Psalm 20


This psalm is a prayer of David when he was about to go into a great battle with his enemies. Many believe the background to this prayer was when David was about to go into battle with the Arameans, 2 Samuel 10:1-16.

In this psalm, the people ask God to give him the victory. It’s closely related to Psalm 21, where we find that God gave him the victory and he gives thanks to God for it.


‘For the director of music. A psalm of David.’

Although the headings aren’t inspired by God, they are important because they give us some understanding of the Psalm and they help us to see why it was written. The headings usually tell us four things.

1. Who wrote them, probably wrote them or possibly wrote them.

2. Information about the historical background to the Psalm. Why it was written.

3. They tell us of the tune the Psalm was written to.

4. How it was used.

This is a psalm of David and some believe that it was written for God and God Himself is the director of music, others believe him to be a leader of choirs or musicians in David’s time, such as Heman the Singer or Asaph, 1 Chronicles 6:33 / 2 Chronicles 16:17 / 2 Chronicles 25:6.

‘May the LORD answer you when you are in distress; may the name of the God of Jacob protect you. May he send you help from the sanctuary and grant you support from Zion. May he remember all your sacrifices and accept your burnt offerings. May he give you the desire of your heart and make all your plans succeed. May we shout for joy over your victory and lift up our banners in the name of our God. May the LORD grant all your requests.’ Psalm 20:1-5

These verses tell us that they were spoken to the king by the Levites during the time of offering, Genesis 22:8 / Genesis 22:14. This was a real prayer of faith, which demonstrated their confidence in God, Psalm 5:11/ Psalm 9:10 / Psalm 44:5 / Psalm 54:1 / Exodus 23:21.

The prayer begins by asking God to answer David in his time of distress, Acts 14:22 / 2 Timothy 3:12. They also pray that the name of the God of Jacob protects him, 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, Isaiah 44:2.

They ask God to send help from the sanctuary, which is the tabernacle, Exodus 28:43 / Exodus 29:30 / Exodus 35:19 / Exodus 39:1, this is where the ark of the covenant was kept, 2 Samuel 6:12-19.

They also ask for support from Zion, that is Jerusalem, which was the place where God was worshipped, and the place where the tabernacle was set up, Psalm 2:6.

At that moment the people would have raised their voices in encouragement and prayed that those sacrifices and offerings might be accepted and that he might find the deliverance which he had desired.

Since David was joining in with the required burnt offerings, the Levites called on God to bless David in order to bring his victory to the people, so that they won’t be oppressed by their enemy.

You may notice at the end of verse three, some translations have the word, ‘selah’, although no one really knows what this word means, it’s likely it means to pause. It’s a time to stop and reflect upon what has just been said.

We can almost imagine the people pausing for a breath as they contemplate if God will accept their offerings and sacrifices.

The people ask that David’s heart’s desire be fulfilled, at this time David had only one desire and that was to defend the people and defend his kingdom with God’s help.

For obvious reasons, the people also ask that David’s plans will succeed, this is obviously because if David fails they will become slaves to the Armenians but if David wins they will remain free.

The people demonstrate their faithfulness in God by proclaiming that they will rejoice over David’s victory, they will lift up their banners, which were military standards used in war, Numbers 1:52 / Numbers 2:2-3 / Numbers 2:10 / Numbers 2:18 / Numbers 2:25 / Numbers 10:14 / Numbers 10:25.

The people finish in total confidence that God will hear their prayer and the prayers of David.

‘Now this I know: The LORD gives victory to his anointed. He answers him from his heavenly sanctuary with the victorious power of his right hand. Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God. They are brought to their knees and fall, but we rise up and stand firm. LORD, give victory to the king! Answer us when we call!’ Psalm 20:6-9

Not only did the people demonstrate great faith in God in their prayers, but here, David does the same. He is absolutely confident that God will give ‘his anointed’, that’s David the victory.

He’s confident that God will answer him from His ‘heavenly sanctuary’, which is heaven itself, the dwelling place of God, 1 Chronicles 21:26 / 2 Chronicles 7:14 / Nehemiah 9:27-28 / Psalm 14:2 / Psalm 102:19. The ‘right hand’, signifies power and strength, Exodus 15:6 / Judges 5:26 / Psalm 17:7 / Psalm 18:35.

While David’s enemies put their trust in chariots and horses, as Nebuchadnezzar did, Daniel 4:25, David put his trust in the name of the Lord, 1 Samuel 17:45. We must remember that God didn’t allow the Israelites to acquire a great number of horses for any reason, Deuteronomy 17:16.

Their confidence in God to give David the victory is seen in that already see what’s happening to the enemy, they are ‘brought to their knees and fall’, Psalm 72:9 / Psalm 78:31 / Isaiah 10:4 / Isaiah 65:12. While their enemies bow down to them, they will rise up and stand firm in the Lord’s victory.

They cry out one more time to the Lord and ask that He gives David the victory and now they have to wait patiently to see if God will indeed hear their prayers. We know that the victory was given as we shall see in the next Psalm, which is a thanksgiving prayer for that victory, 2 Samuel 10:17-19.


Before this great battle with the Arameans, all of God’s people, including David, got together to ask God to help them in this terrible time of distress. They learned to trust in the Name of the Lord, instead of trusting in physical things such as chariots and horses.

As Christians it’s important that we too get together regularly to pray, Acts 2:42, to ask God to help us to prepare for our spiritual battles. Physical weapons are of no use to the Christian in spiritual warfare, we have to fight according to the strength that God has given us, Ephesians 6:13-17.

We ought to do everything to stand firm, we have to be prepared before the swords start flying around. Paul isn’t speaking about camouflage, he doesn’t tell us to hide, so that the devil will not find us, but he tells us to use our armour and fight against the evil spiritual beings, Psalm 36:12 / Galatians 2:11 / James 4:7 / Revelation 6:17.

Go To Psalm 21