Sunday, December 13, 2009

Psalm 21 – God’s Faithfulness of Help and Power in Our Battles

“Be exalted, O Lord, in your strength!

We will sing and praise your power.”

—Psalm 21:13 (NRSV).

The sweetest taste of power is in faithful victory whether it’s the feeling of a job well done, a relationship success or a personal battle met front on and hence conquered. The blessing of self-satisfied joy is afforded as we drink a toast in that moment of bliss before we move onto the next step of our lives. This is, after all, power to live for!

But, self-satisfaction can only fill us to a certain level, personally. Faithfulness for others takes us to another level, on a separate realm, altogether. The satisfaction of royals or rulers in ruling for their people—in ways of faithfulness to God—and in times of justified victory—must be the magnum opus of the faithful life; the transcendent moment of all moments.

In ancient times, as it is today, the sign of sovereignty or government being under the anointing and direction of God was a very good thing for the nation being led—we only have to read the books of history in the Old Testament to realise this. Indeed, it’s a powerful theme spread right through the biblical corpus.

Psalm 21 is very simply a royal liturgy of praise for the deliverance of victory, post-battle. But, it also has very salient application to us in our battles. One can imagine King David, if indeed he wrote the psalm as it is alleged, standing back in awe of God; composing and reciting the psalm.

God alone is in the front of his mind, swelling his heart in spirit-filled praise, for the knowledge of such a faithful God and the unparalleled thrill of serving him. All thoughts of the King’s self are vanquished for the time and moment of praise; such was God’s act of momentous faithfulness.

This knowledge of God’s unfailing loving kindness engenders in us a prevailing cheerfulness:

“I have always preferred cheerfulness to mirth. The latter I consider as an act, the former as a habit of mind. Mirth is short and transient, cheerfulness fixed and permanent.”

—Joseph Addison, 1672-1719.

Faithfulness is the gentle optimism of trust. It’s recognising the well-laid-out truth that God is present in all we do, in all we see, and in all we are. He doesn’t turn the blind eye. In this knowledge we can afford cheerfulness, as Addison describes; for God lasts—his goodness to us as well as his greatness.

Our day-to-day battles are not always won, but in our faithfulness is the war. At times we must see past the little defeats and onto the more sumptuous image of the end game as our faithfulness meets with God’s.

Indeed, with Psalm 21 back firmly in view, if we were to transcribe David’s name for another royal descendent, our Lord Jesus, the theme presented would fit just the same. Instead of the King’s cognisance of God’s faithfulness in the victory of battle, Christ sees the Father’s faithfulness in the victory over sin and death through his own faithfulness.[1] The Father enacts the divine plan designated before creation—the ‘deeper magic’ as held by C.S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia if you will—and Jesus acts it out in sheer obedience.

Per Jesus’ example, faithfulness begets faithfulness. We don’t reap the blessings of God’s faithfulness without first proving faithful ourselves. Jesus was perfectly dependent in his trust of the Father.

We too must aspire to this, and most especially in our personal and relational battles and struggles. Life is no dress-rehearsal and we’re well placed to get in and battle, fighting the good fight of faith.

Faithfulness is power; a holy impenetrable power.

© 2009 S. J. Wickham.

General Reference: W. Graham Scroggie, A Guide to the Psalms - A Comprehensive Analysis of the Psalms (Vol. 1) (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Kregel Publications, 1995), pp. 135-6.

[1] James L. Mays, Psalms – Interpretation Series (Louisville, Kentucky: John Knox Press, 1994), p. 104. Biblically set, when we consider the impending nature of Jesus’ obedience to the cross, we refer to John 17 and various other gospel-related evidence that his life and death were for one ultimate purpose—to save you and I from the power of sin over our lives—unto eternal life.

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