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Bible Commentaries

Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae

Psalms 21

Verses 1-7


Psalms 21:1-7. The king shall joy in thy strength, O Lord; and in thy salvation how greatly shall he rejoice! Thou hast given him his heart’s desire, and hast not withholden the request of his lips. For thou preventest him with the blessings of goodness; thou settest a crown of pure gold on his head. He asked life of thee, and thou gavest it him, even length of days for ever and ever. His glory is great in thy salvation: honour and majesty hast thou laid upon him. For thou hast made him most blessed for ever: thou hast made him exceeding glad with thy countenance. For the king trusteth in the Lord; and, through the mercy of the Most High, he shall not be moved.

THIS psalm is appointed by the Church to be read on the day of our Lord’s Ascension: and on a close examination, it will appear to be well suited to that occasion. We will,


Explain it—

In its primary and literal sense, it expresses David’s gratitude on his advancement to the throne of Israel—
[After acknowledging, in general terms, God’s goodness towards him in this dispensation, he speaks of his elevation as an answer to his prayers, though in its origin it was altogether unsolicited and unsought for [Note: ver. 1–4.] Impressed with the greatness of the honour conferred upon him, he exults in it, especially as affording him an opportunity of benefiting others [Note: ver. 5, 6.]; and declares his confidence, that his enemies, so far from ever being able to subvert his government, shall all be crushed before him [Note: ver. 7–12.]—

Passing over this view of the psalm, we proceed to observe, that]
It is yet more applicable to Christ, as expressing his feelings on his ascension to the throne of glory—
[David was a type of Christ, as David’s kingdom was of Christ’s kingdom: and Christ, on his ascension to heaven, may be considered as addressing his Father in the words of this psalm.
He declares his joy and gratitude on account of the blessedness vouchsafed to him, and on account of the blessedness which he was now empowered to bestow on others. With respect to his own blessedness we observe, that his conflicts were now terminated. These had been numerous and severe. From his first entrance into the world to the instant of his departure from it, he “was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.” View him especially during the three years of his Ministry, what “contradiction of sinners against himself did he endure!”— — — View more particularly the four last days of his life, what grievous and accumulated wrongs did he sustain! — — — Consider his conflicts also with the powers of darkness, and the terrors of his Father’s wrath — — — O what reason had he to rejoice in the termination of such sufferings, and to magnify his Father who had brought him in safety through them! For this he had prayed; and God had given him the fullest answer to his prayers [Note: Hebrews 5:7. with ver. 2, 4.]. Now also he was restored to glory. He had “a glory with the Father before the worlds were made [Note: John 1:1; John 1:18; John 17:5.]:” and of that glory he had divested himself when he assumed our nature [Note: Philippians 2:6-8.]. But now he was restored to it: and what a contrast did it form with that state, from which he had been delivered! A few days ago he had not where to lay his head: now he is received into his Father’s house, his Father’s bosom. Lately he was derided, mocked, insulted, spit upon, buffeted, and scourged by the vilest of the human race; and now he is seated on his throne of glory, and worshipped and adored by all the hosts of heaven — — — Great indeed was the glory that now accrued to him, and great “the majesty that was now laid upon him [Note: ver. 5.]”— — — and, as it had proceeded from his Father [Note: Philippians 2:9-11.], so he justly acknowledges it as his Father’s gift.

But it was not to himself only that Jesus had respect: he blesses his Father also for the blessedness which he was empowered to bestow on others. The words, “Thou hast made him most blessed for ever,” are translated in the margin of our Bibles, “Thou hast set him to be blessings for ever.” This version opens a new and important view of the subject, a view which particularly accords with all the prophecies respecting Christ. It is said again and again concerning him, that “in him shall all the nations of the earth be blessed;” and we are well assured, that to communicate blessings to a ruined world is a source of inconceivable happiness to himself. We apprehend that to have been a very principal idea in the mind of the Apostle, when, speaking of Christ, he said, “Who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God [Note: Hebrews 12:2.].”

