Psalms Bible Study (Worshiping God)

Psalm 20 & Psalm 21, People and Government for God


  1. Psalm 20 and psalm 21 are different than other psalms we have studied thus far, in that they were designed to be sung by the Jewish people on behalf of their king and nation. Therefore, as we read this psalm we must place ourselves in the mind and culture of Jews who were led by a king like David or Solomon. This psalm is written under the assumption that the ruling king is a good, righteous king, one that would follow the example of David being a man after God’s own heart.
  2. One reason that we know that this psalm was written for the Jewish people to sing is the change of the subject from “my” to “we.” In Psalm 19 we see David saying “may the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer” (Psalm 19:14). Notice how David uses the word “my” repeatedly throughout the psalm. However, in psalm 20 we see the psalm written in the tone of “us” and “we” (20:5,7-9).
  3. Psalm 20 is the people’s prayer and psalm 21 acknowledges God’s answered prayer. In light of this, we will consider both psalms in this study since these two seem to be so closely connected.

I. Concerning The King, Pray For (20:1-5)

A. The people’s prayer

  1. As we begin this psalm we must notice the key word “may.” Six times in the first five verses a sentence or thought begins with the word “may.” These are the requests of the people before God. However, you will notice that these are more than the requests of the people to God. In fact, these are words which are directed more to the king than to God. It is as if the people are informing the king about what they are requesting and desiring of God to do for the king.
  2. Here are the six requests of the people concerning the king: (1) May God answer the king in his distress, (2) may God protect the king, (3) may God send the king help and grant support, (4) may God remember the king’s sacrifices and accept the offerings, (5) may God give the king what his heart desires and all his plans succeed, and (6) may God grant all your requests.
  3. There are some other striking images to consider before we simply move on from these six requests. As we noted in the beginning, we must assume the king is a godly man, a man of prayer, and a devout man. We see images of the king offering sacrifices and making righteous petitions for the people.

B. Application

  1. How important it is to have a godly leader over a nation! In this psalm we see the benefits of having a godly man who, in this context, is making sacrifices and offerings to God on behalf of his nation. The man is seeking the best interests of the people whom he rules over.
  2. It is amazing to consider that there was a time when our country’s leaders were motivated by spiritual and religious considerations. Many of the founding fathers not only believed in God but practiced their belief in their political decisions. Is it so much for us to ask today from our leaders!
  3. I am not one who likes to combine politics and the word of God. But here we see two psalms where such are combined. As we people we need to demand leaders who are godly. We should desire to see men who are seeking after God. While we may not find men who doctrinally accurate concerning many areas of the scriptures, we should at the very least long for people who will make decisions based upon the morality and spiritually of the word of God.
  4. What is even more frustrating is the number of Christians who do not care about the moral character of our leaders and will vote based upon other ideologies. We live in a republic in which we can choose the people who represent us in government. Is it not our duty to seek out a man whose moral and virtues closely mirror the character of God? Should we not be voting for people based upon their moral integrity and not based upon tax cuts, health care options, or social security? In psalm 20 we see a people who are praying for a leader who is seeking after God.
  5. While for us that may mean “the lesser of two evils,” let us certainly choose the one who is the lesser. Do we not see such a choice will lead to the longevity of our nation? Consider the difference between Israel and Judah: Israel was destroyed after a short 200 year existence because they had no good kings. Judah lasted longer because leaders would rise up and reform the people to God.
  6. Why would we support men who take a stand that murder is legal to unborn children? Why would we support men who would use their power to continue to strip God out of this country? Very few men come along who are dedicated to the Lord, but when they do come, we ought to support them regardless of party or ideological position. We want to support godly men.

II. Truths From Godly Leaders (20:6-9)

A. The Lord saves His anointed

  1. We can know that God protect His anointed. Those who would truly follow after God and be our leaders will be supported by God. God has appointed the governments of the world and will raise up the godly and destroy the wicked. “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For these is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God” (Romans 13:1).
  2. We know the scriptures teach that the prayer of the righteous avails much. What good is it to have an immoral man as our leader in the time of distress and trouble? The prayer of the immoral leader will not be heard by God. But those who are godly and truly seeking after God, we see the people say with confidence, “now I know that the Lord saved His anointed.”

