Despite the later respect David gained as the prototypical king of Israel, distrust, danger, and civil war marked the early days of his reign. While reigning in Hebron following the death of Saul, the rise of Saul’s son, Ishbosheth, kept Israel divided during a time when other enemies still sought an opportunity to renew their control over the nation. However, through God’s providential help, David overcame these obstacles and emerged as the triumphant king of a united Israel, just as the LORD had promised when Samuel anointed him. David had kept this as his focus throughout his persecution by Saul and the dangerous days that followed. He and the people both had prayed, asking God for his deliverance that he might reign as king (Psalm 20). Now that all this had come to fruition, the king and the people pray once again, but this offering focuses on thankfulness for God’s answer to their plea, characterized by David’s opening words, “The king shall have joy in Your strength, O Lord; And in Your salvation how greatly shall he rejoice! You have given him his heart’s desire, And have not withheld the request of his lips. Selah” (Psalm 21:1-2). He then proceeded to detail both his requests and how God had granted them—and more. For this reason, David explains, “the king trusts in the Lord, And through the mercy of the Most High he shall not be moved” (Psa. 21:7). Thus, David’s personal faith led the people to a greater faith that they expressed as well (Psa. 21:8-12).
Petition, supplication, and intercession are regular features of our prayers. We ask God for help—almost without thinking about it. We ask him to take care of us—from the big issues of life down to the small. We frequently ask for Him to come to the aid of those we love who are facing difficulties, whether with health, finances, or various other struggles. But how often do we turn around and give such specific thanks when our LORD answers our requests in the affirmative? We ask God to keep us safe on our travels before we leave, but how often do we give thanks when we arrive safely? We publicly ask God to care for those going through surgery, but how often do we publicly give thanks to God for seeing them through surgery? We ask God to see us through crisis after crisis, and yet when we emerge from the crisis, do we thank God with a strengthened faith? Why not?
God’s people should be the most grateful people on the face of the earth because we have more for which to be thankful than anyone else. Since God “makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust,” the difference between some of the blessings we enjoy may simply be our thankfulness. Let us make that a big difference! However, beyond this, we enjoy spiritual blessings that change the quality of our existence from the mundane to the sublime (Eph. 1:3). Let our thankfulness for these things be specific and abundant. However, let us also learn from David that our God does not only deserve our thanks for these things, He also deserves our praise. “Be exalted, O Lord, in Your own strength! We will sing and praise Your power” (Psa. 21:13). If this is not how we respond when God answers our prayers in the affirmative, we probably are not thankful enough.