Paul commands us to sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. We can (and do!) debate the identity of hymns and spiritual songs, but we know what a psalm is. And for this reason, our church has adopted the practice of regularly singing the psalms. In particular, we have a “psalm of the month,” which we sing in each Sunday worship service.
Choosing a psalm can be more challenging during the holiday months. Certainly, folks expect to sing songs about the Incarnation in December and the Resurrection in the spring.
This month our congregation is singing a setting of Psalm 21. We should note at the outset that Psalm 21 is a counterpart to Psalm 20. The twentieth psalm is a prayer for the safety and success of the Davidic monarch, culminating in the familiar plea: “O Lord, save the king!”
Psalm 21, then, is an expression of thanksgiving that God has saved the king. We can presume that the king had led the nation into battle and returned safe and victorious. This is a cause for celebration, and also for confidence in God’s future aid in delivering the king’s enemies into his hand.
Now, the royal psalms have their immediate application to the occupant of the Davidic throne. When Psalms 20 and 21 were composed, they were certainly sung in behalf of David and his sons, the mortals who ruled God’s nation.
But we have come to see that these psalms find their ultimate fulfillment in David’s greater Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. Indeed, the language of some of the royal psalms could only be literally true of Jesus. And it is for this reason that Psalm 21 is especially suitable for singing at this time of year.
When we consider Jesus the son of David going forth into battle on behalf of his people, our minds should run to the cross. And in his Passion, the Great King’s confidence in his Father does not fail. And his confidence is not misplaced, for the Father grants to his Royal Son all that he desires; indeed, he grants to his Son endless life!
1 O Lord, in your strength the king rejoices,
and in your salvation how greatly he exults!
2 You have given him his heart’s desire
and have not withheld the request of his lips. Selah
3 For you meet him with rich blessings;
you set a crown of fine gold upon his head.
4 He asked life of you; you gave it to him,
length of days forever and ever.
5 His glory is great through your salvation;
splendor and majesty you bestow on him.
6 For you make him most blessed forever;
you make him glad with the joy of your presence.
7 For the king trusts in the Lord,
and through the steadfast love of the Most High he shall not be moved.