The Grand Question - Notes on Psalm 17
Getting Unstuck

We Rise Up and Stand Firm - Notes on Psalm 20

In Distress


Distress zach-rowlandson-593154-unsplash
Photo by Zach Rowlandson on Unsplash

Psalm 20:1 - May the LORD answer you when you are in distress; may the name of the God of Jacob protect you.

In the spirit of blessing and benediction, we come to pray for a friend. Such a prayer blesses the giver, the receiver, and the heart of God. In this case, the intercessor is speaking to God on behalf of another but in doing so openly, is speaking also, to the other on behalf of God. It is a ministry of healing, grace, and love that encourages the head upon which the blessing is laid. It is priestly, and it is sacramental. Protection and deliverance come to the distressed often after the prayer of another. Who can you bless today?

Psalm 20:2 - May he send you help from the sanctuary and grant you support from Zion.

In ministry, the help that we offer does not come from us. It proceeds directly from the presence of God. Our encouraging presence is not a gift of our own resources, but of the Master who fashioned us and sent us forth equipped to serve. We offer support by “being there,” but that support is the Christ within us who comes alongside. He is the Spirit, the Paraclete who lifts the broken and heals the wounded. We can withhold such a blessing to our detriment and that of others, but we cannot manufacture it. Stop withholding.

Psalm 20:3 - May he remember all your sacrifices and accept your burnt offerings. Selah.

This verse, interpreted in the light of the New Covenant lifts up the cross in the presence of God and the person we desire to bless. It is not our sacrifice, but that with which we identify in Christ that makes an offering of our lives acceptable to God. We can have confidence in such a sacramental act as was wrought in the passion of the Lamb of God. Into the malaise of our frail attempts to appease God, He entered with the perfect offering for sin and made this prayer possible.

Psalm 20:4 - May he give you the desire of your heart and make all your plans succeed.

As astounding as it may sound, God desires to give us our desires, but only after He has transformed those desires and brought them into sync with His own. He wants our plans to succeed, but inasmuch as His Spirit has planted those plans in our hearts.  The progression of the blessing is the prerequisite experience of the blanket prayer. First there is distress, then divine deliverance and protection, followed by help, support, sacrifice, and offering. The transforming power of these events paves the way for success.

Psalm 20:5 – We will shout for joy when you are victorious and will lift up our banners in the name of our God. May the LORD grant all your requests.

There have been many along the way that have cheered you on to spiritual success and growth. The have applauded God at your salvation, baptism, and first steps in discipleship. They have encouraged you and embraced you along your pilgrimage. It is your turn to do this for another. You are called to be an encourager or a mentor or even a cheerleader. You have the capacity to invest your life and prayers in someone other than yourself and to take great joy in his or her progress. Don’t let the opportunity slip away.

Psalm 20:6 - Now I know that the LORD saves his anointed; he answers him from his holy heaven with the saving power of his right hand.

It is a serendipitous moment when we realize within ourselves that God does indeed save those upon whom His purposes rest. Jesus Christ is God’s anointed and all who are found in Him are heirs of God’s purposes, promises, and privileges. We suddenly discover that we can reinterpret every event in our lives in the newly discerned light of God’s eternal program in which we are included. Live each day in the light of His promises and in the confidence of your secure position in His eternal family.

Psalm 20:7 – Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.

The difference between God’s anointed and the self-appointed is a matter of trust. We don’t need more insight as Brennan Manning has noted in “Ruthless Trust,” but more trust. We need to recklessly abandon our lives to God with such radical displacement of self and fleshly confidence that we will sink, or swim based only upon God’s truth, love, and faithfulness. It is the call of the Christian to climb as far out on a limb with God as possible and then, to live there in an ever-deepening reliance upon Him and Him alone.

Psalm 20:8 - They are brought to their knees and fall, but we rise up and stand firm.

Those who trust in the weapons and schemes of man are ultimately frustrated in every human effort. Often, the contrast is most pronounced in times of crisis, grief, or hardship. The countenance of the worldly falls with the loss of position, strength, prosperity, or self-confidence. The godly, though battered, bruised, broken, and besieged, will rise up and stand firm. Grief and sorrow befall every soul, but “that soul who on Jesus hath leaned for repose …” God “… will never, no never desert to his foes.”

Psalm 20:9 - O LORD, save the king! Answer us when we call!

From the sanctuary of Israel rises up a song of prayer for the man who symbolized their security, well being, and success as a nation. God’s people had the impulse to pray for their nation and leaders in the days of the psalmist. They knew that no people and no potentate could stand apart from the awesome power of the King of the Universe. How seldom we pray for people in power, for decision makers, for the affairs of state and for people of note. How deeply they need our prayers. Let us commit to pray for the king.