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Thursday, May 23rd, 2024
the Week of Proper 2 / Ordinary 7
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Bible Commentaries
Psalms 20

The Biblical IllustratorThe Biblical Illustrator

Verses 1-9

Psalms 20:1-9

The Lord hear thee in the day of trouble.

A battle prayer

This, it is believed, is the battle prayer or litany which was solemnly chanted in the sanctuary on the eve of the great expedition to crush the formidable rebellion of the Ammonites and their Syrian allies (2 Samuel 10:1-19), and which was also used in after times upon similar undertakings.

1. To enter into its spirit we must transport ourselves in imagination to the old temple at Jerusalem while the special service invoking the blessing of Jehovah upon the intended enterprise is in progress. The courts are thronged with enthusiastic patriots, each eager to strengthen with his own voice the chorus of supplication for Israel’s success. The king in his robes of royalty is standing by the altar in the sanctuary. He has just presented his gifts and offered his sacrifice; and now the choir and the whole congregation break out into this mighty hymn on his behalf, assuring him that in this day of trouble, occasioned by the revolt of his subjects or the invasion of strangers, the Lord will hear him, will defend him, will send him help from the sanctuary, and uphold him out of Zion. These his offerings shall be remembered, this his sacrifice shall be accepted; the desire, too, of his heart--the overthrow of the enemy--shall be granted.

2. They cease. The vast multitude stands hushed, while one voice alone is heard; it is that of the king, or of some Levite deputed to speak as his representative. In a strain of fullest confidence he declares the petitions on his behalf have been heard.

3. As the king ceases the choir and people again break out into chorus. (Henry Housman.)

The day of trouble

Have we heard of that day? Is it a day in some exhausted calendar? Is this an ancient phrase that needs to be interpreted to us by men cunning in the use of language and in the history of terms? It might have been spoken in our own tongue: we might ourselves have spoken it. So criticism has no place here; only sympathy has a fight to utter these words; they would perish under a process of etymological vivisection; they bring with them healing, comfort, release, and contentment when spoken by the voice of sympathy. Is the day of trouble a whole day--twelve hours long? Is it a day that cannot be distinguished from night? and does it run through the whole circle of the twenty-four hours? Is it a day of that kind at all? In some instances is it not a life day, beginning with the first cry of infancy, concluding with the last sigh of old age? Is it a day all darkness, without any rent in the cloud, without any hint of light beyond the infinite burden of gloom? Whatever it is, it is provided for; it is recognised as a solemn fact in human life, and it is provided for by the grace and love of the eternal God. He knows every hour of the day--precisely how the day is made up; He knows the pulse beat of every moment; He is a God nigh at hand; so that we have no sorrow to tell Him by way of information, but only sorrow to relate that with it we may sing some hymn to His grace. The whole world is made kin by this opening expression. There is no human face, rightly read, that has not in it lines of sorrow--peculiar, mystic writing of long endurance, keen disappointment, hope deferred, mortification of soul unuttered in speech, but graved as with an iron tool upon the soul and the countenance. (Joseph Parker, D. D.)

Defence in the day of trouble

Commentators have positively perverted this whole Psalm. They have put it all down to David; but it is a beautiful dialogue between Christ and His Church,--He addressing her as her Advocate and Intercessor amid all her troubles.

Christ’s recognition of His people in the day of trouble. All have to bear trouble, but the believer has a God to go to. His troubles arise from his inflexible enemies, the world and its children, the devil, the flesh. And from his spiritual conflicts when first brought to conversion. The thunders of Sinai, the Slough of Despond--these are some of his troubles at such time. And when he is pardoned and hugs his pardon in his bosom, there are some troubles yet, through miserable backslidings.

The excitement which our intercessor gives us to prayer. “The Lord hear thee”; this intimates that we are already excited to earnest prayer. For our encouragement let us remember Christ’s constant intercession on our behalf in heaven.

The appeal which the intercessor makes to our covenant head. “The name of the God of Jacob defend thee.” Who is the God of Jacob? The God that gave him the blessing of the birthright, though he was the junior; the God that delivered him from the murderous hand of his brother in the day of his trouble; the God that enriched him with Laban’s spoil, and gave him the desire of his heart; the God that protected him, and manifested Himself to him--his covenant God. How I have been delighted with the thought that Jehovah should recognise the unregenerate name!--for Jacob was the name of the patriarch in his unregeneracy.

The demand for our defence. “The name of the God of,” etc. But you say, how will the name of the God of Jacob defend me? Try it: I have over and over again; therefore I speak what I do know, and testify what I have seen. “The name of the God of Jacob defend thee.” Get encircled with covenant engagements and covenant grace, and covenant promises, and covenant securities; then will “the Lord hear you in the time of trouble, and the name of the God of Jacob will defend you.” (Joseph Irons.)

