The Preventing Love of the Lord
"Thou preventest him with the blessings of goodness: thou settest a crown of pure gold on his head" (Psalm 21:3).
At first glance, this verse by David is a bit puzzling.
The word "prevent" is usually associated with hindrance, not with blessing.
A modern translation here would be, "The Lord hindered David with the blessings of goodness."
Yet the biblical word for "prevent" signifies a completely different meaning.
It means "to anticipate, to precede, to foresee and fulfill in advance, to pay a debt before it is due."
Furthermore, in almost every instance, it implies something of pleasure.
Isaiah gives us a glimpse of this kind of pleasure.
It comes from God anticipating a need and fulfilling it ahead of time.
"It shall come to pass, that before they call, I will answer; and while they are yet speaking, I will hear" (Isaiah 65:24).
This verse provides us with an incredible picture of our Lord’s love for us.
Evidently, he is so anxious to bless us, so ready to fulfill his loving kindness in our lives, that he can’t even wait for us to tell him our needs.
So he jumps in and performs acts of mercy, grace and love toward us.
And that is a supreme pleasure to him.
This is just what David is saying in Psalm 21, in essence: "Lord, you pour out blessings and loving kindness on me before I can even ask.
"And you offer more than I could even conceive of asking."
David is referring to some awesome work God performed for him in the spiritual realm.
It’s something that gave David victory over his enemies, answers to prayer, overcoming power and unspeakable joy.
And God did it all before David could even go to prayer, to unburden his heart or present his request.
Once David finally did pour out his heart, he discovered God had already made provision to defeat his enemies.
David’s victory was assured before he could even get near the battlefield.
Indeed, when David wrote Psalm 21, he was speaking of a literal battle.
This Psalm is a companion chapter to Psalm 20, bothreferring to a battle described in 2 Samuel 10.
In that 2 Samuel passage, Israel’s enemy, the Ammonites, had hired Syrian battalions to wage war against David.
So David dispatched his military leader Joab and a choice army to meet the enemy at the nation’s border.
They defeated the Syrians soundly in an overwhelming victory and the enemy fled in fear.
David rejoiced, thinking, "That’s the end of the Syrians.
"We won’t have to deal with them again.
"Our army dealt them a death blow."
He wrote, "I have wounded them that they were not able to rise: they are fallen under my feet" (Psalm 18:38).
Yet scri pture tells us, "When the Syrians saw that they were smitten before Israel, they gathered themselves together" (2 Samuel 10:15).
This enemy regrouped and began plotting another attack.
Now they would come against Israel with great chariots of iron.
Of course, this story is about more than David’s troubles with the Syrians.
It is also about followers of Christ today and our battle with Satan.
It’s about a battle we thought we had won long ago — perhaps against a lust, a habit, a temptation we once defeated.
At the time we thought, "All my fasting and praying over this matter has paid off.
"I’ve finally won the victory, by faith.
"I won’t have to be plagued anymore."
Yet God gives us this story to reveal to us a crucial lesson.
Every victory we win over the flesh and the devil will be followed by an even greater temptation and attack.
Satan simply won’t give up in his war against us.
If we defeat him once, he’ll redouble his forces and come right back at us.
Suddenly, we’re in a spiritual war we thought we’d already won.
And now he comes at us with "iron chariots," weapons and devices of greater force and intensity than we’ve known.
"The Syrians set themselves in array against David and fought with him" (2 Samuel 10:17).
It’s important to note David was not living in sin at this time.
On the contrary, he walked in the fear of God.
And yet David was human, so he must have wondered, "Why would God allow this once-dead enemy to come against me again?"
We know David had a tender heart.
No doubt he searched his soul, wondering if there was some wicked way in him.
Was he being disobedient somehow?
He probably thought, "Lord, am I being disciplined?"
Isn’t this what goes through our minds whenever we face an enemy we thought was defeated long ago?
We wallow in self-examination: "There must be some evil root in me.
"How else could I be tempted in this same area over and over?
"I must be a phony, a hypocrite, rotten inside."
We end up crying out as David did: "Help, Lord, this is beyond me and I need a miracle.
"Please, rid me of this thing once and for all."
Suddenly, in the midst of his confusion and soul-searching, David remembered the covenant God had made with him: "The Lord telleth thee that he will make thee an house.
"And when thy days be fulfilled and thou shalt sleep with thy fathers, I will set up thy seed after thee, which shall proceed out of thy bowels and I will establish his kingdom" (2 Samuel 7:11–12).
God reminded David of this promise as he was going to war.
He wanted to remove all fear from his beloved servant.
So while the devil was throwing every weapon in hell at David, the Lord showed him that even before he entered battle he would emerge a victor.
He said, in effect: "I’m going to plant you and your seed so that your house will stand forever.
"You don’t have to be pushed around by your enemies, because I’m going to cut them off.
"So, when the Syrians show up in their iron chariots, don’t be moved.
"You’ll come out of this battle standing."
David laid hold of these promises.
And the first thing he did was to take his eyes off the oncoming enemy.
Now he was no longer weeping about being in trouble, trying to grasp why the struggle had come.
