What is the background of Psalm 20?
The superscription states that this is A Psalm of David, or perhaps more accurately, “for” or “concerning” David. It is a prayer for the king’s protection and victory over enemies in battle. The king, after all, was fighting for the welfare of the nation. Verses 1-5 record the nation’s Godspeed to the king. Verses 6-8 record either the king’s or the worship leader’s reply. Verse 9 is a final prayer for the king.
20:1 May the Lord answer you in the day of trouble!
May the name of the God of Jacob set you securely on high!
20:2 May He send you help from the sanctuary,
And support you from Zion!
20:3 May He remember all your meal offerings,
And find your burnt offering acceptable! [Selah]
20:4 May He grant you your heart’s desire,
And fulfill all your counsel!
These verses are a prayer asking the Lord to answer and assist the king “in the day of trouble.” The “day of trouble” is a day of impending battle as suggested by the reference to chariots and horses in verse 7. The pronoun “you” is singular in these verses and refers to the king, the Lord’s anointed (see verse 6). The petitioner asked the Lord to remember the king’s acts of religious devotion and grant success to the king’s plans. The petitioner prayed that God would “answer,” “set,” “send,” “support,” “remember,” “find,” “grant,” and “fulfill.”
Practical Consideration: No person is exempt from troubles. We are not exempt from troubles. We often experience dark days and sorrowful nights. We often grow weary from the constant and unrelenting pressures of life. It seems that there is always something to threaten our welfare and security. It seems that there is always something bent on defeating and destroying us. Like the psalmist, we too should seek the Lord’s help in the day of trouble. We should look expectantly to God for help and assistance. We should put our trust in Him.
20:5 We will sing for joy over your victory,
And in the name of our God we will set up our banners.
May the Lord fulfill all your petitions.
This verse anticipates God’s answer to the prayer. It is an “Amen” to the prayer. The people looked forward to cheering the king’s success in a triumphal procession.
Practical Consideration: We should remember God in our hour of victory and triumph as well as in our hour of need. It is easy to remember God when we are in great and desperate need. It is easy to look to heaven when we are threatened on every side. It is easy to earnestly voice our petitions when problems close in. We should be careful, however, to remember God in our hour of victory and deliverance. We should not be so elated by triumph as to forget to give thanks. We should not allow success to cause us to forget the source of our help.
20:6 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.
This verse further accentuates the assurance of the deliverance and victory requested in the prayer. The words express the firm conviction that God has heard and will answer the prayer of the king.
20:7 Some boast in chariots, and some in horses;
But we will boast in the name of the Lord, our God.
20:8 They have bowed down and fallen;
But we have risen and stood upright.
The confidence of the king was in the Lord (verse 6). The confidence of his enemies was in their chariots and horses, which represented formidable military strength. Those who put their trust in anyone or anything other than the Lord will bow down and fall while those who trust in the Lord will remain standing in the midst of battle.
Practical Consideration: Confidence in God gives us courage for the battle. The king’s confidence in God gave him courage for the battle. He marched into battle with the conviction that God would grant him victory. He put his trust in the Lord rather than in armaments or coalitions. He remained standing while his enemies fell around him because he trusted in God.
20:9 Save, O Lord;
May the King answer us in the day we call.
This verse sums up the theme of the psalm.
Practical Consideration: We should pray for our leaders. Someone has commented, “The well-being of a people is suspended on the character and doings of the monarch. Prayer should be offered for him continually that he might be guarded from evil, that he may be wise, equitable, and prosperous.”