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.
Here we have another psalm about life as a battle. This one is particularly about a king who has enemies all about. Here the psalmist sings about how the Lord makes short work of the king’s enemies.
We could spend more time talking about the idea of life as a battle. And about the fact that it may be a temptation in modern life to ignore the idea that life is a battle; that there are enemies about us and skirmishes daily and that something real is at stake on our efforts. That is, there are great prizes to be won and kept and there is always the potential for loss – loss which might be avoided. We’ve said that modern life, for many of us, at least, is so regimented and so divorced from reality and we are so subject to great forces in the world that we don’t have any control over and may not even be aware of that we see life as just a hamster wheel or trip on one of those moving walkways in the airport. You just keep going. You don’t have to take a step and you keep moving. And there is no way to get off.
But we did all of that yesterday.
What can we moderns, who live in established democracies and who are far from any physical, military battlefields, take away from this psalm that seems so tied to its ancient context?
Well, just maybe one more word about life as a battle: Look at the first verse:
The king shall joy in thy strength, Oh Lord;
And in thy salvation how greatly shall he rejoice!
This psalm, or this bit of it, at least, is about winning! I know, I know. It’s not the Charlie Sheen kind of winning. It is victory in the Lord. What does that mean? It means that the victory that is enjoyed here was won by God. And he who rejoices acknowledges that fact. This is humility.
Do we want victory, do we want to win for our own glory? Just to show them all around what we can do in our own strength? Or are we willing to accept the help of God that leads to winning, but not to bragging?
What kind of winning are we talking about? The bible talks about winning over sin, defeating evil in our lives. Does that sound unduly abstract to you? A little vague and ambiguous maybe? Well, how about this: what if we would admit that the attitudes and habits we have let ourselves fall into and be controlled by are . . . . “sin?” What if we admitted that? The far end of the spectrum here is, of course, addiction. There are those who are addicted to hard drugs. What a joy it would be if they could break free from that prison. What a win that would be.
But all the rest of us have our own addictions – things that we ought to want to conquer or win over. We may eat too much. We may not rest enough. We may be overburdened with work at the office. We may spend impulsively or without order and discipline and thereby constrict our own freedom. We may be consumed with hate or resentment for one reason or another.
These things are our enemies. The forces that are out to destroy us. And it is in these battles that God delivers us.
Back to yesterday’s point: life is a battle and victories are possible. There are real interests at stake and they can be lost or won. This Psalm, Psalm 21, is a song about great reward and great happiness and joy. This is how the Bible describes life. Have we lost that perspective? If we don’t see the battle and if we don’t believe that it may be won or lost, we will always, always lose.
But God promises victory to those who follow Him.