Surely you have granted him unending blessings and made him glad with the joy of your presence.
The 2011 version of the NIV quoted above seems to me to have weakened the sense of verse 6 from that in the 1984 edition, and of other more recent translations like the English Standard Version and older such as the Authorised Version. David had enjoyed the temporal blessings the Lord had given him in granting the desire of his heart, a long life, victory over enemies and so on and here now the praise turns to “eternal blessings” or of God blessing him “forever” both of which seem stronger to me than “unending blessings” used above. OK I’m splitting hairs but it’s the confidence expressed here that God’s blessing of David will most certainly spill over into eternity that is central I think.
For the present though he enjoyed the presence of God which gladdened his heart. It’s funny in the sense of peculiar how your life turns over in 10 or 15 years. A dozen years ago when our house was full with the family and TV’s, radio’s and hair dryers (not for me of course) were going endlessly I found that I could often pray better in the church building than at home, the quietness just seemed conducive to prayer. Often though prayer fizzled out after a time and I found myself just sitting without saying or necessarily thinking anything. What I thought was a lack of concentration troubled me until I realised that it was prayer in a different sense, I was enjoying the presence of God and that was spiritually refreshing.
When we are nervous or trying to impress someone we tend to chatter on or feel that we have to fill every silence with words. Silence makes us uncomfortable yet, when two people are comfortable in each other’s presence and know one another well they can readily enjoy their company in silence. Perhaps when we have said what we need to say in terms of praise and confession and supplication we need to learn to enjoy the presence of God in silence, a presence which makes us glad with joy.
Give thanks to God for the everyday blessings you have received and for the eternal spiritual blessings that are ours in Christ. Perhaps meditate on these blessing and on his word and then enjoy his presence.
"Through the victories you gave, his glory is great; you have bestowed on him splendour and majesty.”
We know that one word sometimes has several shades of meaning, and here something similar happens, one word in the original language is translated in 2 ways by bible translators as victories in the NIV or salvation in the ESV and AV. They are not in opposition but to me show the same events seen on the one hand from a historical perspective and on the other from a spiritual perspective. In the end though they speak of the same thing, to David God’s salvation, total blessing, was experienced as victories on the battlefield which ensured the safety of Israel and secured his rule. The important point is that he attributes his victories and the glory they brought to him firmly to God. Few of us will ever be in a position of real prominence outside perhaps our local scene or achieve fame on a national scale, but how we understand and deal with success and the fame or the material blessings that sometimes follow is really important and says a lot about our faith.
As a successful sportsman or woman would pride and recognition, the acclaim of people go to our head and would we end up believing that others owed us deference in some way? Though you can’t always believe what you read in the papers we have read stories of arrogance from famous people and behaviour that really didn’t fit their position of influence especially over the young. Is someone successful in business? Maybe not you of course but you never know who in the providence of God reads these things; has success tended to fill you with gratitude and make you appreciative of those who helped you along the way, in other words work colleagues and the workforce?
The rewards of these and other forms of success, even in moderate careers, how should they be seen as “all my own work or ought we acknowledge the help of others and more importantly the help of God? Well, to help us answer that let me ask another question, (nothing like answering a question with a question) who does David, though speaking as a third person, acknowledge as the author of his success or victories and the blessings that came from them, salvation which is from God’s perspective total blessing? The answer is simple, in the second part of the verse he acknowledges God as the giver and author of his success, “you have bestowed on him splendour and majesty.”
We have recently remembered the victory over a great evil represented in VE Day. I was interested to hear the address to the nation and commonwealth of King George VI on that day which began with the words. “Today we give thanks to Almighty God for a great deliverance...” and ended like this... “In the hour of danger we humbly committed our cause to the hand of God and he has been our strength and shield. Let us thank him for his mercies and in this hour of victory commit ourselves and our new task (which was building the peace) to the guidance of that same strong hand.” That is not something we would tend to hear a head of state say today.
In your employment or business, in whatever role, from giving “humble” domestic help, to chairman of a multinational company and everything between remember and acknowledge that God has granted you success in his grace.
Give God thanks for all the ways in which he has blessed you and given success to you in your daily work or employment.
“He asked you for life, and you gave it to him - length of days, forever and ever.”
We’ve been thinking for the last few days about Psalm 21:1-7 and today we’ve come to verse 4. I imagine, without exception all of us want to live a long, happy and fulfilled life and at the end to die peacefully and pain free. Yet, it has to be said that however long this life may last most of us have even a little bit of apprehension about the process of dying.
