Psalm 21:1

We fail to see, in the structure of this psalm, sufficient indications of its being the counterpart of the preceding one, to lead us to call it a Te Deum, to be sung on returning from battle as victor. It would equally well suit other occasions on which the grateful hearts of king and people desired to render praises in the house of God for mercies received; e.g. ver. 4: would be equally adapted to the recovery of the king from sickness. Its precise historic reference it is, however, now impossible to ascertain; but this is of comparatively small importance. That the psalm is meant for a public thanksgiving is clear; and thus, with differences of detail in application thereof according to circumstances, it may furnish a basis for helpful teaching on days of national rejoicing over the mercies of God. We must, however, carefully avoid two errors in opening up the hid treasure of this psalm. We must not interpret it as if its references were only temporal, nor as if we lost sight of the supernatural revelation and of the Messianic prophecies which lie in the background thereof; nor yet, on the other hand, may we interpret its meaning as if the religious knowledge or conceptions of Israel''s king were as advanced as the thoughts of Paul or John. E.g. "His glory is great in thy salvation." If we were to interpret this word "salvation" as meaning, primarily, the redemption which is in Christ Jesus, we should be guilty of an anachronism. Its first meaning is, rescue from impending trouble or danger. This, however, may be regarded as prophetic of the triumph awaiting the Church''s King; but our exposition will be sure and clear only as we begin with the historic meaning, an& then move carefully forward. The prayers and thanksgivings of a people cannot rise above the level of inspiration and revelation which marked the age in which they lived. We, indeed, may now set our devotions into another form than that which is represented by vers. 8-12; and, indeed, we are bound so to do. For since revelation is progressive, devotion should be correspondingly progressive too. So that if the remarks we make on the psalm are in advance of the thinkings of believers in David''s time, let us remember that this is because we now look at all events and read all truth in the light of the cross, and not because we pretend to regard such fulness of meaning as belonging to the original intention of the psalm. There are here six lines of exposition before us.

I. HERE IS THE RECALL OF A TIME OF TROUBLE- OF TROUBLE WHICH GATHERED, ROUND THE PERSON OF THE KING. (Ver. 1.) We cannot decide (nor is it important that we should) what was the precise kind of anxiety which had been felt. The word "life" in the fourth verse may indicate that some sickness had threatened the life of the king. The word "deliverance" and the allusions to "enemies' rather point to peril from hostile forces. Either way, when a monarch''s life is threatened, either through sickness or war, the burden is very heavy on the people''s heart. The first cause of anxiety was felt in Hezekiah''s time; the second, often and notably in the days of Jehoshaphat.

II. THE TROUBLE LED TO PRAYER. We gather from the contents of the psalm that the specific prayer was for the king''s life, either by way of recovery from sickness or of victory in war. Note: Whatever is a burden on the hearts of God''s people may be laid before God in prayer. Prayer may and should be specific; and even though our thought, desires, and petitions in prayer may be very defective, still we may tell to God all we feel, knowing that we shall never be misunderstood, and that the answer will come according to the Father''s infinite wisdom, and not according to our defects; yea, our God will do abundantly for us above all that we can ask or think. Hence we have to note -

III. THE PRAYER BROUGHT AN ANSWER. The trust of the praying ones was not disappointed (cf. vers. 2-7). The jubilant tone of the words indicates that the prayer had not been barely, but overflowingly answered. God''s good things had gone far ahead of the petitions, and had even anticipated the king''s wishes and wants (ver. 3). "Life" had been asked; and God had granted "length of days for ever and ever." This cannot refer to the personal earthly life of any human king; the meaning is that in the deliverance vouchsafed there had been a new confirmation of that "everlasting covenant, ordered in all things and sure," wherein God had promised to establish David''s throne for ever (Psalm 61:6; Psalm 132:11-14). Dr. Moll says, "I find here the strongest expression of the assurance of faith in the personal continuance of the life of those who hold fast to the covenant of grace in living communion with Jehovah." Yea, the old Abrahamic covenant has been again confirmed. "Thou hast made him to be blessings for ever" (see Revised Version margin). So that this deliverance thus celebrated in Hebrew song is at once a development of God''s gracious plan, and the answer to a king''s and a people''s prayer! "Thou settest a crown of pure gold upon his head" (ver 3; cf 2 Samuel 12:30).