With what joy must he behold the myriads who had been exalted to glory through the virtue of his sacrifice, whilst yet it remained to be offered! It was through “his obedience unto death” that all the antediluvian and patriarchal saints were saved. Our First Parents looked to him as “the Seed of the woman that should bruise the serpent’s head.” To him righteous Abel had respect, in the offering which was honoured with visible tokens of God’s acceptance. To him Noah looked, when he offered the burnt-offerings, from which “God smelled a sweet savour [Note: Genesis 8:20-21.].” In a word, it is through his righteousness that forbearance and forgiveness were exercised from the beginning, just as they will be exercised even to the end: and all who were saved before his advent are in that respect on the same level with those who have been saved since: there is but one song amongst all the glorified saints in heaven; they are all harmonious in singing “to Him that loved them and washed them from their sins in his own blood, &c.” What a joy must it be to Christ to see in so many myriads the travail of his soul, who “were brought forth, as it were, to God, even before he travailed!” With what joy, too, did he then take upon him to dispense his blessings to the myriads yet unborn! He is “Head over all things,” not for his own sake merely, but “for the Church’s sake.” Knowing then how many of his most cruel enemies were given to him by the Father, with what pleasure would he look down upon them, (even while their hands were yet reeking with his blood,) and anticipate their conversion to God by the influence of his Spirit on the day of Pentecost! Every child of man that shall at any period of the world participate his grace, was at that moment before his eyes: and with what delight would he view them, as drawn by his word, as nourished by his grace, as comforted by his Spirit, as made more than conquerors over all their enemies [Note: Zephaniah 3:17.] — — — At that moment he saw, as it were, the whole company of the redeemed, the multitudes which no man can number, all enthroned around him, the monuments of his love, the heirs of his glory, the partners of his throne — — — He saw that the kingdom which he had now established upon earth “should never be moved;” that “the gates of hell should never prevail against it;” and that it should stand for ever and ever [Note: ver. 7.]. Well therefore might he say, “The King shall joy in thy strength, O Lord; and in thy salvation how greatly shall he rejoice!”]

Having thus explained the psalm, we proceed to,


Shew what improvement we should make of it—

From its literal sense we learn, how thankful we should be for any blessings vouchsafed unto us—

[In many respects God has “prevented us with the blessings of goodness;” and in many he has given them in answer to our prayers. We may “account even his long-suffering towards us to be salvation,” and much more the gift of his grace, and the knowledge of his dear Son. Can we reflect on “the salvation to which he has called us,” even “the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory,” and not be thankful for it? Can we reflect on the exaltation which we ourselves have received, from death to life, from slaves to free-men, from children of the devil to sons of God, and not rejoice in it? Can we think of our having been made “kings and priests unto God,” “heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ,” yea, partners of his throne, and partakers of his glory for evermore; can we contemplate all this, and not say, “In thy salvation how greatly shall I rejoice?” — — — Verily, if we do not rejoice and shout for joy, “the very stones will cry out against us” — — —]

From its mystical or prophetical sense we learn what should be our disposition and conduct towards the Lord Jesus—

[Methinks, we should rejoice in his joy. If it were but a common friend that was released from heavy sufferings and exalted to glory, we should rejoice with him in the blessed change: how much more then should we participate in our minds the joy and glory of our adorable Redeemer! — — — But more particularly we should submit to his government. This is strongly and awfully suggested in all the latter part of the psalm before us. “God has highly exalted Jesus, that at his name every knee should bow:” yea, he has sworn, that every knee shall bow to him: and that all who will not bow to the sceptre of his grace, shall be broken in pieces with a rod of iron. Read from the text to the end of the psalm; and endeavour to realize every expression in it — — — O that we may be wise ere it be too late! Let us “kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and we perish:” for though now he condescends to follow us with entreaties to be reconciled towards him, the time is quickly coming, when he will say, “Bring hither those that were mine enemies, who would not that I should reign over them, and slay them before me.”

A further improvement we should make of this subject is, to confide in his care. “He is set to be blessings” to a ruined world. He has “ascended up on high that he might fill all things:” “he has received gifts, even for the rebellious;” and “has all fulness treasured up in him,” on purpose that we may “receive out of his fulness grace for grace.” There is nothing that we can want, but it may be found in him; nor any thing which he is not willing to bestow on the very chief of sinners. Let us then look to him, and trust in him; and assure ourselves, that, as “he lost none that had been given him” in the days of his flesh, so now will he suffer “none to be plucked out of his hands.” We cannot expect too much from such a King: however “wide we open our mouths, he will fill them.”

To seek the enlargement of his kingdom is the last duty we shall mention as suggested by the subject before us. In the prayer that he has taught us, we say, “Thy kingdom come;” and we close that prayer with ascribing to him “the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever and ever: and it is with similar sentiments that the psalm before us concludes. Let us enter into the spirit of them, saying, “Be thou exalted, Lord, in thine own strength; so will we sing and praise thy power.” Nothing should be so dear to us as the advancement of his glory. Let us reflect, how we may best promote it; and let the extension of his kingdom be our chief joy [Note: Psalms 72:18-19.] — — —]

Verse 7


Psalms 21:7. The king trusteth in the Lord, and through the mercy of the Most High he shall not be moved.

