************ Sermon on Psalm 21 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on June 21, 2015
"The Victorious King"
Shema sings the Scripture Reading
(all quotes from Psalm 21 are from the ESV translation)
You know what a sequel is? A sequel is a follow-up. It continues the story of an earlier work. Jurassic World, the movie that was released last weekend, is a sequel to the previous three Jurassic Park movies. I understand future sequels are being planned.
Psalm 21 is a sequel to Psalm 20. Psalm 20 is a payer before battle. Psalm 21 is the praise after battle.
The title tells us Psalm 21 is a psalm of David. But, as we will see, the psalm is more about Jesus than about David. It looks forward to the victory of Jesus and the judgment that falls on all His enemies.
I The King's Prayer
A David, Israel's king, was in danger from enemies. Maybe it was during the war between the houses of David and Saul (2 Sam 2). Maybe it was one of the times King David faced the Philistines (2 Sam 5, 21). Maybe it was the time David's men were treated shamefully by the Ammonites (2 Sam 10). Maybe it was during the dark days of Absalom's rebellion (2 Sam 15). Maybe the enemy was Sheba, who incited the people of Israel to desert David (2 Sam 20). Maybe in mind is the time Adonijah set himself up as king in place of David (1 Kings 1).
B We don't know the exact circumstances. We don't know the who, when, what, and where. But we do know David's prayer -- and the prayer of his people -- in response to the enemy:
(Ps 20) For the director of music. A psalm of David. May the LORD answer you when you are in distress; may the name of the God of Jacob protect you. (2) May he send you help from the sanctuary and grant you support from Zion. (3) May he remember all your sacrifices and accept your burnt offerings. Selah (4) May he give you the desire of your heart and make all your plans succeed. (5) We will shout for joy when you are victorious and will lift up our banners in the name of our God. May the LORD grant all your requests ... (9) O LORD, save the king! Answer us when we call!This psalm makes clear David was in danger/distress.
C Many believers throughout the ages have been unable to read the prayer of Psalm 20 without thinking of Jesus in Gethsemane and on the cross. Instead of David, think of the Messiah pouring out His heart in prayer in the day of distress and trouble. Hear His agonizing groans. Hear His cries for help. Hear His prayer for victory.
Now, go beyond Jesus and think of this also as a prayer of the church. How would we have prayed were we observers at Gethsemane or Golgotha? We would have prayed for Jesus the same way as the children of Israel prayed for David: defend and protect Him (vs 1), strengthen Him (vs 2), remember His devotion (vs 3), and fulfil His purpose (vs 4b). If the church had stood by the cross or in Gethsemane, this is the prayer we would have offered up: "O LORD, save the king! Answer us when we call!" (Ps 20:9).
Our Bible reading tonight declares that the Lord has answered this prayer. The declaration is broken into two parts: the first part emphasizes the victory of the king; the second part emphasizes the defeat of the enemy.
II The King's Victory
A The King's victory is especially emphasized by our text in verse 3:
(Ps 21:3) For you meet him with rich blessings; you set a crown of fine gold upon his head.
There are two words in the Greek New Testament for "crown." The first is "stephanos." It is a garland of parsley, oak, olive, or gold that is put around the neck of the champion. This is the wreath used at the Greek Olympics to acknowledge the victor has run faster, jumped further, and thrown the greatest distance. In the Roman arena, the wreath acknowledges the victor is the only gladiator left standing in a fight to the death.
The second word is "diadem." This word is used to describe the crown of a king. It acknowledges that he is ruler and sovereign, that his is kingdom and power and authority.
"You set a crown of fine gold upon his head" (Ps 21:3). Our psalm has both meanings in mind. The King has been given the victor's wreath. The King has been crowned as ruler and sovereign.
B There is no doubt that David is the Lord's champion. Think of him facing Goliath. When all is said and done, who is left standing? Not Goliath! He is lying on the ground. David cuts off Goliath's head so everyone knows he is dead (1 Sam 17).
There is no doubt that David also is Ruler and King. He was anointed by Samuel (1 Sam 16), by the men of Judah (2 Sam 2), and by the elders of Israel (2 Sam 5). Later, a coronation ceremony took place when David attacked and captured the city of Rabbah. He took the crown from the head of its king -- its weight was a talent of gold, and it was set with precious stones -- and it was placed on David's head (2 Sam 12:30).
C We need to ask why? Why was David victorious? Why was David crowned as King? Does the credit go to David? Was he smarter, faster, and stronger than Goliath, for instance? When David defeated Rabbah, was it because of his cunning and strategy?
The emphasis of Psalm 21 is that David's crown and David's wreath comes from the Lord:
(Ps 21:1) O Lord, in your strength the king rejoices, and in your salvation how greatly he exults.The credit goes not to David but to the Lord. The Lord has saved him from the hands of the enemy. The Lord has given him the victor's wreath and ruler's crown.
(Ps 21:3) you set a crown of fine gold upon his head.
(Ps 21:5) His glory is great through your salvation; splendor and majesty you bestow on him.
D Like Psalm 20, Psalm 21 looks beyond David to King Jesus. Instead of hearing Psalm 21 as the words of David, hear them as the words of the Messiah. The message of the New Testament is that it is Jesus Who was given the victor's wreath and the ruler's crown. He was not placed upon the throne of heaven by the favor or vote of man; rather, it was God Who set the royal crown upon His head. God exalted His Son to His right hand, where Christ reigns over His kingdom and intercedes on behalf of His people. Like David's reign that began in such a lowly way, which God translated to honor and glory, so Christ has been raised from contempt, suffering and death to glory.
