Psalm 21: The King Rejoices in the LORD’s Strength

This one also has me on edge. It’s quite the celebratory “Psalm of David” but this time it has a battle tone to it that is a little intimidating.


Psalm 21

1O LORD, in your strength the king rejoices,
and in your salvation how greatly he exults!
2You have given him his heart’s desire
and have not withheld the request of his lips. Selah
3For you meet him with rich blessings;
you set a crown of fine gold upon his head.
4He asked life of you; you gave it to him,
length of days forever and ever.
5His glory is great through your salvation;
splendor and majesty you bestow on him.
6For you make him most blessed forever;a
you make him glad with the joy of your presence.
7For the king trusts in the LORD,
and through the steadfast love of the Most High he shall not be moved.

8Your hand will find out all your enemies;
your right hand will find out those who hate you.
9You will make them as a blazing oven
when you appear.
The LORD will swallow them up in his wrath,
and fire will consume them.
10You will destroy their descendants from the earth,
and their offspring from among the children of man.
11Though they plan evil against you,
though they devise mischief, they will not succeed.
12For you will put them to flight;
you will aim at their faces with your bows.

13Be exalted, O LORD, in your strength!
We will sing and praise your power.

I think the problem is that this seems so much like to be more the kind of toast that one makes on the eve of battle, if that makes sense. It’s not so much like the prayer one might pray right before going out into battle, which I’ve had the fortune of witnessing in years past, but it feels more like that toast that commander would give the night before while he’s all drunk and what he has to do the next day hasn’t fully sunk in.

That’s not to suggest that people don’t know what they’re doing when they go in to battle but sometimes people get cocky before the first one or before they’ve really been beaten down by it. To me, it’s akin to the sarcastic poem that one soldier recites in one of the first few episodes of Band of Brothers, when they could still get some down time and haven’t been fighting for too long yet.

The psalm itself had that sort of feel for me, maybe like the kind of drunken toast you’d expect to see in a scene of a movie the night before where everyone insists they’ll win and it’ll be so easy and they’re excited to vanquish their enemies but haven’t realized that some of them will die. This psalm almost assumes that no one of their own ranks will die in the battle. I can’t recall exactly where the casualty mentions are, but I do recall them. There are places where someone was slain despite their certainty that God was on their side. Or even when God was on their side, it doesn’t make any mention that the whole army was unscathed.

But I get it too. An army that fights on the side of God, at His insistence or with His permission, should feel bound to win. It’s the crushing weight of the win that they want that makes it intimidating. Not only do they plan on winning, but just demolishing the losing side. We just don’t do that anymore and so it doesn’t feel right to see in the Bible. We forget sometimes that it’s a fairly recent thing that it’s not necessary to absolutely crush the enemy. I get that it likely fits the time frame really well, but that doesn’t make it comfortable to read, either.

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