Twenty years ago, I had to go in the hospital for a test to find out what was causing abnormal readings in a lab test. Although this was a fairly routine procedure, and my faith was placed completely in God, it still was a time of distress as I was facing the unknown. As the anesthesiologist placed the mask over my face to put me under, I realized how much I was entirely in Gods hands.
Many of us have had to go through times of distress or trouble. God caused this psalm to be written and included in his word so we could refer to it when we are in distress any time things come against us over which we have no control. There are eight promises in this psalm that God gives when we are in trouble:
1. God protects us (verse 1)
2. God sends us help and support (verse 2)
3. God remembers us (verse 3)
4. God grants us our hearts desires (verse 4)
5. God fulfills all our petitions (verse 5)
6. God gives us victories (verse 6)
7. God raises us up (verse 8)
8. God answers us when we call (verse 9)
This is a psalm of confidence. It is also a psalm of faith. When we are facing troubles, we can trust God to see us through.
For the choirmaster. A psalm of David.
There can be little doubt that this is a psalm of David. The statement of faith in verse 7 sounds like it would come from the same person who said to Goliath in 1 Samuel 17:45, "You come to me with a sword and with a spear and with a javelin; but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied."
David had learned no matter how strong the enemy appeared, God would grant the victory. He had learned to trust in his God. As a shepherd, as a warrior, as a fugitive, and as a king; he had seen Gods grace on his life. He knew God would protect and help him. So he wrote this psalm so that we would know it too.
The Lord answer you in the day of trouble! The name of the God of Jacob protect you!
God will protect us in the day of trouble. David talks about Jacob. The same way God was with Jacob, he will also be with us. Jacob was returning to his home country after serving Laban for 14 years when his messengers told him his brother Esau came to meet him with 400 men. Genesis 32:7 tells us, "Then Jacob was greatly afraid and distressed." But Gods protecting hand was upon him, and he and his brother were reconciled.
Years later, Jacob remembered how God delivered him and decided to build an altar at Bethel as a memorial. He said in Genesis 35:3, "I will make there an altar unto God, who answered me in the day of my distress."
The promise here in Psalm 20 is that God will protect us in the same way. When we are afraid and distressed, he will be there. In fact, the Hebrew in verse 1 for "protect" means to be high or exalted: in other words, to be set so high by God as to be inaccessible from trouble. This is the way God protects us: he lifts us out of our troubles so they cant effect us. Do you need that spiritual lifting? Allow the Holy Spirit to minister the truth of this verse to your heart. You will find that although trouble may be all around you, it cannot reach you because you are in the Lords protection.
May he send you help from the sanctuary, and give you support from Zion!
God sends us help and support. No matter what distress you may be facing, God promises his help. Notice here in this verse, we are promised help from the sanctuary. It is interesting that in verse 6 we are promised help from heaven. The fact is when we enter the sanctuary on Sundays, we can expect God to help us from heaven. Of course he also helps us throughout the week. But sometimes when we are worshipping God in the sanctuary, we understand his help. His presence somehow seems more real to us.
Too many people when they are facing times of trouble neglect attending the house of God. But it is in the sanctuary that Gods help and strength will be made alive to us. When we are gathered together with other believers, our spirit is renewed.
May he remember all your offerings, and regard with favor your burnt sacrifices!
God remembers us. Although we may feel that everyone has abandoned us, it is important to realize that God still remembers us. He has not forgotten us in our misery. He is ready to help us and will not leave us alone in our troubles.
It may seem like we have been forgotten and then all of a sudden God remembers us and comes rushing to our aid. But God is with us all the time. Those times when we arent sure where he is, we need to understand that God is working on our behalf. He is causing things to happen and helping us learn important lessons of trust, steadfastness, and faithfulness. It only appears that we are suddenly remembered by God. He was there with us all the time making us, shaping us, and molding us into the kind of believer that he wants us to be.
Samuel Rutherford was once in deep distress. But afterwards he realized that this time when he felt like quitting and giving up hope was a time for God to work his purpose in Rutherfords life. He wrote, "Fool that I was not to know that the messages of God are not to be read through the envelope in which they are enclosed." The adversity you are facing may simply be a message from God disguised as trouble. Dont look at the envelope. Try to read the message from God.
This verse talks about bringing sacrifices to God. This is a lesson that the Lord wants us to learn. We are to present ourselves as living sacrifices as Paul wrote in Romans 12:1, "I appeal to you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship." And we are also instructed to bring a sacrifice of praise in Hebrews 13:15, "Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise the fruit of lips that confess his name." There may be times when we dont feel like trusting God or praising him. But we must set aside our feelings, sacrifice our doubts, and trust that God does indeed remember us in our distress.
May he grant you your hearts desire, and fulfil all your plans!