IV. NEW ANSWERS TO PRAYER INSPIRED NEW HOPE (Ver. 7.) "Through the loving-kindness of the Most High he shall not be moved" (cf. Psalm 23:6; Psalm 63:7). He who proves himself to be our Refuge to-day, thereby proves himself our Refuge for every day.

V. THE PROVIDENTIAL INTERPOSITIONS IN ANSWER TO PRAYER AFFORDED NEW ILLUSTRATIONS OF GOD' S WORKS AND WAYS. (Vers. 8-13.) God is what he is. He remains "the same, yesterday, and to-day, and for ever." But he cannot seem the same to his enemies as to his friends; the same events which fulfil the hopes of his friends are the terror and dread of his foes. This general principle is always true: it must be (ver. 10); and side by side with the Divine provision for the continuance of good, there is the Divine provision for shortening the entail of evil (see Exodus 20:6, Revised Version margin; and Deuteronomy 7:9). But we are not bound in our devotions to single out others as the enemies in whose overthrow and destruction we could rejoice. At the same time, it is but just to the Hebrews to remember that they were the chosen people of God, and from their point of view, and with their measure of light, they regarded their enemies as God''s enemies (see Psalm 139:22). The way David sometimes treated his foes can by no means be justified. The views of truth which God''s people hold are often sadly discoloured by the conventionalisms of their time; and David was no exception thereto. We may pray for the time when Zion''s King "shall have put all enemies under his feet," and even praise him for telling us that it will be so. But we may surely leave all details absolutely with ]aim.

VI. THE EVER-UNFOLDING DISCLOSURES OF WHAT GOD IS MAY WELL CALL FORTH SHOUTS OF JOYOUS SONG. (Ver. 13.) When we have such repeated illustrations of God''s loving-kindness, mercy, and grace, we can feel unfeigned delight in singing of his power. What rapturous delight may we have in the thought that-

"The voice which rolls the stars along
Speaks all the promises;"

that the same Being who is most terrible to sin, is infinitely gracious to the sinner, and. that to all who trust him he is their "exceeding Joy"! - C.

Some trust in chariots, and some in horses: but we will remember the name of the Lord our God.
By the name of God is meant the various properties and attributes of God. Now, whilst some trusted in earthly power, the Psalmist confides in "the name of the Lord our God." It would seem to an ordinary observer, if he were ignorant of the Gospel, that the name of the Lord would excite terror rather than confidence. If there be good in the moral government of God, how much of suffering, evil and sorrow there are, notwithstanding. How then can confidence arise from remembering the Divine name? We distinctly admit that there are attributes of God which, because they seem arrayed against sinful beings, can hardly be supposed to be subjects of encouraging remembrance. "The name of the Lord our God" includes justice and holiness; and these are qualities from which we seem instinctively to shrink, as though we felt that they must necessarily be opposed to rebellious and polluted creatures. And so they must be. If there be certain Divine properties, the remembering of which might be comforting even to the disciple of natural religion, undoubtedly there are others which can furnish nothing but cause of disquietude, unless there be full acquaintance with the scheme of redemption. It is in respects such as these that natural theology, if it would keep its disciples at peace, must forbid their recollecting the name of the Lord their God. These are points which must be slurred over, for to examine them deeply would be to destroy all foundation of hope. But it is not so with the disciple of revealed religion." Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, there is no property involved in the Divine name from which we need shrink, none which is not actually ranged on our side, if we believe on Him who gave His life a ransom for the world. Did you ever consider what emphasis there is in St. Paul's answer to his own question, "Who shall lay anything to the charge of Gods elect?" His answer is, "it is God that justifieth." What is there in the fact that "it is God that justifieth," which proves that earth, and sea, and air might be ransacked for an accuser, but that none could be found who could make good any charge against "God's elect?" Is it not because God is the justifying agent; not this property, not that attribute of God, but God Himself — God the combination of all possible perfections? If it be God that justifieth, the justification must be that in the effecting which holiness and justice concur. And therefore is it that all accusation is silenced; for if the satisfaction made to God on our behalf hath met every attribute of God, it is not possible that there should remain place for any charge. Justice as well as love demands our acceptance. Who can condemn when the Divine Judge Himself acquits, nay, pronounces approval? You should not fail to observe that our text furnishes a great criterion, and that we ought to test by it our spiritual condition. Is it, or is it not, our habit to "remember the name of the Lord our God," whilst others, either neglectful of religion or adopting false systems, turn bewildered to "chariots and horses"? It is, if with David we have "entered into covenant with God," through the Mediator: it cannot be, if we are still virtually aliens, living in the darkness and rebellion of nature. Oh, we too well know that there must be some amongst you whose only happiness is in keeping God out of their thoughts, and who are glad of any excuse for not considering His nature and attributes. Any "chariot," any "horse," which may bear them away from the contemplation of their Maker! What a state! To be afraid of meditating on that Being before whom they must inevitably appear, and who "has power to destroy both body and soul in hell"! If the banishing Him from your thoughts could finally keep you from contact with Him in His awfulness; if there were a "chariot," if there were a "horse," which would bear you away from His "everlasting wrath," we might not wonder at your perseverance in forgetting Him to, the utmost of your power. Try for one hour to "remember God's name" — "God's name" as traced by natural theology, and yet more vividly by revealed. I know that you will be disturbed and appalled, I know that as one property after another of the Divine nature passes before you, you will shrink back, and be tempted to exclaim — Oh! for the "chariot," oh! for the "horse," to bear us away from this terrible God! But this is what we wish. We wish you to see in God "a consuming fire," — a Being of terrors, and those terrors all armed to strike down and to crush you. But we do not wish you to be left in dismay; neither will you be. When "remembering the name of the Lord" has made you feel yourselves lost, you will hear with unspeakable gratitude how God laid your iniquities on His own well-beloved Son. If God out of Christ appeared to you "a consuming fire," God in Christ should appear to you as a "reconciled Father."