The war spirit of the Old Testament

The probable time and occasion of its composition. They are related in 2 Samuel 10:1-19.

Its construction. It begins with an address to the monarch under the peculiar circumstances of the exigency. Then, with the words, “We will rejoice in Thy salvation,” the speakers turn from prayer to the avowal of their confidence and of the spirit in which they would go to the war. Then the high priest might add the next clause, “The Lord fulfil all thy petitions.” And now there appears to be a pause, and the sacrifices are offered, and the priest, catching sight of the auspicious omen, exclaims, “Now know I” (from what I observe of the indications of the Divine acceptance of the sacrifices--now know I) “that the Lord sayeth His anointed,” etc. Then comes a response from the people, encouraged by what they have heard. “Some trust in chariots, and some in horses”--the very preparations that had been made against them, “but we will,” etc. The whole closes by the acclamations of the people. “The Lord save the king! God will hear us. Save, Lord; let the king hear us when we call: we will pray for the king, we will call upon the Lord, we who remain at home when the army advances to the field. This reminds us of and illustrates a passage from R. Hall, entitled “Sentiments Proper to the Present Crisis,” a warlike, though at first sight it appears not a very Christian, address, written about forty-four years ago, at the time of the threatened invasion. Addressing a company of volunteers, he introduces a sentiment very similar to that which concludes this Psalm. “Go, then, ye defenders of your country, accompanied with every auspicious omen; advance with alacrity into the field, where God Himself musters the hosts to war. Religion is too much interested in your success not to lend you her aid; she will shed over this enterprise her selected influence. While you are engaged in the field, many will repair to the closet, many to the sanctuary; the faithful of every name will employ that prayer which has power with God; the feeble hands which are unequal to any other weapon will grasp the sword of the spirit; and from myriads of humble, contrite hearts the voice of intercession, supplication, and weeping will mingle with the shouts of battle and the shock of arms.”

Suggestions from this review of the Psalm.

1. Although all this is very imposing and grand, yet it is not the ideal of humanity. We do not wish such scenes to be permanent or universal. It was all very well for the time, but it is not well now. This is not the way in which God should be worshipped, nor the feelings which we should carry away from His altar. The New Testament tells us again and again that its aim is something altogether different from this “mustering of the hosts to war”--this “Go, ye defenders of your country”--this murdering and slaughtering. War may be brilliant, but it is not a good thing for the world, for humanity.

2. In proportion as the spirit of the Old Testament has been imbibed by nations, they have been retarded in the development of national character, and in the realisation of the Christian ideal. Ceremonies, hierarchies, ritual, a national priesthood, a vicarious religion, an ecclesiastical eastern special class of men being set apart to spend their nights and days in praying for the people--all these come from Judaisers. And so again with the national war spirit, the military art regarded as a profession, the consecration of colours, and the rest,--these are Jewish, not Christian. We laugh at the Covenanter and the Roundhead, but where they were wrong was in imbibing the Old Testament spirit.

3. War is not always without justification, but we ought to shrink from it as an abhorred thing.

4. Let the Psalm remind you of King Jesus, and of His victory and our own through Him. (Thomas Binney.)

Help in trouble

A sentinel posted on the walls, when he sees a party of the enemy advancing, does not attempt to make head against them himself, but at once informs his commanding officer of the enemy’s approach, and awaits his word as to how the foe is to be met. So the Christian does not attempt to resist temptation in his own strength, but in prayer calls upon his Captain for aid, and in His might and His Word goes forth to meet it.

The name of the God of Jacob defend thee.

The name of Jehovah

The name of Jehovah a consolation in trouble. No character is exempt from the ills of life. The highest dignity cannot guard off trouble; and crowns especially are often lined with thorns. Few plants, says an old writer, have both the morning and the evening sun; and an older than he has said, Man is born to trouble. But in the deepest, darkest, wildest distress, Jehovah is the refuge of His people; and His name soothes the keenest anguish and lifts up the most despairing.

The name of Jehovah an inspiring battle cry. “In the name of our God will we set up our banners” (Psalms 20:5). Banners are a part of our military equipage, borne in times of war to assemble, direct, distinguish, and inspirit the soldiers. They have been often used in religious ceremonies. It is the practice of some people to erect a banner in honour of their deity. In a certain part of Thibet it is customary for a priest to ascend a hill every month to set up a white flag and perform some religions ceremonies to conciliate the favour of a dewta, or invisible being, who is the presiding genius of the place. The Hindus describe Siva the Supreme as having a banner in the celestial world. The militant Church goes to war with the name of the Lord of Hosts on her banner.

The name of Jehovah is the strength of the militant Church. “We will remember the name of the Lord our God” (Psalms 20:7). The world trusts in the material--in rifles, mitrailleuse, turret ships, and torpedoes; but the Church is taught to trust in the spiritual--the mysterious, invisible, but almighty power of Jehovah. The material fails, the spiritual never. When the saint relies fully on Jehovah, and is absorbed in His holy cause, he is surrounded with an impenetrable defence. (W. L. Watkinson.)