God will grant you your hearts desires. Some may question how God can do this when some of our desires are so selfish and sinful. But as we spend time in prayer and in Gods word, we find something miraculous happening. Our desires are changed. Our selfish attitudes are diminished as God effects our thoughts and renews our mind. As Stedman wrote, "When our hearts have been cleansed by the word of God and by prayer, then what is left is what God wants for us."
So what good thing have you been longing for? What spiritual intervention have you been praying for in your life? What help in your family do you desire to see? God promised that he will grant your hearts desires. There is no distress so great that God cannot send his peace and comfort. Let us learn to trust in him. He will not only help us, but he will fulfill all of our plans.
May we shout for joy over your victory, and in the name of our God set up our banners! May the Lord fulfil all your petitions!
God will fulfill all our petitions. No matter what you may ask, if it is according to Gods will, he will fulfill your requests. This is cause to shout for joy as the psalmist declares in this verse. We have been given a wonderful privilege. Just as in verses 1 and 7, David here mentions the "name of our God." It is in Gods name that we can place our trust. His name is above every name. He is the one we can count on. We dont trust in our own name because of our goodness, or the name and goodness of our church. We dont rest on the name of the traditions of our faith or on the names of Christian ancestors. Our faith is in only one name. That name is the name of our Lord. His name is the only name that will never disappoint us.
Now I know that the Lord will help his anointed; he will answer him from his holy heaven with mighty victories by his right hand.
God gives us victories. But not just victories he gives us mighty victories. No matter what turmoil or confusion we may be facing, we can count on a mighty victory from our God. So why do so many Christians go around looking as if they are defeated? We are not defeated. We are victorious.
Adam Clarke explained, "The hand of God is his power; the right hand, his almighty power; the strength of his right hand, his almighty power in action; the saving strength of his right hand, the miraculous effects wrought by his almighty power brought into action."
Some boast of chariots, and some of horses; but we boast of the name of the Lord our God. They will collapse and fall; but we shall rise and stand upright.
God raises us up. David gives an example that a king would use trusting in the military might of his forces instead of in God. Chariots in Davids time were an important part of strong military nations. Usually they were drawn by horses with a driver and soldier. The floor of the chariot was made of stretched rope which gave a spring to the soldier fighting from the chariot. Their speed and mobility were definite advantages, but they needed smooth and dry ground in order to be effective. If an army had a large number of chariots it was something to boast of. In 1 Kings 10:26 we learn that Davids son Solomon had fourteen hundred chariots and twelve thousand horses. These were stationed at his three fortress cities and was the highest point of Israels military might.
We may not be a king or leader of a country, but we can trust in the wrong things too. We may trust in our own abilities or talents or resources. Sometimes, it is only when our skill, health, or finances dwindle that we learn how to truly trust in the name of the Lord our God. Notice that David says that those who trust in these worldly things will collapse and fall. When we trust in our own ability, we will collapse and fall. We need to learn to trust in God. It is he who will raise us up.
Barnes comments, "He is certain of success and triumph. Depressed though we may now be, yet we are certain of victory." If you are going through a time of distress, dont trust in the things of this world, but put your trust in God.
Give victory to the king, O Lord; answer us when we call.
God answers us when we call. Not only does he hear us, he answers us. God doesnt ignore our plight. He is aware of everything that comes against us. Often we compound our troubles by imagining that God doesnt care what we are going through we feel that God is unaware of our distress.
Jesus assured us in Matthew 10:29-31, "Not one sparrow (What do they cost? Two for a penny?) can fall to the ground without your Father knowing it. And the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So dont worry! You are more valuable to him than many sparrows."
This is our confidence: not only does God hear us, but he answers us. He cares about our struggles. As Spurgeon wrote, "Troubles roar like thunder, but the believers voice will be heard above the storm."
God will hear us no matter what the nature of the distress is. He will always be there: in trouble, adversity, need, calamity, whenever we are in turmoil. What adversity are you facing? Is it conflict in the family, financial problems, stress at work, emotional problems, spiritual battles? No matter what the distress, God is there to meet your need. This is the promise of this psalm: God will answer us in the day of trouble.
This study on Psalm 20 © 1998 by David Humpal. All rights reserved.
All scriptures unless otherwise noted are from the Revised Standard Version © 1971, A. J. Holman Company
Genesis 32:7 and 35:3 from the King James Version
Rutherford quoted in Macartneys Illustrations pg. 397 © 1946, Abingdon Press
Hebrews 13:15 from the New International Version © 1971, Zondervan Bible Publishers
Stedman: Psalms of Faith pg. 63 © 1988, Regal Books
Clarkes Commentary, vol. III, pg. 285, Abingdon-Cokesbury Press
Barnes Notes on the Old Testament, Psalms, vol. I, pg. 182, Baker Book House
Matthew 10:29-31 from The Living Bible © 1971, Tyndale House Publishers
Spurgeon: The Treasury of David, vol. I, pg. 300, MacDonald Publishing Company