Sunday, July 8, 2012

Psalm 20

Psalm 20
A psalm of intercession for deliverance

"To the Chief Musician. A Psalm of David. May the LORD answer you in the day of trouble; may the name of the God of Jacob defend you;" (verse 1)

       Psalm 20 is yet another wonderful composition of David designed for Temple worship. David must have developed quite a close relationship with the Chief Musician over the years, perhaps even having intimate conversations with him about the nature of the particular inspiration of each psalm.
      This particular psalm is unique in that David wrote it for the people as an intercessory prayer for himself.  What if you were to write out a prayer for yourself, for everyone who knew you to pray? What would you have them ask for you? What would you want prayer for?
      The wonderful thing about this psalm is that it is a prayer that we can either pray for one another or can receive as a prayer for ourselves.  As many of the requests can can be applied to my life, I like to take it as David's prayer for me personally, and agree with it in my own petitions. You can do the same! The setting for the psalm is "the day of trouble," meaning a time of difficulty, which can apply to so many circumstances.
        David has the people pray first that God would answer and defend him in times of trouble. I believe that David fully expected God to answer this prayer for the same reason that I expect Him to answer when I pray it!  Why? God has promised in His Word to defend those who put their trust in Him and to answer the humble prayer.

       In fact, all of David's requests for himself in this psalm are based upon previous promises and principles from the Word of God. These are not just hopeful assertions or wishful thinking, but faith filled requests founded upon the Word of God. 
       In 1 John 5:14, John says, "Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him." When we pray for something that God's Word confirms is God's will, we can pray with absolute certainty.

      Thus, we can pray this prayer with confidence. Knowing that God is with me in the midst of difficult circumstances is such a source of peace; knowing, further, that He will answer my cries and come to my defence is pure joy! David knows that both are true, and depends upon God's faithfulness to do what He said He would.

"May He send you help from the sanctuary, and strengthen you out of Zion;" (verse 2)

The people's prayer for David continues: "God, send him help and strengthen him!"
      When overcome with the difficulties of life, my tendency is to quickly lose heart. My default reaction is to despair and give up hope. At these times that I feel spiritually disabled, weak, and pathetic, God faithfully sends me a message of hope through His Word, by the Holy Spirit - the Helper (John 14:16).
       Verses like Joshua 1:9, "Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go." and Isaiah 41:13, “For I am the LORD your God, who upholds your right hand, Who says to you, ‘Do not fear, I will help you,”  have strengthened me in the spirit many a time when I've felt that I could not go on.    
       The key to receiving that strength from the Word is faith, for faith is the "substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen." (Hebrews 11:1) In other words, faith is the faculty by which we apprehend the realities of the spiritual realm for ourselves; God's Word is just words without faith, (Hebrews 4:2).
      So when you feel overcome and are sinking into despair, turn to God in His Word and allow the Holy Spirit to "strengthen the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be dislocated, but rather be healed." (Hebrews 12:12-13)

"May He remember all your offerings, and accept your burnt sacrifice. Selah" (verse 3)

      Here the people cry out for God to remember David's offerings and sacrifices to Him. How can this relate to us, today, as North American believers in the New Covenant of grace?
     In Romans 12:1, Paul writes "I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service."  To offer our lives to God in surrender is the most reasonable response to what He accomplished for us on the cross. I think of it as a life of joyful service to the King who died to save my life.
       In olden times, when a man saved the life of another by sparing him from death, the saved man felt so indebted to his saviour, that he would offer him his lifetime service. It is entirely reasonable to serve Jesus with my whole life.
      Another translation of the same verse ends with, "which is your spiritual act of worship," in place of "reasonable service." What Christ accomplished on the cross for me stirs within me a desire to worship Him. While I love singing to the Lord and participating in passionate worship services, the most spiritual act of worship is to offer Jesus my life as a living sacrifice.
       Serving God is worship.
       Yet, there have been seasons in my life when I have wondered if all my sacrifices have gone unnoticed, ignored... if they have all been pointless. Questions like, "Does God see? Does He care? Will He use me, or have I given up my life to Him in vain? " arise in moments of doubt, clouding my vision of God and His character.
      Labouring in the Kingdom of God requires perseverance. When the ploughing takes years, the planting takes more years, and the watering takes yet even more years... and still there is no fruit to be seen, then comes the temptation to question God's memory, or my calling. "Has all I have done in faith been for naught? Was I presumptuous, or misguided, in my acts of service?  Did I do something wrong? Was my offering unacceptable to God?"
      I wonder how many times David wrestled with these same types of doubts and fears. He desired nothing more than to glorify God with his life, and like me, he went through seasons of uncertainty and discouragement. Think about David. He had been promised the throne as a boy,  but did not see the fulfillment until he was in his thirties and forties, after over a decade of fleeing the jealousy of the current king and living as an exile from his own country! How did he endure?
     David KNEW God. He knew the character and promises of God, and he trusted Him.
     Remember, David has the people pray this prayer in total confidence that what they ask in faith will be answered. He knows from experience, and believes in faith, that God not only remembers all that he has sacrificed in his lifetime to serve Him, but accepts it, like a burnt sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God.
      Your offering, your life, is a sweet aroma to God. He delights in your desire to please Him and remembers every single time that you chose to honour and glorify Him, instead of choosing what would please or pleasure you.  He knows and remembers.  He will not forget, and will one day reward you as you stand before Him, saying with glowing face and radiant smile, "Well done, my good and faithful servant; enter into the joy of your LORD." Notice that He said faithful servant, not fruitful servant! He rewards faithfulness... that which is done in faith.
      So, may the Lord remember all your offerings and every sacrifice you have made for His sake. "And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart." (Galatians 6:9)
       Perseverance is long distance faith.

