Superscription (v 1a)We begin with the psalm’s superscription – literally, the “writing above”.
1 (To the [chief Musician/Music Director], A Psalm of David.)So, we are given from this statement two assertions.
Nature of the Psalm – MusicalOne is that this text was meant to be set to music. It’s written to the chief musician. And it would have been played and spoken in the context of worshipping the Lord in the Temple in Jerusalem. So, God’s people have been singing and/or reciting the text of this song for perhaps 3,000 years to this very day. And so, as we study this psalm, we enter into the rejoicing that God’s people have expressed – whether by means of the bare spoken-word or as set to music – for thousands of years concerning God’s powerful salvation. That’s the first assertion of this superscription. It’s musical.
Author of the Psalm – DavidThe second assertion that this superscription makes is that David wrote this psalm. Now, some people think that the phrase that we see in so many of the superscriptions in the psalms that goes “A Psalm of David” doesn’t mean that David necessarily wrote the psalm. One reason that these people give to doubt whether David actually wrote these psalms is that we can’t easily find a situation in the life of David that corresponds to some of the realities he speaks of in these psalms. But I am of the opinion that we should assume that David wrote these “Psalms of David” unless there’s no other way to interpret them. We need to remember two things when it comes to trying to place events in David’s life to what he writes in the Psalms. First, we don’t have recorded for us in Scripture David’s entire life. There are surely a number of events in David’s life that the Lord simply did not see fit to record for us. The second thing to remember is that David – like any other artist – could be writing about realities in the world that he has not personally experienced. So, I will assume that these psalms are indeed written by King David – and especially in Psalm 21 there’s really no reason to even seek some other author.
Call to Praise (v 1b)With the superscription understood, we’ll turn to the first ingredient of this praise psalm – which is the call to praise in the rest of verse 1.
The king [shall joy/rejoices] in [thy strength/the strength you give], O LORD; and in [thy salvation/the deliverance you provide] [how greatly shall he rejoice/he takes great delight]!
|O LORD||in thy strength||the king||shall joy|
|and in thy salvation||he||shall rejoice||how greatly|
RejoicingThe first element is the concept of rejoicing. David states that “the king shall joy” and “how greatly shall he rejoice.” Here we see two different Hebrew words that are basically synonymous and mean just what they say here – joy, rejoicing, gladness. Alright, so when you see this kind of things in the call to praise you can expect that this is going to be a joyful psalm that lifts our hearts to be rejoicing.
Strong SalvationThen we see the reason for rejoicing, which is God’s strong salvation. David says that he will rejoice “in thy strength” and “in thy salvation”. These two concepts – strength and salvation – are parallel in this verse. In other words, the strength in which David “joys” is the same thing as the salvation in which David “abundantly rejoices.” So, we’re talking about a strong salvation or a powerful salvation that God provides for David that causes him to rejoice.
The KingNext, we should note the person doing the rejoicing in this psalm, which is the king. This is king David, God’s chosen king who ruled his people Israel. David knew about God’s strong salvation. That’s obvious from both this psalm as well as the history we have of this monarch from the Old Testament books of Samuel, Kings, and Chronicles. And the nature of the salvation which David experienced takes on two forms. First, David often experienced physical deliverance. In fact, toward the end of the book of 2 Samuel we have recorded for us a song that David wrote. The occasion was when he was delivered from king Saul’s murderous plans for himself. And so, at the end of that song, in 2 Samuel 22:51, David states “He [The LORD] is the tower of salvation for his king.” The Lord delivered king David from his enemies. And so, the Lord was like a strong tower that provided salvation – physical deliverance – for king David. So, king David knew what it was like to experience physical deliverance from the Lord. But he also experienced a deliverance that was other-than-physical. It was not natural – it was supernatural. It didn’t involve enemies of the body, but rather enemies of the soul and spirit of a man. In Psalm 32:1-2 we read David saying the following: “Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. 2 Blessed is the man unto whom the LORD imputeth not iniquity…” David knew what it was like to have his sin forgiven, covered, and not imputed to him. And it’s this kind of strong salvation that we as Christians tend to think of most when we come to a passage like Psalm 21 that’s speaking so much of God’s powerful salvation. We think of salvation from sin. And that’s appropriate. But we do also need to recognize that much of what David is praising God for here in this psalm is the first kind of salvation that we spoke of – the salvation and deliverance from physical material threats and dangers. But as Christians we can recognize that we do have enemies. And the worst of these enemies are not human. They’re not flesh and blood. They’re invisible. They’re spiritual. But they’re no less real than the enemies David focuses on here in this psalm. And God is no less able to deliver us from our unseen enemies as he was able to do for David with his visible enemies. And so with David we too can and should rejoice in God’s powerful salvation today.
