The LORD hear you in the day of trouble; the name of the God of Jacob defend you;
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)Day of trouble . . . God of Jacob.—This certainly recalls the patriarch’s words (Genesis 35:3), “I will make there an altar unto God, who answered me in the day of my distress.” The “name” alone of the God of Jacob was a safeguard to the people, called after their great forefather “Israel. So even under the shadow of the greatness of human monarchs and heroes whole peoples have often felt secure and strong, using no other weapon but his name.Psalm 20:1. The Lord hear thee in the day of trouble — It was often a day of trouble with David. “Neither the crown on his head,” says Henry, “nor the grace in his heart, would exempt him from trouble.” But in his trouble he had recourse to God; and in this all, even the greatest of men, ought to imitate him. “Though he was a man of business, and a man of war, yet he was constant to his devotions. Though he had prophets, and priests, and many good people among his subjects to pray for him, yet he did not think that excused him from praying for himself. None must expect benefit by the prayers of the church, or of their ministers or friends for them, who are capable of praying for themselves, and yet neglect it. The prayers of others for us must be desired, not to supersede, but to second our own for ourselves.” The name of the God of Jacob — That is, God himself, for names are often put for persons. He calls him the God of Jacob, or Israel, not only to distinguish him from false gods, but as an argument to enforce the prayer, because God had made a covenant with Jacob and his posterity. Let God by his providence keep thee safe, and secure from the reach of evil, even the God who preserved Jacob in the days of his trouble; and let God by his grace keep thee easy and happy from the fear of evil.Psalm 20:3 for the purpose of securing the divine favor on the expedition. The point or the moment of the psalm is when those sacrifices had been offered, and when he was about to embark on his enterprise. At that moment the people lift up the voice of sympathy and of encouragement, and pray that those sacrifices might be accepted, and that he might find the deliverance which he had desired.
The name of the God of Jacob - The word name is often put in the Scriptures for the person himself; and hence, this is equivalent to saying, "May the God of Jacob defend thee." See Psalm 5:11; Psalm 9:10; Psalm 44:5; Psalm 54:1; Exodus 23:21. Jacob was the one of the patriarchs from whom, after his other name, the Hebrew people derived their name Israel, and the word seems here to be used with reference to the people rather than to the ancestor. Compare Isaiah 44:2. The God of Jacob, or the God of Israel, would be synonymous terms, and either would denote that he was the Protector of the nation. As such he is invoked here; and the prayer is, that the Great Protector of the Hebrew people would now defend the king in the dangers which beset him, and in the enterprise which he had undertaken.
Defend thee - Margin, as in Hebrew, set thee on a high place. The word means the same as defend him, for the idea is that of being set on a high place, a tower, a mountain, a lofty rock, where his enemies could not reach or assail him.
Ps 20:1-9. David probably composed this Psalm to express the prayers of the pious for his success as at once the head of the Church and nation. Like other compositions of which David in such relations is the subject, its sentiments have a permanent value—the prosperity of Christ's kingdom being involved, as well as typified, in that of Israel and its king.
1. hear thee—graciously (Ps 4:1).
name of—or manifested perfections, as power, wisdom, &c.