There are those who try to tell us the Gospel is a one-time event that happened on Good Friday some 2000 years ago. They want to emphasize the suffering of Christ for sinners. They want to emphasize that Jesus was a Man of Sorrows, and familiar with suffering (Isa 53:3). They want to emphasize His crown of thorns (Mt 27:29). There are those who mistakenly think this is the Gospel according to the Apostle Paul. They point to his words, "but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles" (1 Cor 1:23). But later on in the same book Paul further defines this Gospel:
(1 Cor 15:1-4) Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. (2) By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. (3) For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, (4) that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures ...Yes, Jesus was the Man of Sorrows and familiar with suffering. Yes, He wore the crown of thorns. But this tells just half the Gospel because there was also resurrection and joy. We need to take our stand on all of the Gospel. We need to receive and believe all of the Gospel. "Otherwise," says Paul, "you have believed in vain."
I have always loved the way Hebrews makes the same point about the fulness of the Gospel:
(Heb 12:2) Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.That's the fulness of the Gospel: humiliation and exaltation, crucifixion and resurrection, shame and joy, a crown of thorns and a crown of gold!
Psalms 20 & 21 together declare the fulness of the Gospel message. The Messiah Who suffers in Psalm 20 rejoices in Psalm 21:
(Ps 21:1) O Lord, in your strength the king rejoices, and in your salvation how greatly he exults!Christ is risen and has ascended into great joy. At His right hand are eternal pleasures and He is filled with joy (Ps 16:11). Heaven is a joyful place! The King of heaven is filled and overflowing with joy.
(Ps 21:6) you make him glad with the joy of your presence.
E Now, remember, the Gospel is also Good News for you -- if you have received it and on it taken your stand (1 Cor 15:1-2). In other words, those who believe in Jesus get to share in His joy.
So let me ask, do you believe? Do you believe in Jesus Who died and arose? For there is no other way to share in the joy of King Jesus. There is no other way to exult in God's salvation and rejoice in God's strength. There is no other way to enter into the joy of heaven.
III The Enemies' Defeat
A The second part of our psalm emphasizes the defeat of the king's enemies:
(Ps 21:8) Your hand will find out all your enemies; your right hand will find out those who hate you.Look at verse 12:
(Ps 21:12) For you will put them to flight; you will aim at their faces with your bows.This suggests the king has put a big bullseye on the enemies and uses them for target practice. He strings His bow and sets the arrow and when it is released it flies straight to the target. Or, look at verse 9:
(Ps 21:9) You will make them as a blazing oven when you appear. The Lord will swallow them up in his wrath, and fire will consume them. This makes me think of Daniel's three friends who refused to worship the gods and image of gold of King Nebuchadnezzar; so, the king threw them in the fiery furnace. This is what happens to the king's enemies.
We know David eventually was triumphant over all his enemies. Regardless of who the enemy was -- King Saul, the Philistines, the Ammonites, trusted counselors who betrayed him, the members of his own household -- he defeated them all.
B Like the first part of the psalm, this part also looks beyond David to King Jesus. So, hear these words, too, as the words of the Messiah. The message of the New Testament is that it is Jesus Who someday will defeat all His enemies. Some day all His enemies will be a footstool for His feet (Ps 110; Acts 2:34-35). Someday, as the Apostles' Creed puts it, He will come to judge the living and the dead.
I want to warn you, congregation, about the certainty of the judgment. The enemies of Christ will find themselves in the fire and flames of hell -- where "their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched" (Mk 9:48). God will judge them for their evil plots and plans. God sets them up for target practice -- who would want to be in the cross-hairs of the Almighty? There are many who deny the certainty of judgment. They foolishly believe all will be saved or that death is the end. But hear this: God will string His bow, reach for His quiver, and shoot His arrows straight at the bullseye.
C Who are these enemies? They include Herod and Pontius Pilate and the people of Jerusalem who conspired together against Jesus (Acts 4:27). They include those like ISIS who persecute the church. They include those who abort babies. They include those who promote gay marriage. They include all those who do not repent of their sin and do not believe in the Lord Jesus for their salvation. They include the devil and his legions of angels. Everyone who is an enemy of the cross of Christ will someday face the certainty of judgment. Someday, Jesus will destroy the devil's work. Someday, Jesus will destroy every force which revolts against Him. Someday, Jesus will destroy every conspiracy against His Word. That's the message of Psalm 21.
The psalm starts and ends the same way. Its opening affirmation that the king rejoices in God's strength is matched by its concluding prayer that God be exalted in His strength.
It is significant that this psalm starts and ends with praise. Praise is given because the king is victorious. Praise is given because all enemies are defeated.
So you see how unusual this is, let me remind you that this past week the Golden State Warriors won the NBA Playoffs. And, the Chicago Black Hawks won the Stanley Cup. In the victory parades, hockey fans and basketball fans rejoice in the victory of their teams. Now, can you imagine someone along the parade route cheering wildly because the Cleveland Cavaliers have lost (though I do realize lots of people intensely dislike James LeBron)? Can you imagine someone along the parade route cheering that the Tampa Bay Lightning have lost? Generally, we cheer positive things, not negative things. Yet, we will be cheering at the end of time when the enemies of the cross are in the Lord's bullseye.
Why? Because our time of distress and persecution is finally at an end. Why? Because all His enemies and mine He will condemn to everlasting punishment but me and all His chosen ones He will take along with Him into the joy and the glory of heaven. We will be cheering because the cry of the martyred souls under heaven's altar is finally answered. Remember their cry? They called out in a loud voice, "How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?" (Rev 6:10).
So, with the psalmist we say, "Be exalted, O Lord, in your strength! We will sing and praise your power" (Ps 21:13).
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