Whose desires do you want fulfilled? (Psalm 20)

Today I have been meditating on Psalm 20. I think how we read this psalm can reveal a lot about our hearts. Check out the first four verses:

(1) May the LORD answer you in the day of trouble!
May the name of the God of Jacob protect you!
(2) May he send you help from the sanctuary
and give you support from Zion!
(3) May he remember all your offerings
and regard with favor your burnt sacrifices!
(4) May he grant you your heart’s desire
and fulfill all your plans!

When I read this passage this morning, verse 4 jumped out at me. What a great verse! “Yes, Lord! Grant my heart’s desires! Fulfill all my plans!” Who doesn’t like that prayer? “Lord, give me what I want!”

I want what I want, and I want it when I want it. Thankfully, God is a good Father and does not spoil his children by giving in to their every demand. God knows better and only gives what is best, whether or not we recognize it.

The truth is my brain quickly read Psalm 20:4 as talking about God fulfilling my desires because my heart is not yet fully sanctified, sinless. These days I find myself with strong desires, lots of plans. And I find myself fighting against manipulating and controlling and taking God’s place as Director of my life. The truth is that I am not the “you” of Psalm 20:4. Hope I’m not bursting your bubble (or maybe I do), but you are not the “you” of that verse either.

Check out the next verse:

(5) May we shout for joy over your salvation,
and in the name of our God set up our banners!
May the Lord fulfill all your petitions!

Grammatically, the “your” of verse 5 must point to the same “you” of verses 1-4. Where are we really supposed to fit in this passage? Who am I in this psalm, and who are you? We are the “we” of verse 5. And whose salvation should make us shout for joy? Christ’s!

This interpretation is confirmed in verse 6:

(6) Now I know that the LORD saves his anointed;
he will answer him from his holy heaven
with the saving might of his right hand.

The Lord’s “anointed” (Hebrew = “messiah”; Greek = “Christ”) is Jesus. In the original context, this psalm was a prayer of the Israelites for their king. Look at the final verse of the prayer:

(9) O LORD, save the king!
May he answer us when we call.

So this is a psalm for the Hebrew people to sing as a prayer for their king, that God would deliver him from trouble, protect him, help him, remember him, and show him favor. And who is the ultimate King? The one, true, real King of Israel?


Psalm 20:4 is praying that God would grant the desires of Jesus‘ heart and fulfill all of his plans. What are those plans? Verse 5 answers this question. Jesus’ desire and plan is to provide salvation for lost sinners, to redeem a people who would raise the name of God as their banner. That’s why verses 4 and 5 fit together like they do.

Thank goodness God is more concerned about fulfilling the desires of Jesus than my own desires, or yours! What a mess we’d be in. My heart is fickle and my desires fade.

Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it;
Prone to leave the God I love!
Here’s my heart, Lord; take and seal it,
Seal it for Thy courts above!

But it gets better. As we come to know Jesus more, love him more, suddenly we desire him more. By his grace, our hearts come into alignment with his. By his Spirit, we are conformed more and more to his image.

As we grow in love for Jesus, we follow his example in the prayers of our hearts: “Lord, not my will but yours be done.” We read Psalm 20:4, and we are happy to pray for God to grant the desires of Jesus and fulfill his plans, not our own! Only then do we get to live in the pleasures of verse 5: Jesus as our joy, salvation as our heart’s cry, and the Lord as our banner.

When we live this way, nothing can stop us. No circumstance in life, no disappointment, no trouble, no tribulation. When Jesus is our joy and our heart’s desire is for his heart’s desire to be fulfilled, then we know the kind of faith we read of in verses 7 and 8:

(7) Some trust in chariots and some in horses,
but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.
(8) They collapse and fall,
but we rise and stand upright.

This is freedom: “Jesus is my King. His plans for me are good and certain. I rejoice in him. He is my hope and strength and banner. I need not depend on earthly things, for I stand on Christ, the solid Rock.”

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