Psalm 21 — From Victory to Victory
21 The king shall joy in thy strength, O Lord; and in thy salvation how greatly shall he rejoice!
2 Thou hast given him his heart’s desire, and hast not withholden the request of his lips. Selah.
3 For thou preventest him with the blessings of goodness: thou settest a crown of pure gold on his head.
4 He asked life of thee, and thou gavest it him, even length of days for ever and ever.
5 His glory is great in thy salvation: honour and majesty hast thou laid upon him.
6 For thou hast made him most blessed for ever: thou hast made him exceeding glad with thy countenance.
7 For the king trusteth in the Lord, and through the mercy of the most High he shall not be moved.
8 Thine hand shall find out all thine enemies: thy right hand shall find out those that hate thee.
9 Thou shalt make them as a fiery oven in the time of thine anger: the Lord shall swallow them up in his wrath, and the fire shall devour them.
10 Their fruit shalt thou destroy from the earth, and their seed from among the children of men.
11 For they intended evil against thee: they imagined a mischievous device, which they are not able to perform.
12 Therefore shalt thou make them turn their back, when thou shalt make ready thine arrows upon thy strings against the face of them.
13 Be thou exalted, Lord, in thine own strength: so will we sing and praise thy power.
Christianity is a boast before all the religions and philosophies of the world. The Christian worldview sees humanity, fallen in sin, in hostile rebellion against God, the Creator of the heavens and the earth (Gen. 1–3). Man looks at death, the last enemy, and he wrongly speculates on a happy or non-existent future beyond the grave. Death is ugly, and it is the consequence of the greatest of all evils: sin.
Sin rules humanity in lawlessness against God. As a slave to sin, man is at enmity with his Maker. Bearing the image of God, but grossly disfigured, man is spiritually dead (Eph 2:1). Inheriting sin from the first man, Adam, all continue in sin leading to bodily death. The dead body joins the unregenerate soul to receive their eternal inheritance, sometimes called the second death. Literally and geographically there is a place of everlasting punishment and separation. Hell and the Lake of Fire are proper names for man’s final consignment without redemption.
Psalm 21 serves as an antithesis for this human death sentence. It is a song of the redeemed. God’s salvation for His anointed king, ruler over His chosen people, warrants a victory chant. They, too, receive the victory and subsequent peace with God. A battle has been won. This battle was foreseen in Psalm 20. Multiple word and phrase similarities bridge the two Psalms, and it allows us to see two pages of an open book: first, premeditating battle; then, reflecting on the battle victory; and finally, forewarning an ultimate battle to come in the future.
The victorious king in battle is a motif representing a genre called, “royal psalms.” Authorship is ascribed to King David of Israel by the familiar title (c/f Psalms 1–41). Psalm 21 is structured by the verb tenses: I. (vv. 1–6) past; II. (v. 7) present; III. (vv. 8–13) future. Israel, God’s chosen people, rejoiced in YHWH’s favor and blessing on their king. They clearly understood the reason for favor was the king’s trust in YHWH. This foreshadows YHWH’s battle against His enemies, who are their enemies. The destruction of the enemies of Israel is brutal. The message is clear, “from this battle to the final battle YHWH and those who are with Him are victorious.”
David recorded the joy of the king, who received the power and deliverance of God to win the battle (v. 1). The congregation praised God for a joyful king. The state of the people rested with the status of the king before God. When the king had YHWH’s blessing for obedience, the people followed their king in that blessing. A christological hermeneutic warrants an immediate recognition of King Jesus, God’s beloved Son, in whom He is well pleased. Jesus is joyful, and we praise God for the acceptable sacrifice of our Messiah. He battled sin, death, and the devil on the cross of Calvary. He won, and He has made us glad.
David recounted the answered prayer from the king’s rightly aligned heart (v. 2). King David had a heart in a manner after God’s own heart. This did not mean he got whatever he wanted (“desire”). Instead, he aligned himself with the Almighty; and he became a type for Jesus, who did not sin against His Father. If David was a man of prayer, who made his requests known to God; we see Jesus’ ministry of prayer as one key to a perfect relationship with His Heavenly Father. He always did His Father’s will. We, of course, are encouraged to do the same.
David reflected on the spoils of victory, attributed as blessings from YHWH (v. 3). Scripture calls good things from God, “blessings.” Victory warrants a crown, and Jesus has been crowned with glory and honor (Heb. 2:7). Victorious believers are granted crowns, but they are cast before Jesus (Rev. 4:10) in worship. Our blessings are turned back to God in praise.
David specified the answered prayer, a long life for the king (v. 4). Again, we consider the reign of Christ, who sits on David’s throne with an eternal reign. At His birth and crucifixion, Jesus was acknowledged by foreigners as the King of the Jews. It is one thing to sit on the throne of an earthly king, but Jesus sits as the Lamb of God on the throne of God (Rev. 7:17). He is alive forevermore, and He shall reign forever and ever!
David deduced that God’s deliverance brought the king royal blessings (v. 5). Glory, splendor, and majesty were ascribed to the king because of YHWH’s salvation. God does not share His glory with another, but He exalts whomever He wills within His glory. The picture of Jesus Christ in glory (Rev. 1:13–18) is an arresting contrast to the oft preached social reforming hippie of Galilee. In reality, He is honored by all heaven for His role in creation and sustaining all things (Rev. 4:11), and He alone is able to break the seals of the book of judgment (Rev. 7).
