Psalms Through The Summer #3:
The Man of Remembrance Psalms 20
History of Memorial Day
Memorial Day is a reminder of the cost that has been paid in the lives of our soldier and sailors for generations to keep us free. Many forget what Memorial Day is about, to them it is just another holiday, another day off, another reason to have a party, but it is so much more.
Memorial Day was originally called Decoration Day, it is a day of remembrance for those who have died in our nation's service. There are many stories as to its actual beginnings, with over two dozen cities and towns laying claim to being the birthplace of Memorial Day. There is also evidence that organized women's groups in the South were decorating graves before the end of the Civil War. While Waterloo N.Y. was officially declared the birthplace of Memorial Day by President Lyndon Johnson in 1966, it's difficult to prove conclusively the origins of the day.
It is more likely that it had many separate beginnings in many towns. each contributed to the growing movement that culminated in 1868 when Memorial Day was officially proclaimed on 5 May 1868 by General Logan, the national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, in his General Order No. 11, and was first observed on 30 May 1868, when flowers were placed on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery. The first state to officially recognize the holiday was New York in 1873. By 1890 it was recognized by all of the northern states. The South refused to acknowledge the day, honoring their dead on separate days until after World War I (when the holiday changed from honoring just those who died fighting in the Civil War to honoring Americans who died fighting in any war). It is now celebrated in almost every State on the last Monday in May.
Why do we celebrate Memorial Day today? Is it to honor war, aggression, or the horrors of battle? Some say it wouldn’t it be better to just forget about all the wars and not celebrate those who fought them as heroes. They believe that they were really just killers even murderers. So why have a Memorial Day, why have a day of Remembrance for those who have fought and died in those terrible wars.
American philosopher, George Santayana once gave a famous statement that has now become part of our culture. He said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it,” in The Life of Reason. If you really want to prevent unnecessary wars and only fight as a nation when we must fight, then we must not forget. And if we stop and remember those who gave their lives, who never got the chance to finish those lives or see their future, if we stop, reflect, and remember those lost lives, then it is our best hope of not spending the lives of our children and grandchildren needlessly. Those who gave their lives in the service of this country’s freedom also gave their future to secure a future for their families and loved ones. We owe them much and we must honor their priceless gift. We do that on Memorial Day and it is fitting, it is right, and it is our duty.
Today we will be in Psalm 20. It is a war Psalms, specifically it is a psalms that is a prayer before battle and Psalm 21 is the praise after the battle for the victory.
Psalms 20 also speaks of remembrance. In vs. 6, "we will remember the name of the LORD our God." Of all the remembrances, we as God's people should remember, that one is paramount above all others. If our lives will count in the battles of life, if victory is to be found it will be because we “remember the name of the Lord our God.”
Lets read the first 5 verses of Psalms 20
A Praying People - Psalms 20:1-5
The LORD hear thee in the day of trouble; the name of the God of Jacob defend thee; Send thee help from the sanctuary, and strengthen thee out of Zion; Remember all thy offerings, and accept thy burnt sacrifice; Selah. Grant thee according to thine own heart, and fulfil all thy counsel. 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.
The People Pray For their King
The psalms is meant to be sung or spoken by two parties. The first 5 verses are spoken by the people, they are a prayer, a blessing, an intercession for their King as he goes into battle.
Originally this King would have been David, the great war leader of Israel, but the Psalms, as many others, has messianic connotations and points to an even greater King, the Messiah of Israel, Jesus.
Last Wednesday we talked about the phrase “in the day of trouble” from Psalms 89 and here it is again. The prayer begins with May the Lord hear thee in the day of trouble.” Then it specifically list the ways in which they would ask God to hear.
They pray, “The name of the God of Jacob defend thee.” From Adam to Joseph, God’s people worshipped Him as the God who acted on their behalf. He was simply Elohim, God. (Genesis 1:1)
Often he was called El-Elyon: the God Most High or El-Shaddai: The Almighty God.
But when Moses spoke with Elohim, El-Shaddai at the burning bush, He asked for God’s name and it was given to Moses and the People of Abraham from that day forward. That name, the name the people now use in intercession for the King is Jehovah or the it means I Am. Exodus 3:13-14
Now when the Israelites speak of God, He is Jehovah – Jireh, the God Who Provides. (Gen. 22:13-14)
He is Jehovah-Rapha, the God that Heals (Exodus 15:26)
He is Jehovah-Nissi, God Who Is Our Banner (Exodus 17:8-15)
He is Jehovah-Shalom : God Who Is Our Peace. (Judges 6:24)
It is in the power of that name, the name that encompasses all that God was and is, all His power, all His knowledge, all His providence that they name ask for their King as He goes into battle.
