Read: Psalm 19:14; Psalm 20; 2 Samuel 18:1 – 3; 1 Samuel 12:1 – 3; 2 Timothy 2:1 – 15
The eleventh century French rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki, commonly known as Rashi, viewed the juxtaposition of Psalm 19 and 20 as significant: “David concludes Psalm 19 (by addressing God) as ‘O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.’ Thereupon, he immediately begins Psalm 20 with redemption – ‘May the Lord answer you on the day of the distress.’” David worships the Lord and draws near to Him in Psalm 19; in Psalm 20 he makes his request of the Lord for redemption. Rashi said Psalm 20 was composed by David in the historical context recorded in 2 Samuel 18:1 – 3, when David stayed behind at the request of his men. The ancient Jewish commentary on the Scriptures called the Targum explains that the help David’s men expected him to send them from the city in which he stayed behind was not military support, but “that you should aid us with your prayers from the city.” David’s men knew their success depended on the Lord’s help, and they wanted David’s intercession for that help.
Think About It: Read 1 Samuel 12:23. To whom did Samuel feel he owed prayer support – to the extent that he would be sinning against the Lord if he did not continue to pray for them? Who should I be praying for on a regular basis, and what should I pray for them (1 Timothy 2:1 – 4)? Obviously I can’t pray for every person in the world – but who could I realistically include on a prayer list for the people in my world? How can Psalm 20 guide me in knowing how to pray for them?
Prayer: Lord, help me to be a faithful prayer warrior.
Read: Psalm 20:5; 1 Corinthians 4:15; Galatians 4:19; 1 Thessalonians 3:7 – 10; Philippians 4:1
David’s prayer for Joab and the troops in Psalm 20:5 includes the wonderful phrase, “May we shout for joy over your salvation.” David’s concern was for a particular kind of redemption – the redemption of victory in battle. But Psalm 20:5 has a spiritual application. Paul felt about the Christians who had come to Christ through his ministry much as David did towards his troops: they were his joy, his crown.
Think About It: Who has likely felt a parent-like concern for my spiritual life? Who are my spiritual parents? For whom do I feel a concern similar to what Paul felt towards his converts? Who are my spiritual children?
Prayer: Lord, may I be a cause for joy for those who pray for me; may I also be a caring, loving spiritual parent to those to whom I minister.
Read: Psalm 20:7 – 8
Most English translations of verse 7 begin “Some trust in chariots and some in horses” However, the Hebrew literally reads, “Some in chariots, and some in horses, but we remember/boast in the Lord our God.” There is no word for “trust” in the first phrase of v. 7; it is supplied in the English translations because of the parallelism with the second phrase. However, the root of the word translated by “trust” in the second phrase is zakar, which is usually understood to mean “remember” or sometimes “mention” or “boast”. Therefore the New American Standard translation “Some boast in chariots and some in horses, but we will boast in the name of the Lord our God” is a more literal translation of the Hebrew than most other English versions. In a similar passage in Isaiah 31:1 the word translated “trust” in the phrase “trust in chariots” is batach, indicating there is a Hebrew word for “trust” which the Psalmist could have used if that is what he wanted to express. The Greek (LXX) translation of the Psalms translates zakar with the Greek word meaning “we shall be magnified,” which seems to directly suggest boasting. Zakar is the word used twice in Genesis 40:14 when Joseph says to Pharaoh’s butler, “Only remember me, when it is well with you, and please do me the kindness to mention me to Pharaoh, and so get me out of this house.” Zakar is often used like this in Scripture to refer to a remembrance that leads to appropriate action. In Exodus 2:24 God remembered His covenant with the Patriarchs and responded by delivering Israel from Egypt. In Exodus 32:13 – 14 Moses implored God to remember His covenant with the patriarchs, and God responded by relenting from the disaster He had threatened. In Deuteronomy 25:17 – 19 Moses implored the people to remember what Amalek did to Israel so that they would take appropriate action against the Amalekites. Zakar is a remembrance meant to lead to action. With this in mind, trust is not a wrong translation of the word, since what is involved in Psalm 20:7 is a remembrance or (even boastful) mention of God that produces a greater confidence, and that stands in contrast to those who boast and gain their confidence through reliance on military hardware. God’s people remember and boast in Him, and their consequent action is to trust in Him for deliverance, and not trust in the strength of arms.
