answer is, “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever”. Psalm 21 starts and finishes with praise for a great King and that note of praise is what carries right through this Psalm teaching us that as followers of the great King Jesus we are always to worship him as the victorious King who desires our thanks and praise.
Psalm 21 is closely linked with Psalm 20, in fact they both contain a very similar phrase, in Psalm 20 verse 4 we read, “May he give the desire of your heart and make all your plans succeed”, and in Psalm 21 verse 2, we read, “You have granted him the desire of his heart and have not withheld the request of his lips”. Psalm 20 is a prayer for victory for the king in battle while Psalm 21 seems to be a prayer of praise for the victory that has been given by God.
In my study of Psalm 20 I pointed out we must read it with New Testament eyes. Which means when we take what Christ and his Gospel message is and read the Psalm with this in mind we see it’s full meaning and purpose. This is confirmed by the fact that all the claims of the king in the Psalm cannot be for filled in David but by the greater King to come who became known to the Jews as the Messiah.
Psalm 21 was written by David and could have a very real historical context, as H.C. Leupold in his excellent commentary of The Psalm points out, Psalm 21 verse 4 reads “He asked for life, and you gave it to him, length of days, for ever and ever”. Leupold goes on to point out that in 2 Samuel 7 David is promised a Kingdom line that will last forever, this chapter interestingly starts with the words, “After the king was settled in his palace and the Lord had given him rest from all his enemies around him”.
David has now seen God give him great victories over his enemies as he had asked his people to pray for in Psalm 20 and now that that prayer has been answered he gives his people a prayer of praise that includes praise for an everlasting Kingdom. This prayer of praise is a great model for us to pray as we seek to live a life of spiritual “living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God” as Paul calls it in Romans 12 :1 and he goes on to say, “this is your spiritual act of worship”.
The Model for praise has three parts :
1. Praise God for the mercies he gives us through Jesus the King (verses 1 – 6)
2. Praise God for the future victories he has for us in Jesus the King (verses 7 – 12)
3. Praise God as a way of life in Jesus our King (verse 13)
This model for praise is like a missionary giving his or her supporters praise points for them to pray. Jesus gives us here his praise points for the mission he has for us as his followers and fellow workers in the great work of taking the Gospel to the whole world.
1. PRAISE GOD FOR THE MERCIES HE GIVES US THROUGH JESUS THE KING (VERSES 1 – 7)
In verse one David tells the people that he “rejoices in your (God’s) strength”. In this model of how to praise God David starts by teaching his people and us that it all starts and ends with God. It is God alone who does it we are but his instruments through which God works. In verse 1 we learn that God gives us three things :
- Great Joy
David was a great fighter, David had a great army and David worked out some great strategies but David does not attribute any of his successful campaigns to his amazing abilities. No, David says it all come from God and God alone. When did you last read that in a missionaries prayer letter?
When we realise the effects of sin on us and mankind and how powerless we are to overcome it and how much God went to in Christ to save us, only then can we see how much must be attributed to God and not us even in the work of reaching others for Christ. Paul put it this way, (Romans 5 : 8), “but God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us”. In verse 6, Pauls says, “You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly”.
One reason why we fail to praise God today is because we fail to give God the glory for what has done for us and what he continues to do for us in Christ. Listen to Paul speaking to the Philippian church as he strikes this perfect note of praise for the great work he believed God had done in them through his ministry to them,
Phil. 1 : 3 – 6, “I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus”.
Paul sees this work of salvation, which is from God beginning and end, only being complete on the day of Christ. Now hear how this note of praise will be struck on that great day, Rev. 12 : 10 – 12 :
“Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say: “Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Messiah. For the accuser of our brothers and sisters, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down. They triumphed over him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death. 12 Therefore rejoice, you heavens and you who dwell in them! But woe to the earth and the sea, because the devil has gone down to you! He is filled with fury, because he knows that his time is short.”
This God honoring note of praise continues in verse 2 to 6. However the context of David’s prayer seems to be a answer to a prayer as verse 2 reads,
“You have granted him the desire of his heart and have not withheld the request of his lips.”
This prayer could be the one David framed for his people in Psalm 20. In verse 4 we read,
“He asked you for life, and you gave him length of days, for ever and ever”.