2 Send thee help from the sanctuary, and strengthen thee out of Zion;
3 Remember all thy offerings, and accept thy burnt sacrifice; Selah.
4 Grant thee according to thine own heart, and fulfil all thy counsel.
"The Lord hear thee in the day of trouble." All loyal subjects pray for their king, and most certainly citizens of Zion have good cause to pray for the Prince of Peace. In times of conflict loving subjects redouble their pleas, and surely in the sorrows of our Lord his church could not but be in earnest. All the Saviour's days were days of trouble, and he also made them days of prayer; the church joins her intercession with her Lord's, and pleads that he may be heard in his cries and tears. The agony in the garden was especially a gloomy hour, but he was heard in that he feared. He knew that his Father heard him always, yet in that troublous hour no reply came until thrice he had fallen on his face in the garden; then sufficient strength was given in answer to prayer, and he rose a victor from the conflict. On the cross also his prayer was not unheard, for in the twenty-second Psalm he tells us, "thou hast heard me from the horns of the unicorns." The church in this verse implies that her Lord would be himself much given to prayer; in this he is our example, teaching us that if we are to receive any advantage from the prayers of others, we must first pray for ourselves. What a mercy that we may pray in the day of trouble, and what a still more blessed privilege that no trouble can prevent the Lord from hearing us! Troubles roar like thunder, but the believer's voice will be heard above the storm. O Jesus, when thou pleadest for us in our hour of trouble, the Lord Jehovah will hear thee. This is a most refreshing confidence, and it may be indulged in without fear.
"The name of the God of Jacob defend thee;" or, as some read it, "set thee in a high place." By "the name" is meant the revealed character and Word of God; we are not to worship "the unknown God," but we should seek to know the covenant God of Jacob, who has been pleased to reveal his name and attributes to his people. There may be much in a royal name, or a learned name, or a venerale name, but it will be a theme for heavenly scholarship to discover all that is contained in the divine name. The glorious power of God defended and preserved the Lord Jesus through the battle of his life and death, and exalted him above all his enemies. His warfare is now accomplished in his own proper person, but in his mystical body, the church, he is still beset with dangers, and only the eternal arm of our God in covenant can defend the soldiers of the cross, and set them on high out of the reach of their foes. The day of trouble is not over, the pleading Saviour is not silent, and the name of the God of Israel is still the defence of the faithful. The name: "God of Jacob," is suggestive; Jacob had his day of trouble, he wrestled, was heard, was defended, and in due time was set on high, and his God is our God still, the same God to all his wrestling Jacobs. The whole verse is a very fitting benediction to be pronounced by a gracious heart over a child, a friend, or a minister, in prospect of trial; it includes both temporal and spiritual protection, and directs the mind to the great Source of all good. How delightful to believe that our heavenly Father has pronounced it upon our favoured heads!
"Send thee help from the sanctuary." Out of heaven's sanctuary came the angel to strengthen our Lord, and from the precious remembrance of God's doings in his sanctuary our Lord refreshed himself when on the tree. There is no help like that which is of God's sending, and no deliverance like that which comes out of his sanctuary. The sanctuary to us is the person of our blessed Lord, who was typified by the temple, and is the true sanctuary which God has pitched, and not man: let us fly to the cross for shelter in all times of need, and help will be sent to us. Men of the world despise sanctuary help, but our hearts have learned to prize it beyond all material aid. They seek help out of the armoury, or the treasury, or the buttery, but we turn to the sanctuary. "And strengthen thee out of Zion." Out of the assemblies of the pleading saints who had for ages prayed for their Lord, help might well result to the despised Sufferer, for praying breath is never spent in vain. To the Lord's mystical body the richest good comes in answer to the pleadings of his saints assembled for holy worship as his Zion. Certain advertisers recommend a strengthening plaster, but nothing can give such strength to the loins of a saint as waiting upon God in the assemblies of his people. This verse is a benediction befitting a Sabbath morning, and may be the salutation either of a pastor to his people, or of a church to its minister. God in the sanctuary of his dear Son's person, and in the city of his chosen church is the proper object of his people's prayers, and under such a character may they confidently look to him for his promised aid.
"Remember all thy offerings, and accept thy burnt sacrifice; Selah." Before war, kings offered sacrifice, upon the acceptance of which they depended for success; our blessed Lord presented himself as a victim, and was a sweet savour unto the Most High, and then he met and routed the embattled legions of hell. Still does his burnt sacrifice perfume the courts of heaven, and through him the offerings of his people are received as his sacrifices and oblations. We ought in our spiritual conflicts to have an eye to the sacrifice of Jesus, and never venture to war until first the Lord has given us a token for good at the altar of the cross, where faith beholds her bleeding Lord. "Selah." It is well to pause at the cross before we march onward to battle, and with the Psalmist cry "Selah." We are too much in a hurry to make good haste. A little pausing might greatly help our speed. Stay, good man, there is a haste which hinders; rest awhile, meditate on the burnt sacrifice, and put thy heart right for the stern work which lieth before thee.
