Psalm 20 – Our Defender and Our Savior

This psalm is one of several known as Regal Psalms. It is a prayer for God’s chosen one, David, but it is also a prayer that points to Jesus. Written by David, it was intended to be sung by the congregation prior his entering into battle.  Whether it was intended for him alone or for future use and other kings, we don’t know.  It’s possible it was slowly incorporated into the repertoire of the temple musicians. In it, the congregation expresses the hope that the king would be kept out of harm’s way and that he would be successful in his endeavor. It is a window-view to Jesus and an affirmation that the Lord is our defender and our savior.

To the chief Musician, A Psalm of David.

The first verses contain petitions for favor and protection on the king’s behalf.  He is, apparently, going into battle against an enemy that is most likely superior in many ways. (In the early days, Israeli forces were often outnumbered in both manpower and in weaponry.)

The Name of the God of Jacob

1. The LORD hear thee in the day of trouble; the name of the God of Jacob defend thee;

In verse one, the prayer asks that the Lord would hear, that is, answer, when the king calls and defend him when he is in trouble. The Hebrew word for defend means to “exalt” or “set on a high and secure place”.  They are calling on the Lord to protect the king.

When we read a phrase like “May the name of the God of Jacob …”, it is the same as saying “May the God of Jacob … .”  It seems like a little thing, but I think is important to know so that we won’t fall into the trap of thinking that a name or word has special power.

Do you remember the incident in the New Testament when certain Jewish priests decided to confront a demon using the name of Jesus as a weapon because they had seen the disciples do it? Here it is in Acts:

Acts 19:13-16
13.  But certain from the strolling Jews, exorcists, undertook to name the name of the Lord Jesus over those having evil spirits, saying, We adjure you by Jesus whom Paul preaches.
14.  And there were seven sons of Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, doing this.
15.  But answering the evil spirit said, I know Jesus, and I comprehend Paul, but who are you?
16.  And the man in whom was the evil spirit leaped on them, and having overmastered them, he was strong against them, so that having been wounded and naked, they fled out of that house.

The problem is that these priests had not been given authority through belief in Jesus Christ.  All they were interested in was the power.  I suspect they thought it was a cool trick and wanted to get in on the action. The point is:  it isn’t the name – it’s what’s inside the one using the name.

Help from the Sanctuary

2. Send thee help from the sanctuary, and strengthen thee out of Zion;

Help that ensures the safety of the king, specifically divine help that comes straight from the God’s own residence: Zion. This is the true Holy of Holies.  Zion is where Yahweh lives and it is where he hears the supplications and cries of the people and it is from Zion that the answers and the help of the Lord comes.

3.  Remember all thy offerings, and accept thy burnt sacrifice;  Selah.

God is asked to remember and accept the meat sacrifices of the king.  These offerings are not blood offerings.  Blood offerings are used for the remission of sins – this offering is used as an expression of thankfulness and it is done with an eye toward gaining favor.

“Selah” often marks the beginning of a time of meditation but here it may also mark the time of some sort of liturgical activity. Some commentators think the sacrifice was made at this point.  Logic says the blood sacrifice was probably made prior to the beginning of the service – it would be important to have completed the atonement for sins before entering into the presence of God.  Perhaps this was  a time when some final obligations of the sacrifice were being fulfilled.  But this is conjecture on my part, I’m afraid.

The Non-tangible Petitions

The petitions in the first three verses all point to physical things and activities. These aren’t all of the petitions for the king in this psalm; but they do change in nature.  Verses four through six make up a second section of petitions and these are for non-tangible or spiritual things.  They deal with the heart, the thoughts, the emotions and more requests for favor and guidance.

4.  Grant thee according to thine own heart, and fulfil all thy counsel.

Asking that God would give the wishes in the king’s heart and that all the king has planned in this matter would be given to him.

5.  We will rejoice in thy salvation, and in the name of our God we will set up our banners: the LORD fulfil all thy petitions.

Confidence and praise is displayed, now,  in the expected deliverance from danger.  The word for salvation in this verse is yeshû‛âh (ישׁוּעה): something saved, deliverance, aid, victory, prosperity, health, help, salvation, save, saving, welfare. Don’t forget that Yeshua is the Hebrew name of Jesus.

In the name of our God” testifies they knew exactly where their strength came from.  They depended on God and the battle they were about to enter was to promote his glory and honor.

The Israelites pledged to set up “banners” in the name of God.  In a battle, the banners (sometimes called Standards) tell the soldiers where they are because they could easily become confused in the chaos of hand-to-hand fighting and might end up in the enemies camp. The banner is what they would rally around during the battle and they would likely find comrades and hopefully some safety.  It is the Standard of God that they follow and it is upon Him that they depend to save them with the power of His right hand.

6. Now know I that the LORD saveth his anointed; he will hear him from his holy heaven with the saving strength of his right hand.

Now the king, himself, speaks with confidence that God will save him and the battle will be won.  He is confident God will pay attention to his needs and the needs of the people and that God’s response will be with the strength of his right hand – an illustration of might and victory.

 Where Trust and Dependance Belong

7.  Some trust in chariots, and some in horses: but we will remember the name of the LORD our God.
8.  They are brought down and fallen: but we are risen, and stand upright.

Verses 7 and 8 change gears. We see how the godless are contrasted with the God-fearing.  The godless put their trust in the works of man while the God-fearing put their trust in God. These two verses reveal the consequences of each action. The reliance on the man-made results in eventual failure, but the reliance on God results in eternal victory.

9.  Save, LORD: let the king hear us when we call.

The reliance on God is again expressed. He is called upon to hear cries for help and to attend to the needs of the king. He was called upon at the beginning of the psalm and He is called upon again – the psalm has gone full circle.


What can we learn from this Psalm?

David wrote this psalm for his own safety – It’s okay to ask for your own health, safety, and success.  God wants to help you and he will not abandon those who call on Him.  Remember that while we need His help in the big battles, we need it just as much in the smaller battles, those we might consider insignificant.

We need to learn to fly the Banner of God in our lives.  We then have a place to which we can run for safety and comfort and we have a “standard” upon which to model our lives and attitudes and dealings with this world in which we are but travelers – strangers in a strange land.

Thank you for reading and God Bless.



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