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In this blog, there will be a variety of material: thoughts on Bible books, book reviews, historical characters, aspects of Scottish church history and other things.

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Praying for our rulers (Psalm 20)

In the main in this psalm, the words are spoken by a plural group (the first person plural is used in verses 1–5 and verses 7–8), with verse 6 being spoken by an individual. Originally it seems that the congregation sang verses 1–5, which is made up of various intercessions on behalf of their king, David. In response to these prayers, one of the priests replied, using the words of verse 6 to assure the people that the Lord was with the king. On hearing these words of assurance, the people then sang verses 7–9 which contain an expression of confidence and a repeated prayer for the prosperity of the king’s cause (the psalm was likely used when the king was leading his army into battle).

As we read verses 1–5, it is clear that Israel was facing a time of crisis (verse 1 mentions the day of trouble). The king is a devout person who responds to the crisis by offering sacrifices (v. 3) and prayers (v. 5). These religious activities are not merely ceremonial responses – they are expressions of the king’s heart. He knows that unless God helps them they will face a difficult future. In this psalm, we have a picture of a righteous ruler.

It is not sufficient for a leader to be intelligent, to possess communication skills suitable for our media age, to offer suggestions to improve our lot as a nation. What is needed are leaders who also have the wisdom to know their need of God’s help, who have developed communication with God, who publicly affirm their need of prayer, and who include a return to righteous living in their policy of improving the standard of living in our society. We should pray that God would give such rulers to us.

What about the people? In verses 7 and 8 they indicate where their confidence lay. It was not in military strength. This is an important word for us. We are still one of the most powerful nations in the world, both in the economic and military senses. Sadly, many of our fellow-citizens are depending on these to protect us from our determined enemies. We, in the church, know different. Our only means of successful protection is God. But this protection is not given automatically. We have to pray continually that God will deliver us, which is what the people described in verse 8 did. They were given assurance of victory in verse 6, and they based thei

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