They pray that God of Jacob would send help from the sanctuary, strength from out of Zion. These were the places where God’s presence dwelt among His people. There in the holiest of Holies in the tabernacle, there in the Mt. Zion where the Temple stood, these were the places where God’s power and glory could be seen and experienced and they pray for that power to go with their king.
They pray that God will remember the offerings and sacrifice, of the king in vs. 3.
In vs 4. They pray for the king’s plans for the coming battle to be granted by God.
And in vs. 5, they look forward, past the battle and confidently state, ‘We will rejoice in they salvation and in the name of our God we will set up our banners. Their part of the Psalms ends with the petition, “The Lord fulfill all they petitions.”
Praying For Those Who Battle
Psalms 20:1-5 is a beautiful prayer for anyone who is caught up in a day of trouble, whether it be war, or illness, pain or sorrow. It expresses so much of our need for God to intervene, to bless, to strengthen, to do what we cannot do in our own weakness.
“The Lord hear thee in the day of trouble, the name of the God of Jacob defend thee.” There is power and comfort there, there is hope in that blessing for any and all who need it.
Once when I working as a public-school teacher, I was asked to bless another teacher while we stood in the hallway waiting for the tardy bell to ring. Miss Maraquin, was an old school school-teacher trying to make it in a new age school environment and it was tough on her and on her students. One day as we watched the halls empty, she turned to me and said, “I want you to bless me, preacher.” Now she was Catholic, and I don’t think the blessing she was looking for was the one this Baptist preacher could give, and I told here, “I don’t really do that, but I can pray for you. She said, “That’s what I need.” And as I prayed, I realized that though I was not a priest and would never do the sign of the cross or throw Holy Water on someone, my prayer, and every child of God’s prayer, is an expression and a petition for a blessing upon another.
We hear it here Psalms 20. May the Lord hear thee, May God defend thee, Send the help from the sanctuary and strength from Zion.
I learned something from that Catholic lady that day, that we should do more than just say “I’ll pray for you” but instead we should actually pray and in that prayer, we should be a blessing by asking for God’s blessing.
In our countries past we as a nation sent our soldier’s off to war with prayer, beseeching God’s blessing for their victory and safe return. We don’t really do that anymore, not as a nation but we once did. As these people prayed for their King, we should be praying for our military leaders, for our soldiers, for our first responders, for those who give their lives to save the lives of others. As Jesus said, there is “no greater love.”
The next three verses of Psalm 20 are now in the voice of the King after he hears the people pray for him and ask for God’s blessing on his behalf. Look at what the prayer does it makes him …
A Confident King - Psalms 20:6-8
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. Some trust in chariots, and some in horses: but we will remember the name of the LORD our God. They are brought down and fallen:
but we are risen and stand upright.
King David’s Assurance
The King, God’s Anointed, speaks in that capacity, and through that ordained office, he gives assurances to the people of God.
Look Closer at what we might call an Oracle of Assurance.
The Kings after the prayer of the people says, “Now I know these things, your prayer has shown me…
that Jehovah saves his anointed, his chosen”
That He will hear from heaven with saving strength of his right hand. Here we understand that hearing means acting, it is not just passively acknowledging the prayer as received but moving in response to that prayer.
Then we come to the key verse of our message in vs 7-8, Some trust in chariots, and some in horses: but we will remember the name of the LORD our God. They are brought down and fallen: but we are risen, and stand upright.
The King knows there is victory when the people of God remember their God. Once again it is the name of God, revealed in that conversation and consecration at the burning bush that brings God together with His people. Their God is not far away and unknowable, they did not and could not ascend to Him, but their God, Jehovah come down to them and revealed His name and in that revelation, there is power, and there is victory. Remember my name, Jehovah your God.
The king goes on and says we will remember the name of our God, but in contrast those who can’t or won’t call upon God, those who depend upon the strength of men, upon chariots and horses, they will be brought down and will fall, but God’s people who remember, they are risen and stand upright.
