Psalms 21

Psalm 21  •  11 min. read  •  grade level: 9
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The testimony of the living Christ, exalted over all His enemies.
In this psalm we have the full answer to the desires expressed by the godly in Psalms 20. There Christ is seen as the faithful witness for God in the midst of His enemies; here He is seen as the witness for God in exaltation over all His enemies (vs. 1). Christ in exaltation becomes a witness to the power and salvation of Jehovah. The godly can say, “The King shall joy in thy strength, O LORD; and in thy salvation.”
(vs. 2) Further, His exaltation is a witness that every desire of the heart of Christ was in accord with the thoughts of God, for the godly say, “Thou hast given him his heart’s desire, and hast not withholden the request of his lips.”
(vv. 3-6) Moreover, the exaltation of Christ is a witness to God’s infinite delight and satisfaction in the One whom men rejected. Gazing upon Christ in glory the godly can say, “Thou hast met him with the blessings of goodness; thou hast set a crown of pure gold on his head” (JND). At the hands of men His days were shortened; at the hands of God He is given length of days forever and ever. They heaped upon Him shame and dishonor; God has given Him glory, honor and majesty. Men surrounded His path with trial and sorrow; God has blessed Him forever, and made Him exceeding glad with divine favor.
(vs. 7) This exaltation and blessing is viewed as the direct answer to the faithfulness of Christ when suffering from the hands of men. “For,” say the godly remnant, “the king confideth in Jehovah, and through the loving-kindness of the Most High he shall not be moved” (JND).
(vv. 8-12) In verse 3 to 7, the righteous government of God is borne witness to by the exaltation of Christ. It is only righteous that the One who was the faithful witness for God in the midst of evil should be exalted to a place of glory. In verse 8 to 12, the righteous govern of a praising people. Here the praise of Israel is more in view, yet the same work that will enable God to dwell amidst a praising people throughout millennial days, will enable God to dwell with men, and to own them as His people, even as they will own Him as their God, in the new heaven and earth, throughout eternal ages (Rev. 21:1-31And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea. 2And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. (Revelation 21:1‑3)).
(vv. 4-5) The unparalleled case of a righteous man being forsaken is made more manifest by contrasting the ways of God with all others who have put their trust in God. All history proved that the fathers who trusted in God were delivered. Righteous men may have indeed suffered martyrdom, but never before had a righteous man been forsaken by God.
(vv. 6-7) In contrast to the fathers, here is One who is treated as being less than a man. He is left to endure the fullness of man’s contempt expressed in a sevenfold form. (1) He is esteemed as less than a man― “a worm”; (2) as of no value― “no man”; (3) He is held in contempt― “a reproach of men”; (4) He is despised by the Jew―the “despised of the people”; (5) He is an object of man’s sneering ridicule―they laugh Him “to scorn”; (6) He is an object of insult― “they shoot out the lip” at Him; (7) He is the object of mockery― “they shake the head saying, He trusted in the Lord that he would deliver him: let him deliver him, seeing he delighted in him.”
(vv. 9-11) Nevertheless, the One whom men despised, and God forsook, was the only absolutely righteous Man: One who from the moment of His coming into this world was marked by perfect confidence in God, for He could say, “Thou didst make me trust, upon my mother’s breasts” (JND). Moreover He was perfectly dependent, for He could add, “I was cast upon thee from the womb,” and perfect in His subjection, for He says, “Thou art my God.” And yet the only One whose confidence in God, dependence upon God, and subjection to God, was absolutely perfect from the beginning to the end of His life on earth, is found in deepest trouble with “none to help.”
(vv. 12-15) The verses that follow present the trial as still from God, though viewed more especially as coming through the instrumentality of man. In verse 12 to 15 the deadly hatred of the Jewish nation is in view. In verses 16-20, the Gentile opposition to Christ is seen. Finally in the first part of verse 21, it is the power of the devil the Lord has to meet.
Like a bull using its great strength when blinded with passion, so the leaders of the Jewish nation, blind to reason and indifferent to right, with unrestrained violence and rage, used their position of power in deadly opposition to the Lord. As a roaring lion, bent upon the destruction of its prey, so they were determined upon the death of Christ.
Nor is the Lord spared any physical suffering, for in this terrible position the Lord has to taste every form of trial. The utter prostration, and straining of every member of the body, and the thirst, all pass before us.
Yet, in all this trial, the Lord looks beyond man, who is the immediate occasion of these sufferings, and sees the hand of God. He can say, “Thou hast laid me in the dust of death” (JND). It is not simply the wickedness of man that is before His holy soul, but rather the holiness of God, who is using man to carry out His will.
(vv. 16-18) In verses 16-20 the Gentile opposition to Christ passes before us. Like dogs, acting without heart or conscience, they deliver to death One whom they own to be innocent. Having pierced His hands and His feet, with brutal callousness that knows neither shame nor feeling, they stare upon Him, and gamble for His clothes.
