Our Horn and Shield
(14) Righteousness and justice (are) the foundation of your throne. Steadfast love and faithfulness go before your presence. (15) How blessed is the people that knows how (to make) the joyful sound (of worship)! They walk, Yahweh, in the light of your presence. (16) In your name they rejoice all the day, and in your righteousness they are exalted. (17) Indeed, you (are) the glory of their strength, and by your favor our horn is exalted, (18) for to Yahweh (belongs) our shield and to the Holy One of Israel (belongs) our king.
In this segment, filled with praise, we find two areas of focus. First, the psalmist considers Yahweh’s attributes which are truly praiseworthy. Then he highlights the character of the king whom Yahweh will appoint to rule over the nation.
Three repetitions and several synonyms help us identify these emphases. “Your presence,” literally “face,” occurs twice (vss. 14 & 15). “Righteousness,” which is mentioned along with some of Yahweh’s other attributes including “justice,” “steadfast love,” and “faithfulness” (vs. 14), is repeated two verses later (vs. 16). “Exalted” is also mentioned twice (vss. 16 & 17). Three names are given to Yahweh’s coming ruler: “our horn,” “our shield,” and “our king” (vss. 17 & 18).
I. Rejoicing in Yahweh’s attributes (14-16)
II. Rejoicing in Yahweh’s king (17 & 18)
We worship Yahweh with great rejoicing as we consider his attributes as well as the character of the king he will appoint to reign over us.
The terms, “horn” and “shield,” used as descriptive names for Yahweh’s ruler in this particular context, may not convey to us in the present day the same significance they held for those living at the time when this psalm was written. For many animals, native to the ancient Near East, the horn was their most prominent feature and main weapon, used in both offensive and defensive situations. The authors of the apocalyptic books such as Ezekiel, Daniel, and the Revelation often used horned animals to represent powerful nations and their leaders. Such images speak of their strength and prowess in battle. The shield was the warrior’s main defensive weapon, used to protect him from arrows and spear thrusts. Often, shields were large enough to cover the combatant’s entire body.
Describing Israel’s king as a “horn” and a “shield” means that he is a great warrior whom the people can trust both to fight for them offensively as well as to protect them defensively in whatever conflict they might face. This was certainly true of King David during the years of his long reign. Even more will it be true of the coming Messiah, David’s descendant, when he comes to establish his rule over the whole earth. It is no wonder that the people of God greatly rejoice in the power and protection of Yahweh and his king.