Ep.057: Psalm 20: The King and Plan B.

Hello, I’m Daniel Westfall on the channel “Pray with Me”.

Psalm 20 ends in a grand finale: “Lord, save the king. Answer us when we call” (v. 9). Using the same phrase as the psalm, we Canadians occasionally sing, “God Save the Queen”. Listen to some words from the song. Fortunately for you, I will quote them instead of singing them.

    God save the queen.
    Send her victorious,
    Happy and glorious . . .

    Oh Lord our God arise,
    Scatter our enemies,
    Confound their politics
    Frustrate their knavish tricks,
    On Thee our hopes we fix
    Oh save us all.

The psalm and the song bring together politics and religion in a way that we moderns find strange. What are we to make of this?

Here’s one perspective on God’s plan for the world.
In Plan A, God created the world and he delegated to humans the responsibility to be his representatives in creation, to care for it and rule over it. Adam and Eve and their descendants failed badly at this task and the world descended into chaos. Instead of declaring the project a failure and shutting it down, God initiated Plan B.

Plan B was a rescue operation for humanity and creation. It started with a human family, Abraham, and continued with the people of Israel. The goal was to bring God’s blessing and restoration back into the world. So how did Plan B work out? Instead of sticking with the plan, Israel imitated the world they were supposed to rescue, until they themselves were as bad as everyone else and they also needed rescuing.

The Psalms and the Old Testament carry a hint of Plan C, which God designed to rescue Plan B. The central feature of Plan C is a new kid on the block, a king in the line of Israel who will rule the world rightly, a Messiah and rescuer. This one will at last be God’s perfect representative caring for creation and implementing a just rule over all the nations.

That’s the space in which the psalms live. Sometimes in the psalms, Plan B, God’s rescue operation through Israel seems promising and possible. Other times, it seems completely hopeless, like when Israel persisted in idolatry and God sent them into Babylonian captivity. In times like that, the poets seem to be looking for someone to rescue Plan B.

Psalm 20 is a Plan B psalm. The poet sings to the king of Israel, “We will shout for joy when you are victorious and will lift up our banners in the name of our God” (v. 5). God gives the king victory!  Plan B is working out! Celebrate and shout for joy! But the poet also says, “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God” (v. 7). God saved the king in battle and confounded the enemy. Israel’s horses and chariots gave the king victory, but the enemies’ horses and chariots were a vehicle of their defeat. The poet chooses to trust in in God rather than the military industrial complex. And later, in a complicated turn of history when Israel’s army fails and the king is defeated, the poet will still be praying, “We trust in the name of the Lord our God.”

Let’s pray.

Our father, your plans for the world haven’t worked out very well. Plan A with Adam and Eve, Plan B with Israel, and now Plan C with Christ and the church. Nations rage, kingdoms rise and fall, the human race plunders and destroys Creation. Yet with ancient Israel we share a vision of God’s Messiah ruling the world through humans, caring for creation, implementing peace and justice. But when will this happen?

Our father, some Christians expect the political solution only after Armageddon, when creation and humanity crash to destruction and fire. Others believe that Jesus began establishing his kingdom when he was here on earth and the church’s job is to continue his project. Our father, these details of politics and religion confuse us. We may not understand Plan C, but we pray:
  Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as in heaven.
  God save Christ the King, and give him victory and glory.
  Rescue us from those who believe that guns and missiles will bring peace and justice.
With the poet we pray “Now I know that the Lord rescues his anointed, he answers him from his holy heaven.” May Christ rescue us who serve him. Save us, Lord.

Amen

I’m Daniel on the channel “Pray with Me”.

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