Psalm 20 – Sermon Manuscript

-Both my parents grew up on a farm. There are a lot of things about it that sounded very enjoyable! Tons of room to run around, animals that are bigger than you to play with, farm equipment to drive around. I always liked going to the farm, they let me start driving as soon as I could reach the pedals! My dad’s side had 5 boys, so you can imagine that house. Interestingly enough, 4 of them have ended up in some kind of education role (the oldest still works on the family farm!). House of 5 boys who like to read & study. The older I get (and the older my dad & uncles get) the more stories get leaked out when they get together! 

-The youngest brother in particular had a bad habit during seeding of bringing books into the combine to not be so bored. As grandpa would drive around their acreage he would make comments about where each of the boys had gotten too invested in their book, or even note whole fields where books were being read! Do you know how he could tell? The plow lines weren’t straight! What was supposed to be a straight-lined field was covered with zig-zags. Each time my grandpa would apparently gently remind them to fix their eyes on a particular point in the horizon then never drift away from that spot, ensuring straight lines every time. But as boys are prone to do, there are far too many other things to focus on! A bird flying by, a rock in the pasture, contemplating when lunch is because they’re always hungry, or if it’s the Strand family the book you snuck onto the combine with you. 

-As Christians, we are all tempted to act like a Strand boy and be distracted by so many distractions around us instead of keeping our eyes focused and fixed on Jesus. Psalm 20 is a great reminder for us to be reminded to keep our eyes fixed on the right place so that our lives are marked by straight lines.

READ/PRAY

  1. God, Hear Our Prayers (1-5)

-A number of the Psalms we’ve studied together this summer as “royal Psalms” in that they are for/about/centered around the king. This one connects specifically to preparation for a battle.

-We miss some things as we don’t have a king, and are proud of it! I’ve been listening to the biographies of Alexander Hamilton and John Adams recently and was first of all struck with the differences in their approaches to life (Hamilton wasn’t a believer at least until the later end of his life, Adams was a committed believer), but secondly was struck by the strong debates related to whether positions of power should be passed down through generations, or whether it be merit based (if you didn’t know, merit based won out). 

-So since we don’t have a king, one thing we need to note is the king is meant to serve as the representative for the entire people. Our president is kind of similar to that, but not quite to the same extent. In the OT the king’s success determined the fate of the entire nation. Not too much of a stretch to say the nation was literally identified by the king, we can too easily dismiss identification with the president, even seen bumper stickers that say “don’t blame me, I didn’t vote for him”

-A second piece we need to be aware of as we read a royal Psalm is the king is meant to serve as the best, most accurate representation of God on earth. Remember last week we saw one of the first things a king of Israel was supposed to do was write out God’s law himself, then read and meditate on it throughout his life, allowing the king to keep his eyes on the right path and not end up with zig zags in his life! But because the king served as God’s representative, wars weren’t as we often see today for land or resources, wars were meant to reflect spiritual realities, so if a nation won in battle, it signified the superior strength of their God. 

-This is why the people would join together to pray for the protection and preservation of their king as they would prepare for battle. That’s why this Psalm begins by asking God to answer when the king faces trouble.

-“God of Jacob” shorthand for “God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob” connects all the way back to Gen. 22:17. (Abraham after the sacrifice of Isaac)

-This is another reminder, as we’ve seen before, to know the story you’re caught up in! David didn’t appear out of nowhere, there’s a history that he’s a part of. Whether you believe it or not, history has an ending point, but that also means there’s a purpose and a reason behind it. If we don’t know and understand the history and our place in it, we’ll miss where we’re aiming at. 

-“sanctuary/Zion” (2) similar to the shorthand above, refers to the place where God’s glory or manifest presences dwells. Same thing for us today praying “Our Father, who art in heaven.” Is he ONLY in heaven? Absolutely not! But it reminds us that He is not just like us.

-honor or accept the various offerings of the king. 2 different offerings mentioned in this verse (different Hebrew words to refer to different kinds of offerings)

-This isn’t (as I’ve heard far too many people say) putting God in your favor by offering, or tithing, or sacrificing something. These offerings refer to restoring the relationship between God and the king. 

-For example, the “burnt offering” refers to an atonement offering, as seen in Lev. 1. This specific offering is meant to deal with the sins the king has committed. There is nothing we can do to put God in our debt, yet as I talk to people there’s a tendency to treat God that way. “if I give this to God, he has to bless me back.” I even heard this from a pastor in town here! That’s not how God works!