"Grant thee according to thine own heart, and fulfil all thy counsel." Christ's desire and counsel were both set upon the salvation of his people; the church of old desired for him good speed in his design, and the church in these latter days, with all her heart desires the complete fulfilment of his purpose. In Christ Jesus sanctified souls may appropriate this verse as a promise; they shall have their desire, and their plans to glorify their Master shall succeed. We may have our own will when our will is God's will. This was always the case with our Lord, and yet he said, "not as I will, but as thou wilt." What need for submission in our case; if it was necessary to him, how much more for us! THE ARGUMENT
the name of the God of Jacob defend thee; that is, God himself, who is named the God of Jacob, whom Jacob called upon, and trusted in as his God, and who answered him in the day of his distress: Jacob was exercised with many troubles, but the Lord delivered him out of them all; and which may be the reason why the Lord is addressed under this character here; besides, Israel is one of the names of the Messiah, Isaiah 49:3; on whose account the petition is put to which may be added, that Jacob may design people of God, the spiritual sons of Jacob, the church of the living God, whose God the Lord is; and the phrase may be here used by the church, to encourage her faith in prayer: the petition, on account of the Messiah, is, that God would "defend" him, or "set" him on "an high place" (n); or "exalt" him: he was brought very low in his state of humiliation; he was in the form of a servant; he was in a very low and mean condition throughout the whole of his life; through the suffering of death he was made lower than the angels, and he was laid in the lower parts of the earth: the church, in this petition, prays for his resurrection from the dead; for his ascension into the highest heavens; for his exaltation at the right hand of God; for the more visible setting him on his throne in his kingdom; in all which she has been answered.<
(a) By this kings are also admonished to call to God in their affairs.
(b) The virtue, power and grace of God.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)1. hear thee] R.V., answer thee, and so in Psalm 20:6; Psalm 20:9.
the day of trouble] Or distress, when adversaries (a cognate word) press him hard. The impending campaign is specially, though not exclusively, meant. Cp. Psalm 46:1; Numbers 10:9.
The name &c.] May the God of Jacob prove Himself to be all that His Name implies (see on Psalm 5:11): may He Who is a tower of refuge (Psalm 9:9, Psalm 18:2) set thee up on high in safety from thy enemies. Cp. Proverbs 18:10. God of Jacob is often synonymous with God of Israel (Psalm 46:7; Psalm 46:11); yet the choice of this name cannot but suggest the thought of Jehovah’s providential care for the great ancestor of the nation. Cp. the exactly similar language of Genesis 35:3 : “God, who answered me in the day of my distress;” and the references to Jacob’s history in Hosea 12:4-5.
1–5. The people’s prayer for their king’s success.Verse 1. - The Lord hear thee in the day of trouble. The people intercede for their king in a "clay of trouble" or "distress," when danger impends, and he is about to affront it. They are made to ask, first of all, that God will hear the king's prayers, which are no doubt being silently offered while they pray aloud. The Name of the God of Jacob defend thee. (On the force of the expression, "the Name of God," see the comment upon Psalm 7:17.) "Jacob's God" - a favourite expression with David - is the God who made him the promise, "I will be with thee, and I will keep thee in all places whither thou goest" (Genesis 28:15). "Defend thee" is scarcely a correct rendering. Translate, exalt thee. Isaiah 1:10; Isaiah 8:16, and prophetically of the New Testament gospel, Isaiah 2:3. But here no other divine revelation is meant than that given by the mediation of Moses, which is become the law, i.e., the rule of life (νόμος), of Israel; and this law, too, as a whole not merely as to its hortatory and disciplinary character, but also including the promises contained in it. The praises which the poet pronounces upon the Law, are accurate even from the standpoint of the New Testament. Even Paul says, Romans 7:12, Romans 7:14, "The Law is holy and spiritual, and the commandment holy, and just, and good." The Law merits these praises in itself; and to him who is in a state of favour, it is indeed no longer a law bringing a curse with it, but a mirror of the God merciful in holiness, into which he can look without slavish fear, and is a rule for the direction of his free and willing obedience. And how totally different is the affection of the psalmists and prophets for the Law, - an affection based upon the essence and universal morality of the commandments, and upon a spiritual realisation of the letter, and the consolation of the promises, - from the pharisaical rabbinical service of the letter and the ceremonial in the period after the Exile!
