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Bible Commentaries

Ironside's Notes on Selected Books
Psalms 20

 

 

Verses 1-9

Thus far in our attempt to expound this portion of the Word of God I have not called attention to the beauties of some of these headings. For instance, Psalms 19, 20, and 21 are all headed alike, “To the chief Musician, A Psalm of David.” Psalm 22 is also dedicated “To the chief Musician.” But then you have a Hebrew term following that which is said to mean, “hind of the morning,” referring to the antlers on the head of a deer as picturing the rays of the rising sun.

This expression, “The chief Musician,” surely ought to come home to our hearts. Who is the chief Musician? We read, “In the midst of the congregation will I praise Thee” (Psalms 22:22), and the speaker is the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. It ought to give character to our songs of praise to realize that it is He who leads the praises of His people, and surely our songs of praise then should be, in some measure at least, worthy of Him. I am afraid sometimes we sing what we call gospel songs that He would never lead. But when we approach Him with reverence and in gratitude the Lord Jesus delights to lead out our praises. So when we see these Psalms dedicated “To the chief Musician” let us always think of Christ and say, “Here is something that the Spirit of God inspired David to write, and he dedicated it to the Lord Jesus Christ Himself.”

It is an interesting fact that very frequently in the book of Psalms the last verse of one Psalm is a key to the next one. We see that right here. The last verse of Psalm 19 ends up with the words, “O Lord, my strength, and my redeemer,” and the 20th Psalm celebrates the strength and the redemption of our God. Then in the same way the last verse of the 20th Psalm says, “Save, Lord: let the King hear us when we call.” And the 21st Psalm is the Psalm of the King in His glory. It begins, “The king shall joy in Thy strength, O Lord.” When reading in the Psalms watch for those intimate connections. Sometimes you will get a series of five, six, seven, or nine Psalms all linked like that, the last verse of one introducing the first of the next with certain words, certain expressions common to each and seemingly binding these Psalms together like a golden chain. In Psalm 19 we have had the testimony of creation and the testimony of the Word of God, all telling of a Redeemer that God has provided. Then in Psalm 20 we have the redemption, the salvation which that Redeemer has obtained for us.

Look at the first three verses of Psalm 20. The soul is resting, as it were, upon the work that the Lord Jesus Christ has accomplished. “The Lord hear thee in the day of trouble; the name of the God of Jacob defend thee; Send thee help from the sanctuary, and strengthen thee out of Zion; Remember all thy offerings, and accept thy burnt sacrifice.” Of course all the offerings and all the burnt sacrifices speak of Christ so everything here is based upon sacrifice. All future blessing for Israel and for the nations as well as for the individual soul rests upon the one offering of the Lord Jesus Christ on Calvary. All these sacrifices that were offered in the past dispensations were just so many pictures of the work that He accomplished there and it is on the basis of this that all blessing comes to us. It is because of His offering that God hears those who call. The God of Jacob will undertake for us.

I do love that term, “The God of Jacob.” Do you know that only once in the Bible we read of “The God of Isaac” and only twice of “The God of Abraham”? Once we read of “The Lord God of Elijah” but about twenty-two times in the book of the Psalms we read of “The God of Jacob.” Why does He call himself “The God of Jacob”? I think there are a number of suggestive thoughts. Perhaps the first is that He is the God that the poor sinner needs, for Jacob was a poor crooked stick from the time he first came into this world right on through the years. The name means “the grafter” or “the cheat” literally, “the heel catcher.” A man who would trip another by catching his heel. It is like the flesh in every one of us; what heel catchers we are! But God is “The God of Jacob.” Isaac was a nice, colorless sort of man. He never did anything exciting. He was never excitingly good, never excitingly bad. You might have thought that God would far rather have delighted to call Himself, “The God of Isaac,” but only once in the Word is He so called. It is “The God of Jacob” because He wants you and me to know that He is the God who is interested in poor sinners. And then again I think the thought of “The God of Jacob” suggests the God of the individual. God singles people out. “I am that man’s God,” and He singled you and me out, and we can look up into His face and say, “Thou art my God.” And then there is this thought, He is the God of patience, and what patience He had with Jacob! He dealt with him; He disci- plined him; He took that crooked man and chastened, educated him, and taught him by discipline until at last when an old man he became a quiet, patient, godly worshiper. We read that Jacob, when he was dying, “worshipped, leaning upon the top of his staff” (Hebrews 11:21). It took him a long time to reach that place but he attained it at last. What patience God has had with some of us!

