John T. Willis

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Taking Pride not in Horses or Chariots, but in God--Psalm 20

Psalm 20 is a prayer for the king of Israel. This psalm is a model for right attitude toward God with regard to people in leadership positions. The superscription is brief: "To the leader. A Psalm of David." This is probably a later addition. It gives us no information about the content of Psalm 20. Psalm 20 naturally falls into three paragraphs.

I. The Poet prays that Yahweh will Protect the King. Psalm 20:1-3.
   a. The poet begins by beseeching Yahweh to answer the prayers of the king in the day of trouble and protect him from danger. "The day of trouble" is deliberately very broad and vague. The day of trouble may be a time of personal issues, a time of being attacked by enemies, a time of illness, and the list goes on and on. 20:1.
   b. The poet assumes that the king regularly attends worship at the sanctuary on Zion. The poet implores Yahweh to help and support the king as he comes to approach Yahweh. 20:2.
   c. The poet assumes that the king faithfully offers offerings and burnt sacrifices when he approaches Yahweh at the temple. The poet entreats Yahweh to remember positively all his offerings and to favor his burnt offerings. 20:3.

II. The Poet prays that Yahweh will fulfill the plans and petitions of the king. Psalm 20:4-5.
     a. The verb "fulfill" appears in synonymous parallelism twice, once in verse 4 and once in verse 5. The poet assumes that the king has desires and plans to carry out for the good of God's people. So he calls on Yahweh to grant and fulfill the king's desires and plans. 20:4.
    b. When Yahweh carries out these desires and plans, the poet beseeches Yahweh that Yahweh's people ["we"] will shout for joy and set up banners to honor Yahweh for all he has done to fulfill all the king's petitions. The expression "in the name of our God" means "by the authority or power of God." 20:5.

III. The Poet concludes with the Assurance that Yahweh will answer his prayers and help the king. Psalm 20:6-9.
      a. In verses 1-5, the poet offers a prayer of petition. Now, in verses 6-9, he expresses the assurance that Yahweh will indeed respond and answer his prayers. The psalmist is certain [he says "I know"] that Yahweh will help his anointed one, the earthly king and answer him "from his holy heaven" with mighty victories for the king and his people. Yahweh is in heaven looking down on planet earth, and from there he will answer the prayers of God's faithful people. 20:6.
     b. The psalmist observes that some take pride in chariots and some in horses, but he affirms that the pride of Yahweh's faithful people ["our pride"] is "in the name of the Lord our God." The expression "in the name of the Lord" means "by the authority or power of the Lord," as in verse 5. 20:7.
     c. The poet declares that the enemies of Yahweh's people will collapse and fall, but Yahweh's faithful people ["we"] shall rise and stand upright. 20:8.
     d. In summary, the poet concludes with a prayer that Yahweh will give victory to the earthly king and answer Yahweh's people when they call. 20:9.

Share YOUR ideas and enlightenments and experiences and questions and doubts with others. Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis