Psalm 20 God, Bless The Troops

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Questions: Whom do we want God to hear? Will God remember past devotion? Will we remember God’s faithfulness? Will it make a difference? For whose name?”Read More” to pursue answers in the Psalms.

Lord, speak to me through your Spirit and your Word, your Body and your Blood;
that I might know you as you are, and manifest the image of Christ in this world,
and the world to come. Amen.Psalms 20:1-9

[[To the chief Musician, A Psalm of David.]]

I find myself wondering why this Psalm is attributed to David, given that it is written as a blessing to fighters:

The LORD hear thee in the day of trouble; the name of the God of Jacob defend thee;

I suppose either:

a. David wrote it himself, for someone else to pray over him
b. He himself, as commander, prayed it over the troops
c. He wrote and prayed it later in life, when he no longer went out with the troops
d. Someone else wrote it in his honor, but he collected it with his own writingsI doubt we can know for sure, so it probably doesn’t matter much, but it would help set the perspective. What does seem clear (at least to me) is that this Psalm was prayed as a blessing over a person/people much concerned with battle, most likely those who did the actual fighting. That is, it isn’t just talking about spiritual rescue, but actual physical deliverance from large-scale enemies.Why do I say that? Well, first of all the person(s) being blessed seems to be having trouble outside Jerusalem:

Send thee help from the sanctuary, and strengthen thee out of Zion;

There’s a sense that they are not (or will not) be able to call out to God directly during the trouble, but want God to remember their past devotion:

Remember all thy offerings, and accept thy burnt sacrifice; Selah.

To be sure, I must admit this could just be a general blessing, perhaps one spoken at the New Year or the end of feast, asking for general protection and provision:

Grant thee according to thine own heart, and fulfil all thy counsel.

On the other hand — at least in my mind — it is somewhat unusual to simply ask God to give someone whatever they want, and success in all their plans. Such a blessing seems more likely reserved for those charged with a difficult duty, whose fulfillment was of great concern to king and kingdom — and whose success would be cause of widespread rejoicing:

We will rejoice in thy salvation, and in the name of our God we will set up [our] banners: the LORD fulfil all thy petitions.

Regardless of all that, the most striking aspect of this Psalm is how it gives glory to the name of God, not “[insert your name here].” As much as the Psalmist is praying for wisdom and success for the Psalmee, he is very clear that the glory goes to God:

Now know I that the LORD saveth his anointed; he will hear him from his holy heaven with the saving strength of his right hand.

There’s an interesting tension here. Perhaps not a conceptual tension, but an emotional tension versus my own ego. I often want God to help me in a way that makes me look good, that builds up my name and esteem, and gives me greater confidence in my ability to do what I want.

Not so the Psalmist:

Some [trust] in chariots, and some in horses: but we will remember the name of the LORD our God.

Why? Well, if nothing else, because self-trust doesn’t work:

They are brought down and fallen: but we are risen, and stand upright.

This is hardly a small point. A large part of my DiaBlogue with Alan really comes down to, “Do I place my ultimate trust in my own wisdom and power, or God’s?” That, to me, is the essential difference between Christianity and atheism: we believed in a loving, self-giving God. Far too many Christians are practicing atheists much of the time (including, frankly, me). We think of ourselves as self-sufficient, and give ourselves the glory for our successes.

Clearly, God wants us to use our gifts, and take appropriate pride in the work of our hands. But — and this is key — we must remember the name of the Lord, and never forget that He gives us both the ability and the circumstances we need to succeed. Which means remembering our utter dependence on Him:

Save, LORD: let the
king hear us when we call.

Whether read like that, or split as in the NIV:

O LORD, save the king! Answer us when we call!

The bottom line is that our ultimate faith is not in king, chariots, or horses; not in our own technique, strength, or resources; not in our own righteousness, justice, or wisdom. But only in the LORD.

Prayer

God, I confess that I too often lost sight of your glorious salvation. I grow fat and complacent in times of security, and fall under the delusion that I have obtained (or at least maintain) my peace by my own unassisted efforts. Then, when trouble comes I either panic, worry, or grow bitter against you. Forgive me, O Lord, for sowing and reaping the fruits of self-reliance. Teach me instead to be a solider in your army, totally submitted to your will, and wholly dependent on you for my rescue. Help me to remember the glorious victory you won, and the price you paid that Good Friday long ago. May I always sacrifice at your altar, and give you all the praise. I ask this in Jesus name, Amen.

About the Title:

Today’s title is honor of the brave men and women serving in Iraq. Though Americans are divided on a great many things, at least this time we all wish our soldiers well.

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