“Don’t judge!” That’s the correction given over and over in our day. And there is much truth in it - but not absolute truth. Because joy comes in judgment.
Psalm 21 talks in terms of two teams, of two sides. There is joy when your team wins. Their is dismay when you lose. Joy is tied to the judgment of the other side. Psalm 21 describes no silly game. This is not merely an annual contest to be played all over again next year. This is the eternal struggle between God and His enemies, and we are caught in the middle. Those who have been caught up by God’s grace are now passionate for the victory of God and for the vindication of God’s people as we often take our lumps, or worse, in this world that has set itself against God. And our joy is ultimately linked to God’s victory over and judgment of His enemies.
Psalm 21 begins and ends with a reference to God’s strength. We have a strong team, anchored in the strength of our God. We exult in our God, and we want to see Him exalted, by all. There is none like Him.
And He treats His people so well. What we want, He gives, in keeping with His victory. We ask for life. He defeats death. We ask for more and many days. He removes the curse and every barrier to eternal life. We want to be close to Him, and He gives “the joy of your presence” (v.6). Our God is better than we deserve, and greater than we know.
The most striking metaphor in Psalm 21 is in v.9: “as a blazing oven.” You have to connect this with Nebuchadnezzar’s oven into which he tossed Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in Daniel 3. God thwarted His enemy’s victory that day, and will establish His own victory in terrible judgment, which will result in the joy of God’s people.
God is the judge, not me. But let’s not be so afraid of judgment that we remove it from our conception of our God, and thus lose our joy.