A Psalm a Day: Psalm 21

For September 2022, I’m trying to read and reflect – briefly – on a Psalm each day. I’ll read the Psalm, pray, and then ponder a few questions:

  • What is this Psalm about?
  • What does this Psalm teach about God?
  • How does this Psalm connect to God’s people today?

I’ll close the post with a simple prayer, trying to draw the themes together.

psalm twenty one

Three weeks into September, here’s Psalm 21:

The king rejoices in your strength, Lord.
    How great is his joy in the victories you give!

You have granted him his heart’s desire
    and have not withheld the request of his lips.
You came to greet him with rich blessings
    and placed a crown of pure gold on his head.
He asked you for life, and you gave it to him—
    length of days, for ever and ever.
Through the victories you gave, his glory is great;
    you have bestowed on him splendor and majesty.
Surely you have granted him unending blessings
    and made him glad with the joy of your presence.
For the king trusts in the Lord;
    through the unfailing love of the Most High
    he will not be shaken.

Your hand will lay hold on all your enemies;
    your right hand will seize your foes.
When you appear for battle,
    you will burn them up as in a blazing furnace.
The Lord will swallow them up in his wrath,
    and his fire will consume them.
10 You will destroy their descendants from the earth,
    their posterity from mankind.
11 Though they plot evil against you
    and devise wicked schemes, they cannot succeed.
12 You will make them turn their backs
    when you aim at them with drawn bow.

13 Be exalted in your strength, Lord;
    we will sing and praise your might.

What is this Psalm about?

This Psalm is the victory song of a king, celebrating the victory that God has won – and pointing onwards to the victories God will win. It is a very different tone to previous Psalms – almost jarring – yet it’s also still very much about God. Broadly, the first part is about what God has done for and given to his people, whilst the second part focuses on what happens to those who oppose God and God’s purposes.

What does this Psalm teach about God?

The title ‘Lord’ runs through this Psalm – emphasising God’s sovereignty. This is focused in perhaps uncomfortable ways – contrasting the blessing on God’s people with the ends of those who oppose him. God’s sovereignty is extended, it seems, to the very actions of his enemies (v12), and thus Psalm 21 gives a full-orbed and multi-faceted view of God. The same God who gives life (v4)  also pours out his wrath like fire (v9). God is a complex, big, and active God – not a passive friendly relative benevolently watching over us.

How does this Psalm connect to God’s people today?

Psalm 21 can make for uncomfortable reading – yet verse 13 sums it up: ‘Be exalted in your strength, Lord; we will sing and praise your might’. The encouragement from Psalm 21 is to focus on God’s strength – so unlike and so beyond our own – and in the light of that to sing and praise God. A motivation for worship – even if it feels uncomfortable.

A prayer from Psalm 21:

Lord, thank you that you are the victor, the one who is strong. Remind me, when I feel like I am on the wrong side of history, that you are strong, Lord. Help me to sing and praise you, even when I don’t understand. Amen.

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