“The Battle Hymn of the Republic” was written around the time of the American Civil War and has continued to remain a rousing patriotic tune enjoyed by many Americans. Battle hymns have been enjoyed by many nations for centuries as a way to boost morale and rally troops and the nation’s people around the goal of victory. Psalm 20 and 21 are two of Israel’s battle hymns. Psalm 20 anticipates the victory ahead while Psalm 21 reflects on the victory. These Psalms were written by David likely during a period of war. Is Psalm 20, David knows that battle is coming so he wisely prepares for the conflict.
This battle hymn was written in preparation for a battle. So what is it that kept David prepared for the battles? We see that, first of all, David turned to the power of prayer. The congregation prayed on the king’s behalf in vv. 1-5 for victory in the battle. Understanding that victory only comes from God, they petitioned the name of God three times. Beginning in verse 6, David expressed great confidence that God would answer their prayer: “Now I know that the LORD saveth his anointed; he will hear him from his holy heaven with the saving strength of his right hand.” While other kings trusted in human strength (“chariots” and “horses”), David’s confidence in God led him to trust in the name of the Lord. David understood that those whose confident trust is in God are able to ultimately triumph while those who trust in man are doomed to fall: “They are brought down and fallen: but we are risen, and stand upright” (v. 8).
As Christians, we are in a spiritual battle against the world, the flesh, and the devil. It is important that when we sing our battle songs of faith, we remember that our victory is in the Lord. In David’s day, many kings and people trusted in their chariots and horses, as emblems of human strength, to overcome their enemy. And nothing in human nature has changed. Yes, we don’t see mankind boasting in chariots and horses, but we do see mankind boasting in human achievement or in human strength. The same temptation is before us, except money, politicians, the “experts”, experience, manpower, armies, creative ability, marketing strategies, and the wisdom of man have replaced “chariots and horses”. If we are going to fight to the victory and be overcomers, we must pray with confidence in God’s saving ability and we must learn to trust him to secure the victory. So let us sing the battle hymns of our faith fervently and be wisely prepared for what lies ahead as we learn to place our confidence in God alone.