A couple weeks ago we started a brand new series that takes a closer look at the book of Psalms, which I believe is set for a resurgence in popularity among younger people. When I was a student I loathed poetry and literature. As I’ve grown and matured in my faith and just as a person in general, I’ve discovered the beauty in words. Songs, poetry, books and everything else that is creative. Creativity should be celebrated in fact, we’re creative because God was creative first. It’s a gene that we have inherited from our heavenly father. Think about all the beautiful things that God has created. The incredible landscapes like Victoria Falls in Zambia, The Grand Canyon in Arizona, or even the northern lights from Alaska. Then look at some of the incredible life that exists on our planet, beautiful birds like Parrots, tropical fish like Nemo and the all colorful Chameleon! Then take a look at God’s most prized creation, the one He created in the image of Himself, us, You!
Jesus said in Matthew 6:26, when teaching about worry and fear, “Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are?”
Look at that last line and remember that these aren’t the words of some pastor or teacher, these are the words of Jesus himself, the man who is God, who came from heaven on a mission to redeem those who were lost from a relationship with God. So of all the beauty in this world, God sees you! And God created you, to be creative! Which is why the Psalms are so important and so useful, it represents a creative outlet to worship God, It shows us that we can bring God our pain, our hurt, our struggles! The Psalms build our faith and remind us that God is always victorious, even when it looks like there’s no way.
Tonight we’re looking at a battle Psalm, but maybe not necessarily in the way that you might think. When we think of praying before a battle we probably give God our attention momentarily, then move on to “what needs to be done”, This isn’t how King David saw it, and we see from this Psalm, this isn’t how the people of Israel saw things either. Psalm 20 was recorded by the king in a time of war, but this Psalm is cool because, though it was recorded by David, it was in reference to the prayer and petitions of the people!
1 In times of trouble, may the Lord answer your cry.
May the name of the God of Jacob keep you safe from all harm.
2 May he send you help from his sanctuary
and strengthen you from Jerusalem.
3 May he remember all your gifts
and look favorably on your burnt offerings.
As we deep dive into Psalm 20, why it was written, the purpose, context and why it is relevant for us today, I want to pause here at consider what the first three verses are and what they introduce. “In times of trouble, may the Lord answer your cry. May the name of the God of Jacob keep you safe from all harm. May he send you help from his sanctuary and strengthen you from Jerusalem. May He remember all your gifts and look favorably on your burnt offerings”
This is the prayer of the people
for their leader, King David
I wonder if this type of prayer is in short supply. We all have leaders in our life, some that we’ve chosen and some that have been chosen for us. As students you have a principal and a teacher that you probably didn’t have much say in who they were. Then you have leaders who you do choose, for example you have a choice to be here tonight, your family has a choice on which church they attend. The reality is that those leaders influence the direction of your life. A leader who is struggling is going to influence you and many times you don’t even realize it. Just the same, a leader who is finding success is also going to influence you. You can look back through the course of just American history and see instances of political issues that impacted the general population. But aside from the national level, I can speak to you as a pastor and tell you that there are struggles that leaders face that you know nothing about and probably never will. I’m not necessarily talking about sin, but the burden of the ministry can be extremely heavy.
The burden of leadership is heavy, so pray for your leaders!
I say all this to say, pray for your leaders. Pray this prayer that is written in Psalm 20. Even if you disagree with them, pray for them. We’ve had presidents that I didn’t vote for. I’ve had teachers that I didn’t choose, and frankly didn’t even like, so pray for them.
We’ve had presidents that I did vote for, and teachers and pastors that I loved, that still need your prayers! Pray for the Lord to get ahold of their heart, and answer their cries, that God would keep them safe and away from harm, not even just physical harm but things that would harm them as a person, like corruption and sin. Pray that God would reveal Himself, and make it nearly impossible for them to not see the plans that the Holy Spirit has for them and for those that they lead!
Some of our leaders need salvation, pray for that! Some of your teachers at school need a relationship with Jesus, pray for that! Some of your parents need a relationship with Jesus, pray for that!
This is one of the reasons that in Deeper, one of our 4 pillars is:
“Build Strong Families”
Parents are leaders, so pray for them. Even when you’re mad at them, pray for them!
And here’s what it looks like:
4 May he grant your heart’s desires
and make all your plans succeed.
5 May we shout for joy when we hear of your victory
and raise a victory banner in the name of our God.
May the Lord answer all your prayers.
David, the writer of this Psalm was a man who had been ordained king of Israel by God, through the prophet Samuel. He was a king who, while not perfect, had a heart after God’s own. The people knew this, and had seen David’s promotion first hand, they had seen God move through David’s life and had seen the prosperity that had come from David’s leadership over the nation. Their prayer and faith in verses 4 & 5 represent this, “May He grant your heart’s desires and make all your plans succeed.” David’s plans were God’s plans, David pursued God’s will for the people and verse 5 shows us the faith that the people had, not just in David, but in the name of God, “May we shout for joy when we hear of your victory and raise a victory banner in the name of our God.”
Verse 6 picks up the words of King David himself, and I love what the king says,
6 Now I know that the Lord rescues his anointed king.
He will answer him from his holy heaven
and rescue him by his great power.
7 Some nations boast of their chariots and horses,
but we boast in the name of the Lord our God.
8 Those nations will fall down and collapse,
but we will rise up and stand firm.
9 Give victory to our king, O Lord!
Answer our cry for help.
Let’s be a people, a church, a youth group that boasts in the name of the Lord our God and not by the things that we have or by anything other than God our Father. You and I might not be going off to war again the Ammonites, but we face battles. This Psalm teaches us where we need to place our priorities in the midst of the battle. God is fighting on our behalf and we need not, and should not go at it alone. We should dedicate ourselves to prayer and remember the things that God has done for us!
The thing I want us to realize from this Psalm and really so many others is that the prayer was the most important part of the story. God fights the battle, not us. The strength comes from God, not us. We need to release the burden that the battle is on our shoulders, let God be God, and do what we were created to do, which is worship God in everything that we do.