Psalm 020


There are two voices speaking in this royal psalm. The first voice is the voice of the people. And the people are praying to God on behalf of their king. And the second voice is the voice of the king himself. And the king expresses his confidence in the Lord, his God. The people are speaking in verses 1 to 5 and the king is speaking in verses 6 to 8 and the people speak again in verse 9.

Verses 1 to 5

In verses 1 to 5, the people are speaking. In verse 1 they pray for the Lord to answer their king whenever he’s in distress; and they pray for the name of the God of Jacob to protect their king. It seems the king is going into battle against their enemies. And so, the people are interceding to God on his behalf. They refer to God using two names. They call him first by his covenant name: LORD in capital letters. This name speaks of God’s commitment to his people, because, by means of the covenant, the Lord has bound himself to his people with an unbreakable promise. And then they call him by the name ‘the God of Jacob’. In Genesis 35, the Lord instructed Jacob to return to Bethel and to settle there and to build an altar there. Bethel was the place where the Lord appeared to him in a dream many years earlier when Jacob was fleeing from his brother who wanted to kill him. The Lord appeared to him at that time and promised to bless him and to watch over him wherever he went. And so, years later, Jacob told his family they were going to Bethel. And he said to them:

let us go up to Bethel, where I will build an altar to God, who answered me in the day of my distress and who has been with me wherever I have gone.

Jacob testified to his family that the Lord had heard and answered him in the day of his distress. And here in this psalm, the Lord’s people are praying to the same God — the God of Jacob — asking him to hear and answer their king in the day of his distress.

Notice, of course, that the people pray for ‘the name of the God of Jacob’ to protect the king. God’s name in the Bible refers to more than the name by which he’s known. It also refers to the what God has revealed about himself. And so it refers to his reputation and it refers to what he has become known for. We use the expression in the same way, because we talk about what this company is known for and what that company is known for. Fiat is known for selling small cars, while Ferrari is known for selling fast cars. And God is known for being merciful and gracious, and slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. He’s revealed himself to be a rock for his people and their refuge and strength. He’s revealed himself to be the one who hears and answers his people in the day of their distress. By the things he has done in the past, the Lord has revealed himself to be like this; he’s known for the things he has done. And so, when the people pray to him on behalf of their king, they’re relying on the fact that this is what their God is like. They’re relying on the fact that he has demonstrated previously that he’s the kind of God who answers his people when they’re in distress; and he protects his people when they’re in danger. And so, they know they can count on him.

Finally, in verse 1, the word for ‘protect’ really means ‘set on high’. So, just as we might place a valuable object on a high shelf so that it won’t be damaged by small children, so the people pray for the Lord to set their king high up and out of reach from his enemies.

In verse 2, the people pray for the Lord to send help to the king from the sanctuary. And they pray that he will grant the king support from Zion. They refer to the sanctuary on Mount Zion, because the temple in Jerusalem was God’s dwelling place among the people. And then, in verse 3, they refer to the king’s sacrifices and his burnt offerings. And the appeal to the Lord to remember the offerings the king has brought. In 1 Samuel 7, we read how Samuel the prophet offered sacrifices to the Lord before the people went into battle. He offered the sacrificed and cried out to the Lord on behalf of the people. It seems then, that before a military campaign, it was normal for the Israelites to offer sacrifices to seek God’s help. And so, here in the psalm, the people are asking the Lord to accept the sacrifices which the king offered so that the Lord will look upon him with favour and help him in battle.

And then they pray for the Lord to give the king the desire of his heart and to make all his plans succeed. So, he’s planned out what he will do and how he will fight against his enemies. And the people pray that his plans will be successful.

And the people are confident that the Lord will hear and will answer them and will give victory to their king. They’re confident; and so they say in verse 5 that they will shout for joy when the king is victorious and they will lift up banners in the name of their God in order to celebrate their victory. They have no doubt in their minds that the Lord will help their king and will give him victory over his enemies. They have no doubt in their minds that the Lord will grant all his requests.

Verses 6 to 8

And so, the people prayed to the Lord on behalf of their king. And in verses 6 to 8, the king speaks. And he says in verse 6:

Now I know….

What has he come to know?

Now I know that the Lord saves his anointed.

In other words, now he knows for sure that the Lord will give victory to his anointed king.

Whereas the people prayed for God’s help to come from the sanctuary on Mount Zion, the king raises his eyes from earth to heaven. He knows that the Lord does not really dwell in an earthly temple, but in the true temple which is heaven above. And so, he says that God answers him from his holy heaven. And God answers him with the saving power of his right hand. God’s right hand refers to his power; and the king is confident that God will use his power to save him from his enemies.

And so, instead of trusting in chariots and horses, he will trust in the name of the Lord our God. We can imagine kings in the past boasting about their horses and chariots and the size of their armies. ‘Don’t mess with me’, we can imagine them saying, ‘because look at the size of my army compared to your’s!’ However, you might recall that the kings of Israel were commanded by God not to amass lots of horses. Instead of trusting in the size of their army, the kings of Israel were to trust in the Lord to help them overcome nations which were mightier and stronger than Israel. And so, here is this king, expressing his confidence in the Lord. Instead of trusting in the size of his army and cavalry, he trusts in the Lord. Those who trust in the size of their army will fall to their knees in submission. But those who trust in the Lord will rise up and will stand firm. They will not fall, but will stand victorious.

Verse 9

First the people spoke. They prayed to the Lord on behalf of the king. Then the king spoke. He expressed his confidence in the Lord. Finally, the people speak again. In verse 9 they pray to the Lord, asking him to save the king and to answer them when they call. The king is about to go into battle against powerful enemies. The enemy army is large and strong. And so, Lord, will you hear and answer us? And will you save your anointed king?


The Lord our God has saved our King, the Lord Jesus Christ. Herod and Pontius Pilate together with the Gentiles and the Jews conspired together against him and they crucified the Lord Jesus Christ, who is God’s Anointed King. But the Lord our God did not abandon him to the grave, but raised him from the dead and exalted him to the highest place, far above his every other power and all his enemies who opposed him. From his holy heaven, God answered him and saved his Anointed King from his enemies and set him on high, out of their reach, to rule over all.

And from his throne in heaven, the Lord Jesus is extending his kingdom on the earth; and the gates of hell will not prevail or be able to stop the advancement of his kingdom, because Christ our King has the power and the authority to call his people out of the dominion of the Devil and into his own kingdom of grace. Through the preaching of the gospel, and by means of the powerful operation of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of sinners, Christ our King rescues his people from Satan’s tyranny; and he’s gives them eternal life in his everlasting kingdom. And his kingdom is advancing day after day, throughout the world, as more and more men and women and children put their faith in him and yield their lives to Christ the King.

And despite his best efforts to oppose the Lord Jesus, the Devil is no match for our Great King; and in the end, in the end, Christ our King will overthrow the Devil and all who sided with him; and Christ our King and all who believed in him will reign victorious forever and forever.

And in the meantime, while we wait for that day to come — when Christ will appear in glory and with power to overthrow the Devil once and for all — we, his people, can pray, just as the people in the psalm prayed. We can pray to the Lord our God to give the Lord Jesus the desire of his heart and to make all his plans succeed. We can pray for Satan’s kingdom to be destroyed and for Christ’s kingdom to advance, that all of Christ’s elect people will be brought into his kingdom and kept in it forever. And, of course, the reason we pray to the Lord our God, is because we trust, not in earthly powers and not in human ability, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God, who answers us when we call.