THE GOOD HAND OF GOD Psalms 20–26
“Your hand will lay hold on all your enemies; your right hand will seize your foes” (Ps. 21:8).God has blessings for His own. We can claim these blessings now, as well as look forward to the time of Messiah’s glory.
A prayer for blessing (Ps. 20) and a celebration of blessings received (Ps. 21) are followed by three psalms which span the career of the Messiah (Pss. 22–24). David reminds us that God guides and guards (Ps. 25), as His Word leads us to level ground (Ps. 26).
Understanding the Text
Psalm 20: A Prayer for Blessing.
Here’s a guide to extending our “best wishes” to another in prayer. “May the Lord” Ps. 20:1. David’s trust in God rather than chariots (v. 7) is expressed in his conviction that blessing comes from God. We who share David’s belief will express our best wishes for others in prayers like his (cf. vv. 1–5). Psalm 21: For Blessings Received. Remembering what God has done for us is a continual source of joy. Notice the litany of blessings David lists: “The victories won” (v. 1) “Desires granted” (v. 2) “Prayers answered” (v. 2) “Presence welcomed” (v. 3) “Crown given” (v. 3) “Life-forever and ever” (v. 4) “Glory bestowed” (v. 5) “Joy in God’s presence” (v. 6) “Unfailing love” (v. 7) David, knowing God’s power and sure of his ultimate triumph, knew that these and other blessings were his forever (vv. 8–13). You and I will do well to follow David’s example and make a list of our own blessings from the Lord. Psalm 22: The Suffering Messiah. Jesus the Messiah is unveiled in this poetic description of David’s own experience. “Why have You forsaken me?” Ps. 22:1–8 The opening words of this psalm, quoted by Jesus on the cross (Matt. 27:46), and the clear reflection of Isaiah 53 in Psalm 22:6–7, mark this psalm as a preview of Messiah’s suffering and death. “They have pierced my hands and my feet” Ps. 22:9–21. Other clear references to the cross are found in verses 16–18. “All the ends of the earth will . . . turn to the Lord” Ps. 22:22–31. Out of Messiah’s suffering will come praise for the Lord, and those who turn to the Lord will live forever. Anyone who grasps the horror of crucifixion as a way of execution, or who senses what it must have meant for the holy Son of God to be made “sin for us” (2 Cor. 5:21) can see something of Jesus’ emotions the day of His death. Yet by meditating on this psalm we enter much more deeply into the sufferings of Jesus on Calvary. How good to read on, as we pass the 21st verse to find that what seemed a tragedy was in fact a triumph! Through Christ’s suffering, “The poor will eat and be satisfied; they who seek the Lord will praise Him—may your hearts live forever!” Psalm 23: Our Shepherd’s Care. Even in the shadow of death David, the Messiah, and you and I, all find comfort in our Shepherd’s care. Psalm 24: Messiah’s Coming Glory. At history’s end the suffering Messiah will be revealed as the Lord Almighty, the King of Glory. The shepherd was a familiar figure in Israel, and his love for his sheep was legendary. Day and night the shepherd watched over sheep which he knew individually, by name. The image of God as Shepherd, ever present with His people, remains Scripture’s most comforting picture of the believer’s relationship with his God. “The earth is the Lord’s” Ps. 24:1–2. One basis for certainty that the Messiah will ultimately be vindicated is the fact that God is Sovereign. The earth, and everything in it, belongs to the Lord. “He who has clean hands” Ps. 24:3–6. Another basis for certainty is the Messiah’s pure and sinless life. He will surely be blessed by the Lord. This King of glory” Ps. 24:7–10. A final basis for certainty is the identity of the Messiah. He who comes is actually the Lord, the very King of glory! Psalm 25: God’s Guidance and Goodness. David had confidence that those who hope in the Lord will never be put to shame. (See DEVOTIONAL.) Psalm 26: Level Ground. A godly life keeps the believer secure. “I have led a blameless life” Ps. 26:1–8. The “blameless” life of Old Testament saints was not without sin. It was, however, characterized by a deep inner dedication to God that found expression in a godly way of life. This psalm beautifully describes the attitude which keeps believers of every age from sin. It is marked by unwavering trust in God (v. 1), and by constant love for Him (v. 3). It is expressed by daily obedience to God’s truth (v. 3), with rejection of the wicked as well as wickedness (vv. 4–5). And trust also finds expression in worship (v. 6) and praise (vv. 7–8). Such dedication alone can produce that “blameless life” which the psalmist describes as “level ground.” Why level ground? Much of the Holy Land is steep and rocky, dangerous for travelers whose feet were shod not in modern climbing boots but in loose sandals. It was so easy to slip and fall, so easy to twist an ankle. But level ground was safe for the traveler. And so the image is clear: the one who loves the Lord enough to live a blameless life travels through this life safe and secure.
Hope and Shame(Ps. 25)
The ideas of “hope” and “shame” are often found together in the Old Testament. “Hope” is a confident outlook, not because a person knows the future, but because the believer knows God and trusts in His character. “Shame” is disgrace caused by a failure of some sort which exposes an individual to the ridicule of others. Thus the thought expressed in this psalm is that the one who puts his hope in God will never be exposed to ridicule, because God will never fail him! What can we expect from God that will deliver us from shame? First, we can expect God to show us His way, guiding and teaching us by His truth (vv. 4–5). Second, we can expect God to forgive us, freeing us from the burden of our past and purifying us (vv. 6–7). Because the Lord is good, He guides the humble into what is right (vv. 8–10). Because He is gracious, He forgives even great iniquity (v. 11). What does the Lord have for those who experience His forgiveness, and go on to live in His will? There is a prosperity and sense of His presence (vv. 12–15) that remain with us despite loneliness, troubles, and even affliction (vv. 16–19). As we take refuge in the Lord, and live upright lives, we can face the future confidently. And without fear of being put to shame. What a wonderful God we have!
God guides the forgiven man or woman into a life that is pleasing to Him—a life that never exposes one to shame.