The War Spirit of the Old Testament
Psalm 20:1-9
The LORD hear you in the day of trouble; the name of the God of Jacob defend you;


II. ITS CONSTRUCTION. It begins with an address to the monarch under the peculiar circumstances of the exigency. Then, with the words, "We will rejoice in Thy salvation," the speakers turn from prayer to the avowal of their confidence and of the spirit in which they would go to the war. Then the high priest might add the next clause, "The Lord fulfil all thy petitions." And now there appears to be a pause, and the sacrifices are offered, and the priest, catching sight of the auspicious omen, exclaims, "Now know I" (from what I observe of the indications of the Divine acceptance of the sacrifices — now know I) "that the Lord sayeth His anointed," etc. Then comes a response from the people, encouraged by what they have heard. "Some trust in chariots, and some in horses" — the very preparations that had been made against them, "but we will," etc. The whole closes by the acclamations of the people. "The Lord save the king! God will hear us. Save, Lord; let the king hear us when we call: we will pray for the king, we will call upon the Lord, we who remain at home when the army advances to the field. This reminds us of and illustrates a passage from R. Hall, entitled "Sentiments Proper to the Present Crisis," a warlike, though at first sight it appears not a very Christian, address, written about forty-four years ago, at the time of the threatened invasion. Addressing a company of volunteers, he introduces a sentiment very similar to that which concludes this Psalm. "Go, then, ye defenders of your country, accompanied with every auspicious omen; advance with alacrity into the field, where God Himself musters the hosts to war. Religion is too much interested in your success not to lend you her aid; she will shed over this enterprise her selected influence. While you are engaged in the field, many will repair to the closet, many to the sanctuary; the faithful of every name will employ that prayer which has power with God; the feeble hands which are unequal to any other weapon will grasp the sword of the spirit; and from myriads of humble, contrite hearts the voice of intercession, supplication, and weeping will mingle with the shouts of battle and the shock of arms."


1. Although all this is very imposing and grand, yet it is not the ideal of humanity. We do not wish such scenes to be permanent or universal. It was all very well for the time, but it is not well now. This is not the way in which God should be worshipped, nor the feelings which we should carry away from His altar. The New Testament tells us again and again that its aim is something altogether different from this "mustering of the hosts to war" — this "Go, ye defenders of your country" — this murdering and slaughtering. War may be brilliant, but it is not a good thing for the world, for humanity.

2. In proportion as the spirit of the Old Testament has been imbibed by nations, they have been retarded in the development of national character, and in the realisation of the Christian ideal. Ceremonies, hierarchies, ritual, a national priesthood, a vicarious religion, an ecclesiastical eastern special class of men being set apart to spend their nights and days in praying for the people — all these come from Judaisers. And so again with the national war spirit, the military art regarded as a profession, the consecration of colours, and the rest, — these are Jewish, not Christian. We laugh at the Covenanter and the Roundhead, but where they were wrong was in imbibing the Old Testament spirit.

3. War is not always without justification, but we ought to shrink from it as an abhorred thing.

4. Let the Psalm remind you of King Jesus, and of His victory and our own through Him.

(Thomas Binney.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: {To the chief Musician, A Psalm of David.} The LORD hear thee in the day of trouble; the name of the God of Jacob defend thee;

WEB: May Yahweh answer you in the day of trouble. May the name of the God of Jacob set you up on high,

The Name of Jehovah
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