The God of Jacob

Its history. The character of Jacob is one of the standing difficulties of the Old Testament, because of the interest and love God cherished for him. David offers to us much the same difficulty: “the man after God’s own heart,” and yet so base and vile in his great sin. But it is the Bible which tells us what these men were. Its frankness is conspicuous. But David, after all, does not puzzle us as Jacob does. There is a vein of pure nobility and of splendid genius through David’s character and life, which helps us to understand the relation of God to him. But Jacob’s character fails to kindle a corresponding enthusiasm. He does not stand out before us a man of genius, as a hearty lover, a faithful friend, or even as a noble and gallant foe. A vein of trickery and treachery runs through his nature, so unlike David’s frank and self-forgetful generosity. Stratagems are his delight; the easy refuge of his weakness. And when we find through life the same tendency to underhand tricks prevailing, we begin to wonder what God could see in the man to make him a prince in the heavenly order, and why throughout the Scripture the name God of Jacob, God of Israel is the name in which He especially delights. It seems to them the purest exercise of the Divine sovereignty on record. But it is sovereignty of the same order as that which moves Him to elect to be the Redeemer of the world. The spring of that redeeming love lies within His own nature. It arose out of the depths of the Divine nature, and must be based, we may be sure, on essential reason. God chose Jacob, and chooses to be called the God of Jacob, just because he was a man so full of human infirmity and littleness, mingled with those higher and nobler qualities without which the spiritual culture of mankind becomes impossible. Had God chosen only to be called the God of Abraham or Moses, and to take supreme interest in such lofty lives alone, alas! for you and for me and for mankind. Jacob is more within our sphere. What God was to him, we can believe that He may be, He will be, to us; thus the name “God of Jacob” has a sound hill of comfort, full of assurance to our ears. That it might be so, we may be sure. He chose it. Now, see this when developed in history. God, as the God of Jacob, did make Himself a glorious name in the earth (Deuteronomy 2:25; Joshua 2:4-11). Their internal organisation under the constitution which God had ordained marked them out as a favoured people. There was nothing like them in the wide world, until the German races appeared and brought the same love of freedom, the same domestic affections, the same noble womanhood, the same essential manliness, to build on the foundation of Christian society. Again, Israel was the only nation of freemen, in the largest sense, in the Old World. The people were knit into a brotherhood of liberty, with special safeguards in their constitution as a nation against the lapse of any Jewish freeman into serfdom, or even into penury (Deuteronomy 15:1-23; Leviticus 25:23-31). They were facile princeps among nations, witnessing to the heathen around them of the blessedness of obedience to God. And what men they produced! The Greeks are their only rivals. But while Greece produced the heroes of the schools, the Jews produced the heroes of the common human world. Every man and every people is conscious of a relation to them, such as he sustains to no other race which has played its part in history. The lives of the great Hebrews belong to us as no Greek belongs to us. They are literally part of our history. How few know Greek; who knows not the histories of the Bible? They are our fathers whose lives we read there, our history, our hymns. Man’s history is the elucidation of this title; the God of Jacob has written for Himself a glorious name in the records of the world.

Its work--the functions which this name fulfils in the culture of our personal spiritual life.

1. The God of Jacob tells us, by the very name, that He is a God who is not deterred by a great transgression, or by great proneness to transgression, from constituting Himself the guide of our pilgrim life. If ever your heart dies down within you under the consciousness of an inbred sinfulness, which you think must alienate you from God’s love and care, let the name of the God of Jacob reassure you. “Long suffering” is the quality which the name of “the God of Jacob” seems specially to suggest to us. Jacob was a man of many and grave infirmities. And the God who came to Adam with a promise which implied a pardon came also to Jacob, and comes to us all. God undertook the guidance of that man’s pilgrimage, because he was a sinful man, a man full of infirmities and treacheries, but with a nobler nature beneath and behind which He made it His work to educate by suffering, until Jacob the supplanter became Israel the prince. Jacob was as full of folly, falsity, and selfish ambition as most of us; but he had an instinct and a yearning for deliverance. God’s promise rang full sweetly on his ear. The worm Jacob, trained to be a prince, is full of precious suggestions to us all.

2. The God of Jacob must be a God who can bear to inflict very stern chastisement on His children, and to train His pilgrims in a very hard, sharp school of discipline, without forfeiting the name of their merciful and loving God. “Few and evil have the days of the years of my life been,” said the aged patriarch, reviewing his life course before Pharaoh. Why? Because through life he had been under the hard, stern discipline of the hand of God. And so, as his life was spent in learning, it was spent in suffering. God did not shrink from wielding the scourge to the very close. Then, he witnessed a sad confession before Pharaoh, such as Abraham and Isaac would have had no occasion for; for they lived better and happier lives than Jacob. But it is this very discipline which makes Jacob’s life so instructive. It teaches us--

(1) The thoroughness of the Divine method, that we have to do with One who will sanctify us wholly; will search out the very real fibres of evil within us, and scathe them, whatever may be the cost.