(vv. 19-21 A) Twice in the course of the psalm the holy Sufferer has appealed to God not to be far off from Him in His sufferings (v. 1 and vs. 11); now for the third time He turns from His persecutors and His sufferings, and looks beyond men to God, and can say, “But thou, Jehovah, be not far from me” (JND). Thus it becomes plain that if the opposition of men is brought before us, it is not so much to show the tearful evil of men that, in other psalms, calls for judgment, but rather to show that even in the suffering caused by men the Lord was without help from God. Thus the utter abandonment of the cross, in view of atonement, is brought before us. Nevertheless, in the forsaking the trust of Christ in God remains unshaken. While the sufferings inflicted by man are felt with all the perfect sensibilities of Christ, yet they are taken as coming from God (vs. 15). Thus God alone is the One to whom the Sufferer looks for help and deliverance.
A threefold deliverance is sought; first from the sword of judgment, then from the power of man, and lastly from the power of Satan―the lion’s mouth. Nevertheless, the judgment must be borne before deliverance can come. The word of the Lord by the prophet must first be fulfilled, “Awake, O sword, against my shepherd, and against the man that is my fellow, saith the LORD of hosts” (Zech. 13:77Awake, O sword, against my shepherd, and against the man that is my fellow, saith the Lord of hosts: smite the shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered: and I will turn mine hand upon the little ones. (Zechariah 13:7)).
(vs. 21 B) Thus every form of suffering has been endured―the enmity of the Jews, the shameless opposition of the Gentiles, the malice of Satan, and above all the forsaking of God when making atonement. Then when all is over, when the great work of atonement is accomplished, and the extreme point of suffering is reached, set forth by the horns of the buffaloes, the cry of the Sufferer is heard, and the answer comes. Christ can say, “Thou hast heard me.” The resurrection was the proof to man that Christ was heard, and the work accepted. Nevertheless, Christ Himself was conscious of being heard and accepted directly the atoning work was completed. Therefore at once, we learn from the Gospels, the language of perfect communion was used by the Lord. No longer does He say, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” but, “Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit” (Luke 23:4646And when Jesus had cried with a loud voice, he said, Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit: and having said thus, he gave up the ghost. (Luke 23:46)).
At once we pass on to resurrection ground, and in this, the second half of the psalm, we have the blessed results of Christ’s work on the cross. The sufferings of Christ on the cross have a twofold character. He suffered as the patient Martyr at the hands of men; He suffered as the spotless Victim under the hand of God. The martyr sufferings call down the judgment of a holy God who cannot be indifferent to the insults heaped upon Christ; hence the psalms that present His martyr sufferings, such as the 69th Psalm, speak also of judgment upon His enemies. His sufferings as the holy Victim open the way for blessing to man. Thus in this psalm we have a river of grace flowing from the cross and widening as it flows.
(vv. 22-24) This blessing is connected with the declaration of the name of God. We know that this is the Father’s name, that reveals the Father’s heart and all the blessings counseled in His heart. This name is declared by Christ in resurrection to the few disciples that He had gathered round Himself on earth, of whom He speaks for the first time as His “brethren,” in the message which said, “Go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God and your God” (John 20:1717Jesus saith unto her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God. (John 20:17)).
A little later, when the disciples were assembled behind closed doors, the Lord appears in the midst of the congregation, and fills the disciples’ hearts with gladness―He leads the praise. Nor is the blessing confined to the few assembled with the Lord in their midst. It is for all the godly in Israel who fear the Lord. They are to know that God has accepted the great sacrifice. “He hath not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; neither hath he hid, his face from him; but when he cried unto him, he heard.” We may feebly appreciate the great atoning sacrifice, but our blessing depends not upon the measure of our appreciation but on God’s perfect appreciation of, and infinite satisfaction with, the work of Christ.
(vv. 25-26) The river of grace widens still further, for now we pass on to “the great congregation.” This is all Israel regathered and restored for millennial blessing. Christ will lead their praise, and fulfill every promise that had been made. Then indeed the meek will eat and be satisfied, the Lord will be praised, and no more will there be broken and empty hearts, but hearts that shall “live forever” in the fullness of joy.
(vv. 27-29) Furthermore, the blessing widens to embrace the ends of the earth, and all the kindred of the nations. They will remember what Christ has accomplished on the cross, and they will turn to the Lord and worship. The One who was rejected by men will rule among the nations. The blessing will reach every class, the prosperous―the fat upon the earth; those who are in extreme need―ready to go down to the dust; and the poor who lack means to keep alive the soul.
(vv. 30-31) Finally the blessing will flow on through millennial days to coming generations. His righteousness―manifested in the atoning sacrifice, the exaltation of Christ, and in providing a feast of blessing―will be told to a people that shall be born. And the whole great company of the redeemed will delight to own that.
“He hath done it.” This vast river of blessing that was seen as a small stream amongst a few disciples on the resurrection day, that has flowed on through the ages, and will yet flow through millennial days widening in its course to embrace all the ends of the earth, and extending to generations yet unborn, has its pure sources in the atoning sufferings of Christ― “He hath done it.”
The answer to the cry “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” uttered in darkness on the cross, will come from the midst of a vast host of praising people, brought into everlasting blessing, as they look back to the cross and say, “He hath done it.”