A psalm of praise for answered prayer
"To the Chief Musician. A Psalm of David. The king shall have joy in Your strength, O LORD; And in Your salvation how greatly shall he rejoice! You have given him his heart's desire, And have not withheld the request of his lips. Selah." (verses 1-2)
Composed for the Chief Musician of the Levites to use in temple worship, King David recounts with lavish thanksgiving the ways the LORD has answered his prayers and how He will continue to do so, even into the far future. Written in third person, like many of his temple psalms, David names two great causes for his joy and praise: the strength of God and the salvation of God. The rest of the psalm can be divided so as to highlight each of these causes of rejoicing in turn.
The first section, verses 3-7, highlights the salvation of the LORD, and the latter section, verses 8-13, highlights the strength of the LORD. At the conclusion of each section, verse 7 and verse 13 respectively, David summarizes his point in a poignant statement of confidence. Let it never be said that David's compositions were haphazard or random! David was a famed composer in his day, and his lyrical writings, (although the instrumental accompaniment has been lost to time), remain the most prominent and popular compositions of all time. David's psalms are timeless.
Before he goes into detail on the subject of God's salvation and strength, David makes a most wonderful statement in verse two. God had given him the desire of his heart and answered his prayer. What was that desire and prayer? The rest of the psalm provides us with the answers.
"For You meet him with the blessings of goodness; You set a crown of pure gold upon his head. He asked life from You, and You gave it to him - length of days forever and ever. His glory is great in Your salvation; Honor and majesty You have placed upon him. For You have made him most blessed forever; You have made him exceedingly glad with Your presence." (verses 3-6)
Verse three begins with the word “for”, indicating a connection to the previous verse. Verse three clarifies David's statement in verse two. The desire of David’s heart was to fulfill the calling God had given him as a boy. Anointed with oil as the king of Israel by the prophet Samuel, David had waited decades for the fulfillment of this promise, during which time he was branded an outlaw by the jealous king and forced into exile among the enemies of his people. At times, his hope must have wavered and his faith been tested severely.
Yet, the LORD was faithful to His promise, and did indeed set the crown of pure gold upon his head. David was crowned king of Israel, just as God had promised, and here he cries out in thanksgiving for the long awaited fulfillment.
All of the answers to David’s prayer listed for us in these four verses are both earthly and heavenly; the fulfillments being both immediate and tangible as well as future and spiritual. The earthly answers applied strictly to David, while the spiritual fulfillments can apply to anyone who puts their trust in the Lord.
For example, David was an earthly king, with a literal crown of pure gold upon his head. David prayed for protection of his life, and God saved his life, presumably from his enemies. God did give him earthly honour and majesty in making him king of Israel, the most prominent nation of the world in that day. God had given him many tangible blessings, as recorded in 2 Samuel 12:7-8, “Thus says the LORD God of Israel: 'I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you from the hand of Saul. I gave you your master's house and your master's wives into your keeping, and gave you the house of Israel and Judah. And if that had been too little, I also would have given you much more!'”
Yet, here we find David speaking of much more than tangible earthly gifts, and it becomes clear quickly that all the answers to his prayers have a fuller context. In verses four and five, David praises God for granting him life and salvation, but then speaks of “length of days forever and ever”, adding eternity into his meaning and deepening the definition of the “life” and “salvation” he was granted. Not only did God rescue him from physical peril, but He rescued him from eternal damnation.
Again, in verse three, David praises God for meeting him with “the blessings of goodness” in making him king, but in verse six he speaks of God having made him “most blessed forever” and “glad with Your presence”, once again adding the eternal into the equation. Not only did God bless him with earthly honours and enjoyments, but He promised glory and pleasures forevermore in eternity with Him. "You will show me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore." (Psalm 16:11)
Circling back to verse three, we see that not only did David wear an earthly diadem of gold upon his brow, but such is the promised reward for all who are faithful in eternity. (Revelation 4). David’s exaltation in God’s faithfulness to him is heightened by the depth and extent of the answered prayer.
When our "eyes" are on God, our countenance reflects God’s. (“Be imitators of God as dear children” Ephesians 5:1) David is exceedingly glad because of the look upon God’s face. God must be smiling at David. How you picture God looking at you? With a frown? Stoic and unfeeling? Do you imagine Him to be irritated with you?
God loves you and looks with mercy upon you. Those who have trusted in Jesus are covered in Christ's righteousness before God, and as such, are always pleasing to Him. The classic Hebrew blessing says, “The LORD bless you and keep you. May His face shine upon you and give you peace, and be gracious unto you.”(Numbers 6:24-25)
"For the king trusts in the LORD, and through the mercy of the Most High he shall not be moved." (verse 7)
David trusts in God’s mercy toward him and is confident that because of such he “shall not be moved”. To move means to change position, and to be moved is to have something else exert force upon you that causes you to move from your position. We can be moved in a variety of ways.