B. Trust in God, not the power of the nation

  1. How foolish it is to wholly trust in our nation. The nation stands or falls by the power of God. We must put our trust in God and in God alone. I am afraid in the midst of our patriotism and love for this country that we can forget where our true citizenship lies. “But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like His glorious body, by the power that enables Him even to subject all things to Himself” (Philippians 3:20-21).
  2. Some trust in chariots and some trust in horses. In our language today, we would say that some trust in our armies, our weapons, and our military might. But we need to trust in the Lord. The reason we exist as a power in this world is by God’s great mercy and good pleasure, not by our power or might. If we continue to trust in ourselves, we will be brought to our knees and fall (vs. 8). However, if we as a nation will turn from our wicked ways, we will rise up and stand firm. As Christians we need to lead the spiritual revolution in this country. The revolution will not take place by joining political parties or special interest groups. Change will only take place when we are doing the work of saving souls.
    Transition: Psalm 21 is the answer and proof of the hope the people had in their leader who was trusting in God.

III. Answered Prayer

A. Rejoicing because of answered prayer

  1. Not only do we see in these two psalms that we have the right to pray for our leaders and our nation in a corporate setting as we are gathered together, but we also see that God will answer our prayers concerning these matters. The first verse of psalm 21 is the expression of joy to God who has answered their requests concerning the king and nation.
  2. God has granted the desire of the king’s heart and God has placed the crown on the king and given him length of days. God has given the nation great victories and granted beautiful blessings.
  3. Verse 7 is the key to this psalm, I believe. “For the king trusts in the Lord; through the unfailing love of the Most High he will not be shaken.” Can any of us reading these passages dare suggest that godly leadership in our nation and within our government is not important? All of these prayers came to pass and blessings came upon the nation because the king trusted in the Lord. What does that say to us about who we choose to be our leaders? Again, I ask that we consider godly character and not consider insurance plans or war extraction methods! Therefore, we do not vote based upon party lines or endorsements. We must select our laws and our leaders based upon God’s standards and none other.

B. Need for national thanksgiving

  1. We also learn from this psalm the need for our nation to be thankful for all that God has already provided. From the very beginning, God granted us a nation that would be free to worship God, not according to the dictation of one denomination or religious group, but that all would be free to seek after God.
  2. Too often, just like people, nations forget to thank God. It is interesting to me that a government which continues to strive against the will of God, the morality of God, and commands of God would stand of the steps of the Capitol Building singing “God Bless America” after the September 11th tragedy. Should we not return to those steps and thank God for preventing other attacks and disasters upon our people? Should we not return to the steps and thank God for blessing America with the prosperity we continue to enjoy? Again, this reform will only come when we are saving souls and not by any other type of campaign.

C. Reminder of God’s power

  1. As we come into verse 8, there is debate as to who is the subject, whether the psalmist is speaking of the king or the Lord. I will allow you to make your own decision as you read this section. I will proceed as if this is speaking of the works of the Lord, since such a view seems more appropriate.
  2. If this is referring to the Lord, then we are reminded as to why we need to be thankful and prayerful to God concerning our leaders and our nation. God will lay hold of the enemies, seizing them by His right hand, and consume them like a fiery furnace. The wrath of the Lord will swallow them up. This is the case that we see in history. As nations turn away from God, God raises up other nations for their destruction. The Canaanite people were destroyed for their sins by the Israelites. The northern nation of Israel was destroyed by Assyria because of their sins. The southern nation of Judah was destroyed by Babylon for their sins. Assyria was destroyed by Babylon for their sins according to Nahum. Babylon was destroyed by Persia for their iniquities, according to Daniel. In like manner Persia fell to Greece and Greece fell to Rome because of sins. Revelation tells us that Rome would fall because of their iniquities. This is the working justice of God in this world and among the governments.


  1. Lest we believe we have taken any of this material out of context or believe that these principles only apply to the days of the old covenant, turn to 1 Timothy 2:1-4. “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”
  2. Paul urged us to make these kinds of requests and pleas before God. Paul urged us to offer our thanksgivings to God because of our leaders and our government. In fact, Paul said these things are pleasing in the sight of God.
  3. Let us do our part in two regards. First, let us truly keep our leaders in our prayers. Let us pray for the spiritual restoration of this nation. Let us be thankful the continued blessings which God has bestowed upon this country through which we enjoy. Second, let us do our part to maintain these blessings by supporting godly men who truly trust in God and do not simply say the words. Do their actions reflect godliness? Will they make decisions based upon godliness? These are important areas we must determine so that our nation will continue to be under God.
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