-I liked the way one commentary put it: “it is the inward reality of right relationship that Yahweh remembers rather than the abundance of sacrifices offered. Rather than taking this to mean that God remembers how we make sacrifices (of time, money, suffering, etc.), this passage is talking about fulfilling our covenantal responsibilities of relationship to God. Have we acknowledged our sin and turned from it? Are we experiencing and celebrating a renewed and restored relationship with God? God “remembers” us when we are on the way of faithful loyalty to him and when we daily seek him with body, mind, soul, and spirit.”

Selah: instrumental to stop and reflect on what was just sung. I’ll leave the Psalm on the screen for you to reflect on it, think about your relationship with God.

-“heart’s desire” does this mean the king get everything he wants?

-Think about 1 instance in David’s life: when he first looked down at Bathsheba, was God’s answer to allow her to be David’s wife? Doesn’t this just confirm what I talked about in the last verse, if we make all these offerings, then God will give us the desires of your heart? Think of Cinderella “a dream is a wish your heart makes” or the song I danced to growing up “listen to your heart, when it’s calling to you.” So God is in heaven as our fairy godmother to make our dreams come true?

NIVAC: “this is a wake-up call to bring our hearts into alignment with the will and purposes of God.” Or this is a way of ensure our eyes are on the right place instead of being distracted by all the things around us.

-Notice what takes place right before this, acceptable sacrifices, not to place God in your debt, but working to align the king’s hearts with God. It’s only after being obedient to God that he’ll have the proper desires to ask for.

-This is the proper way to pray! ACTS, the Lord’s Prayer all reorient our hearts and minds before we get to asking.

5: do we actually celebrate that we have been saved? We should be a joyful people! Even celebrating communion like we did last week is meant to be a joyful experience because we’re no longer dead in our sin.

-As I was growing up I had no clue that Christianity was meant to lead to joy! Not sure where I missed it, but it always felt like being a Christian meant there was no fun, just joy sucking rules to follow. Yet when Jesus came, he was accused of partying too much! We shouldn’t be partying too much, but there should be a level of joy and celebration at the daily victory we have in Christ!

  • The Response of the King (6)

-Notice the change in pronouns here. We go from “you/your” to “I”

-God sometimes calls the equipped, but He always equips the called.

-There is no question or doubt “I know this truth!” this is one of the reasons it’s so important to continue meeting together, we sometimes need each other to believe the realities of the gospel.

-Tami at last week’s music practice warned the team: be careful where you look when we sing this song! It’s a hard one when you know what’s going on in people’s lives! But think of how encouraging it is to see someone struggling with a cancer seeing someone else struggling with cancer and singing their heart out because God is still working in them!

-David wrote this 1000 years before the birth of Jesus, we now have the privilege of seeing the fulfillment of this promise. God’s salvation is done, accomplished, finished, now there’s nothing that can separate you from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord!

  • The Response of the People (7-9)

-Literally: “some in chariots, some in horses, but we invoke the name of the one true God” What are you looking to as your ultimate source of identity, comfort, and strength?

Deut. 17:14-20 Last week we saw the need to write down the law, this week I want you to look at another command: not acquire too many horses, aka find comfort in your nation, your tribe, your people. Since God created us, he knows our tendencies to look to anything else as the source of our confidence instead of Him, which is why we have vs. 7 in this Psalm. Specifically, what this is referring to the ancient near east is putting your ultimate confidence in geo-political power. The chariots/horses were the best weapon of the day, whoever had the most would most likely win in a battle. Has anything changed since?

-I say this with some trepidation, knowing that it may step on some people’s toes, but why is it that so many people today are looking to Politics as their primary source of identity? Why is everything that’s said filtered through a partisan lens instead of filtering it through a Jesus lens? We see this every 4 years from both sides! (actually seeing it pretty much daily now) Unless our candidate is elected into office our country is going to descend into anarchy, or if our candidate isn’t in office our country is falling apart and it’s OBVIOUSLY the fault of the policies of the other side. Unless this vote passes through the House our world is going to fall apart. It’s using fear and scare tactics to manipulate people, and the sad part is that it works! So then in response to the fear from one side, the other side doubles down on the opposite position and leaves no room for nuance. I wonder if today this verse would be more applicable if it said “some trust in the donkey, and some in the elephant.” 

