Psalm 20: Sanctuary
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.
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!
I don’t know about you, but the word sanctuary always reminds me of the movie The Hunchback of Notre Dame. If you have not seen this classic Disney movie the basic plot is that Quasimodo, the bell-ringer of Notre Dame Cathedral, who bides his time locked away in a tower. With only gargoyles to keep him company, Quasimodo longs to be with other people, leading to his chance encounter with the enchanting Esmeralda. When the beautiful young woman catches the attention of Quasimodo's guardian, sinister Frollo, Quasimodo must help to keep her out of his clutches. Here is the scene that sanctuary makes me think of:
In an article from the History (which you can read here: https://www.history.com/news/church-sanctuary-asylum-middle-ages) they explain exactly what sanctuary meant in the time of Quasimodo and Esmerelda. Though the scene from the movie is pretty dramatic (he swings in and out on a rope), it’s based on a real religious custom. In medieval Europe, fugitives really could escape the death penalty by claiming sanctuary in a church. The catch was that afterwards, they usually had to go into permanent exile.
Psalm 20 and 21 fit together as a pair. Psalm 20 is a prayer that God will give success to the Davidic king, particularly in battle. Tomorrow we will see how Psalm 21 gives thanks to God for answering the request of Psalm 20. It is written for the community to pray for their king that God will answer David’s prayers, protect him, send him help, and support him.
They pray in verse 2, “May he send you help from the sanctuary,” and then in verse 6, “He answers him from his heavenly sanctuary with the victorious power of his right hand.” So, what does sanctuary mean for David? The sanctuary in Zion is really the place where God makes himself present among his people or God’s dwelling place. Even more specifically in David’s time, God’s sanctuary was in the ark of the covenant, where God dwelled among the people of Israel.
Challenge: This psalm ends with verses 6-8 to remind us to trust in the Lord. Go to a place in your house that is quiet. Take time to reflect on what might be blocking you from trusting God. Why might those things be barriers for you right now? What protection, help, or support do you need right now from God?