The prayer request I Psalm 20 and 21 speak of the desire of the heart of David, so it seems David asked God to spare his life in the coming battles but God gives David an amazing answer to his prayer. God says, yes your life will be spared in the coming battles but I will give you three things you did not actually ask for.
Those three things are :
1. Rich Blessings
2. A crown of pure Gold
3. Eternal life
There is no doubt that the reigns of David and his son Solomon are the high point in the nation of Israel’s history. They had won victories over so much of the Promised Land that after their time the vastness and riches of their kingdoms could never have been matched. David is crowned with a crown of pure gold in 2 Samuel 12 : 30. This was after he defeated the king of a place called Rabbah, which is part of the Ammonite territory of ancient Israel.
However these earthly evidences of rich blessings are nothing compared to the third gift God gives David, namely as verse 4 spells out “length of days, for ever and ever”. Many great kings and rulers of history have sought and falsely claimed immortality. Many of the powerful Caesars of the great Roman empire declared themselves God’s, so drunk were they with the earthly power of conquest but of course all of them died and past into history. So to, you might say did David.
The answer to this conundrum is found in understanding the words in verses 5 and 6,
“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”.
David did die but his kingdom lived on and he in fact lived on because of one great historical fact. The Lord Jesus Christ, David’s greater son came to this world and died on the cross for our sins, giving us the gift of eternal life with God in his glorious presence. As Mary is told by an Angel of the birth of her son in Luke 1 : 31 – 33,
“You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”
When David says, he prayed for life and gave him length of days, for ever and ever” I believe he is referring to the promise delivered by the prophet Nathan in 2 Samuel 7 : 11B – 16 :
‘The LORD declares to you that the LORD himself will establish a house for you: When your days are over and you rest with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, your own flesh and blood, and I will establish his kingdom. He is the one who will build a house for my Name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be his father, and he will be my son. When he does wrong, I will punish him with a rod wielded by men, with floggings inflicted by human hands. But my love will never be taken away from him, as I took it away from Saul, whom I removed from before you. Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever.’”
This is an eternal blessing, splendor and majesty that David is referring to in this first section of his model of prayerful praise for his people. Of course this promise can only be found for filled in the work and person of the Messiah. David and Solomon’s line of reign did seem to come to an end when the Babylonians destroyed the Kingdom of Judah in 587BC but as we saw in Luke’s gospel a greater descendant of David, namely Jesus, “will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.” (Luke 1 : 33).
David like so many Kings in history were obsessed with the continuation of their line of reign. So many believed their family line could reign forever and of course all came, often to a bloody and messy end. However David did not ask for this, he only asked for life, verse 4 but God amazingly promises his kingdom eternal blessings and glory. Of course again this can only be seen as happening through the life and work of Jesus Christ.
Jesus promise us more than life, like David we are promised eternal life, as Jesus declares in John 11 : 25 – 26 :
“I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die”.
More than this Jesus made this possible by his death and resurrection and then his ascension back into heaven where his earthly kingdom become a heavenly kingdom that is eternal, as Rev. 11 : 15 declares,
“The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Messiah, and he will reign for ever and ever”.
So how does this impact on our model for praise for the King. In this life it is so easy to become caught up in the hum drum of everyday life and loose sight of what we as Christian believers are part of. We are members of an eternal Kingdom and our King, The Lord Jesus Christ has trail blazed a way for us into heaven where we will sit with him in heaven as part of his eternal Kingdom. Our praise for God should and must match that vision and hope and if it does we can join now in the heavenly chorus of praise that goes something like this,
“Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready”.
Of course that Lamb of heaven is our King and Savour Jesus Christ and his bride is us his true church of believers.
2. PRAISE GOD FOR THE FUTURE VICTORIES HE HAS FOR US IN THE KING (VERSES 7 – 12)
You might rightly say that David looking forward to the eternal promised blessings of his God’s kingdom has already been done. This is true but in this section David prophesizes that a dreadful day of Judgment is to come when this promised Messiah will appear from heaven. I will have more to say of this in a moment.