(H. Melvill, B. D.)

I. THE CHARGE BROUGHT AGAINST THOSE WHOSE TRUST IS MERELY HUMAN. There have been such always. Now, the guilt of such trust lies in the oversight of God, — regarding chariots and horses as sufficient in themselves. And we are inexcusable in this, because God, though invisible, is ever perceptible to the understanding. And all such trust is irrational. It has no solid foundation in reason or conscience.

II. THE PURPOSE. "We will remember," etc. The trust of the Christian begins memory. It acts as a stimulant to the believer, and loosens every other bond and makes it easy to let go all which the world gives.

III. THE CONSEQUENCES. "They are brought down,...but we," etc. Now, the results of trust in human power are sad and unexpected. It was so with Pharaoh and his army. But they are in accordance with the natural course of things. If we sow to the flesh we shall of the flesh reap corruption. But the Christian trust issues in this — "We are risen, and stand upright."

(W. D. Horwood.)

I. THE VANITY AND THE VARIETY OF EARTHLY DEPENDENCES. "Some trust in chariots and horses." They were the appendages of war; hence were forbidden to Israel, for war was not their trade, They had no standing, army. They were always to be conscious of the inadequacy of their own resources, and thus to be taught to trust implicitly in God. Nor were they to be exposed to the temptation of conquest. They were never so triumphant as when trusting in God alone. But the text points to the tendency which men have to trust in the creature rather than in the Creator (Jeremiah 17:5-8).

II. THE FOUNDATION OF CHRISTIAN PEACE AND COURAGE. "But we will remember," etc. The name of the Lord is perpetually recurring in Scripture and has ever a deep and portentous meaning. The name of Jesus has now the same energy. "The Lord our God" — all the best blessings of time and eternity belong to the covenant of grace which is in Jesus. Is God our God? Can we adopt the words of the text?

(W. G. Lewis.)

France, in the Revolution, hung up her motto — "Liberty equality, fraternity. Napoleon changed it to Infantry, cavalry, artillery, says PUNCH.

Every good Christian is necessarily a loyal man. The subject now considered is, the insufficiency of all human expedients to secure happiness for a people unless God be honoured in the councils of their rulers, and His name be remembered by themselves. Human policy, if separated from Divine wisdom, leads to ruin and disgrace; but they rise and stand upright who "remember the name of the Lord our God." In what manner is a nation called upon to remember the name of the Lord our God? The right administration of justice and the true worship of God are the only sufficient securities for the permanent happiness of a state. It is the peculiar province of the law of God to instill a hatred of sin. Human laws may bind the hand, fetter the foot, and imprison the body, but nothing can control the heart, and curb the thoughts, and purify the motives by which we are influenced except the Spirit of God. He alone can subjugate the whole man.

(A. Watson, M. A.).