Instead, he basked in the revelation of God’s loving kindness: "He delivered me, because he delighted in me" (Psalm 18:19).
This is what God intends for every one of his children when the enemy comes upon us like a flood.
The Lord "prevents" us with his love.
In other words, he says to us, "You may be wounded, but that doesn’t matter.
"I have already made you victorious."
When we rest and trust in this promise, we can rejoice in victory even before we go into battle.
Because of God’s "preventing" promise, we are able to claim victory and dominion even before the battle begins.
David sang, "The king shall joy in thy strength, O Lord; and in thy salvation how greatly shall he rejoice!
"Thou hast given him his heart’s desire and hast not withholden the request of his lips" (Psalm 21:1–2).
You may wonder, "How could David rejoice?
"He faced the most intense attack he’d ever known.
"How could he have joy when he might have been wounded or killed?"
David answers: "Thou preventest him with the blessings of goodness: thou settest a crown of pure gold on his head" (21:3).
What David is saying here is life-changing: "I face a powerful enemy who is bent on destroying me.
"But my soul is at peace. Why?
"The Lord has foreseen my struggle.
"And he has showered me with assurances of his love.
"My enemy may cause me to stumble or fall and at some point it might seem I’m finished.
"But God has told me that if I will just get up, I will receive his strength and win the battle."
David then made this statement of faith just before going to war: "Thou settest a crown of pure gold on (my) head" (21:3).
The crown of gold David mentions here is a symbol of victory and dominion.
David was saying, "I’m going to war riding on God’s promise to me.
"He said I would walk out of the battle wearing the crown of victory."
This sums up the doctrine of God’s "preventing goodness": He has anticipated all our struggles — all our battles with sin, flesh and the devil — and in his mercy and goodness, he has paid our debt before it can even come due.
Our victory is a done deal.
Yet this doctrine doesn’t apply to Christians who flirt with sin.
By refusing to part with their lust, they have already surrendered to the enemy.
Such people simply don’t want to be free.
And they have already developed a hardened heart.
They have tested God’s grace and love again and again, until finally they have come to despise it.
God’s preventing goodness applies especially to those who love Jesus and are surprised by sin.
The Lord assures us that even if we are cast down temporarily, we’ll emerge from the battle standing upright, all because Jesus has paid our debt.
Maybe you’ve been wounded and bloodied by the enemy’s sword.
You’ve failed in some way and now you’re downcast in spirit, wondering if you’ll ever recover.
Don’t lie there wondering, "Where did I go wrong?"
Get up, and stand on God’s promises of loving kindness.
Confess and lay hold of his forgiveness.
He promised that you would come out of every battle a victor, crowned by his strength.
"Be thou exalted, Lord, in thine own strength: so will we sing and praise thy power" (Psalm 21:13).
How does the Lord "prevent" us with these blessings of goodness and loving kindness?
The Holy Spirit drives out all fear from us — fear of falling, of being cut off from God, of losing the presence of the Holy Spirit — by implanting in us his joy.
We are to go forth rejoicing, as David did, because God has assured us we will prevail.
Yet so few Christians have this joy and exceeding gladness.
Multitudes never know rest of soul or the peace of Christ’s presence.
They walk around as if in mourning, picturing themselves under the thumb of God’s wrath rather than under his protective wings.
They see him as a harsh taskmaster, always ready to bring a whip down on their backs.
And so they live unhappily, with no hope, more dead than alive.
But in God’s eyes, our problem isn’t sin; it is trust. Jesus settled our sin problem once and for all at Calvary.
He doesn’t constantly harp on us, "This time you’ve crossed the line."
His attitude toward us is just the opposite.
His Spirit is constantly wooing us, reminding us of the Father’s loving kindness even in the midst of our failures.
When we become focused on our sin, we lose all sight of what God wants most: "Without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him" (Hebrews 11:6).
This verse says it all. Our God is a rewarder and he’s so anxious to shower us with his loving kindness that he blesses us way ahead of schedule.
This is the concept our heavenly Father longs for us to have of him.
He knows when we’ll repent over our failures and sins.
He knows when our contriteness is coming.
But he can’t wait for the due date.
So he jumps in, saying, "I want to assure my child he won’t be judged, because I’ve already forgiven him through my Son’s cleansing blood."
David is an example of someone who was blessed with God’s goodness even though he went "too far."
You know David’s story.
He went way beyond temptation, falling into blatant adultery.
Then things got worse: David lied to cover his sin.
When that didn’t work, he committed murder to keep from being found out.
David became a hypocrite, sinning in the face of God’s blessings, causing God’s enemies to rejoice and bringing shame on the name of the Lord.
Yet, we all know how the story ended.
David was forgiven and fully restored, though he was disciplined severely.
My question is, at what point was David forgiven?
God sent the prophet Nathan to confront David about his sin.
The Lord said, "I want you to tell David how evil his sin is in my sight.
"As a result of his iniquity, the sword will not depart from his house.
"The illegitimate baby he fathered with Bathsheba will die.
"And his wives will be ravished in the sight of all Israel.
