The Righteous One’s Song of Triumph

a brief study of Psalm 21, adapted from PCC Prayer Meeting Exhortation on 20 Oct 2006


Psalm 21 is a joyful and triumphant psalm. It is not difficult to see how it is a messianic psalm that continues with the theme of Psalm 20.

In Psalm 20, we see the Lord heading to the cross. The church was singing the psalm to send Him off; and in anticipation of receiving Him back again after His sacrifice of Himself.

In Psalm 21, the Lord has returned from the dead. He has conquered death. He has crushed the head of the serpent. The church is therefore celebrating.

This psalm has 2 stanzas.

In verse 1-7, we see the church singing in praise and thanksgiving to the Father for the success of His Son, the Messiah.

From verses 8 to the end, we see the church turning to the Son, the Messiah to praise Him and to glorify Him.

1. The Church Thanks the Father

1 The king shall joy in thy strength, O LORD; and in thy salvation how greatly shall he rejoice! 2 Thou hast given him his heart’s desire, and hast not withholden the request of his lips. Selah.

The king is none other than Christ, the King of king and Lord of lords. The King was going to battle. He was going to fight against sin and the ancient serpent.

He would win the battle. The people of God began to sing this song even before the Lord went to the Cross. This explains the future tense in verse 1: "The king shall joy in thy strength, O LORD; and in thy salvation how greatly shall he rejoice!"

But victory is certain. Victory was sure upon the decree of God and the everlasting covenant between the Father and the Son in eternity.

Victory will be complete in the day when Christ returns again in His glory,—when every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is LORD.

But victory was sealed at Calvary— upon the Lord’s going to the cross and rising again from the dead.

2 Thou hast given him his heart’s desire, and hast not withholden the request of his lips.

Remember how in Psalm 20, the church encourages the Messiah with the words: "The LORD… grant thee according to thine own heart, and fulfil all thy counsels" (v. 4). Do you see how the Father’s answer is now acknowledged? "2 Thou hast given him his heart’s desire, and hast not withholden the request of his lips." Indeed, the Father who loves the Son with an infinite love could not but run ahead of Him to bless Him:

3 For thou preventest [i.e. went ahead of] him with the blessings of goodness: thou settest a crown of pure gold on his head. 4 He asked life of thee, and thou gavest it him, even length of days for ever and ever.

Christ our Lord went to do the Father’s will on the Cross. His desire has always been that the Father’s will be fulfilled. The will of the Father, which is also His will, is that He suffers and dies on behalf of His people to reconcile them to God.

But of course, His desire must also have been to rise from the dead and to live on in the fellowship of God forever.

The Lord, as the God-Man would not take it for granted that He would rise from the dead. He would ask His Father. He asked for life and the Father heard Him. He raised Him from the dead. He would live forever and ever in heaven as the God-man.

"23 And they truly were many priests, because they were not suffered to continue by reason of death: 24 But this man, because he continueth ever, hath an unchangeable priesthood" (Heb 7:23-24)

says the writer to the Hebrews.

But in that He rose from the dead, He was highly exalted:

5 His glory is great in thy salvation: honour and majesty hast thou laid upon him. 6 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 of the most High he shall not be moved.

The best commentary for these words is found in the epistle of Paul to the Philippians in chapter 2—

He "being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: 7 But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: 8 And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. 9 Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: 10 That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; 11 And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father" (Phil 2:6-11).

Need we say more? The Spirit has spoken. The Son humbled Himself. The Father exalted Him on high. He trusted the Father through His humiliation. He was lifted up never to bow down ever again. He is the King of kings, Lord of lords. He is ruling over all; and He will manifest Himself powerfully in the last day.

So the Church blesses Him:

2. The Church Magnifies the Son

8 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. 10 Their fruit shalt thou destroy from the earth, and their seed from among the children of men.

The Lord will be vindicated. All power is given unto Him in heaven and on earth.

Many hated Him during His earthly ministry. They clamoured for His blood. They poured scorn upon Him. He saved others, but cannot save Himself. He claimed to be the son of God, let Him come down from the cross, then we will believe Him—they yelled.

Today many continue to hate Him and His church. They speak disparagingly of Him. They ridicule theology and bible history. They sneer at His people and even try to kill them. They blaspheme His name.

But these will be met with final justice of eternal condemnation—they and their children who do not repent.

Lord, thou art God! Thou wilt vindicate thine own name.

11 For they intended evil against thee: they imagined a mischievous device, which they are not able to perform. 12 Therefore shalt thou make them turn their back, when thou shalt make ready thine arrows upon thy strings against the face of them.

It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of an angry God. Those who spit in the face of the Lord and clamour for His blood thought that they were trampling underfoot a weakling. They thought that they could easily get away with it.

But they are wrong, for the arrow of the Lord is aimed at their heart. Who can run away when the Son of man has His arrows aimed at him?

It will be a terrible day for those who oppose the Lord!

But for those who trust and serve Him, it will be a day of joy and gladness. The vindication of the Lord’s name will add to our joy. So we sing in conclusion:

13 Be thou exalted, LORD, in thine own strength: so will we sing and praise thy power.

Notice how the King is now the LORD.… for in that day every tongue will confess that Jesus is LORD.

Be thou exalted, O LORD Jesus. Be exalted in Thine own strength and power, for there is none who is higher and more powerful, who can exalt Thee. Thou art the sovereign God. Thou art omnipotent, infinite, eternal and changeable. We will sing and praise thy power.

Conclusion

Beloved brethren and children, life in this world can be very depressing.

It is depressing when unhappy things happen to us.

It is depressing when we see problems in the church.

It is depressing when we see the name of Christ ridiculed by unbelievers and blasphemed by professing believers.

It is depressing when we find ourselves struggling against sin and failing.

But the scripture teaches us to rejoice and to rejoice again. What shall we do to lift up our spirits?

Well, I know of no better way than to look to Christ. This is why the psalms are so precious to me. The psalms bring Christ before my eyes and before my heart.

Psalm 21 is an especially comforting psalm to me because of the language of triumph in it. In this psalm Christ is lifted up so high, everything else in the world becomes so small and insignificant.

With Christ my King on the throne I need not fear anything and really, I need not get depressed over anything.

With Christ my King on the throne, I know that all things will work together for my good and for His church. Christ has conquered and is conquering. He will be exalted on high. He will manifest His glory over all the world. Praise be to His name.

So beloved brethren and children, may I recommend the perfect antidote to a depressive spirit or a frustrating day—look to Christ! Meditate on Him. Think about His glory and of how He will soon put all things right. Amen.

— JJ Lim