-Neither party is completely aligned with every Christian virtue, which makes it hard to know how to vote. The problem in our culture today is because everything is viewed through a partisan political lens far too many assumptions are made about what someone truly thinks or believes. Instead of asking for clarification or trying to understand where someone is coming from, conclusions and assumptions are made about whether someone is “in” or “out” and then we decide if we’ll continue associating with them or not. This is the mark of following the ways of the world, not the ways of our Lord, and this cuts through both sides of the political aisle.

-This doesn’t mean we therefore throw up our hands and disengage (as tempting as that might be!), instead I think we need to work hard to find a better way forward together, and it MUST start in the church. 

-This is why I have said and will say in the future, leave your politics at the door when you come in here. What I mean by that (and what I should probably change what I say to) is leave your PARTISAN politics at the door, because there are political truths that must be shared in here: Jesus is Lord is a political statement, because it’s saying no one else has the ultimate answers or authority. The Bible makes it clear that every person who is in authority (kings, rulers, presidents, governors) is in there by God’s good plan and design, even ones you don’t like or agree with.

-I have read of, and even talked to, some pastors who have shared Bible verses over the past few years and then either been labeled a woke Marxist or a racist, and I know they were neither of those things! Why is it that sharing something like “blessed are the peacemakers” or “turn the other cheek” or “a gentle answer turns away wrath” are labeled “woke” today? If you didn’t know, I just quoted Matt. 5:9Matt 5:39, and Prov. 15:1. I’ve been called some of those things since I got here! When everything is filtered through a partisan political lens there’s no room for nuance, subtly, or trying to understand someone else’s point of view. Yet that’s exactly what we as Christians are called to do.

-I’m not sure how this happened (I’m still trying to wrap my brain around it) but there has even been Christians I know who have said it’s time to move on from gentleness and start fighting fire with fire. 

-I need all of you to pay attention to this: demonstrating the fruit of the Spirit isn’t optional for anyone who is “In Christ.” Look at these 2 lists Paul gives us in Galatians 5: one of them is led by the Spirit, and one of them is not.

-Maybe politics isn’t important to you at all! You’re probably much more sane than many of the people you’re rubbing shoulder with! However, these 2 lists I think can serve as a litmus test of where you have idols in your heart that God is revealing to you. In what areas of your life are you marked by the flesh instead of the Spirit? When are you prone to respond with sexual immorality, etc. instead of love, etc. In God’s kindness, He is provided a way for you to see where you’re looking to comfort in the world instead of Him. Areas in your life where you’ve taken your eyes off the right place and turned them to worldly things.

-Vs. 8 doubles down on this idea: Those who trust in anything other than God collapse and fall.

-We’ve seen this all summer! Where is the foundation of your life, in rock or sand? Do you have enough foundation built to endure the difficulties of life, or are you building on a foundation from this world that will ensure destruction? 

-Do you want to have God answer your prayers? Entrust yourself to God. Do you want to have a flourishing life? Entrust yourself to God. Do you want to have the strength to endure under trials? Entrust yourself to God. Do you want to be a strong person who isn’t worried by the changing world around us? Entrust yourself to God. 

-The last verse is repeated in the NT. 1 Tim. 2:1-2 also commanded to pray this in the NT. Do you pray for “kings and all who are in high positions”? Once again, not just for the candidates whose policies you agree with, but for “all people.” 

-Similarly to many other Psalms, all this is pointing us to the ultimate and perfect king: Jesus. Today we can use this prayer when we remember that we are in a battle, not against flesh and blood, which means we can’t use the world’s weapons to fight!

-Don’t lower yourself to slander, dissensions, or divisions. That’s how the world will try to tempt us to fight! Instead we fight by demonstrating: love, joy, peace, etc. And who demonstrated those traits perfectly? Jesus! Therefore, as we saw at the beginning of this, we need to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus. Don’t be distracted by the things of this world, don’t let your eyes wander away from Him. It’s only by faithfully keeping your eyes on Him that the lines of our lives will be straight.

Bene: (Heb. 12:1-2)

Therefore, since we also have such a large cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us lay aside every hindrance and the sin that so easily ensnares us. Let us run with endurance the race that lies before us, keeping our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith. For the joy that lay before him, he endured the cross, despising the shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

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