God's Perfect Revelation; His Deliverance in Time of Trouble (Psalms 19-21) June 14-16
Psalm 19 is a wisdom psalm in which David praises God's creation and instruction. David calls attention to the heavens because the sun, the moon, and the stars declare the Creator's glorious activity. The radiance of the sun and the orderly appearance of the moon and stars bear witness to the existence of a Master Designer (see also Romans 1:20).
Verse 4 of Psalm 19 reads variously, "their line has gone out" (perhaps meaning orbit) and "their voice goes out" (NRSV). Even in English, the word "line" can denote a geometric line, a line of text or the text an actor is given to speak aloud. David mentions that the voice of the celestial bodies can be heard everywhere (verse 3). "The poem talks of hearing the glory of God. It declares that behind the whole majesty of nature there is sound, the sound of the Word of God. The whole creation, even without the use of words, sounds forth the divine Word; when put into Greek, this is the word Logos that we meet in John 1:1" (George Knight, Psalms, The Daily Study Bible Series, comments on Psalm 19:1-6).
Some see in these verses the idea that, prior to His written revelation in Scripture, God formed the constellations to communicate the story of His plan for humanity—imagery that was corrupted in pagan mythology (see, for instance, E.W. Bullinger's book The Witness of the Stars and E. Raymond Capt's book The Glory of the Stars). Yet even apart from that, the heavens certainly have a powerful message to communicate. As verse 1 shows, they demonstrate the sublime majesty, creativity, genius and power of God.
David compares the sun to a bridegroom, cheerfully leaving his chamber, and to the strength of a champion prepared for his race. "Nothing," he adds, "is hidden from the sun's radiance and strength," just as nothing is hidden from the glory of God. It is interesting to consider that in the New Testament, Jesus Christ, God the Word made flesh, is referred to as both the "bridegroom" (Matthew 25:1-10) and the "light of the world" (John 8:12)—His followers also have this latter distinction through reflecting the "light" of His character (Matthew 5:14).
Just as God (both Father and Son) is brilliant in glory and illuminating, so also is God's law. Indeed, the psalm now moves from the heavenly revelation to the written revelation of God. The word "law" is translated from the Hebrew torah and means instruction (verses 7-10). "This portion of the psalm "presents six words for the law of God—law, testimony, statutes, commandment, fear, and judgments; six evaluations of the law—perfect, sure, right, pure, clean, and true; and six results—converting the soul, making wise the simple, rejoicing the heart, enlightening the eyes, enduring forever, and righteous altogether" (Nelson Study Bible, note on vv. 7-10). Curiously, the terms here are thoroughly elaborated on exactly 100 psalms later—in Psalm 119.
Consideration of God's majesty as revealed in the heavens and the stark perfection of His law, David is reminded of his own inadequacies. He asks a searching question, "Who can understand his [own] errors?" (verse 12). God says that a man's heart is desperately wicked and that only He really understands it (Jeremiah 17:9). Since a man can't get to the bottom of his nature and rid himself of his faults, God must intervene to forgive him of his shortcomings and help him to obey (Psalm 19:12). God's power can enable us to stay away from deliberate sins and reveal the secret faults over the course of our years of seeking to follow His way of life (verse 13; 139:23-24).
David prays that his words and thoughts will be pleasing in God's sight, similar to the request he makes in Psalm 141:3: "Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips." Such a "guard" is the Holy Spirit reminding us of right and wrong, which we learn from our study of God's Word. The Spirit helps us to do what we should. But the choice to do the right and the effort to control the lips remains up to us.
Psalm 20 appears to be a prayer for God to bless an upcoming military battle, yet "day of trouble" can have a wide application throughout the lives of God's people, as we engage in spiritual battles.
David states that those who "trust in chariots, and some in horses," have fallen on the battlefield, but his forces will triumph in the name of the Lord (verses 7-8). David cites the custom of soldiers presenting offerings and sacrifices before going into battle. The Expositor's Bible Commentary note on verse 3 states, "The Israelite practice of presenting sacrifices and offerings before a military campaign was an act of devotion and submission to the Lord (1 Sam.7:9-10; 13:9-12)."
The word "salvation" (verse 5) is also translated "deliverance." On this occasion the psalmist speaks of being delivered from a physical enemy. He is not referring to ultimate spiritual salvation. The New International Version translates this verse, "We will shout for joy when you are victorious." For us today, this can mean God giving us daily victories over sin and difficult circumstances.
The phrase "lift up our banners" (same verse, NIV) conveys a sense of confidence that those who trust in God will experience His blessings. The word banner comes from the root word "to flaunt," "to be conspicuous." David's armies will fly their victory flags so all will know that "the Lord saves His anointed; He will answer him from His holy heaven with the saving strength of His right hand" (verse 6). David himself was God's anointed. Jesus Christ is of course the ultimate anointed—and all believers are part of His spiritual army. Yet all of God's spiritual children are also His anointed individually—anointed with the Holy Spirit.
David concludes with, "May the King answer us when we call." The Nelson Study Bible notes on veses 7-9 that "above King David was God the Great King; moreover, one day King Jesus would rule from sea to sea."
Psalm 21, as The Nelson Study Bible notes, "is another of the royal psalms of David. Psalm 20 is a prayer of the king for God's blessing on his army. Psalm 21 is an assurance of God's blessing on the king [himself]. Both psalms, as is the case with all the royal psalms, speak ultimately of the great King to come, the Lord Jesus." Some see this psalm as one of thanksgiving after the victory in the battle referred to in the previous psalm.
David praises God for the blessings given to him as king. The king depended on God's strength: "How great is his joy in the victories You give!" (verse 1b, NIV). Here the NKJV has, "And in Your salvation how greatly shall he rejoice!" "One meaning of the Hebrew word salvation is 'room to breathe.' God had given King David a release from the pressures and constraints that bound him" (note on verse 1). Besides the joy of temporary deliverance from physical conditions, the verse also looks forward to ultimate spiritual salvation.
David enumerates the good acts of God on his behalf: kingship (a crown of pure gold), victory, desire of his heart, long life (forever and ever through salvation), deliverance, honor and majesty, blessings, God's presence and unfailing love (verses 2-7).
David asserts that his enemies are also God's enemies because "they intended evil against You," (verse 11) and they "hate You" (verse 8). David trusts God to deal with them (verse 9) "in the time of Your anger." Looking beyond David's own lifetime, God's anger will be evidenced to all during the Day of the Lord, a time of punishment prophesied throughout the Scriptures.