Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Psalms To See Me Through Psalm 20: Victory Over Our Enemies

This Psalm may have been a battle hymn, sung when David went out to battle. It was played while the military set up banners as a prayer that David would return victorious from battle. We too, are victorious in Christ {see Rom. 8:37}, and can be assured that He is with us when we go up against the enemy.   

Psalm twenty also speaks gloriously of the relationship between God and the believer. He is a relational God. We are His children; we belong to Him. Just as we would fight anyone and anything that threatens our children, so the Lord will protect His children. If we who are fallen and lost know how give good things to our children, how much more will the Lord take care of us? {Matt. 7:11}. 

May the Lord answer you in the day of trouble! May the name of the God of Jacob set you securely on high! {v.1}

David expresses the firm conviction that the salvation of Israel is dependent upon prayer, and not on the physical power of a king’s army. This may seem unreal to us in our time of ISIS, Russia, North Korea, and other world players; but God has made foolish the wisdom of the world {see 1 Cor. 1:20}. 

Prayer is vital to David’s emphasis on the Lord answering in the day of trouble. In order for the Lord to answer we must first call upon Him. It is time to lay down our self-dependence. The enemy has drawn up his forces against you and danger is looming, but when you call on the Name of the Lord, He will secure you in the shelter of His arms.  

Nothing will keep the Lord from answering you. He is Elohim—the supreme God. Elohim represents His Deity—in creation, judgment, deliverance, and punishment of evil doers. David invoked Elohim of Jacob, God’s covenant Name, because He is in covenant with you, He promises deliverance. 

When Jacob left Israel for Laban’s home God promised to protect him. Jacob found himself in danger throughout his life. Jacob uttered in Gen. 35:3 to the God who answers me on the day of my distress and been with me wherever I have gone. The God of Jacob, our covenant God, will answer us in our distress. Just as Jacob was strengthened in his battle with Laban, you will be strengthened too.

May He send you help from the sanctuary and support you from Zion! {v.2}

The sanctuary at this time was the Holy of Holies; The Ark of the Covenant rested there. The Ark represents Christ’s humanity and deity. It is the throne and presence of God. His presence rested between the cherubim to speak to the people. The high priest sprinkled the blood of the sacrifices to God on behalf of the people of Israel. His presence is now in Christ as He reconciled the world to the Father. It is from this holy place that the Lord of Hosts will rise and do battle for you. Christ will send us help when we call upon His Name.
“The Midrash also illustrates this verse with the parable of a mother who was angered by her daughter, yet when the daughter was giving birth and crying out from the intense labor pains, the mother sympathized so much with her daughter that she forgot her quarrel and screamed along with her agonized child. So, too, although God destroyed the Temple because His children of Israel angered Him, still He replies when they call in distress.”[1]  

May He remember all your meal offerings and find your burnt offering acceptable! Selah. {v.3}

The sacrifice here in the Hebrew is minchah, which is a gratitude-offering. Rabbinic literature suggests that special offerings were always brought to the Lord before entering battle in order to receive divine mercy in times of danger. This is why Samuel commanded Saul to wait for him to arrive to offer the sacrifice in 1 Sam. 13:8-12.  

When you go to war in your land against the adversary who attacks you, then you shall sound an alarm with the trumpets, that you may be remembered before the Lord your God, and be saved from your enemies (Num. 10:9).

The Torah rendering is beautiful:

When you will go into battle in your land against the enemy who oppresses you, you shall blow upon the trumpets and you shall be remembered before HASHEM, your God, and you shall be saved from your foes. 

Reading in verse 10, the trumpets were to be blown over the sacrifices in the Temple. God will not forget you. He will remember every prayer; every sacrifice. He captures every tear you cry and holds them in a bottle of remembrance. These will raise before Him as a sweet smelling offering to go before you to fight your enemies:

“When Israel offers sacrifices or prayers in order to be saved in war, God not only grants them the desired victory, He even remembers the sacrifices and prayers which they offered and rewards them for these devotions as well.”[2]

If He did it for Israel, He will do it for you; for we are under even a greater covenant.

Adam Clarke’s Commentary on Psalm 20 explains the purpose of the offerings, and why David (and all that called upon His name) trusted that the Lord would answer:

Burnt sacrifice—The olah here mentioned was a bloody sacrifice. The blood of the victim was spilt at the altar, and the flesh consumed. One of these offerings implied a consciousness of sin in the offerer; and this sacrifice he brought as an atonement: the other implied a sense of mercies already received, and was offered in the way of gratitude. David presents himself before the Lord with offerings of both kinds. This prayer of the people is concluded with Selah, which we have taken up in the general sense of so be it. Hear and answer. It will and must be so, etc.

David came with assurance that his offerings would bring victory; we have the same assurance, because Christ has won the battle over the enemy for you by offering Himself as the perfect sacrifice. All you have to do is call on His Name. Do you know that Christ already humiliated the devil and His legions openly?