But first we have to deal with verse 7 which reads :
“For the king trusts in the Lord: through the unfailing love of the Most High he will not be shaken”
The context of this verse seems to be that David has just stated how much God will bless him and his descendants and he now reveals his true humility by revealing to us in verse 7 that he is not taking his faith in God for granted. His faith is not grounded on his abilities as he has already declared but it is grounded on what he calls “the unfailing love of the Most High”,
Many people have criticized the study of the Old Testament because it is all about a God who is full of vengeance and bloodthirsty stories of war and murder. I heard one crazy American cult leader say that he sees the Old Testament presenting God as a God of Wrath and Judgment and not a God of Love. He told the sixty minutes reporter she was wrong thinking God loved and forgave people because his bible presented a God of judgment. I wondered if he had a different bible than mine as here in Psalm 21 verse 7 we read, ““For the king trusts in the Lord: through the unfailing love of the Most High”. These words are spoken by King David who was the author of this Psalm and who was used by God to bring Judgment to many sinful nations around him. However he claims that his God is a God of “unfailing love”.
This is a great fact to have in our framework of praise. We are people who like David only know the God of heaven and earth because he chose , in love to reveal himself to us. David knew he constantly needed God’s forgiveness and his God would give it to him because he is a God of love and forgiveness.
1. NOT ONLY A GOD OF LOVE BUT A GOD OF WRATH AS WELL. (Vs’s 8 – 11)
It is interesting that after David declares, in verse 7, that his God is a God of unfailing love he goes on to speak of that same God being a God of great Wrath. We read in verses 8 to 12 some terrifying pictures of the Wrath of God to come. This clearly shows us that not only is God a God of Love but he is also a God of wrath as well. I aim to show here that these two aspects of God are not in opposition to one another but are two sides to the one great God. First lets read these verse’s, again.
“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;
for you will make them turn their backs when you aim at them with drawn bow”.
Verses 8 – 12, were not for filled in David’s time, yes he was used on many occasions to act as God’s hand of judgment but these verses speak of a future event when God will put down all his enemies. As Christians we know that this future event is the day Jesus returns to this world to bring about the final act of God’s Judgment of this world.
Many people including Christians are very uncomfortable with the knowledge that God is going to judge the world and bring terrible calamity upon those who oppose him. Let me say that if there is not some kind of final reckoning there is no justice in this world. If people like Adolf Hitler can escape facing Judgment for the millions he had killed then there is no justice in this world. As verse 11 puts it, people of all ages who oppose God and his people, “plot evil against you and devise wicked schemes, they cannot succeed”. If God is God he must be a God of Justice and truth and he therefore must one day bring about a day of reckoning.
The concept of God judging this world is not just a concept unique to the Old Testament but lies at the heart of the New as well. In fact it is part of God’s message of love which we call the Gospel. Let me show you clearly how Jesus taught this from the famous passage in John 3 often quoted to promote the concept of God’s great love.
John 3 : 16 – 21,
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God”.
Jesus here is teaching us, yes he came into the world the first time to save it but what was he saving it from? Was it not the judgment of God to come. Is that not what he is saying in verse 18, “Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son”.
The fact is God did not have to do anything about our plight. He could rightfully judge and condemn us because as Paul says, “We all have sinned and fall short of his the glory of God” (Romans 3 : 23). But God is not just a God of Wrath and judgment, he is also, praise God, a God of Love and mercy. These verses 8 – 11 speak of what will happen , “at the time of your appearing”. These words should be read along side what Paul says about the appearing of The Lord Jesus Christ on that final day when he comes the second time.
2 Thes. 1 : 7 – 10,
“This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels. He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might 10 on the day he comes to be glorified in his holy people and to be marveled at among all those who have believed. This includes you, because you believed our testimony to you”.
Psalm 21 verse 11, spells out in one dramatic old testament picture, that there is no escaping the wrath of God to come for those who are not found in Christ. They might try to turn and run from God but, “you will make them turn their backs when you aim at them with drawn bow”.
Let me quote from a very interesting and telling quote from a commentary on Psalm 21 by John Burton Coffman, “There is another side to the character of the Holy Messiah which preachers of the current era have apparently never learned. Our Holy Saviour, the Messiah, is Love Incarnate; he is gentle, loving, patient, long-suffering, and unwilling that any mortal should perish; but he is also the Terrible One, who, upon the occasion of the Second Advent will strike unspeakable terror into the hearts of the wicked. The mightiest sinners on earth will scream for the rocks and the mountains to fall upon them and hide them from the wrath of Him that sitteth upon the throne and from the Lamb (Rev. 6:14ff)”.
