“May we shout for joy over your victory,
and in the name of our God set up our banners.
May the Lord fulfill all your petitions.”
~Psalm 20:5 (NRSV).
The trouble with kings, presidents and other leaders is our attribution of them. Even those in the Church leadership are held up in godly esteem; this was the mistake the Israelites made when they demanded a king reign over them (1 Samuel 8:19-22). This ‘anointed one’ became the source of inappropriate worship and that was always going to end badly.
Thankfully, the true Anointed One has appeared; the King of kings and Lord of lords has been crowned forever more (Revelation 19:16).
Psalm 20 preaches a simple message: Salvation belongs to the Lord.
This psalm is a confessional prayer in the sight of God for the leader of the nation. Too many Christians these days are deploring the national leader (president, prime minister etc) without praying for them. This is not what the psalmist has in mind; they connect the lordship of national leadership within and under the lordship of the Creator. They see the fortunes of the nation contingent with the blessing of the Lord.
They connect the two; national leader as the Lord’s anointed.
We can wonder, then, what God thinks of disciples who, without praying, virulently oppose national leaders who are clearly trying to lead in godly ways. Let’s not forget that the enemy is active in setting minds and hearts against the Lord’s anointed... it’s a phenomenon that’s taken place pre-Christ and post-Christ; recall it happened to Christ.
Beyond National Concern
Attributions of national concern — those confessional cries in, and under, the name of the Lord — are just the start of the scope for Psalm 20. Every good intent fills the supplication within verses 2-5. In the English it is very alike the Aaronic blessing of Numbers 6:24-26.
There’s a theme of God’s answering the plea of the psalmist — the bookending of the psalm in verses 1 and 9. Initially it’s intercession “in the day of trouble” for the sovereign, and finally it’s a desperate plea for victory in the name of the Lord.
Against national leaders some are, but others are the reverse — one-eyed for them. This psalm has in frame the right source of pride (verse 7); in God first, foremost and only-most.
Despite allegiance to the national concern, comprised under God, there is an undeniable thread of God-worship to this psalm.
And so, this psalm is priority-ordering for us. We pray for our national leaders, whilst remembering where our worship (our allegiance) truly belongs — with the Lord alone. By praying, we trust God so far as our national concerns are concerned.
© 2011 S. J. Wickham.
General Reference: James L. Mays, Psalms – Interpretation Series (Louisville, Kentucky: John Knox Press, 1994), pp. 100-103.