(2) Let the name of the God of Jacob assure you that there is no extremity in which you have a right to cry, “The Lord hath forsaken me, my God hath forgotten me.” Jacob’s life is surely the witness that the veriest exile cannot wander beyond the shelter of the Father’s home; the most utter outcast cannot stray beyond the shield of the Father’s love. There is no condition of darkness, of straits, of anguish, inconsistent with your standing as a son and God’s tenderness as a Father. For--

(3) The God of Jacob is the God who will bring the pilgrims home. “He is not ashamed to be called their God, for He hath prepared for them a city.” Led by the God of Jacob, your bones can never whiten the sands of the desert; your choking cry can ever be heard from the waves of Jordan. Mark the splendid and joyous picture of the end of all our pilgrim wanderings, toils, and pains, which is painted there. The Angel which redeemed him from all evil is redeeming us through pain as sharp, through patience as long, through discipline as stern. And He has caused all this to be written for our learning, that the hope of a final and eternal triumph over evil might sustain us through the conflict, through the wanderings, and assure us that in His good time the God of the pilgrim Jacob will bring us into His rest. Weary, worn, with shattered armour and dinted shield, we may struggle on to the shore of the dark river. A moment, a gasp--and there is a white-robed conqueror, with the dew of immortal youth upon his brow, led by the angels before the Throne of God and of the Lamb. (J. Baldwin Brown, B. A.)

Verse 2

Psalms 20:2

Send thee help from the sanctuary.

The sanctuary

It is the place where God’s honour dwells. When Israel would have the help and guidance of Jehovah, they made application at the temple where His glory was seen in the holy place, and where He had appointed to respond to their supplications.

The house of God is the place of united and fervent prayer. The increased efficacy of prayer when united and fervent, and the assurance that it will have unity and fervency in the sanctuary, point out that place as the source of their help in the hour of danger and of suffering.

The house of God is the radiant point of sanctifying truth. From the lips of the living preacher go out those doctrines that operate to sanctify the hearts of men. And who dare hope that society can prosper where no hearts are sanctified?

The instruction of God’s house is the grand agent in the formation of public sentiment. An influence goes out from the holy place to affect all men, whether they will or will not be controlled by the influence. To the ungodly, public sentiment is an irresistible law. There is no means powerful like the house of God in the formation of public opinion and sentiment.

The house of God sustains all the other civilising and healthful influences. Identified with it are a preached Gospel and the ministry of reconciliation. These all sustain each other.

From the house of God are selected the subjects of His grace. Those only who frequent the sanctuary are at all likely to be regenerated. It is in the lips of a living ministry that God has pledged Himself to bless. Men bring misery on themselves when--

1. There is a satiety of hearing the Word of God.

2. When the spirit of decay esteems the support of Gospel institutions a burden.

3. When there is a disrespect for the ministry of the reconciliation. (D. A. Clark.)

Help from the sanctuary

The name sanctuary means the holy place, and sometimes refers only to that which was the most holy place, but at other times to the tabernacle generally. It was made holy by God’s dwelling there, and specially by the manifestation of His grace through mediation and sacrifice. To the sanctuary the pious Israelites turned when in trouble and in great emergency, specially besought the Divine protection by clinging to the horns of the altar. Something of the same kind we find in mediaeval Christian times in connection with particular churches. In the Chapter House of Westminster there is a beautiful picture depicting a scene which was often witnessed at the abbey porch. The venerable abbot, with the elevated host in his hand, is staying the progress of a strong angry warrior, while behind him a woman and her children, with terror in their faces, are clinging to his vestments and claiming his protection. But we take the word sanctuary as in its common meaning amongst us today; as the house of God, the place of worship. Help from the sanctuary, therefore, suggests the spiritual strength obtained through the observances of the religious ordinances connected with the day and the house of the Lord. Christ blesses us through them. They are no charms or talisman, but simply channels of His blessing.

We all need help. Every soul has its own sadness. Some spiritual, through the conflict with sin. Others temporal, through the difficulties of life.