The LordAnd of course, we can’t neglect to recognize in this psalm the one who provides this salvation. It’s not horses, it’s not chariots, it’s not human rulers who provide the kind of powerful salvation that we all need and that David was rejoicing over. No, it’s the Lord. The God of Israel. The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. He’s the one – the only one – who provides strong salvation for his people. And therefore, in him alone we rejoice.
Reasons to Praise God (vv 2-12)Now, with the content of this psalm’s call to praise in our minds and hearts, we turn to the lengthy catalog consisting of multiple reasons to rejoice in God’s powerful salvation. This section runs from verse 2 to verse 12.
2 Thou hast given him [the king…] his heart’s desire, and hast not withholden the request of his lips. Selah.
|Thou||hast given||him||his heart’s desire|
|and||hast not withholden||the request of his lips||Selah|
3 For thou [preventest/bring] him [with the blessings of goodness/rich blessings]: thou settest a crown of pure gold on his head.
|For||thou||preventest||him with the blessings of goodness|
|thou||settest||a crown of pure gold on his head|
4 He asked [for preservation of his…] life of thee, and thou gavest it him, even length of days for ever and ever.
|He asked||life||of thee|
|and thou gavest||it||him|
|length of days|
|for ever and ever|
5 [His glory is great in thy salvation/Your deliverance brings him great honor]: [honour and majesty hast thou laid upon him/You give him majestic splendor].
|His glory||is great in thy salvation|
|honour and majesty||hast thou laid upon him|
6 For thou hast [made/appointed] him [most blessed for ever/lasting blessings]: thou hast made him [exceeding glad/joyful with happiness] [with thy countenance/by allowing him into your presence (to see your face)].
|For||thou hast made him||most blessed||for ever|
|thou hast made him||exceeding glad||with thy countenance|
7 For the king trusteth in the LORD, and through the [mercy/chesed/loyal love] of the most High he shall not be [moved/shaken].
|For||the king||trusteth||in the Lord|
|and||he||shall not be moved||through the mercy of the most High|
8 Thine hand shall find out all thine enemies: thy right hand shall find out those that hate thee.
|Thine hand||shall find out||all thine enemies|
|thy right hand||shall find out||those that hate thee|
9 Thou shalt make them as a fiery oven in the time of thine anger: the LORD shall swallow them up in his wrath, and the fire shall devour them.
|Thou||shalt make them as a fiery oven||in the time of thine anger|
|the LORD||shall swallow them up||in his wrath|
|and the fire||shall devour them|
10 Their [fruit/offspring] shalt thou destroy from the earth, and their [seed/descendants] from among the [children of men/sons of Adam].
|Their fruit||shalt thou destroy||from the earth|
|and their seed||from among the children of men|
11 For they intended evil against thee: they imagined a mischievous device, which they are not able to perform.
|For they||intended evil||against thee|
|they||imagined a mischievous device|
|they||are not able to perform|
12 Therefore shalt thou make them [turn their back/“a shoulder”], when thou shalt [make ready/“aim”] thine arrows [upon/with] thy strings [against/at] the face of them.
|Therefore thou||shalt make turn||them||their back|
|thou||shalt make ready||against the face of them||upon thy strings|
Resolve to Praise (v 13)And with those reasons to praise God and rejoice in his powerful salvation, David ends this psalm in verse 13 with a resolve to praise the Lord.
13 [Be thou exalted/Rise up], LORD, in thine own strength: so will we sing and praise thy power.
|Be thou exalted||LORD||in thine own strength|
|will we sing and praise||thy power|