The king shall Joy in Thy strength, O Lord; and in Thy salvation how greatly shall he rejoice.
Take the literal view of this Psalm as a type of the moral one against error and sin, and we have —

I. THANKSGIVING FOR VICTORY. Verses 1-7 are a triumphant declaration of some victory. "Thou settest a crown of pure gold upon his bead." Now —

1. His conquest was a source of joy. "The king shall joy," etc.

2. His conquest was of Divine mercy. "Thou hast given him," etc. That mercy went before him. "Thou preventest him," etc., and transcended his progress. "He asked life of Thee, and Thou gavest it him, even length of days forever and ever."

3. His conquest exalted him to honour. "His glory is great," etc. And —

4. Was connected with his trust in God. "For the king trusteth," etc.

II. EXPECTATION OF YET FURTHER VICTORY. "Thine hand shall find out all Thine enemies," etc. In moral struggles, past victories promise future ones. Because —

1. The opposition is weakened.

2. The weapons cannot be injured. The sword of the Spirit cannot rest nor decay.

3. The resources are inexhaustible — God's wisdom, love, and power.

4. The enemies already overcome are as great as any remaining; and

5. Each new conquest weakens the foe, but increases the strength of the conqueror.

III. DESIRE FOR VICTORY OVER ALL ENEMIES. And this shall be. "Be Thou exalted, Lord, in," etc.

(D. Thomas, D. D.)

Here is God assisting, and the king trusting; God saving, and the king rejoicing; the king desiring, and God satisfying his desires to the full. In this verse are three remarkable conjugations. God is joined with the king. Strength with confidence. Salvation with exceeding great joy. Thus they depend on each other. The king on God. Confidence on strength. Joy of salvation. God exalteth the king. Strength begetteth confidence. Salvation bringeth with it exceeding joy. God is above the king. Salvation is above strength. Exceeding joy above confidence.

1. The only security of princes and states is in the strength of the Almighty.

2. God holdeth a special hand over sovereign princes.

3. Princes mightily defended and safely preserved by the arm of God must thankfully acknowledge this singular favour, and deliver their deliverances to after ages, that the children yet unborn may praise the Lord as we do this day.

(D. Featley, D. D.)

"Oh, it is good rejoicing in the strength of that arm which shall never wither, and in the shadow of those wings which shall never cast their feathers! In Him that is not there yesterday and here today, but the same yesterday, today, and forever! For as He is, so shall the joy be."

(Launcelot Andrews.)

In Thy salvation how greatly shall he rejoice
Homiletic Commentary.

1. This victory was achieved by supernatural power. Not by the ordinary tactics of military genius, or by the prowess of a human arm. The salvation of humanity is a Divine work.

2. This victory was granted in answer to earnest prayer (ver. 2). The agony of wrestling prayer is often turned into the rapture of success.


1. He was surrounded with evidences of the Divine beneficence. God's gifts are God's love embodied and expressed.

2. He was invested with the most illustrious dignity (vers. 3, 5). Jesus wore a thorn crown, but now He wears the glory crown.

3. He enjoyed the consciousness of an imperishable life (ver. 4). He was raised from the dead to die no more.

4. He became the source of endless blessing to others (ver. 6). In and through Him all nations of the earth are blessed.

5. He exults in the Divine favour (ver. 6). The countenance of God makes the Prince of heaven glad.


1. The permanency of Messiah's throne is secured by the Divine mercy (ver. 7). He who is most high in every sense engages all His infinite perfections to maintain the throne of grace upon which our King in Zion reigns.

2. The assurance of this permanency is strengthened by Messiah's confidence in God (ver. 7). The joy and confidence of Christ our King is the ground of all our joy and confidence, and the pledge of final conquest over all our foes.

(Homiletic Commentary.)

I. LOOK AT OUR KING AS HAVING ACCOMPLISHED SALVATION. But few Christians believe in a salvation finished, perfected. The salvation in Christ Jesus is complete; there is not an iota more to pay, not a single act of meritorious obedience left to perform, and not an enemy to combat but He has engaged to vanquish. Look at the manner in which He accomplishes this salvation.

1. By His suretyship and substitution.

2. By His atonement.

3. The entire labour is exclusively His own.


1. By His victories.

2. By application.

III. THE KING REJOICING IN GOD'S SALVATION, SEEING THE TROPHIES OF IT BROUGHT IN AND BROUGHT HOME. My soul seems in an ecstasy of thought in the contemplation of this. Precious Christ! It is all Thine own — all Thy work from first to last.

(Joseph Irons.)

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