Matthew Henry Complete CommentaryPsalms 21
on the Whole Bible
As the foregoing psalm was a prayer for the king that God would protect
and prosper him, so this is a thanksgiving for the success God had
blessed him with. Those whom we have prayed for we ought to give thanks
for, and particularly for kings, in whose prosperity we share. They are
I. To congratulate him on his victories, and the honour he had achieved,
II. To confide in the power of God for the completing of the ruin of
the enemies of his kingdom,
In this there is an eye to Messiah the Prince, and the glory of his
kingdom; for to him divers passages in this psalm are more applicable
than to David himself.
|The Subject's Thanksgiving.
To the chief musician. A psalm of David.
1 The king shall joy in thy strength, O LORD;
and in thy salvation how greatly shall he rejoice!
2 Thou hast given him his heart's desire, and hast not
withholden the request of his lips. Selah.
3 For thou preventest him with the blessings of goodness: thou
settest a crown of pure gold on his head.
4 He asked life of thee, and thou gavest it him, even
length of days for ever and ever.
5 His glory is great in thy salvation: honour and majesty
hast thou laid upon him.
6 For thou hast made him most blessed for ever: thou hast made
him exceeding glad with thy countenance.
David here speaks for himself in the first place, professing that his
joy was in God's strength and in his salvation, and not in the strength
or success of his armies. He also directs his subjects herein to
rejoice with him, and to give God all the glory of the victories he had
obtained; and all with an eye to Christ, of whose triumphs over the
powers of darkness David's victories were but shadows.
1. They here congratulate the king on his joys and concur with him in
"The king rejoices, he uses to rejoice in thy strength,
and so do we; what pleases the king pleases us,"
2 Samuel 3:36.
Happy the people the character of whose king it is that he makes God's
strength his confidence and God's salvation his joy, that is pleased
with all the advancements of God's kingdom and trusts God to bear him
out in all he does for the service of it. Our Lord Jesus, in his great
undertaking, relied upon help from heaven, and pleased himself with the
prospect of that great salvation which he was thereby to work out.
2. They gave God all the praise of those things which were the matter
of their king's rejoicing.
(1.) That God had heard his prayers
Thou hast given him his heart's desire (and there is no prayer
accepted but what is the heart's desire), the very thing they begged of
God for him,
Note, God's gracious returns of prayer do, in a special manner, require
our humble returns of praise. When God gives to Christ the heathen for
his inheritance, gives him to see his seed, and accepts his
intercession for all believers, he give him his heart's desire.
(2.) That God had surprised him with favours, and much outdone his
Thou preventest him with the blessings of goodness. All our
blessings are blessings of goodness, and are owing, not at all to any
merit of ours, but purely and only to God's goodness. But the psalmist
here reckons it in a special manner obliging that these blessings were
given in a preventing way; this fixed his eye, enlarged his soul, and
endeared his God, as one expresses it. When God's blessings come sooner
and prove richer than we imagine, when they are given before we prayed
for them, before we were ready for them, nay, when we feared the
contrary, then it may be truly said that he prevented us with them.
Nothing indeed prevented Christ, but to mankind never was any favour
more preventing than our redemption by Christ and all the blessed
fruits of his mediation.
(3.) That God had advanced him to the highest honour and the most
extensive power: "Thou hast set a crown of pure gold upon his
head and kept it there, when his enemies attempted to throw it
off." Note, Crowns are at God's disposal; no head wears them but God
sets them there, whether in judgment to his land or for mercy the event
will show. On the head of Christ God never set a crown of gold, but of
thorns first, and then of glory.
(4.) That God had assured him of the perpetuity of his kingdom, and
therein had done more for him than he was able either to ask or think
"When he went forth upon a perilous expedition he asked his
life of thee, which he then put into his hand, and thou
not only gavest him that, but withal gavest him length of
days for ever and ever, didst not only prolong his life far beyond
his expectation, but didst assure him of a blessed immortality in a
future state and of the continuance of his kingdom in the Messiah that
should come of his loins." See how God's grants often exceed our
petitions and hopes, and infer thence how rich he is in mercy to those
that call upon him. See also and rejoice in the length of the days of
Christ's kingdom. He was dead, indeed, that we might live through him;
but he is alive, and lives for evermore, and of the increase of his
government and peace there shall be no end; and because he thus
lives we shall thus live also.
(5.) That God had advanced him to the highest honour and dignity
"His glory is great, far transcending that of all the
neighbouring princes, in the salvation thou hast wrought for him and by
him." The glory which every good man is ambitious of is to see the
salvation of the Lord. Honour and majesty hast thou laid upon
him, as a burden which he must bear, as a charge which he must
account for. Jesus Christ received from God the Father honour and
(2 Peter 1:17),
the glory which he had with him before the worlds were,
And on him is laid the charge of universal government and to him all
power in heaven and earth is committed.