To be moved physically is obvious enough; people, animals, nature, circumstance, etc can all “move” us out of place. To be moved mentally is to have a change of opinion or perspective on a subject. To be moved emotionally is to have a change of feelings, such as happiness to sadness or fear to bravery.
David is not speaking of these types of movement, although he experienced them often. He is speaking of spiritual movement... faith.
Faith can be placed in anything, from an object to a person, a circumstance to a philosophy. David's faith was in Yahweh, the Most High God who created all things and rules the universe outside of time. Yahweh, the merciful, loving, and relational God who freely pardons those who trust in Him.
"For the king trusts in the LORD, and through the mercy of the Most High he shall not be moved."
Paraphrased, David trusts in God’s mercy toward him and is confident that because of such he “shall not be moved” in his faith. His trust in the mercy of God and the stability of his faith are intimately connected. In other words, regardless of the physical, emotional, and mental forces that may toss him wildly to and fro, David trusts in God's mercy. As such, his faith will not be moved.
No matter what moves him in heart, mind, or body, he shall not be moved out of place in his spirit. His faith rests steadfastly in God's mercy towards him. Though his health be shaken, his thoughts shaken, his emotions shaken, yet his faith will stand.
While remaining steadfast in any position that is challenged by an outside force requires energy, truly, to remain constant in our faith is an all out war! Every trying circumstance will present itself as evidence to the contrary, and test our confidence in God’s character to the very core.
When your husband loses his job, is God still faithful? When you lose your home in the real estate crash, is God still good? When you are diagnosed with cancer, is God still loving? When you are going through a divorce, is God still real?
We're talking war! and its a war for our faith. Every hard circumstance is a battle ground. Will I still believe; will I still hope; will I still obey, even when....?
It is a battle for our faith, and it is won by our faith.
Trust in God's mercy was David's tower of refuge in every storm, and his fortress in every battle. "...through the mercy of the Most High he shall not be moved."
It is our stabilizing strength as well. No matter what may "move" you in this life, do not be moved from your confidence in God's mercy in which you first found Life, hope, and peace. It is only when we lose sight of His great mercy, that we stumble into doubt, depression, and despair.
Don't be moved! The same God who had mercy on you at the beginning has mercy on you now. He loves you. He has a purpose in everything for good. He has a special plan for your life. He will provide for you. He will never leave nor forsake you! These are His promises to us in the Word of God. Trust in Him. He is God.
His mercy endures forever, and through trust in Him, you will not be moved.
Things in this life may "move" us, but true stability is found in only one thing: trust in our merciful God. Through the mercy of the Most High, we shall not be moved. Paul said in Acts 20:24, "But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God."
For an extended version of commentary of verse 7, please read Movement and Mercy.
"Your hand will find all Your enemies; Your right hand will find those who hate You. You shall make them as a fiery oven in the time of Your anger; The LORD shall swallow them up in His wrath, And the fire shall devour them. Their offspring You shall destroy from the earth, And their descendants from among the sons of men. For they intended evil against You; They devised a plot which they are not able to perform. Therefore You will make them turn their back; You will make ready Your arrows on Your string toward their faces." (verses 8-12)
David here begins to prophesy of the future destruction of the wicked. “You shall” preempts every statement in these five verses, contrasting with the “You have” of the first six verses of this psalm. David has moved from the realm of presently answered prayer to confidence in continued answers to his prayers. God will defend him all his days, but He will do more.
He will one day right every wrong, punish every evil, and destroy all wickedness from the face of the earth, like in the days of Noah. A clean sweep at His coming. Much of the Bible speaks of this period of time, called the Day of the LORD, and it is the proverbial day of reckoning for all who then dwell on the earth.
Paul describes this day to the persecuted Thessalonian believers, "...since it is a righteous thing with God to repay with tribulation those who trouble you, and to give you who are troubled rest with us when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power, when He comes, in that Day, to be admired among all those who believe..." (2 Thessalonians 1:6-10)
David forsees this “Great and terrible day”, and finds rest in the knowledge that even though evil still abounds, God’s promise to deal with it is merely a matter of time. In 2 Peter 3:9, Peter writes concerning this judgement of the wicked, “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to usward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.”
God delays in this mass execution of evil to give mankind a chance to turn to Him in repentance. He is merciful and desires that all would turn, and He would have to punish none. Today is the day of salvation. Turn to Him now, in the multititude of His mercies, and be saved from the wrath to come.
"Be exalted, O LORD, in Your own strength! We will sing and praise Your power." (verse 13)
When we pray, Paul encourages us to do so with thanksgiving (Philippians 4:6), and John reminds us that when we pray in accordance with God’s will, we can be as certain of the answer as if it had already happened (1 John 5:14). David prayed with such confidence and rejoicing. He knew God would answer, so he praises Him in advance.
That is faith.
And so concludes Psalm 21, "We will sing and praise Your power." The birth of a song.