Psalm 20: A Prayer at the Cross

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First Off…read Psalm 20!

Our psalm for this week is an interesting one – verses 7 through 9 definitely have this “war” flavor…and rightly so. The author speaks of how some people trust in chariots and some in horses…but really trust should only be placed in God. And those who DO trust in horses and chariots? They will fall…because horses and chariots fall themselves…but God does not. One should never place their trust in anything BUT God.

But what’s really interesting is that everything leading UP to verse 7 has a “Gethsemane” feel to it which is probably why Christians throughout the ages have seen this psalm as a prayer at the cross.

Vs 1: Christ is in distress and is in prayer to God before being arrested. (Luke 22:39-46)

Vs 2: Obviously needing help, Christ, in his prayer asks for it – and not only for him but those who put him there and the thief next to him (Luke 23:39-43)

Vs 3: Christ’s death IS the ultimate sacrifice and offering offered up to God as it becomes available to all those who help and believe (Rom 3:21-26)

Vs 5: Christ becomes victorious as he takes on sin and death and overcomes it – not only for himself but for you and I as well (1 Cor 15:55-57).

Vs 6: The whole point of Christ coming to earth was to save. The whole point of Christ leaving his throne on high was to save…to me, this is the whole telling of the story of not only Christ but of the Bible. God’s story of saving not only his children but this world and restoring it…and doing so by answering the daily prayers of stress and chaos that are lifted up to Him.

What I find really fascinating and challenging and beautiful is that so many authors give this image of not only the cross and the prayer lifted up in that time…but to those who were there. And not only to those that were there but to those 2,000+ years later and can PUT themselves there. During Lent and that “Good Friday” we are drawn to the scene and our prayer intertwines with Christ’s prayer. Understanding fully what Christ was doing our prayer would have been to add our voice to his so that his prayer was heard. We would have prayed that his voice be heard (vs 1, 4), that he be protected and defended (vs 1), that he be strengthened to make it through and endure what he was doing for us (vs 2), that God see and remember the work and devotion of his Son (vs 3), and that all of this, what it was meant to do and why it was happening – be fulfilled and come to fruition (vs 4).

That is really hard for me to come to. I declare each and every one of those things…but so often when I see someone in need or hurting or suffering I want, I NEED, to do something. I need to act, I need to re-act. I like to think that if I was there I would have pushed those soldiers aside and climbed up that rugged cross and ripped those nails out! I would have fought tooth-and-nail for my Savior. I would have been just like Peter and drawn my sword at the garden and cut off more than an ear! (John 18:10)

But then again, part of me feels like I would have sat back and watched. I’d like to think it’s because I knew what Christ was doing and that it had to be done…but I think there’s some selfishness in there, on my part, as well. But this isn’t a psalm about that. This isn’t a psalm about my failures or what I would or wouldn’t do…this is a psalm about God hearing a plea and cry for help and working out salvation thru those prayers.

To David and his people – their safety came because they knew that God listened to his children and saved them if it was his will…so they prayed for God’s will to be done. To save the anointed one, David. To save those who put their trust in him and not themselves or chariots or horses or anything else. But to you and I…we know that salvation comes through Christ and his work upon the cross. As David was to go out and defend God’s people and fight for God – their prayer became a petition of safety and “success”.

To us, Christians, we understand that “success” looks different not only because times are different but because all things come through and in Christ. David was God’s mighty servant for a time – but all else fails in comparison when we see who Christ is.

And what’s really interesting is that it is upon that cross, that horrible bloody and painful scene, that we don’t pray for God to “take it all away” but for God to fulfill and complete the work. Have you thought about that before? I know I haven’t. My focus so often is to stop the pain, end the hurt, send down a balm to be placed upon my sores…and while I fully know and am fully aware that it is Christ that IS the one who ends all pain and all hurt and IS the balm of Gilead…I have never tried to put myself AT the scene. I have never thought of praying and giving thanks IN THAT MOMENT for Christ to do what he did. That seems odd and strange and wrong. But without it…there is no future for us. Without the cross there is no redemption. Without the pain there is no joy. Without Christ there is no future.

In the end, I’m reminded that this is a psalm of prayer and petition…but also declaration. That our crying out to Him with our requests and thanksgivings are heard, are responded to, and ultimately they are the reason for Christ.

 

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