Though sickness and death is part and parcel of life in a fallen world and it’s all fine in theory, when it becomes personal it’s a different matter. Death whilst it comes to all seems strangely un-natural and feels very much that life has been cut short, as if we’ve been robbed in some way and we feel that with almost every fibre of our being. The writer of Ecclesiastes explains it in this way... “He (God) has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.” Eccl. 3:11
Set against that background, David’s request seems perfectly natural and more than that is understandable given that kings in the day might not be around too long given the battles they fought and the threats to their life and reign even from within their own families. Did David however ask for more than that or was it implied in his request. Some people see the second part of the verse – which tells how God abundantly answered the prayer request simply relating to the promise given to David that there would always be a descendent to rule on his throne. Really, does that seem an adequate explanation or does this point to the hope of eternal life?
Well cards on the table.... that’s how I see it and the theme comes up in other psalms of David; Ps 23:6 for example “and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever” or Ps 121:8 “the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forever more.” David asked for life, and the Lord gave him length of days forever and ever. It sounds like he knew what that meant to me; everlasting life. The Lord gave David more than he asked for. It was by design not accident that the one who fulfilled the promise to David concerning his dynasty, the descendent who would always reign, Jesus, is the one who also gives life, “I have come that they may have life and have it to the full.” John 10:10. Today if you have put your trust in Jesus your life forever is already underway.
Give thanks in Jesus name that the gift of God is eternal life. Ask for help to grasp that this gift begins now in this life and continues in eternity, and if you are troubled today ask for peace.
Psalm 21 vs 3
“You came to greet him with rich blessings and placed a crown of pure gold on his head.”
In relation to the verse we looked at yesterday the commentator John Goldingay holds that the desire in David’s heart was to rule, in contrast I suppose to Saul his predecessor who was hiding among the luggage when he was sought. I think we can take from that David’s desire to serve God rather than to embark on a course of self aggrandisement.
The link to this verse then and God’s granting of his desire is that rather than waiting to receive him, he comes to meet him, and gives to him the rule of Israel in the form of a crown of pure gold. Ian White in his sung version, remember it a few days ago, puts it in memorable form, “you welcomed him with all your richest grace.” It brings to mind the character of God rather than the worthiness or otherwise of David.
God knew this man like all others except one would fail, but he knew also David’s heart. Our God is a God of compassion, a God who treats us with mercy we do not deserve because of our failings and cannot earn despite our many attempts. It is the character of God and his unchanging nature that gives us assurance that we like David will be welcomed when we seek God humbly.
This morning as I thought about this verse the parable of the prodigal son came flooding into my mind and with it the striking similarity to the picture we have here. There, if you remember the foolish boy went and squandered what his father had given him on riotous living with good time friends keen to help him spend it. Those friends abandoned him in need and at his lowest point the young man came to his senses and went home to earn a place as servant in his father’s home. His father though spotted him a long way off and overcome with compassion and love ran to welcome him put a ring on his finger and the finest robe on his back and threw a party. You can read the story in Luke 15:11-24.
If you are on the run from God, or afraid that you’ve done something too terrible to receive mercy or be greeted with anything other than the richest welcome take heed. If that’s your concern do these examples of grace not reassure you or the consistent witness of the bible convince you that God is compassionate and gracious to those who look for him humbly and sincerely?
In your own words tell God of you failures and you sins. Tell him your concern and the things that trouble you. Be honest, open your life and heart and let him deal with you in love.
Psalm 21 vs 2
“You have granted him his heart’s desire and have not withheld the request of his lips.”
At first glance this looks like a charter for asking anything you’ve set your heart on, but not so fast! Can that be right? It’s obvious, too obvious, to give the example of wanting that new Merc, or the highly paid job, or the big house as evidence that this way of approaching the verse just won’t work. On the other hand suppose you want something good or that you really need, well, as far as you and maybe others see it, can you pray for it and since it’s your heart’s desire should you expect to receive it?
Prayer is never that simple and don’t we know it! We’ve been there many times asking for things we didn’t get, and usually we brand those requests unanswered prayers when maybe the answer was no. Let’s think about King David, the author of Psalm 21 for a moment, he was of course a man with faults like the rest of us, sometimes worse than the rest of us, but preaching in Pisidian Antioch (Acts 13:22) Paul talks about God appointing David, “a man after his own heart”. Whatever false and wrong steps he took, David’s heart was inclined to God and underneath it all he wanted what God wanted.