"May He grant you according to your heart's desire, and fulfill all your purpose." (verse 4)

          David in Psalm 37:4-7 wrote, "Delight yourself also in the LORD, and He shall give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the LORD, trust also in Him, and He shall bring it to pass.”
          I often hear believers quoting Psalm 37 as the foundation for their confidence that God will give them the thing that they are urgently desiring. I have just as often heard believers declare their doubt and confusion regarding God's faithfulness to His promises in the Word, as the "desires of their heart" were not met.
        The common counsel in response to such a cry is to "keep waiting", as the passage in Psalm 37 goes on to say, "Rest in the LORD and wait patiently for Him... do not fret - it only causes harm." (verses 7-8) While true in context, I believe that the counsel fails for the same reason that the promise itself seems to fail in the first place.
       The desires of our hearts are not the surface level wants of our flesh which often masquerade as "needs." Someone might say, "The desire of my heart is a husband," [or a new husband], or "The desire of my heart is to own a house with some land." Although these desires can feel strong at times, and even deep, these are not "heart desires".
       The desires of our hearts are intimately connected to the purpose of our lives.
       Everyone was born with a purpose, uniquely theirs, destined from eternity past in the heart of God. Jeremiah, the prophet, wrote of the day that the Lord called him, “Then the word of the LORD came to me, saying: Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; before you were born I sanctified you; I ordained you a prophet to the nations.” (Jeremiah 1:4-5) Jeremiah's calling, his purpose, was to be a prophet to the nations.
      Paul, the apostle, also wrote of his calling by the will of God: "But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother's womb and called me through His grace, to reveal His Son in me, that I might preach Him among the Gentiles..." (Galatians 1:15-16) and Ephesians 1:1, "Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God." Paul's foreordained life purpose was to be an apostle of Jesus Christ.
      With these callings, came passionate desires. Desires, even, for what was undesirable.
      Jeremiah, later in life and on the brink of quitting the ministry, declared, "Then I said, 'I will not make mention of Him, nor speak anymore in His name.' But His word was in my heart like a burning fire shut up in my bones; I was weary of holding it back, and I could not." (Jeremiah 20:9) His calling was extremely hard, often discouraging, and even dangerous, yet he could not forsake it. He would not. It was in him.
      Paul, too, frequently had terribly difficult times in his calling, and was often abused, rejected, and dishonoured for his sacrificial service to others. Yet, in speaking of rewards for his labour, he said, "What is my reward then? That when I preach the gospel, I may present the gospel of Christ without charge..." (1 Corinthians 9:18)  His calling, itself, he felt was the reward. No matter how unrewarding, how painful, how exhausting it was, there was nothing else he would rather do with his life than be an apostle of Jesus Christ.
       As I said before, the desires of our hearts are intimately connected to the purpose of our lives. Each of us has been given a path that only we can walk, and we have been designed specifically to fulfill that particular purpose that only we were created for. You were created for a purpose! There is no one-size-fits-all category in the Kingdom of God.
      We are each unique. I like the fridge magnet that says, "Be yourself; everybody else is taken." There is only one you, and God made you exactly who you are. Those quirks that make you different are the very reasons that God is crazy about you! He cherishes you; He custom designed you for a purpose.
      "For You formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother's womb. I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made... Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed. And in Your book they all were written, the days fashioned for me, when as yet there were none of them." (Psalm 139:13-16)
       When we accept God's special calling for our lives, we discover our purpose in life, and in so doing, we experience the fulfillment of the deepest, truest, God-given desires of our hearts.
      May He grant you the desires of your heart, and fulfill all your purpose!
"We will rejoice in your salvation, and in the name of our God we will set up our banners! May the LORD fulfill all your petitions." (verse 5)
The people declare their hope in the salvation of God and their confidence in His deliverance for them as a nation. They pray that God would answer the prayers, the petitions of their king, David.
       So take this as my prayer for you personally today, and may the Lord fulfill your all petitions. In other words, may He answer your prayers.  Jesus said, "If you ask anything in My name, I will do it." (John 14:14) You can count on God answering every prayer you pray. God wants to answer your prayer; He delights to meet your needs and satisfy your soul.  You can have that confidence.
       God is so good, in fact, that when He sees that what you are asking for would harm you rather than help you, He is kind enough to answer "no". He is intent on giving you the desires of your heart, but those desires may be met more fully a different way. Trust Him.  I am so thankful for the times that God in His wisdom answered my prayer differently than what I at the time wanted. He did not give me what I wanted, and in so doing, led me on the path to the desires of my heart. 
      We are so much like little children who have limited understanding, and who can rarely comprehend the wisdom of our parent's decisions. As a mother, I have had to deny my children many a desired thing for their own safety and welfare over the years. At the time, they howl and protest, believing me to be a mean kill-joy, but in love, I deprive them of what would harm them.
      I want the best for my children. I love to bless them! My aim is to be like my Father in heaven in my generosity to my children.  It is my MO to say "yes" to everything they ask, for I truly delight to make my children happy. I only say "no" when it is in their best interests. God delights to answer our prayers.
      Jesus said, "Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.  Or what man is there among you who, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone?  Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent?  If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!" (Matthew 7:7-11)