It is a comfort to know that there is help from the sanctuary. For in the sanctuary we draw near to God as the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and as we appropriate Him to ourselves as our own God we find ourselves strengthened and encouraged. We are in our lives like a schoolboy learning to write, and every week is a page in our copy book, and every day a line. On the first line, and in the sanctuary, Christ has set before us His own beautiful example, and we start out to imitate it. But as we go down line after line we too largely lose sight of that which He has written, and when we get to the bottom our work is all irregular and blotted, and the paper, mayhap, also blistered with our tears. Then comes the first day of the week again, and when we enter into the sanctuary Jesus speaks to us words of cheer and sets us a new copy, and so we begin again. Thus page after page is covered. It is poor work enough, but it improves a little every time, and it is much better at the end of the book than it was at the beginning, for at the bottom of the last page the Master writes, “Well done!” Thus the sanctuary counteracts the evil influences of the week. And there have been special blessings coming to earnest Christians through some particular portion of the service of God’s house. The Lord guides His Word to the hearts of His people. He knows how to direct the minister to preach aright. See how minute are the directions given by which Cornelius was to find Peter and Ananias to find Saul of Tarsus in Damascus. And the Holy Spirit acts in like manner still.

To get this help we must come to the sanctuary. I do not deny that we can get to God in Christ anywhere. But a particular promise is made in connection with the sanctuary. “Where two or three,” etc. It may be difficult to analyse this special blessing, but it is reality. How lamentable, then, that so many stay away, and on such slight pretexts.

If he would be the means of conveying this help the minister must keep close to Christ. For it is the Christ of the sanctuary that constitutes its value, and if he, on whom most of all the character and quality of the services depend, loses sight of Him, then the Church is reduced at once to the level of the Lyceum, and all spiritual power is gone. The soul of a saint cannot be nourished by a scientific disquisition. The best way to defend the truth is to expound it. Above all, must they know Christ experimentally. (W. M. Taylor, D. D.)

Verse 3

Psalms 20:3

Remember all thy offerings.

Holy offerings

“What shall I render unto the Lord for all His benefits towards me?” There are people who will say that we can give nothing to God, who giveth all. These are the selfish folk, who really mean, even if they do not say so, “Get all you can from God, God wants no return.” Now, the Bible says just the opposite. The Bible says “Present our bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God. The people who talk about “the finished Work of Christ,” and who say that He has done all, and that therefore there is nothing for us to do, forget that there are two parts in the scheme of salvation. Jesus has indeed done His part, but He bids us do certain things also. We have nothing to pay. But would it not be base ingratitude if someone had been good and kind to you in trouble, and you had not tried to make some return, however small? Well then, “how much owest thou unto my Lord?” Do you remember what the Lord Jesus paid for us? Have we nothing to pay or to give to Him? You will answer that you have nothing good enough to give to Him. But you have; you can give Him what He asks for, your heart, your love. How, then, can we show our love to God, what offerings can we present to Him? In a word, one of the holiest offerings we can present to God is worship. And to do this should be our chief motive for attending church. How various and how unworthy--some of them--are the motives which govern us in this. The common notion about church going springs from mere selfishness. The question is, how can I best honour Him who has done all for me? Above all, we offer an holy offering of praise in the highest act of worship, in the celebration of the blessed sacrament. In the service of the Holy Communion we take part with the saints and angels in heaven in worshipping God. Is there, then, nothing to pay? Oh, yes! a life of devotion, a life of thanksgiving; there is everything to pay, even the best we have. “I will pay my vows now in the presence of all His people,” says holy David; and yet there are some who tell us “there is nothing to pay.” Thus far we have seen that we can show our love to God by giving Him the offering of a holy worship. Again, we can make an offering to God by giving alms to His Church. God gives us all we have, our money, and our means of making money; and we are bound to dedicate, to consecrate a part of what we have to Him. Again, this false teaching goes on to tell us that there is nothing to do, and nothing to tear. You know that it is written, “without holiness no man can see the Lord.” Now, do you think that you have nothing to do? Do you find it very easy to lead good lives; to keep yourselves pure, and gentle, and patient, and forgiving? Do you find nothing to do in resisting temptation, in keeping under your temper, in checking bad thoughts? But, as said a saint of old, “God, who made us without ourselves, will not save us without ourselves.” Jesus has done His part, but He nowhere tells you that you have nothing to do. Often when people say, “I belong to Jesus, I am safe,” they are simply deceiving themselves. Some of the most atrocious criminals have talked in this way. “By their fruits ye shall know them.” If you do really love the Lord Jesus you will try to obey Him: There is yet another offering which we can give to God, the sacrifice of self. Every act of self-denial, every pleasure abandoned for the sake of others, will be accepted by Him who gave up all for us. (H. J. Wilmot Buxton, M. A.)

Verse 5

Psalms 20:5

We will rejoice in Thy salvation.

Joy in God’s salvation

The joy, the gladness, the rhapsody, the exultation, the young heaven begun in the heart of the newborn convert is the nearest thing to Paradise that earth ever saw. On the day that our sins are pardoned God sets all the bells of heaven ringing, and then the bells of our heart chime in melody. On the day when God is pleased to blot out our sins, He hangs every lane and every alley of Mansoul with splendid flags and colours, and gilded lamps and bright jewels; then He bids sweet music play in every part of the city, and He makes the fountains run with wine. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

In the name of our God we will set up our banners.