Before we ask for something in prayer perhaps we should first try to understand our own motives for asking and then pray that God would incline our hearts to his will and give us wisdom in our asking so that we ask according to his will and to his glory. In that way we can ask in confidence and faith. Don’t imagine though that it’s easy to give up our dreams that too is a matter of trust that even though we can’t see the outcome God will act for our ultimate good and his glory.
Today as you search your heart take on board Jesus advice to seek first God’s kingdom (Matt 6:33) then make your requests to Him.
Psalm 21 vs 1
“O Lord the king rejoices in your strength. How great is his joy in the victory you give!”
I guess we’ve all had those times when facing a crisis of some sort in answer to prayer the dark threatening clouds that stole our peace have disappeared and joy has returned. I could tell of many serious times but one less serious occasion that we can laugh about now but at the time seemed really bad sticks in my mind.
Over 20 years ago we spent part of our summer holiday with friends and their family in a house in Perthshire. The house was well off the main road up a very rough farm track about a mile in length but which took about half a hour to negotiate. You don’t need to know the back story but one of our kids had a medical emergency and my friend volunteered to drive us down into town for the necessary medical attention. On the way back up this treacherous track in the half light of dusk the near side wheel slipped off the track into a ditch leaving the car stranded with the nearside jammed tight against a bank.
We tried everything to get the car back onto the track but eventually gave up, me in despair praying quietly but my friend laughing said “well the end of the world comes once, and this isn’t it.” His faith clearly greater than mine! The gathering gloom, for it was now all but dark, matched my mood when suddenly round the bend in the track came a Landrover its headlights lighting up the way. Help was at hand, the car pulled out of the ditch, great relief, my happiness restored, above all prayer answered, it wasn’t after all the end of the world.
That is roughly the scenario in Psalm 21:1. If as some suggest it is to be paired with Ps20 it simply strengthens the idea that this is a psalm of thanksgiving for prayer answered. Though it is about God’s goodness to the king, the king is not the one who speaks but the people perhaps, whose well being is linked inextricably to the king and his security.
The nature of the threat or upheaval is not revealed but the Lord has acted decisively, in strength, and given victory, which is, I gather, in the original described as God’s victory and in the old AV as God’s salvation. The result is the king, and the people by extension, rejoice, and joy replaces their concern. Rejoice, according to the dictionary comes from old English and beyond that from an old French world which means re-joy, the sense I suppose that joy had been taken and was now restored.
We all know what it is to be in that situation, when life or well being is threatened and joy in our lives extinguished. We’ve known times as well when in answer to prayer the threat has lifted and we have been re-joyed as it were. When the present danger of Covid-19 has been removed and the danger we now present to one another has been extinguished then we will rejoice, we will celebrate the work of medics and scientists, and all who contributed to the cure or a vaccine but will we also celebrate and rejoice in God who gave the intelligence and the learning, and who through the hand of these people brought deliverance. Just a thought! Great, Lord, is our joy in the victories you give.
Today in your own words thank God for times when he has delivered you from danger and pray for his help today. Give thanks for those on the front line and pray for a cure for Covid-19.
Psalm 21 vs 1 - 7 New International Version - UK (NIVUK)
1 The king rejoices in your strength, Lord.
How great is his joy in the victories you give!
2 You have granted him his heart’s desire
and have not withheld the request of his lips.[b]
3 You came to greet him with rich blessings
and placed a crown of pure gold on his head.
4 He asked you for life, and you gave it to him –
length of days, for ever and ever.
5 Through the victories you gave, his glory is great;
you have bestowed on him splendour and majesty.
6 Surely you have granted him unending blessings
and made him glad with the joy of your presence.
7 For the king trusts in the Lord;
through the unfailing love of the Most High
he will not be shaken.
For most of us Psalm 21 is not a go to psalm, not like its near neighbour in the Psalter but it’s one of which I have fond memories. I became familiar with it through an old cassette tape on which the Scottish singer Ian White set the NIV text of the psalms to his own music. When the tape wore out or the technology moved on I replaced it a double disk CD Psalms Vols 1-3. As years went on the CD was forgotten and lay hidden in the unit in the “good room” until one day I found it and listened again. As I listened to the words of Ps 21 and applied them unconsciously, if that’s the right word, to my own life I was overcome with thankfulness for the Lord’s blessing, and eventually became aware of tears trickling down my face.
It’s believed that Ps21 is paired with Psalm 20 and writers tell us the background is either a coronation song, one for a royal anniversary or perhaps a victory. Not much clarity there except it’s clear that it is a song of celebration and thanksgiving. The psalm is longer but it is verses 1-7 that Ian White set to his music and it’s these I hope we can look at over the next few days. In these the king’s faith is seen and his thanksgiving for the Lord’s goodness is heard.
