We live in an interesting age. Most of the time now, it feels like the church is being, at best, marginalized, or perhaps – more often – trampled underfoot. Many scriptural truths are scorned by society at large, with that scorn perhaps teetering on the brink of tipping toward outright persecution. We’re emerging from an era where it seemed, for a time at least, that politics might provide hope for straightening things out, but the ridiculousness of this past presidential campaign has made it abundantly clear that our salvation does not lie in the political leaders of our day.
In the midst of this frustration and preposterousness, Psalm 21 is a wonderful reminder of God’s goodness to His people. This psalm is a public thanksgiving for the strength of David’s kingship, which had plenty of scandal and corruption, yet also in its fear of the Lord provided an excellent foreshadowing of the kingdom of Christ. David could sincerely confess in verse 1 that the king rejoiced in the strength of the Lord, that he exulted in the Lord’s salvation. In 21st century America, it is unlikely to expect our political leaders to be publicly rejoicing in the Lord’s strength and salvation anytime soon. Yet, as Christians, we know that the kingship under which we truly reside is that of Christ, and we can have unwavering confidence that Christ rejoices in the strength of His Father.
Verses 2-4 provide the reason for the king’s rejoicing: God had answered the psalmist’s prayers. David recognized that God gave him his heart’s desire, rich blessings, a crown of fine gold, “length of days forever and ever.” We have the benefit now of seeing how the Holy Spirit was so wonderfully pointing David’s pen forward to Christ, how Christ’s kingship is and will be the complete fulfillment of this blessing, this crown, this eternity of days. How reassuring for us to know that, indeed, the Father does not withhold the request of Christ’s lips, and that we have Christ our King at the right hand of the Father interceding for us!
Verses 5-6 are reminders of David’s profound awareness that the power of his reign was derived from the Lord alone. While today we may bemoan our leaders seemingly not recognizing this source of their authority, we can rest assured that indeed it is the case, whether our politicians recognize it or not. We can confess, as in verse 7, that along with Christ our King we trust in the Lord, that we rest in the steadfast love of the Most High.
Lest we get too caught up with ourselves, verses 8-12 are sobering reminders that God is just and that His anger burns against sin. The Holy Spirit, through David’s pen in these verses, holds nothing back in relation to how God deals with His enemies. He will find them out, He will consume them with fire, He will destroy their descendants and offspring, He will put them to flight, He will aim His bows at their faces.
The sobering reality of our day is that our culture and nation seem to be quickly becoming more blatant enemies of Christ. We have to wonder when the Lord’s bows will begin aiming at our nations’ and leaders’ faces and how we will experience that. I suspect that it will feel none too triumphant or victorious; it may indeed be incredibly sobering and painful.
However, the psalm doesn’t end there, and neither should we. Verse 13 is a joyful proclamation of the Lord’s exaltation. We know that we reside under Christ’s supreme kingship and we sing and praise His power. In the uncertainty of our cultural and political climate, it is helpful in this advent season to reflect upon the humble beginnings of Christ’s reign. Israel was anticipating earthly power and majesty in its messiah, so much so that most of the nation could never accept that their true King endured a birth announced only to the marginalized and scorned of their day, that the only baby bed available for their true Savior was a livestock feeding trough.
God’s plan for His kingdom has always been far different than human thoughts through the ages have expected, and it will continue to be so. We don’t know God’s specific plans for our culture, our nation, or our political leaders. However, we do know that Christ is our true King, that He is already victorious – albeit in a very different way than we would have expected, and that His kingdom will be fully consummated in the coming age. We can, together with David and the church of all ages, wholeheartedly proclaim: “Be exalted, O Lord, in your strength! We will sing and praise your power.”