"Finally, tell David I have wiped out all his sins.
"He is no longer under judgment.
"I’m not going to kill him.
"Assure him he is totally forgiven."
Think about it: when God said this to Nathan, David was still in denial about his sin.
He hadn’t even confessed it yet.
Do you see what was happening?
God was forgiving this man before he had even faced his sin — before he could utter a prayer!
God knows all, and he knew David’s heart.
He knew when Nathan would confront him, David would blurt out, "Oh, Lord, I have sinned horribly.
"I’ve carried this burden for an entire year.
"Thank God, it has all been brought out in the open."
God knew David would be broken and contrite over his sin.
Yet, most of all, the Lord knew at heart David wasn’t a habitual adulterer or murderer.
Instead, David had been surprised by sin.
This man didn’t wake up one morning and decide, "Today I’m going to indulge my lust.
"I’m going up to my roof to peep around until I spy a nude woman bathing on her rooftop.
"Then I’ll bring her here to the palace and seduce her."
No, I’m convinced David was overwhelmed in a moment of weakness.
Likewise, God sees your heart.
You may be trapped in a bondage, having been overwhelmed by sin.
But the Lord knows you didn’t wake up one day and decide, "Today I’m going out to commit fornication.
"I’m going to find a way to lose my temper and explode."
No, only hardened souls behave this way, gospel-rejecters and lovers of sin.
Broken, contrite Christians don’t plan to sin; they are surprised and overtaken by it.
In fact, often the enemy floods them while they’re busy about God’s business.
Dear Christian, God has counted your tears even before you’ve shed them.
He has already forgiven you, at the point of your first pang of conviction and sorrow.
He wiped away your sin even before the awful pain struck your heart and you cried, "Oh, God, I hate this, I despise it.
"I’m so sorry I have grieved you."
He sees contriteness in your heart even before it first appears.
So God knew the pain David was facing.
He knew for the next several years David would go through severe discipline.
And God wanted to move in quickly with his comfort.
So he rushed in to prevent David with the blessings of his grace.
We see a picture of this when David later brought Bathsheba as wife into his house to cohabit with him.
After their illegitimate child died, God blessed them with another child, whose name was Jedidiah, meaning, "God knows."
The Lord was assuring David, "I know your heart, and I see your brokenness."
Let me give you one final example: the prodigal son.
I believe the prodigal came home because of his history with his father.
This young man knew his father’s character and apparently he had received great love from him.
Otherwise, why would he return to a man who would have been angry and vengeful, who would beat him and make him pay back every cent he squandered?
The prodigal surely knew if he returned he wouldn’t be upbraided or condemned for his sins.
He probably thought, "I know my father loves me.
"He won’t throw my sin in my face.
"He’ll take me back."
When you have that kind of history, you can always go back home.
Notice how the prodigal’s father "prevented" him with the blessings of goodness.
The young man was intent on offering a heartfelt confession to his dad, because he rehearsed it all the way home.
Yet when he faced his father, he didn’t even get a chance to fully confess.
His father interrupted him by running up to him and embracing him.
"When he was a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him" (Luke 15:20).
The father was so happy his son was back, he covered him with kisses, saying, "I love you, son.
"Come home and be restored."
The father did all of this before his son could complete his confession.
The young man was only able to blurt out the beginning of his speech, saying, "Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son" (15:21).
But his father didn’t wait for him to finish.
To him, the young man’s sin had already been settled.
The father’s only response was to issue an order to his servants: "Put a robe on my son and rings on his fingers.
"Prepare a feast, because we’re going to celebrate.
"Everyone rejoice, for my son is home!"
At what point was the prodigal forgiven?
It happened back when he was still groveling for food in the pigpen.
His sin was wiped away the moment he first thought, "I’m going back home.
"I’ve got to confess to my father that I’ve sinned."
He was forgiven by his father before he could even voice his confession — before he could do penance, weep tears of grief, or try to pay him back.
And his father showered him with blessings of goodness way ahead of schedule.
Sin wasn’t the issue to this father.
The only issue on his mind was love.
He wanted his boy to know he was accepted, even before he could utter a confession.
And that is the point God wants to make to us all: His love is greater than all of our sins.
"The goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance" (Romans 2:4).
Of course, it is possible to "(despise) the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance" (2:4).
Those who think they can continue in sin, testing God’s grace over and over, become hardened by their repetitious sinning.
They believe they can continue to sin against his goodness without being harmed.
But gradually, their hearts become impenitent, so they no longer desire to repent.
They end up with hardened hearts, storing up wrath against themselves.
They can’t blame God; he has faithfully tried to prevent them with blessings of goodness, yet they have rejected it all.
That is the greatest sin anyone can commit.
Here is the way to cleansing and restoration: receive the Lord’s promise.
He tells us, "I will cause you to walk in my ways.
"And I will plant my fear in your heart.
"I know you can’t do this for yourself.
"I will do it for you, with your cooperation.
"This work is accomplished only by faith in the finished work of the Cross.
"All I ask is that you trust my promise to you.
"The work has already been accomplished by me.
"It is your work to accept it by faith.
"That is my love for you."