Theme: More than Conquerors
“It is not necessary for a believer to be the loser in any battle”.
That is the fundamental message of Psalm 20.
The background of Psalm 20 is very simple: The army is advancing. A hostile power is also present. The battle is about to start. Animal-sacrifices and burnt-offerings have been brought to the Lord God. David is the king and commander of the army.
Look at Psalm 20:
Verses 1-5 > The armed forces are praying on king David’s behalf.
Verse 6 > David himself is speaking.
Verses 7-9 > A choir of soldiers speak as they are marching towards the battle.
That is the background and structure of Psalm 20 – preserved for us by the Holy Spirit. Written for our instruction and edification (Rom 15:4).
The question is what the connection is between a war that took place thousands of years ago in ancient Palestine, and us today? We must discover that connection, otherwise it would be difficult to understand the message it has for us.
We must remember that king David never lost one single battle. Not one. It is not necessary for any battle to be lost.
We must also remember that Israel was a theocracy at that time – God himself ruled the nation. God himself was the king of a real nation who lived in a real country! God was king of a specific nation in a specific place for a very specific purpose.
Today there is no longer such a thing as a theocracy. God is not on the side of any specific nation. He is also not on the side of some or other political dispensation. Since the outpouring of the Holy Spirit there is a new race, a new humanity – the Lord’s NT church – comprising of people from all nations. And yet we still have conflict and struggles.
Those battles were real battles and real historical events. Our battles are real historical events too. But, it is not the same kind of battle.
We must keep in mind that David and his army were often a picture-image of the Messiah and His people. David was the anointed king and the Messiah is the anointed Saviour of whom David was a prefiguration. The conflicts that David and his people experienced, was therefore picture-images of our conflicts because we have part in the Anointed One, Jesus Christ.
The believer has conflicts – battles often. If we were not part of the team of Christ, these struggles would not have existed. We experience it precisely because we are in His team.
There is the conflict with the world. Meaning the world system that lives with hostility towards Christ. This system tries without ceasing to push Christ-believers into it’s own shape. Conflicts with the world system’s thought-processes/culture/habits almost never cease in a believer’s life.
There is also satan himself. Often the believer finds himself/herself in a direct struggle with demonic powers – particularly in the form of temptation and thoughts that come from who knows where. Sometimes these things can get so bad that a believer’s mind literally feels like a battlefield.
The third conflict is the conflict against sin – which is actually a struggle against unbelief, because sin gets a grip as a result of the fact that we do not believe that Christ has absolutely set us free from sin. Deficient insight into the position that you have in Christ, leads to defeat. Deficient insight into what has happened to you in Christ, leads to defeat.
Psalm 20 teaches us that it is not necessary to come second in this struggle. And there are certain principles to remember:
1 START WITH PRAYER (verses 1-5) > The soldiers are praying on behalf of king David: “May the Lord answer you when you are in distress; may the Name of God protect you. May He send you help from Zion. May He give you the desire of your heart and make your plans succeed. We will shout for joy when you are victorious and will lift up our banners in the Name of our God.“
In a war-situation where the world system is strangling you or temptation becomes serious, pray!
You will see that in these few verses there are no less than 9 requests directed at the Lord. Nine prayer requests – which is really only one prayer. The Lord is asked to take part in the situation. In their hearts there is a burning desire for divine intervention.
When a believer is in a struggle, the first thing is prayer. Specific prayer. Prayer that the Lord will step in to the struggle. Even if you should regard yourself as a kind of Jacob.
Jacob (the deceiver) was the most unlikely candidate to experience the Lord’s intervention and yet it did take place at the Jabbok River. That is why the God of particularly JACOB (v 1) is the God of all mercy. If you regard yourself as a kind of Jacob, you are a perfect candidate to be overwhelmed with undeserved grace and favour!
But there is still a more wonderful thing we must not miss: The prayer is that the Lord would specifically hear from ZION (Jerusalem), there where the sacrifices and burnt offerings would be found acceptable.
Zion/Jerusalem was the place where there was a very particular tent. Inside this tent there was the Ark of the Covenant. That was the time before the temple was built. But the Ark of the Covenant was the powerful symbol of the Lord’s continuous presence with His people.
Add to that the fact that burnt offerings were brought before the battles started. The deepest meaning of the offerings and the blood of the animals that flowed, was that God from His side brought about reconciliation between His people and Himself – that He restored the relationship between His people and Himself. His presence with His people was a presence that was based on reconciliation/acquittal of blame and sin.
