Signposts: Daily Devotions

Thursday, March 24

Some take pride in chariots; and some in horses, but our pride is in the name of the Lord our God. They will collapse and fall, but we shall rise and stand upright. Give victory to the King, O Lord; answer us when we call.
—Psalm 20:7–9

This psalm, which is a prayer for the king’s victory in battle, follows the ancient tradition of praying for rulers, governors and presidents. It is an important psalm for our time, it seems to me, because in recent years, we have found ourselves in the midst of a war that created great divisions among our people. There are several things in the psalm that might help us in our thoughts and prayers when we find ourselves mired in such a national situation, no matter what “side” we are on.

The first consideration is that in ancient Israel, the King was thought to be the Lord’s anointed; this was significant and important, but it did not mean that the King was ever considered Lord. The king was not the savior, but one of the saved. This truth was always before the people (though they sometimes forgot), because they were not to be tempted to vest power in a human being to provide them with security. That was only found in their relationship with the Lord.

Second, trusting in weapons was a contradiction to faith in the Lord. When this psalm was written, chariots and horses were supreme weapons of military might. The kings of Israel were tempted to build up their military might by conscripting large numbers of horses and chariots, but the psalmist, speaking here almost as a prophet, reminds the king that such weapons will “collapse and fall,” while those who trust in the Lord, not weapons, will rise and stand upright before the Lord.

The psalm ends, “Give victory to the king, O Lord,” but now we understand what victory means: putting God and God’s precepts first, and using military might only as a last resort. Let us continue to pray for our leaders; their jobs are overwhelming and close to impossible in the twenty-first century. But let us pray for wisdom and understanding and peace above all, for our leaders and for ourselves.

Grant us, O God, deeper compassion for our leaders. Guide us all into the way of peace, not war. Amen.

These Signposts originally appeared on explorefaith in 2006.