How dos this fit into our framework of praise and worship of our King?
Well when we praise God for his love for us, and we should, we must realise what he has saved us from, what he had to do to achieve it and what awaits those who refuse to accept his love so freely given. This will make our praise and worship more meaningful and as Paul says in 1 Cor. 13 : 1,
“If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal”.
Love without the wrath of God it rescues us from is hollow and meaningless and is not the love of the bible and therefore is in danger of being like a resounding gong or clanging cymbal.
3. PRAISE GOD AS A WAY OF LIFE IN JESUS OUR KING (VERSE 13)
David concludes his framework for praise of the King for his people where he started it exalting the Lord who is his strength. David does not want his people exalting him but the God he believes has made him who he is. All the great writers of the bible spoke like this including Peter, the follower of Jesus who had to learn the hard way that without God he is weak and cannot even stand up to a servant girl when she challenges him on the night Jesus was arrested. In 1 Peter 4 : 11, we read the words of the transformed Peter, who has learnt that his only strength is the Lord,
“If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen”.
David’s framework for praise and worship of our king finishes with these words,
“We will sing and praise your might”
David was a great singer and writer of songs but he is not just telling us here to just sing. David and indeed the whole bible teaches us that we were made by God to praise him and enjoy him forever, as the Westminster confession of faith’s shorter catechism answer to the first question states. We are as Paul says in 1 Cor. 10 : 31,
“So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God”.
This what David in Psalm 21 verse 13 is really saying and this is what the whole bible is telling us to do. Praising God is not just something special we do on Sundays at a special worship service it is a way of life. As Paul teaches in 1 Thes. 5 : 18,
“give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus”.
Our framework for praise and worship of the king is our very lives. Paul’s teaching on worship is not just instructions of what to do when we gather together it is that true worship is a way of life. As he clearly states in Romans 12 : 1 – 2,
“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will”.
So David has taken us on a journey of praise in this Psalm which seems to be written by him to show his people the framework of how to praise and worship their God as they celebrate the victories of their king. In this framework we have been drected to a King far greater and powerful than David. We have seen that this greater King is in fact The Lord Jesus Christ. What then is the frame work of praise and worship for Jesus our king.
Firstly it founded on his work of mercy and love for us. We like David must see that the Lord is our strength and rejoice in that instead of glorying in human achievements no matter how great and noble they might be. If someone has had a great victory in the Christian battle it must be attributed to the one who made it so, namely Jesus our King.
Secondly our framework of praise is based on what Jesus did for us in the past on the cross, where he died for our sins. Then it is based on the sure and certain future coming of the Lord when this world will be judged and those who have looked to King Jesus will be taken up by him into heaven.
Finally this framework of praise is a life style when we live for the praise and joy of our Lord and King. Our lives ever sing the praise and might of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords who has saved us, is continuing to save us and will save us on the great day of Judgment. This king is of course Jesus Christ our Lord.
Read the poem / song based on this Psalm.
THANKS FOR THE KING (Based on Psalm 21)
Thank you Father for sending your Son
You are Lord and King
Jesus died upon the cross
To save us from our sin.
Thank you Lord for your sacrifice
You gave your life for us.
You spoke of this as your plan
You told us all to trust.
Yes you told us all to trust.
Thank you Father for raising Christ
From deaths dark hand so strong.
Crowning him Lord of the universe
Believers now sing his song.
Thank you Lord for giving us new life
You are the Lord of time.
The ancient of days, eternal one
One day you’ll make us shine.
Yes one day you’ll make us shine.
Thank you Father for helping Christ
Over come the devils power.
Great victory is ours in Christ
Blessing us every hour.
Thank you Lord for the love you showed
When died on the cross for us.
We don’t deserve the love you give
It inspires us to trust
Yes it inspires us to trust.
Thank you Lord that you’ll soon return
To raise your children high.
Judge this world that’s turned on you
And believes your word’s a lie.
Thank you Father you are so strong
In Love you sent your Son.
Who gives us life when we should be dead
So now we’ll sing your song
Yes now we’ll sing your song.
By : Jim Wenman