"Now I know that the LORD saves His anointed; He will answer him from His holy heaven with the saving strength of His right hand.  Some trust in chariots, and some in horses; but we will remember the name of the LORD our God." (verses 6- 7)

       Here we take a break from the intercessory requests and move into the people's confident declaration of their certainty of answered prayer. They sing, in essence, "I know God will save David, God's chosen king. He will answer him with all the power and might of heaven and the Godhead. Some kings and peoples put their confidence in expensive and effective war machines for deliverance, but we have a history of salvation when we call on our great and mighty God, so we will put our trust in Him."
       It is so easy to look to might, money, or men for help. Its our default reaction. We naturally first look to our own strength and determination to make something work, and only after we fail ourselves, we look to other means of accomplishing our goal. When in desperate need, it is also to the strong things of this world that we first look to. While it is often only our last resort to turn to God, it pleases Him most when we not only come to Him first, but when we put our whole trust in Him.
       Rather than the strength of numbers AND God, or the influence of money AND God, or the power of men AND God, He wants to be our one and only hope. Put all your eggs in one basket and invest all your faith in God. He will never let you down. "For the Scripture says, "Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame." (Romans 10:11 and Isaiah 28:16)

"They have bowed down and fallen; but we have risen and stand upright." (verse 8)

      Reflecting on past victories of the Lord God of Israel, the people cry out with prophetic certainty: "Our enemies will be destroyed, but we will rise up and be victorious!"
      Paul, in writing the Ephesian Christians, admonishes them to put on the armour of God, to stand up in the midst of spiritual warfare, and to stay standing to the end. "Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. "(Ephesians 6:13)
     We face a battle every day of our lives, whether we engage in it actively or not. The battle is for our faith. The enemy of our souls, satan, knows that "this is the victory that has overcome the world - our faith." (1 John 5:4)  Because faith is what wins the battle, the attack itself is geared at our faith! Circular as it may be, unless we cling to our shield of faith and skillfully wield the sword of Spirit - the Word of God -  we will not stand.  How do we strengthen our grip on that shield and become skilled in the use of our sword? The same way.
       It says in Romans 10:10, "Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God." Faith is strengthened by hearing the living words of God in the Bible. Read and meditate on the holy scriptures often to better hold onto that shield in battle.
       Regarding the skillful use of the Word of God, it speaks allegorically about the Word as food in Hebrews 5:13-14, and also gives us our answer, "For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil." In other words, you need to become familiar with the Word of God by reading and meditating on it frequently. For any skill, the age old advice still holds true: "practice makes perfect."
      Get into the Word of God, and when your faith is tested and tried in battle, you will be able to rise and stand upright, and having done all, to keep standing.

"Save, LORD! May the King answer us when we call." (verse 9)

      In ending this powerful psalm, I love David's closing lyrics.  Written as a petition for the people to pray for their king, David has them conclude with a final cry to the LORD to save them, calling God their King, capital K.
      David may be the king of Israel, but Israel's true King is Jesus, Yahweh, the LORD of heaven and earth. When Samuel first inaugurated Saul as the king of Israel, he told the people, "You have rejected your King in favour of a man who will put his interests ahead of yours." David does not want the people to forget that the true hope of Israel, his hope, is in the King of Kings, the Lord of Lords... God, the Creator of all.
      Is Jesus the Lord, the King, of your life, or do you yet rule yourself? Is He your Lord in word only, or have you given him the reigns to your life? Well, if you have trusted in Jesus as your Saviour, He is indeed your Lord. But only to the degree that you give Him the freedom to do so, will He lead, guide, and protect you as a loving King.
      Will you submit to His authority in your life to direct your steps and lead you into the wonderful purpose that He has prepared for you? My prayer is that you will indeed experience the freedom that comes from releasing the reigns to your own life, and allowing God to guide you into all the wonderful things He has in store for you. Life in Christ is never dull, and Jesus is truly the King of Kings! Trust Him.

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