The banners of the Temperance Reformation

There is the battle of life and its hard struggle, with which we are familiar. And there is that other battle of a higher kind--the battle of salvation, in which we have to carry on a warfare against our spiritual foes. And every great reform has been of the nature of a battle, because of the opposing forces arrayed against it. The Temperance Reformation is no exception to this rule. Many and mighty are the forces arrayed against it: ignorance and appetite, custom and fashion, prejudices and “vested interests,” and yet more. This is the battle we have to wage. But we survey the field of this warfare not at all with discouragement, but rejoicing in the salvation which God has wrought by the temperance cause.

Enumerate some of the great truths which are the banners of the temperance reformation. We know how useful signs, banners, and such symbols are in any warfare. What great service they render.

1. Now, amongst ours are abstinence and health. No one imperils their health by joining our cause, though some think they will. But it is altogether a mistake. There is no need for their coming as martyrs, for no one’s health will be injured by abstinence. And how vastly health is promoted by it is a fact becoming more recognised day by day.

2. Temperance and safety. Perfect safety is not the lot of man, but relative safety is largely within our own power; and abstinence from all intoxicating drinks is one great aid to such safety. “Wine is a mocker,” and the victims of its deceptions are gathered from every rank, age, and calling, the most sacred not excepted. Therefore it is well to make ourselves, by abstinence from strong drink, as safe as we can in order that we may more fully execute the will of God and the work of life.

3. Temperance and charity; that is, love for our fellow man. For the sake of others we should keep from that which does others so great harm. Love will ever swell the ranks of the temperance cause.

4. Temperance and piety. The one does not involve the other, but it is a great helper thereto. A practical connection exists between them, and temperance has brought multitudes to cast in their lot with the godly, and to walk with them in the heavenly way.

5. Temperance and prosperity. What hinders national and individual prosperity so much as intoxicating drink Y What, then, could more help than abstinence from it?

Exaltation of these banners is binding upon us. We are to set them up, not as the only things to be exalted, but yet as certainly amongst them.

1. Why shall we set them up?

(1) As a protest against prevailing errors and fallacies which still are held by multitudes of people.

(2) For publicity--that all may know what we believe and teach.

(3) For the sake of propagandism. We want these truths spread.

2. Where shall we set them up? In the home, the school, the church, the press, the legislature, wherever, indeed, we may.

3. The means. By the living voice, by the printing press, by personal example, by social influence, by the franchise.

The Divine sanction under which we act. We care for such sanction and we have it: His authority, honour, service, all sanction our efforts. Let us all be of those who take our text as their own resolve. (J. Dawson Burns.)

A holy warfare

Publicly declared. A “banner” is a military ensign, and to set it up is a declaration of war. To “set up our banner” and to declare a moral war against wrong is what all should do. It is indispensable. We are ruined else.

1. Righteous. There are unrighteous wars, but this is not one of them.

2. Life long. It will not end until “the last enemy” be destroyed.

3. Glorious. It has a glorious Leader, glorious examples and victories. Unfurl your banner, then. It should be--

4. Public. Let it be seen floating over the scene of your everyday life.

Its animating spirit. “In the name of our God.” This may imply--

1. A conscious need of Divine help. Jehoshaphat’s prayer is suited to us (2 Chronicles 20:12).

2. A determination to follow the Divine direction. He is the Captain of our salvation. What a magnificent description we have of Him as a Chieftain in Revelation 19:11-16. (D. Thomas, D. D. )

The religious banquet

A banner is a symbol. Hence its significance and value. Every country, every nationality has its banner, from the Roman Empire with its eagles, that aspired to universal dominion, to the smallest principality. The banner symbolises what is dear to the patriot heart, and every patriot is prompted to cling to it. Every soldier stands by his colours. Every religious body has its banners. They may not be visible flags; they may be symbols of different kinds. The creeds were formerly called symbols. Every Church has a creed or symbol of some kind. Some Churches may not have authoritative statements of faith and opinion to which subscription is required as a condition of membership, but every Church, every organisation, has its controlling thought, its characteristic faith, which in some form or other it expresses and makes its symbol or banner. Such banner every religious body ought to have, and it should set it up in the name of its God; that is, under deep conviction that its banner symbolises and sets forth truths, principles, duties accordant with the will of God and helpful to man’s highest interest and truest welfare--mental, moral, and spiritual. And to the banner thus set up it should be unfalteringly true. It should stand by its colours. Better have no colours than to have them without the manliness to stand by them. Neutrality, where important principles are involved, is pitiable; but better be neutral, better openly declare that you have no convictions, than not to have courage to maintain those you profess to have. If you have a faith, never be ashamed of it. Be ashamed of not having a faith, or of not bravely defending the faith you have. (J. H. Heywood.)

Verse 6

Psalms 20:6

Now know I.