David saw the blessing of everlasting joy in God as a blessing from God (v. 6). The king has been exalted by YHWH. Who sits on the throne of God? Jesus ascended from the earth to the highest place of heaven (Acts 1:9–11). All authority in heaven and earth has been given to the King of kings (Mt 28:18), and YHWH has given Jesus the name above every other name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee must bow and every tongue must confess that He is Lord. The Father, Son, and Spirit are in eternal community together. They love one another perfectly with all joy. Graciously, they reveal to sinners the blessing of being in the eternal presence of God. The past tense verbs become present tense for only one verse (v. 7); but this marks the end of the prayer and praise to YHWH, from His people, for His blessing their king.
David argued the stability of the king rested in His trust in YHWH (v. 7). The king of Israel was God’s man to lead His beloved people. David’s faith in YHWH was remarkable but hindered by sin. Jesus Christ, the son of David and Son of God, never wavered in trusting His Father in heaven. Their history together is eternal. In the grueling test of the wilderness, and all the more in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus trusted the one true covenant keeping God. Faithful in all things, YHWH gave His word and fulfills all His promises. Trust is the reason for God’s favor toward the king. Trust and obey for there has never been any other way to be joyful in Jesus.
David predicted YHWH will expose His enemies, who despise God (v. 8). The now prevalent future verb tenses reveal to the reader that we have reached our final section. It is predictive and vivid in its depiction of God’s dealing with unrepentant humanity, in rebellion against His rule. This section (vv. 8–13) is an important answer to those who preach that God loves everyone (see also Psalm 5:5; 11:5). The martial theme is a dominant one in Scripture, but it has all but disappeared from the pulpit in America. If God hates all those who do iniquity, we would be remiss if we did not agree that man hates God. The Bible says he does. This verse confirms that those who hate God are considered His enemies. Adam disobeyed God’s Word, but the angry animosity toward God is subsequently seen in Cain’s disposition (Gen. 4).
David described the demise of those under the consuming fire of God’s judgment (v. 9). The imagery of fire, as a powerful tool of judgment, prevails upon the reader of the Scriptures. Man is the devoured object of God’s wrath within the fiery oven. The iconic picture of this in biblical theology is hell and the lake of fire. Far from being a preacher of, “God is love, only” theology, Jesus was the most prolific preacher in Scripture on the doctrine of hell (Mt 5:22; 10:28; Mk 9:47).
David warned the extent of God’s judgment would annihilate his opponent’s progeny (v. 10). Man in his natural sinful state is called, “child of the devil (1 Jn 3:10).” Practicing sin is the trademark of Cain (1 Jn 3:12), who was the son of Adam. The generational lines of the righteous and the unrighteous are observed by the reader of the genealogies of Genesis 5 and 10. The distinguishing statement is, “Then men began to call upon the name of the Lord (Gen. 4:26c).” As the prophet Joel, quoted by the apostle Paul, affirmed, “Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord will be saved (Joel 2:32; Rom. 10:13).” Arminian theology and easy believism attempt to interpret this as the way of salvation for sinful man (ignoring Eph. 2:1), but we must correctly read this as the identification of one who has already placed his trust in YHWH.
David predicted the failure of His enemies’ evil schemes (v. 11). Echoing Psalm 2, the people, their kings, and the nations are arrayed against YHWH and His anointed king. The divine decree is that the Son, who is King, will break them with a rod of iron and shatter them like earthenware (Ps. 2:8). The plan of man, in direct rebellion against God, is sure to fail. The schemes of persecution against God’s people only heaps up more wrath from God for His enemies. Still, man works his devilish plans to be god, the king of the mountain. The world anticipates the arrival of the man of lawlessness (2 Thess 2), who will make a profound play to be the king of the world; but he will be blown away by the true King, Jesus Messiah, at His second coming.
David depicted the inability of God’s enemies to escape His wrath (v. 12). God’s presence causes His enemies to retreat, but when they turn around He is in front of them with His bow pointed at their faces. The demons will gather the kings of the whole world for war on the great day of God, the Almighty (Rev. 16:14). “And I saw the beast and the kings of the earth and their armies, assembled to make war against Him who sat upon the horse, and against His army (Rev. 19:19).” The birds of the air will be summoned for the great supper to eat the flesh of kings and commanders, mighty men, and horses (Rev. 19:17–18). Here is the winepress of the fierce wrath of God (Rev. 19:15). The day of the Lord is coming with terrible judgment in perfect justice. The watchman on wall is commissioned to warn the people. “Be ye warned,” says the preacher.
David directed praise and declared Israel’s continuing praise for YHWH’s potency (v. 13). Psalm 21 closes with the people promising their songs of praise for all of these things past, present, and future. He is exalted, the King is exalted, and we will praise Him! The strength of the king (v. 1) is really the strength of God (v. 13).
We conclude with Paul’s agreement with David, “For after all, it is only just for God to repay with affliction those who afflict you; 7 and to give relief to you who are afflicted and to us as well when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, 8 dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. 9 And these will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power (2 Thess 1:6–9).” The battle always belongs to the Lord, who goes from victory to victory. And all God’s people, working out their salvation with fear and trembling, say, “Praise the Lord!”
Spokane Valley, Washington
June 10, 2021