(6.) That God had given him the satisfaction of being the channel of
all bliss to mankind
"Thou hast set him to be blessings for ever" (so the margin
reads it), "thou hast made him to be a universal blessing to the world,
in whom the families of the earth are, and shall be blessed; and so
thou hast made him exceedingly glad with the countenance thou hast
given to his undertaking and to him in the prosecution of it." See how
the spirit of prophecy gradually rises here to that which is peculiar
to Christ, for none besides is blessed for ever, much less a blessing
for ever to that eminency that the expression denotes: and of him it is
said that God made him full of joy with his countenance.
In singing this we should rejoice in his joy and triumph in his
7 For the king trusteth in the LORD, and through the mercy of
the most High he shall not be moved.
8 Thine hand shall find out all thine enemies: thy right hand
shall find out those that hate thee.
9 Thou shalt make them as a fiery oven in the time of thine
anger: the LORD shall swallow them up in his wrath, and the fire
shall devour them.
10 Their fruit shalt thou destroy from the earth, and their
seed from among the children of men.
11 For they intended evil against thee: they imagined a
mischievous device, which they are not able to perform.
12 Therefore shalt thou make them turn their back, when thou
shalt make ready thine arrows upon thy strings against the face
13 Be thou exalted, LORD, in thine own strength: so will we
sing and praise thy power.
The psalmist, having taught his people to look back with joy and praise
on what God had done for him and them, here teaches them to look
forward with faith, and hope, and prayer, upon what God would further
do for them: The king rejoices in God
and therefore we will be thankful; the king trusteth in God
therefore will we be encouraged. The joy and confidence of Christ our
King is the ground of all our joy and confidence.
I. They are confident of the stability of David's kingdom. Through
the mercy of the Most High, and not through his own merit or
strength, he shall not be moved. His prosperous state shall not
be disturbed; his faith and hope in God, which are the stay of his
spirit, shall not be shaken. The mercy of the Most High (the divine
goodness, power, and dominion) is enough to secure our happiness, and
therefore our trust in that mercy should be enough to silence all our
fears. God being at Christ's right hand in his sufferings
and he being at God's right hand in his glory, we may be sure he shall
not, he cannot, be moved, but continues ever.
II. They are confident of the destruction of all the impenitent
implacable enemies of David's kingdom. The success with which God had
blessed David's arms hitherto was an earnest of the rest which God
would give him from all his enemies round about, and a type of the
total overthrow of all Christ's enemies who would not have him to reign
over them. Observe,
1. The description of his enemies. They are such as hate him,
They hated David because God had set him apart for himself, hated
Christ because they hated the light; but both were hated without any
just cause, and in both God was hated,
2. The designs of his enemies
They intended evil against thee, and imagined a mischievous
device; they pretended to fight against David only, but their
enmity was against God himself. Those that aimed to un-king David
aimed, in effect, to un-God Jehovah. What is devised and designed
against religion, and against the instruments God raises up to support
and advance it, is very evil and mischievous, and God takes it as
devised and designed against himself and will so reckon for it.
(3.) The disappointment of them: "They devise what they are not able
Their malice is impotent, and they imagine a vain thing,
(4.) The discovery of them
"Thy hand shall find them out. Though ever so artfully disguised
by the pretences and professions of friendship, though mingled with the
faithful subjects of this kingdom and hardly to be distinguished from
them, though flying from justice and absconding in their close places,
yet thy hand shall find them out wherever they are." There is no
escaping God's avenging eye, no going out of the reach of his hand;
rocks and mountains will be no better shelter at last than fig-leaves
were at first.
(5.) The destruction of them; it will be an utter destruction
they shall be swallowed up and devoured,
Hell, the portion of all Christ's enemies, is the complete misery both
of body and soul. Their fruit and their seed shall be
The enemies of God's kingdom, in every age, shall fall under the same
doom, and the whole generation of them will at last be rooted out, and
all opposing rule, principality, and power, shall be put down. The
arrows of God's wrath shall confound them and put them to flight, being
levelled at the face of them,
That will be the lot of daring enemies that face God. The fire of God's
wrath will consume them
they shall not only be cast into a furnace of fire
but he shall make them themselves as a fiery oven or furnace; they
shall be their own tormentors; the reflections and terrors of their own
consciences will be their hell. Those that might have had Christ to
rule and save them, but rejected him and fought against him, shall find
that even the remembrance of that will be enough to make them, to
eternity, a fiery oven to themselves: it is the worm that dies not.
III. In this confidence they beg of God that he would still appear for
that he would act for him in his own strength, by the immediate
operations of his power as Lord of hosts and Father of spirits, making
little use of means and instruments. And,
1. Hereby he would exalt himself and glorify his own name. "We have but
little strength, and are not so active for thee as we should be, which
is our shame; Lord, take the work into thy own hands, do it, without
us, and it will be thy glory."
2. Hereupon they would exalt him: "So will we sing, and praise thy
power, the more triumphantly." The less God has of our service when
a deliverance is in the working the more he must have of our praises
when it is wrought without us.