Psalms 21

PSALM XXI

The psalmist returns thanks to God for giving him the victory

over his enemies; which victory he had earnestly requested,

1, 2.

He enters into a detail of the blessings that in consequent of

the victory he had obtained, 3-7.

He predicts the destruction of all those who may hereafter rise

up against him, 8-12;

and concludes with praising the power of Jehovah, 13.

NOTES ON PSALM XXI

In the title of this Psalm there is nothing particularly worthy

of remark. The occasion of it is variously understood. Some think

it was composed to celebrate the victory obtained over

Sennacherib; others, that it was made on the recovery of

Hezekiah, and the grant of fifteen years of longer life; see

Ps 21:4. Others and they with most appearance of propriety

consider it a song of rejoicing composed by David for his victory

over the Ammonites, which ended in the capture of the royal city

of Rabbah, the crown of whose king David put on his own head, see

Ps 21:3, and to procure which victory David offered the prayers

and sacrifices mentioned in the preceding Psalm. Lastly, many

think that it is to be wholly referred to the victories of the

Messiah; and it must be owned that there are several expressions

in it which apply better to our Lord than to David, or to any

other person; and to him the Targum applies it, as does likewise

my old Anglo-Scottish Psalter in paraphrasing the text.

Verse 1. The king shall joy] melech Meshicha, "the

King Messiah."-Targum. What a difference between ancient and

modern heroes! The former acknowledged all to be of God, because

they took care to have their quarrel rightly founded; the latter

sing a Te Deum, pro forma, because they well know that their

battle is not of the Lord. Their own vicious conduct sufficiently

proves that they looked no higher than the arm of human strength.

God suffers such for a time, but in the end he confounds and

brings them to naught.

Verse 2. Thou hast given him his heart's desire] This seems to

refer to the prayers offered in the preceding Psalm; see

especially Ps 21:1-4.

Verse 3. Thou preventest him] To prevent, from praevenio,

literally signifies to go before. Hence that prayer in the

communion service of our public Liturgy, "Prevent us, O Lord, in

all our doings, with thy most gracious favour!" That is, "Go

before us in thy mercy, make our way plain, and enable us to

perform what is right in thy sight!" And this sense of prevent is

a literal version of the original word tekademennu. "For

thou shalt go before him with the blessings of goodness."

Our ancestors used God before in this sense. So in Henry V.'s

speech to the French herald previously to the battle of

Agincourt:-

"Go therefore; tell thy master, here I am.

My ransom is this frail and worthless trunk;

My army, but a weak and sickly guard:

Yet, God before, tell him we will come on,

Though France himself, and such another neighbour,

Stand in our way."

A crown of pure gold] Probably alluding to the crown of the king

of Rabbah, which, on the taking of the city, David took and put on

his own head. See the history, 2Sa 12:26-30.

Verse 4. He asked life of thee] This verse has caused some

interpreters to understand the Psalm of Hezekiah's sickness,

recovery, and the promised addition to his life of fifteen years;

but it may be more literally understood of the Messiah, of whom

David was the type, and in several respects the representative.

Verse 5. His glory is great] But great as his glory was, it had

its greatness from God's salvation. There is no true nobility but

of the soul, and the soul has none but what it receives from the

grace and salvation of God.

Verse 6. Thou hast made him most blessed for ever] Literally,

"Thou hast set him for blessings for ever." Thou hast made the

Messiah the Source whence all blessings for time and for eternity

shall be derived. He is the Mediator between God and man.

Thou hast made him exceeding glad] Jesus, as Messiah, for the

joy that was set before him, of redeeming a lost world by his

death, endured the cross, and despised the shame, and is for ever

set down on the right hand of God.

Verse 7. The king trusteth in the Lord] It was not by my skill

or valour that I have gained this victory, but by faith in the

strong, protecting, and conquering arm of JEHOVAH.

He shall not be moved.] Perhaps this may be best understood of

him who was David's prototype. His throne, kingdom, and

government, shall remain for ever.

Verse 8. Thine hand shall find out] Thy uncontrollable power

shall find out all thine enemies, wheresoever hidden or howsoever

secret. God knows the secret sinner, and where the workers of

iniquity hide themselves.

Verse 9. Thou shalt make them as a fiery oven] By thy wrath they

shall be burnt up, and they shall be the means of consuming

others. One class of sinners shall, in God's judgments, be the

means of destroying another class; and at last themselves shall be

destroyed.

Verse 10. Their fruit shalt thou destroy] Even their posterity

shall be cut off, and thus their memorial shall perish.

Verse 11. For they intended evil] Sinners shall not be permitted

to do all that is in their power against the godly; much less

shall they be able to perform all that they wish.

Verse 12. Therefore shalt thou make them turn their back] God

can in a moment strike the most powerful and numerous army, even

in the moment of victory, with panic; and then even the lame, the

army which they had nearly routed, shall take the prey, and divide

the spoil.

Against the face of them.] Thou shalt cause them to turn their

backs and fly, as if a volley of arrows had been discharged in

their faces. This seems to be the sense of this difficult verse.