It is very important to see that, because it means that the God whom they are beseeching to intervene, has already intervened! He is not far away. He was not hiding away somewhere! Their prayer was not a begging, calling and pleading to convince Him to become sympathetic and to become aware of their struggle! That is the way the pagans would pray. Christians however do not pray like that. We never pray only that God would intervene – full stop. We pray that God would deal with us BASED ON the finished/accomplished work of Jesus on the cross, the atonement that is perfect, His life that is laid down – and consequently His presence, His favour, His compassion. Because God found Jesus’s death on the cross acceptable, He joins in our battles and let our intentions succeed and grant us the desires of our heart. Heart’s desires and intentions that flow out of His relationship with us, in any case are sanctified.
2 PRAYER LEADS TO FORTITUDE/COURAGE (v 5) > Suddenly there is certainty : David shall be victorious. The battle has not even started. But they already know who the conqueror will be. That is why they are lifting up the banners – with which they show the world on whose side they are. They are on David’s side. They join the battle without hesitation.
Prayer leads to fortitude. The courage to stand out for the Lord. The courage to be different to the crowd. The courage to say NO in a tempting situation. The courage to speak in a hostile environment.
3 COURAGE LEADS TO ASSURANCE (v6) > Here is the single sentence David speaks. Take note of the grammar: “I KNOW that the Lord saves His anointed; He ANSWERS him from His holy heaven with the SAVING power of His right hand”. That testifies of assurance. Assurance of what the outcome of the struggle shall be. If one feels in advance that you are going to be on the losing side, then you will be the loser! But if you can go into battle with assurance, everything is different. That is the wonder of your inclusion in Christ: you can enter into great battles, being assured of the outcome ahead of time!
4 ASSURANCE LEADS TO CONVICTION (v7-8) > “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God. They are brought to their knees and fall, but we rise up and stand firm.“
Can you hear the conviction? Remember, in David’s army there was not a great number of horses – in keeping with Deut 17:16. And therefore there were not a lot of chariots. The enemy’s chariots were however numerous. And in those days, chariots were the same as army tanks today. Imagine this: the enemy has tanks and you have virtually nothing. Impossible situation, seen from a human perspective.
But these people’s focus was upon the Name of the Lord (His Name is himself), not on artillery. They were convinced that the Lord’s Name was stronger than army tanks.
Is this not an incredible thing?! To have an eye that can see an unseen reality that goes out above the things that can be seen! (according to 2 Kings 6:8-17).
That is what conviction is. While you can see nothing, you see!
5 CONVICTION LEADS TO MORE PRAYER (v 9) > See if you can see the spiral. The psalm ends with prayer again. “O, Lord, save the king! Answer us when we call!” Prayer leads to courage. Courage leads to assurance. Assurance leads to conviction. Conviction leads to prayer. Prayer leads to courage. Courage leads to assurance. Assurance leads to conviction. Conviction leads to prayer… unending spiral.
If we live in this spiral, we can be more than conquerors in any kind of battle. Because the victory has already been won in the resurrection of Christ. When He rose from the grave, He represented all those who would believe upon Him – the elect of God!
The bread and the wine of Communion, are to give each one of us individually the assurance that the accomplished work of Jesus Christ is the basis upon which the Lord has already become involved in and conquered our battles.
Communion is an assurance. Just as the Ark of the Covenant was the assurance for David of God’s presence. And the blood of the sacrificed animals was the assurance that God had healed their relationship with Him. Exactly like that do the bread and wine assure us of the accomplished work of Christ in which we are included by faith.
Communion is a beautiful assurance from the hand of the Lord – like a wedding ring that gives you the assurance: He/she said YES!
The bread and wine point to the body and blood of the Lord Jesus. It points towards something that He accomplished and included you by and through faith in His Name.
What did He accomplish with His body and blood? He conquered on your behalf what you cannot conquer, and now His victory makes it as if you are the conqueror.
For whom is this assurance/wedding ring meant? For the unworthy. If you – as a Christ-believer – feel yourself unworthy, then it is for you. For those who know that they are bankrupt in themselves, the bread and wine are saying: God has made you rich in Christ. It is an accomplished fact. Eat, drink, wash your face, arise and start living!
Translated by Marthie Wilson