Sermon: People of God, the third commandment tells us that we are not to take the Name of the Lord our God in vain. The third commandment is another way of saying: You shall have no others gods but Me, which is the first commandment. When Yahweh says we are not to take His Name in vain, He is saying that we are to carry His Name with honor. We are to bear that Name on our foreheads day and night. We are to carry the Name of our Lord to our workplace, to our schools, in our homes, in our relationships, in our activities and in all that we do Yahweh’s Name is to be permanently a part of who we are.
We are image-bearers of Yahweh. The Lord has placed His seal upon us; He has elected us before the foundation of the world that we should be imitators of Him.
But why are we to hold, bear, and carry Yahweh’s Name with us; because as Psalm 20 declares: God saves, sustains us, upholds and answers us. We need not be afraid if Yahweh is with us. As the Psalmist says, “Thy Rod and Thy Staff, they comfort Me.” These are all divine acts. God is the initiator of all good things. He defends us because we are His people and His sheep.
Psalm 20 is a model prayer for Yahweh’s Covenant people to follow in times of trouble and distress. The Psalm tells us that if we trust in Yahweh alone, if we worship Yahweh alone and if we bear Yahweh’s Name alone in all our doings, He will remember us. Calvin writes that this prayer was given to the church “whenever she was threatened with any danger.”
This prayer is a prayer for God to intercede on behalf of civil authorities. Verse 9 tells us that it is a prayer for a King. This prayer is designed for us to call on Yahweh to direct the steps of those who are leading us. God’s chosen people counted a privilege to live under a leader that was appointed by God. This King was God’s appointed defender of His people. The King defended the innocent.
What is unique about this psalm is that there is no separation between church and state. The reality of the Old Covenant was that church and state worked together to accomplish the same goal: the Lordship of Yahweh in all the land. But though church and state worked together, they did not interfere in each other’s affairs. As we learned from II Chronicles 26 concerning King Uzziah, a King was not to burn incense in the temple; the temple was the responsibility of the priest. In the same manner, a priest was not to be a politician, while serving bread and wine. The priest had a prophetic role to call the civil magistrates to embrace Yahweh as Lord.
This is a psalm of David. It is possible that this is David in an old age, perhaps in the end of his life. It is a mature reflection on the need for the people of God to lift up the civil magistrates in prayer. But this is not just an Old Covenant, Old World principle, this carries on clearly in the New Covenant. In I Timothy 2, Paul urges us to pray for all those in high positions, which for us includes the president, congress, senate and all those in authority in the federal level and in a localized level. So this Psalm of David is a call for God’s chosen people in the Old Testament and in this New Age of the Kingdom.
Let’s examine this prayer a little deeper.
What is the nature of this prayer? We know that Yahweh is the Savior; apart from Him we can do nothing. The prayer is directed to the God of Jacob, but according to verse 2, the petition is that God would bring help from the sanctuary and support from Zion. The Psalmist is placing the worship gathering as a source of help to the king. He is saying that the ruler needs desperate help from the church. In essence, the church, which is the sanctuary, is the fountain of all good mercies and graces. But why is this the case? It is the case because God has ordained praise and adoration to come from his holy sanctuary; He has ordained prayers, supplications, worship, spiritual nurture, maturity and all other graces to be sought within the sanctuary. It is through the gathering of the saints in renewing our covenants with Yahweh and asking Yahweh to remember His covenant with us, to remember His covenant promises to you and to your children. We can say without a doubt that the pages of redemptive history place the church as the center of all activities in the Kingdom. To be sure, the Church is not the kingdom, but it is at its center. God promises to protect His Church from the gates of hell and by necessity He promises to protect individual families and the civil government through the means of the One, Apostolic Church. This is why the early church, the Reformers and we continue to say today “that apart from the Trinitarian-ordained Church, there is no deliverance to be found.”
Psalm 20 serves as an indictment to those who profess the Name of our Lord and yet willingly decide to stay away from the Lord’s Church.
In verse 3, Yahweh will remember the King’s tribute. That is, the King will offer the fruit of his labor to God. God will remember the tribute of the King. God, in fact, delights in the works of the King. They are works of obedience. Far from a robotic relationship between God and man, God covenants with man. It is a true and genuine relationship. God remembers your offerings, that is, He memorializes it. He sees the king’s works as a good thing. In the same manner, we do good works to please our God. We offer Him our tribute offerings. This is clearly a call for the people of God to give their offerings to the sanctuary of God, where the ministry of God is most clearly seen. James tells us that good works is a proof of our living faith.
In the end of verse 3 we read that God accepts the kings’ sacrifice. “In this offering, the worshipper killed an animal and then presented the whole animal to God so that all of the meat is consumed in the fire and turned into smoke which ascends up into God’s presence, mingling with the Glory-Cloud that fills the tabernacle or temple.” God clearly takes joy in the gifts of men.
In verses 4-5, we see the continuation of petitions from the people on behalf of the King. Though there are nine wishes in this Psalm for the king, we see seven “may’s.” We see three may’s in verses 4 and 5. May God grant your heart’s desire; may we shout for joy over your salvation; and may the Lord fulfill your petitions. This is a Psalm of victory. The people are asking Yahweh to give victory to the King, because if the King is victorious, so are the people. The people are asking that the King’s heart be so attuned with the heart of God that the King may be a man after God’s own heart, so that his petitions and requests would be aligned with the will of Yahweh. The Psalmist even prays that we may shout for joy over the salvation of the king. The prayer is that Yahweh would bring victory to His anointed over His enemies; those who oppose the message of the prophets.
