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Aug 28, 2023

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” (Psalm 20:1-5).

Christians believe that all of Scripture is useful for teaching and training in righteousness. We believe all of it helps correct and rebuke us when we go astray. But when we read certain parts of it we may wonder how. Sometimes we are simply too lazy to do the study and reflection required to understand; at other times we need some help.

Psalm 20 might be one of those passages; not because it is too difficult to understand but we are not sure of its application. So, let’s consider how first Israel and then the church used this passage. The folks of the past can help us use scripture well.

For the people of Israel in the Old Testament this became a prayer for their king. When read from this perspective, much of the psalm prays well. However, verse 4 may cause us to pause and wonder.

What we need to understand is that for the righteous Israelite, the king's task was to guide Israel to be the true people of God as described in Exodus 19:5,6. God's king would desire what God desired for Israel. Thus, they could in good faith offer this prayer for their king.

Following Israel's lead this psalm became part of the church's prayer. Of course, the church did not pray it for a human king, but as part of their prayers for the Kingdom of Jesus to be established.

In this setting the psalm takes on a whole new dimension. Verse 3 is a prayer that God will put into effect the sacrifice of Jesus cancelling our sin and adopting us as his precious children. Thus, it becomes a prayer for the gospel to be heard and believed throughout the world.

When we think about the desires of Jesus heart, many things come to mind: His prayer from the cross, "Father, forgive them"; his prayer that all who believe in him may be brought to complete unity so the world will know that the Father sent Him (John 17); or his desire that we would abide in him so that our love, joy and obedience would be complete (John 15).

In this setting, when "we shout for joy over your salvation" we are joining the crowds during Jesus' triumphant entry. We are rejoicing in the coming of Jesus' Kingdom and the salvation it brings through His death and resurrection. We are singing with the angels and saints in heaven as described in Revelation.

With the people of Israel, we recognize that there are many things in which we can trust. But we reject them all and put our trust "in the name of the Lord our God." We long for the day when all will bow down and worship Him. We long for the day when God's shalom will make all things new.

Among liturgical churches, Psalm 20 is a morning prayer. It's a good prayer for all God's people to pray each morning.

As you journey on into the week ahead, go with the blessing of God:

May the peace of the Lord Christ go with you: wherever he may send you. May he guide you through the wilderness: protect you through the storm. May he bring you home rejoicing: at the wonders he has shown you. May he bring you home rejoicing: once again into our doors.