Subject. We have before us a National Anthem, fitted to be sung at the outbreak of war, when the monarch was girding on his sword for the fight. If David had not been vexed with wars, we might never have been favoured with such psalms as this. There is a needs be for the trials of one saint, that he may yield consolation to others. A happy people here plead for a beloved sovereign, and with loving hearts cry to Jehovah, “God save the King.” We gather that this song was intended to be sung in public, not only from the matter of the song, but also from its dedication “To the Chief Musician.” We know its author to have been Israel’s sweet singer, from the short title, “A Psalm of David.” The particular occasion which suggested it, it would be mere folly to conjecture, for Israel was almost always at war in David’s day. His sword may have been hacked, but it was never rusted. Kimchi reads the title, concerning David, or, for David, and it is clear that the king is the subject as well as the composer of the song. It needs but a moment’s reflection to perceive that this hymn of prayer is prophetical of our Lord Jesus, and is the cry of the ancient church on behalf of her Lord, as she sees him in vision enduring a great fight of afflictions on her behalf. The militant people of God, with the great Captain of salvation at their head, may still in earnest plead that the pleasure of the Lord may prosper in his hand. We shall endeavour to keep to this view of the subject in our brief exposition, but we cannot entirely restrict out remarks to it.
Division. (Psalms 20:1-4) are a prayer for the success of the king. (Psalms 20:5-7) express unwavering confidence in God and his Anointed; (Psalms 20:8) declares the defeat of the foe, and (Psalms 20:9) is a concluding appeal to Jehovah.
The Treasury of David.
We will rejoice in thy salvation. In Jesus there is salvation; it is his own, and hence it is called thy salvation; but it is ours to receive and ours to rejoice in. We should fixedly resolve that come what may, we will rejoice in the saving arm of the Lord Jesus. The people in this psalm, before their king went to battle, felt sure of victory, and therefore began to rejoice beforehand; how much more ought we to do this who have seen the victory completely won! Unbelief begins weeping for the funeral before the man is dead; why should not faith commence piping before the dance of victory begins? Buds are beautiful, and promises not yet fulfilled are worthy to be admired. If joy were more general among the Lord’s people, God would be more glorified among men; the happiness of the subjects is the honour of the sovereign.
And in the name of our God we will set up our banners. We lift the standard of defiance in the face of the foe, and wave the flag of victory over the fallen adversary. Some proclaim war in the name of one king, and some of another, but the faithful go to war in Jesu’s name, the name of the incarnate God, Immanuel, God with us. The times are evil at present, but so long as Jesus lives and reigns in his church we need not furl our banners in fear, but advance them with sacred courage.
“Jesu’s tremendous name
Puts all our foes to flight; Jesus, the meek, the angry Lamb
A lion is in fight.”
The church cannot forget that Jesus is her advocate before the throne, and therefore she sums up the desires already expressed in the short sentence,
The Lord fulfil all thy petitions. Be it never forgotten that among those petitions is that choice one, “Father, I will that they also whom thou hast given me be with me where I am.”
(first clause). Whosoever do partake with Christ’s subjects in trouble, shall share with them also in the joy of their deliverance; therefore it is said, We will rejoice in thy salvation. David Dickson.
In the name of our God. As those cried out, Judges 7:20, “The sword of the Lord and of Gideon; “and as we have it in Joshua 6:20, “And the people shouted, and the walls of Jericho fell down; “and king Abiah, crying out with his men in the same, killed five hundred thousand of the children of Israel; and so now also, according to the military custom in our day, the soldiers boast in the name and glory of their general, in order to encourage themselves against their enemies. And it is just this custom that the present verse is now teaching, only in a godly and religious manner. Martin Luther.
In the name of our God we will set up our banners. The banners formerly so much used were a part of military equipage, borne in times of war to assemble, direct, distinguish, and encourage the troops. They might possibly be used for other purposes also. Occasions of joy, splendid processions, and especially a royal habitation, might severally be distinguished in this way. The words of the psalmist may perhaps be wholly figurative: but if they should be literally understood, the allusion of erecting a banner in the name of the Lord, acknowledging his glory, and imploring his favour, might be justified from an existing practice. Certain it is that we find this custom prevalent on this very principle in other places, into which it might originally have been introduced from Judea. Thus Mr. Turner (Embassy to Thibet, p. 31), says, “I was told that it was a custom with the Soobah to ascend the hill every month, when he sets up a white flag, and performs some religious ceremonies, to conciliate the favour of a dewata, or invisible being, the genius of the place, who is said to hover about the summit, dispensing at his will, good and evil to every thing around him.” Samuel Burder’s “Oriental Customs, “1812.
In the name of our God we will set up our banners. In all religious as well as warlike processions the people carry banners. Hence, on the pinnacles of their sacred cars, on the domes or gateways of their temples, and on the roof of a new house, may be seen the banner of the caste of sect, floating in the air. Siva the Supreme, also, is described as having a banner in the celestial world. Joseph Robert’s “Oriental Illustrations”.
In the name of our God we will set up our banners.
We will set up our banners. Confession of Christ, as the only name whereby we can be saved, is the “banner” which distinguishes his faithful people. O that this confession were more distinct, more pure, more zealous, in those who seem to be his followers, then would they be more united, more bold, in the profession of their religion, more successful in the cause of Christ, terrible as an army with “banners.” Song of Songs 5:4. W. Wilson.
Our banners. Will you know the staff, the colours, and the flag or streamer of this ensign? Why, the staff is his cross, the colours are blood and water, and the streamer the gospel, or preaching of them to the world. The staff that carried the colours, was of old time fashioned like a cross, a cross bar near the top there was, from which the flag or streamer hung; so as it were prefiguring, that all the hosts and armies of the nations were one day to be gathered under the banner of the cross, to which soldiers should daily flow out of all the nations and kingdoms of the earth. Mark Frank, 1613-1664.
The Lord fulfil all thy petitions, for thyself and for others, now that thou sittest on the right hand of the Father, pleading for us and showing thy side and thy wounds. Dionysius, quoted by Isaac Williams.
Joy in salvation, to be resolved on and practised.
Setting up the banner. Open avowal of allegiance, declaration of war, index of perseverance, claim of possession, signal of triumph.
(last clause). The prevalence of our Lord’s intercession, and the acceptance of our prayers through him.
The Treasury of David.
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