A point of knowledge

There comes a point of knowledge in the spiritual education of the soul. For a long time the soul knows nothing, can explain nothing, is groping after everything, but is quite sure that it is groping in the right direction. Then there comes a point of positive knowledge--a birthday--a day never to be forgotten. Such days there are in intellectual illumination. The scholar, opening his book, knows nothing; the first pages are weary reading; he asks if he may not omit a good many of the pages, but he is told that not a single word is to be omitted. The reward is not on the first page; it begins about the middle of the book, but only begins to those who have read carefully every word up to that point; then for the first time the reader sees one beam. Now his interest in the book deepens, every page becomes an enjoyment, and he is only regretful when the last page is reached. We know the meaning of tiffs kind of illumination in the acquisition of languages. For a long time we seem to be speaking incoherently, even foolishly; the sounds are so unusual to our own ears that when we say them aloud to any listener we smile, as if we had made a possible mistake, or might be mistaken for persons who had altogether misapprehended their natural talent and genius. A little further on we speak, perhaps, with a shade less hesitation; then, mingling with people who are always speaking the language, we get into the hum and music of the utterance, and then venture our first complete sentence; and when it is answered we expect it to be answered, a great satisfaction comes into our soul, and from that point progress is comparatively easy, These illustrations all help us to understand something about the religious life. When a man first bears his own voice in prayer it is as if it thundered. It is a terrible thing to hear the voice the first time in prayer to those who are naturally timid and self-obliterating. But there is a point of knowledge. The Psalmist reached it in the sixth verse. He felt the saving hands of God were under him and round about him, and his confidence was grand. After this, what would he do? He would “set up his banners,” that is to say, he would bear public testimony. There should be no doubt about which side of the war he was on. The fact of our having a banner is nothing; the heathen have banners, and are not ashamed of them; the thing to be noted is the name in which the banner is to be set up; they are our banners but it is God’s name. (Joseph Parker, D. D.)

That the Lord sayeth His anointed.

God saved the king

So said David, for he was the Lord’s anointed. “The Lord took him from the sheepfold,” and anointed him to feed Jacob His people, and Israel His inheritance (1 Samuel 16:1-23). Again and again had the Lord saved David ere he came to the throne, and afterwards he experienced much trouble, so that he knew and confessed his need of the Divine protection. Persons are not less exposed by rising in life and spreading abroad in the world.

The saved. God is the “Saviour of all men,” but “specially of them that believe.” Thus He is called “the Preserver of men”; but “rest deliverance giveth He to His king, and showeth mercy to His anointed, and to His seed forever.” If, therefore, there be (and who can question it?) a peculiar providence, no wonder that it watches with a special care over those in whose lives so many destinies are bound up, and on whose welfare the welfare of so many thousands depends.

The salvation. All are exposed to evil and danger. And only see now what a salvation God has wrought for us. Consider the greatness of the peril.

The Saviour. It was the Lord, it was a Divine interposition, and undeserved by us: let our praise be sincere and practical. How much as a people we have to be thankful for. (W. Jay.)