Verse 13. Be thou exalted] Exalt thyself, O Lord-thy creatures

cannot exalt thee. Lift thyself up, and discomfit thy foes by

thine own strength! Thou canst give a victory to thy people over

the most formidable enemies, though they strike not one blow in

their own defence. God's right hand has often given the victory to

his followers, while they stood still to see the salvation of God.

How little can the strength of man avail when the Lord raiseth up

himself to the battle! His children, therefore, may safely trust

in him, for the name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous

flee into it, and are safe.

Praise thy power.] God is to receive praise in reference to that

attribute which he has exhibited most in the defence or salvation

of his followers. Sometimes he manifests his power, his mercy,

his wisdom, his longsuffering, his fatherly care, his good

providence, his holiness, his justice, his truth, &c.

Whatever attribute or perfection he exhibits most, that should be

the chief subject of his children's praise. One wants teaching,

prays for it, and is deeply instructed: he will naturally

celebrate the wisdom of God. Another feels himself beset with the

most powerful adversaries, with the weakest of whom he is not able

to cope: he cries to the Almighty God for strength; he is heard,

and strengthened with strength in his soul. He therefore will

naturally magnify the all-conquering power of the Lord. Another

feels himself lost, condemned, on the brink of hell; he calls for

mercy, is heard and saved: mercy, therefore, will be the chief

subject of his praise, and the burden of his song.

The old Anglo-Scottish Psalter says, We sal make knowen thi

wordes in gude wil and gude werk, for he synges well that wirkes

well. For thi, sais he twise, we sal syng; ane tyme for the luf of

hert; another, for the schewyng of ryghtwisness, til ensampil.

ANALYSIS OF THE TWENTY-FIRST PSALM

This is the people's επινικιον, or triumphal song, after the

victory which they prayed for in the former Psalm, when David went

out to war. In this they praise God for the conquest which he gave

him over his enemies, and for the singular mercies bestowed on

himself. It consists of three parts:-

I. The general proposition, Ps 21:1.

II. The narration, which is twofold, from Ps 21:1-4. 1. An

enumeration of the blessings bestowed on David, Ps 21:1-6. 2. An

account how God would deal with his enemies, Ps 21:6-12.

III. A vow, or acclamation, Ps 21:13, which is the

epilogue of the piece.

I. The sum of the Psalm is contained in the first verse: "The

king shall joy; the king shall be exceeding glad." Joy is the

affection with which the king and people were transported; for all

that follows shows but the rise and causes of it.

I. The rise and object of it: "The strength of God; the

salvation of God." 1. His strength, by which he subdued his

enemies, and contemned dangers. 2. His salvation, by which he

escaped dangers, and fell not in battle.

II. 1. The narration of the goodness of God to David's person,

the particulars of which are the following:-

1. God granted to him what his heart desired: "Thou hast given

him his heart's desire," and what his lips requested: "and hast

not withholden the request of his lips."

2. He granted him more than he asked: "Thou preventest him with

the blessings of goodness."

3. He chose him to be king: "Thou hast set a crown of pure gold

upon his head." In which God prevented him, and chose him when he

thought not of it.

4. When David went to war, "he asked life, and thou gavest him

even length of days for ever and ever:" which is most true of

Christ, the Son of David. In him his life and kingdom are

immortal.

5. A great accession of glory, honour, and majesty. Though his

glory was great, it was in God's salvation; "Honour and majesty

did God lay upon him."

All which are summed up under the word blessing in the next

verse. "For thou hast made him most blessed for ever;" and God had

added the crown of all, a heart to rejoice in it: "Thou hast made

him exceeding glad with thy countenance."

6. The continuance of these blessings, which is another favour,

with the cause of it: "For the king trusteth in the Lord, and

through the mercy of the Most High he shall not be moved.'' Thus

far the first part of the narrative, which concerned David's

person particularly.

2. The effects of God's goodness to David in outward things, and

to the whole kingdom, in the overthrow of his enemies, (for

without God's protection what kingdom is safe?) form the second

part.

1. God would make David his instrument in delivering Israel by

the overthrow of his enemies: "Thine hand."

2. He would certainly do it, for he could find them out

wheresoever they were: "Thine hand shall find out thine enemies."

3. This was easy to be done, as easy as for fire to consume

stubble: "Thou shalt make them as a fiery oven."

4. This destruction should be universal; it should reach even to

their posterity: "Their fruit shalt thou destroy, and their seed."

5. Their judgment should be fearful and unavoidable. God would

set them up as a mark to shoot at: "Thou shalt make them turn

their back, when thou shalt make ready thine arrows."

At last the cause is added for these judgments; of the succour

he will afford his afflicted, oppressed people; and the revenge he

will take upon their enemies: "They intended evil against thee;

they imagined a mischievous device."

III. The vow or acclamation. This is properly the epilogue, and

has two parts: 1. A petition-"Save the king and the people." 2. A

profession: "And we will give thanks to thee."

I. "Be thou exalted, O Lord, in thine own strength." Show

thyself more powerful in defending thy Church than men and devils

are in their attempts to destroy it.

2. We will be a thankful people; we will show that we have not

received this grace of God in vain: "So will we sing, and praise

thy power."

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