The divine Law is called תּמימה, "perfect," i.e., spotless and harmless, as being absolutely well-meaning, and altogether directed towards the well-being of man. And משׁיבת נפשׁ restoring, bringing back, i.e., imparting newness of life, quickening the soul (cf. Pil. שׁובב, Psalm 23:3), to him, viz., who obeys the will of God graciously declared therein, and enters upon the divine way or rule of salvation. Then in the place of the word תורה we find עדוּת, - as the tables of the Ten Commandments (לחוּת העדוּת) are called, - from עוּד (העיד), which signifies not merely a corroborative, but also a warning and instructive testimony or attestation. The testimony of Jahve is נאמנה, made firm, sure, faithful, i.e., raised above all doubt in its declarations, and verifying itself in its threatenings and promises; and hence מחכּימת פּתי, making wise simplicity, or the simple, lit., openness, the open (root פת to spread out, open, Indo-Germ. prat, πετ, pat, pad), i.e., easily led astray; to such an one it gives a solid basis and stability, σοφίζει αὐτὸν, 2 Timothy 3:15. The Law divides into פּקּוּדים, precepts or declarations concerning man's obligation; these are ישׁרים, straight or upright, as a norma normata, because they proceed from the upright, absolutely good will of God, and as a norma normans they lead along a straight way in the right track. They are therefore משׂמּחי לב, their educative guidance, taking one as it were by the hand, frees one from all tottering, satisfies a moral want, and preserves a joyous consciousness of being in the right way towards the right goal. מצות יהוה, Jahve's statute (from צוּה statuere), is the tenour of His commandments. The statute is a lamp - it is said in Proverbs 6:23 -and the law a light. So here: it is בּרה, clear, like the light of the sun (Sol 6:10), and its light is imparted to other objects: מאירת עינים, enlightening the eyes, which refers not merely to the enlightening of the understanding, but of one's whole condition; it makes the mind clear, and body as well as mind healthy and fresh, for the darkness of the eyes is sorrow, melancholy, and bewilderment. In this chain of names for the Law, יראת ה is not the fear of God as an act performed, but as a precept, it is what God's revelation demands, effects, and maintains; so that it is the revealed way in which God is to be feared (Psalm 34:12) - in short, it is the religion of Jahve (cf. Proverbs 15:33 with Deuteronomy 17:19). This is טהורה, clean, pure, as the word which is like to pure gold, by which it is taught, Psalm 12:7, cf. Job 28:19; and therefore עמדת לעד, enduring for ever in opposition to all false forms of reverencing God, which carry their own condemnation in themselves. משׁפּטי ה are the jura of the Law as a corpus juris divini, everything that is right and constitutes right according to the decision of Jahve. These judgments are אמת, truth, which endures and verifies itself; because, in distinction from most others and those outside Israel, they have an unchangeable moral foundation: צדקוּ יחדּו, i.e., they are צדיקים, in accordance with right and appropriate (Deuteronomy 4:8), altogether, because no reproach of inappositeness and sanctioned injustice or wrong clings to them. The eternal will of God has attained a relatively perfect form and development in the Law of Jahve according to the standard set up as the law of the nation.
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