Verse 7

Psalms 20:7

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

Remember the name of the Lord our God

By the name of God is meant the various properties and attributes of God. Now, whilst some trusted in earthly power, the Psalmist confides in “the name of the Lord our God.” It would seem to an ordinary observer, if he were ignorant of the Gospel, that the name of the Lord would excite terror rather than confidence. If there be good in the moral government of God, how much of suffering, evil and sorrow there are, notwithstanding. How then can confidence arise from remembering the Divine name? We distinctly admit that there are attributes of God which, because they seem arrayed against sinful beings, can hardly be supposed to be subjects of encouraging remembrance. “The name of the Lord our God” includes justice and holiness; and these are qualities from which we seem instinctively to shrink, as though we felt that they must necessarily be opposed to rebellious and polluted creatures. And so they must be. If there be certain Divine properties, the remembering of which might be comforting even to the disciple of natural religion, undoubtedly there are others which can furnish nothing but cause of disquietude, unless there be full acquaintance with the scheme of redemption. It is in respects such as these that natural theology, if it would keep its disciples at peace, must forbid their recollecting the name of the Lord their God. These are points which must be slurred over, for to examine them deeply would be to destroy all foundation of hope. But it is not so with the disciple of revealed religion.” Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, there is no property involved in the Divine name from which we need shrink, none which is not actually ranged on our side, if we believe on Him who gave His life a ransom for the world. Did you ever consider what emphasis there is in St. Paul’s answer to his own question, “Who shall lay anything to the charge of Gods elect?” His answer is, “it is God that justifieth.” What is there in the fact that “it is God that justifieth,” which proves that earth, and sea, and air might be ransacked for an accuser, but that none could be found who could make good any charge against “God’s elect?” Is it not because God is the justifying agent; not this property, not that attribute of God, but God Himself--God the combination of all possible perfections? If it be God that justifieth, the justification must be that in the effecting which holiness and justice concur. And therefore is it that all accusation is silenced; for if the satisfaction made to God on our behalf hath met every attribute of God, it is not possible that there should remain place for any charge. Justice as well as love demands our acceptance. Who can condemn when the Divine Judge Himself acquits, nay, pronounces approval? You should not fail to observe that our text furnishes a great criterion, and that we ought to test by it our spiritual condition. Is it, or is it not, our habit to “remember the name of the Lord our God,” whilst others, either neglectful of religion or adopting false systems, turn bewildered to “chariots and horses”? It is, if with David we have “entered into covenant with God,” through the Mediator: it cannot be, if we are still virtually aliens, living in the darkness and rebellion of nature. Oh, we too well know that there must be some amongst you whose only happiness is in keeping God out of their thoughts, and who are glad of any excuse for not considering His nature and attributes. Any “chariot,” any “horse,” which may bear them away from the contemplation of their Maker! What a state! To be afraid of meditating on that Being before whom they must inevitably appear, and who “has power to destroy both body and soul in hell”! If the banishing Him from your thoughts could finally keep you from contact with Him in His awfulness; if there were a “chariot,” if there were a “horse,” which would bear you away from His “everlasting wrath,” we might not wonder at your perseverance in forgetting Him to, the utmost of your power. Try for one hour to “remember God’s name”--“God’s name” as traced by natural theology, and yet more vividly by revealed. I know that you will be disturbed and appalled, I know that as one property after another of the Divine nature passes before you, you will shrink back, and be tempted to exclaim--Oh! for the “chariot,” oh! for the “horse,” to bear us away from this terrible God! But this is what we wish. We wish you to see in God “a consuming fire,”--a Being of terrors, and those terrors all armed to strike down and to crush you. But we do not wish you to be left in dismay; neither will you be. When “remembering the name of the Lord” has made you feel yourselves lost, you will hear with unspeakable gratitude how God laid your iniquities on His own well-beloved Son. If God out of Christ appeared to you “a consuming fire,” God in Christ should appear to you as a “reconciled Father.” (H. Melvill, B. D.)

Divine and human trust contrasted

The charge brought against those whose trust is merely human. There have been such always. Now, the guilt of such trust lies in the oversight of God,--regarding chariots and horses as sufficient in themselves. And we are inexcusable in this, because God, though invisible, is ever perceptible to the understanding. And all such trust is irrational. It has no solid foundation in reason or conscience.

The purpose. “We will remember,” etc. The trust of the Christian begins memory. It acts as a stimulant to the believer, and loosens every other bond and makes it easy to let go all which the world gives.

The consequences. “They are brought down,. . .but we,” etc. Now, the results of trust in human power are sad and unexpected. It was so with Pharaoh and his army. But they are in accordance with the natural course of things. If we sow to the flesh we shall of the flesh reap corruption. But the Christian trust issues in this--“We are risen, and stand upright.” (W. D. Horwood.)

Chariots and horses

The vanity and the variety of earthly dependences. “Some trust in chariots and horses.” They were the appendages of war; hence were forbidden to Israel, for war was not their trade, They had no standing, army. They were always to be conscious of the inadequacy of their own resources, and thus to be taught to trust implicitly in God. Nor were they to be exposed to the temptation of conquest. They were never so triumphant as when trusting in God alone. But the text points to the tendency which men have to trust in the creature rather than in the Creator (Jeremiah 17:5-8).

The foundation of Christian peace and courage. “But we will remember,” etc. The name of the Lord is perpetually recurring in Scripture and has ever a deep and portentous meaning. The name of Jesus has now the same energy. “The Lord our God”--all the best blessings of time and eternity belong to the covenant of grace which is in Jesus. Is God our God? Can we adopt the words of the text? (W. G. Lewis.)

Trust in chariots and horses vain

France, in the Revolution, hung up her motto--“Liberty equality, fraternity. Napoleon changed it to Infantry, cavalry, artillery, says Punch.

Christian loyalty

Every good Christian is necessarily a loyal man. The subject now considered is, the insufficiency of all human expedients to secure happiness for a people unless God be honoured in the councils of their rulers, and His name be remembered by themselves. Human policy, if separated from Divine wisdom, leads to ruin and disgrace; but they rise and stand upright who “remember the name of the Lord our God.” In what manner is a nation called upon to remember the name of the Lord our God? The right administration of justice and the true worship of God are the only sufficient securities for the permanent happiness of a state. It is the peculiar province of the law of God to instill a hatred of sin. Human laws may bind the hand, fetter the foot, and imprison the body, but nothing can control the heart, and curb the thoughts, and purify the motives by which we are influenced except the Spirit of God. He alone can subjugate the whole man. (A. Watson, M. A.)


Psalms 21:1-13

Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Psalms 20". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/tbi/psalms-20.html. 1905-1909. New York.
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