I wonder do we ever sufficiently take time to reflect on the goodness of God to us, and track his hand on the course of our life? When I’m complaining about this, that or the other not going right, which let’s be honest and I’m not alone in this, can be quite often, this psalm is the antidote and spur I need to give me a realistic view of life in a broken world. I hope it will mean as much to you as it does to me.
Thank you Lord for the grace you pour out on me daily which often I do not even notice. For this receive my thanks today. “Be exalted Lord, in your strength; we will sing and praise your might.” Amen
Today it’s not so much “Gimme 5” as “Take 10”! Let me explain, this is mental health week and there is, with some justification, concern that the current “lockdown” and the whole experience of the pandemic will leave a legacy of mental health issues.
I’ve just listened to a message recorded by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge (William and Kate) encouraging us to reach out and talk to others if we are anxious, concerned or depressed and on the other hand not to be afraid to ask a friend if they are alright should we notice them acting in an unusual way.
In the providence of God just before breakfast I had been listening to Dr Tim Keller’s meditation entitled “Talking to yourself, not listening to yourself” from Psalm 42. You can watch the video below, it’s well worth a watch for everyone, if you feel anxious or even just down about ageing. If you need to talk don’t be afraid to phone a friend or someone you trust and share your concerns. In this sense “it’s good to talk”.
(Tim Keller is the minister of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City)
Matthew 5 vs 10
“Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
No-one I know seeks or welcomes persecution. The word has the sense of an act being deliberately designed to wound and hurt. There is a vengeful edge to it. That said it is becoming almost unavoidable today that a Christian will be on the end of some form of opposition. Whether it is accurately described as persecution depends on the intention and the intensity. A Christian, for here Jesus is addressing his followers, who in the workplace is regularly scorned, humiliated, and ostracised by colleagues could describe herself as persecuted, others are simply misunderstood and misrepresented.
John Stott writes* “the condition of being despised and rejected, slandered and persecuted , is as much the normal mark of Christian discipleship as being pure in heart or merciful. Those who hunger for righteousness will suffer for the righteousness they crave.” Let’s not give in to feelings of self pity though, we do not yet suffer to the same degree as brothers and sisters across the world who endure beatings, the loss of property, unemployment, estrangement from their families, imprisonment and even death for this cause.
Persecution is one thing but suffering because we have done the right thing or because we long to be more Christ like has an added sense of injustice. That said, before we in the west, who have had it our own way for so long complain, it is well to ensure that there is nothing in our own attitude that represents pride, being judgemental, or just plain objectionable or argumentative. If we are going to suffer let it be because of righteousness. The injustice or loss we suffer here and now may be hard to bear but the promise of Jesus means that whatever is lost will pale against what is gained, “theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
*John Stott. Sermon on the Mount (IVP) P53
Lord I pray today for those who suffer persecution and loss, those who are unjustly imprisoned and rejected by their families because of their faith in Jesus. Lord comfort and strengthen them in their pain and sorrow and help me endure without complaint whatever may fall to me because of Jesus. Amen
(optional of course)
Matthew 5 vs 9
“Blessed are the peace makers for they will be called sons of God.”
Peace is something most of us long for but few are prepared to take risks for whether it is community, international, ethnic or personal conflict. We admire peacemakers and honour them with awards when the risk pays off, but label them as appeasers and blame them for not standing strongly for our side when things fall apart. Sometimes history proves the criticisms valid of course but peace also depends on the sincerity of the parties involved.
Peacemakers in the sense of this Beatitude are disciples of Jesus doing the Father’s work of reconciliation. That may be between feuding neighbours even nations but it is primarily the work of pointing people to God who in Jesus was reconciling the world to himself. That work in the Spirit’s power has real results in everyday life because those reconciled with God through faith in Christ are also reconciled with others through Jesus. Even those who have seriously disagreed, sometimes violently differed are united as Christ becomes the bond between them.
Paul writing to Christians in Ephesus described how both Jew and Gentile were united and reconciled in Christ. In chapter 2 he writes this from V15... “His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near.” For that reason we must always strive to preserve the unity of Christ’s body the church. Paul writes in Romans 12:18 “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” As far as it depends on you makes peacemaking personal to us but it doesn’t make it an easy matter.
Heavenly Father I thank you today for Jesus through whom I have peace with you. Today make me a channel of your peace as I give myself to this work of peacemaking. Amen