The last section includes verses 4 to 6 where we have the blessing that comes to the people of God in answer to prayer. Verses 1, 2, and 3 are in the nature of a prayer, and you notice they conclude with the word, “Selah.” In our version the sentence is not completed but actually you should have a period there, for the word “Selah” itself would indicate that. This word “Selah” literally means “to lift up.” Just as, for instance, in playing the piano the pianist comes to a rest and just lifts her hands for a moment. When the music was played the musician would just lift his hand and indicate that there was a rest in the music. When I was a boy, a dear old saint said, “Whenever I see that word ‘Selah’ I always read it as, ‘Stop and consider!’” It is the Lord saying, “I have been telling you something of importance; you just stop now and think it over.” It is divine punctuation. Stop and think this over before you go on with the next strain.

The fourth verse, instead of being a part of the petition, should be a declarative sentence. A better translation is this, “He will grant thee according to thine own heart, and fulfil all thy counsel.” The prayer was in the other three verses, “May the Lord do thus and so for you,” and now the answer comes, “He will grant thee according to thine own heart, and fulfil all thy counsel.” Some one says, “Doesn’t God always do that? does He not grant everybody according to his heart and fulfil all their counsels?” He has never promised to do that in an indiscriminate kind of way. But He does say, “Delight thyself also in the Lord; and He shall give thee the desires of thine heart” (Psalms 37:4). And again, “If ye abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you” (John 15:7). Here, you see, you have the soul occupied with Christ, occupied with His work, and now the cry goes out to God on the cloud of the burnt sacrifices and the answer comes, “He will grant thee according to thine own heart, and fulfil all thy counsel.” When you and I are really taken up with Him, when His will is our will, when we are delighting ourselves in Him, when His Word abides in us and we are consciously in communion with Him, we may ask what we will and it will be done. “Well,” somebody said to me one time, “if that is true, why don’t you ask the Lord for a million dollars and pay up everything and not have to take up any more collections?” I could not do that if I am delighting myself in Him. He does not tell me to ask for a million dollars. If He did, I would do it. When George Mueller delighted himself in Him and he asked for a million pounds, God gave it to him during a lifetime of fifty years, when running that orphanage. If I had a responsibility like that I could go to the Lord about it too. If you and I are really living in communion with Him the Holy Spirit dwelling within us will move our hearts and show us that for which we should ask, and as we pray in the Holy Spirit we can be assured of an answer.

Now then faith speaks in verses 5 and 6, “We will re- joice in Thy salvation, and in the name of our God we will set up our banners: the Lord fulfil all thy petitions.” In verse 6 you have a term used that refers throughout all the prophetic Scripture to our Lord Jesus Himself, that which the Jews used for the coming Saviour, “Now know I that the Lord saveth His anointed.” “Anointed” is the same as “Messiah.” The Messiah was the One for whom the Jews were waiting all down through the centuries. But it was predicted that God’s Anointed was to suffer, to be rejected, to die, and then was to come forth from the grave in triumph. And so the Psalmist looks on to the day of victory and says, “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.” And the same power that raised Messiah from the dead is the power that undertakes for us. So we can say, “Some trust in chariots, and some in horses: but we will remember the name of the Lord our God.” We are trusting in God alone. How apt we are in the hour of stress and trial to turn for help to that which is merely earthly or human and so often fails us. If you once know the blessedness of depending on God, you will find it is a luxury to trust in Him. Your confidence will not be in the natural but in the spiritual.

“They are brought down”-those who trust only in temporal things-“and fallen: but we”-we who trust in God- “are risen, and stand upright.” The Psalm closes with Christ in view. “Save, Lord: let the King hear us when we call.” And of course the King is none other than our blessed Lord Jesus. And that introduces us direcdy to Psalm 21, for the very first verse, as we have seen, celebrates the glory of the King.

 


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Bibliography Information
Ironside, H. A. "Commentary on Psalms 20:4". Ironside's Notes on Selected Books. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/isn/psalms-20.html. 1914.

Lectionary Calendar
Friday, December 6th, 2019
the First Week of Advent
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