Once they King finishes his response then army of Israel is prepared to go forth in the name of the Lord.
King Jesus’ Assurance
Originally this Psalms was for the king of Israel as the nation prepared for war. The people blessed and prayed for the King and the King responded in confidence and faith through that prayer, in God’s salvation and strength for the coming battle.
But don’t leave this Psalms in the Old Testament, for like many of the Psalms it speaks both historically to the people of David’s time, prophetically to the people of a coming time and practically to us in our time.
We have no King named David, but we have a greater King named Jesus. And it is with His voice today and in the future that we should hear this response when we pray.
God Jehovah did save His anointed when He brought Jesus back from the grave. And our resurrected savior and coming King sits at the right hand of the Father and hears the prayers we pray.
And as we pray we must remember. Remember who God is to us. In the OT God revealed Himself to his people through his name, but in the NT God revealed himself to us through His son.
In Hebrews 1:1-12 Paul wrote about our King, “God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds; Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high; Being made so much better than the angels, as he hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they.
… But unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom. Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated iniquity; therefore God, even thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows. And, Thou, Lord, in the beginning hast laid the foundation of the earth; and the heavens are the works of thine hands: They shall perish; but thou remainest; and they all shall wax old as doth a garment; And as a vesture shalt thou fold them up, and they shall be changed: but thou art the same, and thy years shall not fail.
This is who we must remember, God show in The Son is revealed as “the brightness of His glory, the express image of His person.” There is power in remembering the name of God but there is greater power in remembering the Son of God, risen, ruling and interceding for us at God’s right hand.
When we pray our King is moved, if David was prepared for war by the prayer of God’s people, then imagine what King Jesus will do in the battles of our life when we pray in His name.
There’s just something about that name
Jesus, Jesus, Jesus; there's just something about that name
Master, Savior, Jesus, like the fragrance after the rain;
Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, let all Heaven and earth proclaim
Kings and kingdoms will all pass away
But there's something about that name
Kings and kingdoms will all pass away
But there's something about that name
The last verse of the Psalms brings us full circle as many of the psalms do, but it is not a circle of repetition but an upward spiral of faith and growth. Look at vs. 9
A Sovereign Savior - Psalms 20:9
Save, LORD: let the king hear us when we call.
A Final Refrain
The Psalms ends as it begins with a call for Jehovah God to enable the King that he might save his people and act on their behalf.
The people prayed and the King responded to their prayer. “Now I know the Lord saves.”
Upon hearing this the people call out one final refrain, one final petition to God. “Save, Lord! Save us, Jehovah God. Let the king hear us when we call.”
I can imagine this Psalms being sung out by the people and by the King as they prepared for another battle for survival in the Promised Land. It would be a restatement of their need for God and their faith in God. It would be a recommitment to their King as the one who would fight for them in God’s strength. It would be a moving, powerful ceremony, and as it was repeated by other generation and by other kings throughout the history of Israel it would become a memorial of all that God has done for them as a nation.
A Final Remembrance
I intend to use Psalms 20 in the future more than I ever have in the past. I love the blessings it asks of God. It would be appropriate at the hospital, or when visiting those who are struggling with pain and loss. It can’t be applied to us as a nation nor for our leaders as it was for Israel and David, but those first 5 verses can be applied personally to our lives.
We should pray for others, we should ask God’s blessings to overcome their struggles. Our petition, won’t be responded to by King David, no much more than that it will be heard and acted upon by our King, Jesus.
Our remembrance of Him is seen each Sunday when we gather in His house, each time we baptize a new believer and each time we partake of the Lord’s supper. “This do in remembrance of me”
I want what David said back then, to be true in my life today, “Psalms 20:7-8 Some trust in chariots, and some in horses: but we will remember the name of the LORD our God. They are brought down and fallen: but we are risen, and stand upright.
Take your Bibles and stand now, Let’s close this service as they closed theirs and then went off to war back when this Psalms was used as a military blessing. Let us go forth as they did in the name of our God to fight the battles He has called us to fight.
Please Stand and read aloud together with me, from Psalms 20:9 Save, LORD: let the king hear us when we call.
I pray all of us have prayed that for the salvation of our souls, calling to God to save us when we called out to Jesus in repentance and faith.
And I hope that all of us will think of Psalms 90 and remember the name of the Lord our God in our days of trouble. Call out and we will rise, call out and we will stand upright!