The enemies of God are in mind here when the Psalmist prays for the King’s deliverance or His salvation. We read this in verse 7 beautifully encapsulated for us: “Some trust in chariots and some in horses,
but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.” The verb “trust” is not in the original in the first part of verse 7. So literally, it can be read: Some in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God. This whole chapter is about memorializing. The idea is that the pagans memorialize chariots and horses. In other words, the ungodly nations ask for the help and aid of their military first, but we call on Yahweh first. He is our strength and might. We memorialize God. We ask that He would remember us and show His favor to us. “This is a warfare Psalm.”
The Psalm ends the prayer with these words: “O Lord, save the King, may He answer us when we call.” “This is a prayer, that God, by blessing the king, would show himself the Savior of the whole people.” It is call for the king to hear the cry of the people. This is not based on the voice of the people, a democracy, but the central purpose of the people of God is based on the will and purposes of God. It is the voice of Yahweh that we long to hear. The King though ruler of a people, stands in direct submission to the true King, Yahweh.
This Psalm is a profound prayer from the mouths of God’s covenant people.
There is much theology in these psalms including a theology of warfare, a theology of the Christian’s responsibility to the civil magistrate. It is also filled with beautiful Hebrew poetry, chiasms, and typological themes. This is a rich psalm.
The Psalm as a whole seems to have a central thematic interest. That is, that the people of God, those who covenant with Yahweh are exalted and those who set themselves against Yahweh’s people are brought low. “High and low, up and down, are important to notice in the Bible. In Psalm 20, “Memorials and Ascensions are sent “up,” and God hears from heaven (verse 6). The king’s Ascensions are accepted, and he is set “on high.” United to the king, the people also rise up and stand (verse 8) while his enemies are brought low (verse 8 ).” This is a powerful theme throughout this psalm. This is the nature of imprecations. When you sing a psalm of imprecation you are asking that disciples of the Trinitarian God be victorious and the enemies of Yahweh lose the battle.
Let us put this Psalm into proper redemptive historical perspective. The direct historical context of this Psalm is that Yahweh would give victory to King David. David is the true King of Israel. It is proper for us to make a direct connection to our civil magistrates as well. The Psalms are very rich in application for us today. This is why we should not shy away from singing the Psalms or even praying them. Paul continues this theme in I Timothy when he calls us to pray for our leaders and rulers. We are Biblical Christians. We look at the Scriptures from the lens of redemptive history. When we do so, we realize that this Psalm is a Messianic Psalm. It has Jesus Christ at the center of all. When the Psalm speaks of blessings, saving and honoring the King with our prayers, this is a prayer to Christ our Lord who is our great and glorious King. But do not think that this is empty with application for us. We are after all united to Christ the King through baptism. Because we are united to Him, we share in His Kingship. He is our true king, but we are image-bearers of the great King; we are little kings ruling and reigning on behalf of our Great and Mighty King. In this manner, we pray for one another that we may rule well our households; we pray for our leaders in the church that they may rule well their congregations; we pray for our president that He may rule according to Jesus Christ and not according to according to human order.
How are we to live?
Let me offer you a few suggestions on how we are to live under those in authority over us:
a) The Psalm assumes a King that will hear the people of God when they cry for justice. This calls us to cry out in prayer that our rulers will hear the prayer of God’s covenant people. They may think that we are a silent group. That we are no threat to their system, but we are a threat to the core and depths of their philosophical system. And every time we cry out with the psalmist, the gates of hell tremble in fear.
b) Secondly, Yahweh is our Avenger. Yahweh has put civil authorities in charge of the execution of murderers. It is not our duty to take matters into our own hands. We have seen this recently with the death of abortionist George Tiller. There is no doubt from a Biblical perspective that the civil magistrate should have acted long ago on behalf of the innocent. But because our government did not execute a murderer, that does not give us the right to execute a murderer. Revenge belongs to Yahweh. And Yahweh acts accordingly. Yahweh will use a wicked man to kill another wicked man. His judgment and purposes are pure from everlasting to everlasting.
c) The end of this prayer in Psalm 20 seems more than appropriate in our own scenario. Save the King, O Lord! Our prayer is that God would not only save the righteous King from battle and bring him victory, but also that He would give a new heart to our anti-Trinitarian wicked rulers so they may lead us into victory. As R.J. Rushdoony once wrote: “There can be no true revolution apart from true regeneration. “ People of the Most High God, Salvation, Vengeance, Deliverance and Victory belong to Yahweh and in His hands we commit this prayer. In The name of the Father, Son, and Spirit. Amen.
 John Calvin, commentary on Psalm 20.
 John Barach,Blog. Observations on translation of Psalm 20.
 Jim Jordan’s description of Psalm 20 in his writings on the psalms at Biblical Horizons.
 John Calvin, on Psalm 20:9.
 James Jordan, comments on Psalm 20, BH List.