psalm xxi – the first safe state

It is hard to read this Psalm, knowing that next we read Psalm 22, which Christ quoted on the cross in His despair (matt 27:46). What a contrast these Psalms are! We go from jubilation and triumph to death on a cross. Let us not forget that, while Jesus was the Man of Sorrows (isa 53:3) who prayed Psalm 22 on the cross, He was also the Man of Joy, bringing the love of the Father to all. He could sing this Psalm as well as the next. Both are Godly states: deep joy and deep sorrow, because they are united by a common theme. They take us out of ourselves and to the provision of God.

Psalm 21-22 are a two-parter for us, to explore what Christ knows: humanity in its victory and loss. Abundance and desolation. Here in this Psalm we have the extreme joy of the Psalmist. In times of joy, we tend to forget the source of our joy. We set our minds on the created gifts of God instead of the Creator Himself.

David nor Christ made that mistake. Their reaction to triumph was not to look inward and be filled with self-satisfaction. No, they looked outward and upward to the Father in praise and thanksgiving.

This is the first “safe state” for a Christian. One where all the joy of victory and hope is returned to the Father in humble thanksgiving, knowing Him to be the Source of all goodness we ever experience. This is the only way to enjoy things as a Christian, to see behind Created things the God who provides. From that vantage point springs a joy that is innocent and pure.

Christians throughout history have suffered greatly from the misapprehension that joy brought about by created things is an evil vice, of preferring the created over the Creator. It was for this reason that monks would take vows of poverty and chastity, denying creation for the sake of the Creator. Instead, we are to boldly take up created things, seeing in them God Himself who provides all. This is the first safe state of the Christian: innocent joy in God’s provision. Joy that claims nothing for its own.

This is the joy of a justified soul.

Lord, the king finds joy in your strength.
How greatly he rejoices in your victory!
You have given him his heart’s desire
and have not denied the request of his lips. Selah
For you meet him with rich blessings;
you place a crown of pure gold on his head.
He asked you for life, and you gave it to him—
length of days forever and ever.
His glory is great through your victory;
you confer majesty and splendor on him.
You give him blessings forever;
you cheer him with joy in your presence.
For the king relies on the Lord;
through the faithful love of the Most High
he is not shaken.

Your hand will capture all your enemies;
your right hand will seize those who hate you.
You will make them burn
like a fiery furnace when you appear;
the Lord will engulf them in his wrath,
and fire will devour them.
You will wipe their progeny from the earth
and their offspring from the human race.
Though they intend to harm you
and devise a wicked plan, they will not prevail.
Instead, you will put them to flight
when you ready your bowstrings to shoot at them.

Be exalted, Lord, in your strength;
we will sing and praise your might.

psalm xxi

<— psalm xx psalm xxii —>