And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross {Col. 2:15}. I love the NLT, In this way, he disarmed the spiritual rulers and authorities. He shamed them publicly by his victory over them on the cross. The battle is not yours, it is the Lord’s {see 2 Chronicles 20:15}.  

May He grant you your heart’s desire and fulfill all your counsel! {v.4}

The Hebrew means literally May He give you according to your heart. Whatever is in our hearts begins in our thoughts. When we have kingdom thoughts, and hearts turned toward God, He will grant those desires according to His Word and will. When we spend time with God, in His Word and in prayer, our thoughts and hearts begin to echo His thoughts and heart. Ps. 37:4  encourages us: 
Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Seek first His kingdom {Matt. 6:33}, everything else will be added unto us. What do you need victory over today? Sickness? Discouragement? Oppression? Weariness? Fatigue? Do you need victory in your family? At Work? In School? He will come to your rescue.

Every plan and strategy that lines up with His Word, He will stand behind.  When you wield the weapon He gave you—the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God {Eph. 6:17}, you will have the victory. Jesus is our sovereign example on how to wield the Sword. When He did battle with that ugly serpent the devil in the wilderness, He fought every vile accusation with the Living, Breathing, Life-giving Word of God. He brandished that two-edged sword and took down the devil and all his schemes to tempt the Son of God to take His eyes off the Father. When our counsel comes from the Word—He will fulfill it.

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 {v.5}.

When we see our brothers and sisters fight a battle, we need to strengthen them in prayer. We show whose we are when we rejoice together in their victory. Romans12:15 admonishes us to rejoice with those that rejoice. What better way to kick the devil when he is down than to sing for joy in the victories of the righteous; the brave who wield the sword against that old dragon.

Banner here is daw-gal' meaning to flaunt, i.e., raise a flag. In the Name of Christ, we will flaunt our banner that carries the Name above every Name. Conquering armies raised their banners over the defeated foe to flaunt their demise. When they gathered in verse five to set up their banner, it was to remember God’s previous miracles and deliverance, and as a corporate body they gained strength from remembering previous victories. This should be screaming at us to remember the importance of belonging to a community of believers, and finding our place in the Body of Christ; to strengthen, encourage, and pray for each other.

Remember, Christ made a public display of every demon and principality and power that comes against us. His banner over us flaunts that defeat in no uncertain terms. The devil is after us—roaming the earth to see who he can devour {1 Pet. 5:8}. Hell’s onslaught may seem like it will overtake you, but Christ already defeated Satan.

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. Some boast in chariots and some in horses, But we will boast in the name of the Lord, our God. They have bowed down and fallen, but we have risen and stood upright {vv. 6-8}.

David witnessed God’s mighty hand time after time; God never failed him. He knew firsthand God’s saving strength. Firsthand is defined by Webster as: obtained by, coming from, or being direct; personal observation or experience. His right hand saved David on many occasions. We don’t need to put our faith in the things that the world system trusts; we trust in the Mighty Name of Jesus!

It is most likely that this Psalm was penned on the occasion of David's going to war. Likely with the Ammonites and Syrians, who came equipped with countless horses and chariots. A formidable army indeed. Sometimes, it seems that the battle will overtake us—especially when we see the size of the invading army. But David did not put trust in his army, he trusted the Lord. I am reminded of Elisha and his servant in 2 Kings 6. The servant was overwhelmed with fear at the sight of the surrounding army. But Elisha was steady as an oak. He could see that the army of God’s angels had the invaders surrounded, and there were far more angels than Arameans. The Lord blinded the army and Elisha led the blind, helpless men into another city. That is the power of God, and He will do the same for us against our enemy. You need only to call out His Name and the battle is over. Every demon trembles at the Name of Jesus; they are overcome by fear at the very mention of His Name. They are bowed over; cowering in the corner, but we can stand upright in the victory as conquerors in the Lamb’s army; our banners waving high.

Save, O Lord; May the King answer us in the day we call {v.9}.

Jesus saves! He saves and He answers us on the day we call. It is interesting to note that the midrash teaches that God saves only when they call out in prayer. We have to open our mouth and call on His Name. Do not be silent; do not allow the devil to shut your mouth or the battle will overtake you. Call out His Name and He will come running to the rescue with His strong, mighty right hand.
I, the LORD, am your God, Who brought you up from the land of Egypt; Open your mouth wide and I will fill it {Psalm 81:10}.

[1] Scherman, N., and Zlotowitz, M. R., eds., Tehillim, vol. 1 (Brooklyn: Mesorah Publications, Ltd. 2005,) 255.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Sabbath Sanctuary: Rest In Worshiping The Creator Of The Universe

He is the Creator of the universe and He sustains all things. He is holding you in His hand. He is King above all gods. Behold creation today and glimpse His handiwork; let us kneel before the LORD our maker.