THERE is an inseparable connexion between the duties and privileges of a Christian. It is his privilege to enjoy composure under all difficulties and dangers; but this he cannot possess, unless he repose his confidence in God. Nevertheless in relying upon God his mind shall be kept in perfect peace. David had known the storms of trouble as much as any man; but in the midst of all maintained a full assurance of divine protection. He records his experience in the words before us.
We shall consider them,


According to their original import—

This psalm, like many other parts of Scripture, has a double sense—
In an historical view it speaks of David himself—

[David had long been habituated to trust in the Lord. When he was yet a youth, he withstood a lion and a bear in dependence upon God [Note: 1 Samuel 17:36-37.]; nor feared to encounter him, who filled all the hosts of Israel with terror [Note: 1 Samuel 17:45; 1 Samuel 17:47.]. During the persecutions of Saul he still held fast his confidence; and, under the most imminent danger and accumulated trouble, encouraged himself in God [Note: 1 Samuel 30:6.]. Sometimes, indeed, his faith for a moment began to fail him [Note: 1 Samuel 27:1.]; but, on the whole, he was “strong in faith, giving glory to God.” Nor was he less sensible of his own insufficiency when he was a king: he still made the Most High his only and continual refuge [Note: Psalms 91:2; Psalms 56:2-4.]: and God approved himself faithful to his believing servant. There were indeed some occasions wherein David was greatly “moved [Note: 2 Samuel 15:30.]; ”but these only served more fully to evince the power and faithfulness of his God [Note: 2 Samuel 23:5.].]

In a prophetical sense the words are applicable to Christ—

[The whole psalm has an evident reference to the Messiah. Christ is that “King” who was raised to sit upon the throne of David [Note: Luke 1:32.]; and, as for every other good thing, so was he eminent for trust in God. He disregarded the plots of his most powerful enemies [Note: Luke 13:32.]; and, undaunted, renewed his visit to those who had lately sought to stone him [Note: John 11:8.]. He well knew that, till his hour was come, no power on earth could touch him [Note: John 19:11.]; nor was he ever left destitute of the divine protection. He seemed indeed to be “moved” when “he was crucified through weakness;” but he soon shewed how vain were the attempts of his adversaries. In his resurrection and ascension he “led captivity itself captive:” and he will in due season “put all his enemies under his feet.”]

In both these views the text sets before us an instructive example—
But we may consider it further,


In reference to the present occasion—

The solemnities of this day prove that the former part of the text is exemplified also in our own monarch [Note: This was preached on occasion of the king going to St. Paul’s to present the colours taken in three different engagements with the French, Spanish, and Dutch fleets.]—

We may therefore hope that the latter part also shall be accomplished in him—
[The religious conduct of kings is of great importance to a nation. Their piety indeed is not more meritorious than that of others; but it is often more beneficial to the community than that of a private person. In the days of old, God paid especial regard to the prayers of princes [Note: 2 Chronicles 14:11-12; 2 Chronicles 20:5-6; 2 Chronicles 20:12; 2 Chronicles 20:15; 2Ch 20:17; 2Ch 34:27 and Isaiah 37:21-22; Isaiah 37:33-34.]: even when they were of an abandoned character, he heard them [Note: 1 Kings 21:29.]. How much more may we hope that he will respect those offered to him this day! “The mercy of the Most High” has hitherto been signally manifested towards us, and if we trust in him it shall yet be continued to us. We say not indeed but that, as a nation, we may be greatly “moved.” It is certain that we deserve the heaviest calamities that can fall upon us; but we shall not be given up to ruin if we cry unto God for help. To the end of the world shall that promise be fulfilled to repenting nations [Note: Jeremiah 18:7-8.].]

Sure we are that they who trust in God for spiritual blessings shall never be disappointed—
[Our thoughts on this occasion are not to be confined to temporal concerns. Much as we are interested in national mercies, the welfare of our souls is yet more important: yea, our spiritual progress is the great means of obtaining God’s protection to the state. Trust in God therefore, for spiritual blessings, is not foreign to the business of this day. Whatever our political sentiments may be, we are all equally concerned to seek acceptance through Christ. We all need to trust in the promises made to us in him; and, if we do, “the gates of hell shall not be able to prevail against us.” Though we have been led captive by our lusts, “we shall have redemption through his blood;” and though we have still to conflict with sin and Satan, we shall be made more than conquerors. The mercy of the Most High shall assuredly be extended to us. Sooner shall heaven and earth pass away than that promise fail of accomplishment [Note: 2 Chronicles 20:20.].]


[Let us habituate ourselves to view the hand of God in all our mercies, and to trust in him both for personal and national blessings; but let us not think, we trust in God, when in reality we do not. Trust in God necessarily implies a renunciation of all creature-confidence: it also supposes that we sincerely commit our cause to God, and that we plead the promises made to us in his word. If we seek not the Lord in this manner, we trust rather in chance, or in our own vain conceits, than in him. Let us then be earnest in our applications at the throne of grace. Let us be exceeding thankful to God for the mercies we have received, and in every difficulty, temporal or spiritual, confide in him. Thus shall we see an happy issue to our present troubles, and be monuments of God’s truth and faithfulness to all eternity.]

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Bibliographical Information
Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on Psalms 21". Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae. 1832.