Think About It: The word zakar is translated as “remember” in each of these verses: Deuteronomy 8:18; Joshua 1:13; Ecclesiastes 12:1; Malachi 4:4. What are we supposed to remember according to each verse? What are we supposed to remember according to these New Testament imperatives: 2 Peter 3:1-2; 1 Corinthians 4:17; 2 Timothy 2:14? What if our memory isn’t so good (John 14:26)?
Prayer: Lord, thank You for remembering me; may I always remember You!
Read: Psalm 20:7 – 8; Psalm 49:6; Proverbs 27:1; 1 Kings 20:11; Psalm 97:7; Ephesians 2:8 – 9
Connected with the concept of “remembering” indicated by the Hebrew word zakar is the “mentioning” based on that remembrance. This mentioning, based on reflection, can be like a boast (although another Hebrew word, halal, is usually used to indicate a loud, vibrant boast or praise – e.g. Hallelujah meaning “praise the Lord!”). Psalm 20:7 sets up a contrast between the boasts of worldly people and the reflective boasts of God’s people, which raises the issue of what constitutes wrongful boasting, as opposed to righteous boasting.
Think About It: According to the Scripture readings for today, what should I not boast about? Why shouldn’t I boast about these things? What will be the outcome if I make these things my boast?
Prayer: Lord, grant me wisdom to recognize the weakness in the things the world counts as strong.
Read: Psalm 20:7; Psalm 34:2 – 3; Jeremiah 9:23 – 24; Psalm 115:1
While worldly boasting is empty and futile, there is a kind of boasting that is right and good. We can always righteously boast in the Lord and in our experience with the Lord; such boasting is our testimony to God.
Think About It: What constraint does Psalm 115:1 place on boasting about the Lord? Following the example of Jeremiah 9:24, what stories can I tell of my experience of God’s steadfast love (mercy), justice, and righteousness that will bring glory to Him?
Prayer: Lord, may I be a faithful witness to your mercy, justice, and righteousness.
Read: Psalm 20:7; Galatians 2:19 – 20; 6:14; Philippians 3:3 – 14
“But may it never be that I should boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world” (Galatians 6:14). Following Paul’s example, we can always boast in the cross of Christ and the work of the cross in our lives. That is God’s work, not ours. Philippians 3:3 – 18 is a perfect example of Paul’s boasting in the cross of Christ. We know his boast was not mere words, because he really had given up all the advantages of his heritage for the sake of Christ.
Think About It: Following Paul’s pattern in Philippians 3, how could I personalize his boast in the cross of Christ? What have I “counted as loss for the sake of Christ”? What have I gained in Christ because of the cross? How does Paul carefully avoid any semblance of personal pride in this example of boasting in the cross?
Prayer: Lord, may my boasting in the cross of Christ be demonstrated in my way of life.
Read: Psalm 20:7; Proverbs 25:27; Romans 12:3; 1 Corinthians 4:6; 7:17; 2 Corinthians 10:13 – 18; 1 Thessalonians 1:3; 2 Thessalonians 1:3
Righteous boasting in the Lord in which He receives all the glory is always permissible. Included in this righteous boasting is reflection on the Lord’s work in us. He has assigned to each of us a measure of faith, and we are instructed to develop a sober estimate of ourselves in the faith, so that we do not boast beyond our measure. At the same time, we are to give God the glory for what He has accomplished through us.
Think About It: What are some things that God has accomplished in my life? What are some things, by His strength, that He has accomplished through me?
Prayer: To God be the glory, great things He has done.