August 21, 2011 The One True King
Jeremiah 31:7-9,18-20 Psalm 2 Matthew 16::13-20
Growing up with two older brothers and one tv, didn’t have much say in what I watched – watched war movies, action/adventure movies, Hercules one such – gods would be sitting in heaven looking down on earth and watching exploits of their favored son, Hercules
Psalm today reminiscent of this scene, play in three acts –prologue, vs. 1, poet asks a question then have act 1, the goings on at the earthly court, vs. 2-3, lively scene, talk of revolt, rebellion, whispering conspiracy, it’s a raucous gathering, sounds of hissing as they plan their revolt. It was common at that time that when a strong king died, for subject states to attempt to free themselves from reign of the king. New king needed to establish himself as ruler.
Scene change in Act 2, to heavenly courts, vs. 4-6, God looks on the goings on and laughs at the antics. But not a friendly, amused, laugh, but one of derision, God is angry – I have set my king in Zion, yet the people have no regard for God or his anointed one.
Act 3 shifts back to earthly court, king repeating God’s oracle, perhaps adding some words of his own – don’t know but does happen. God says, “You are my son, today I have begotten you.” Words of adoption, words for a coronation expressing special relationship between king and his god – Egypt and Babylonia, king considered adopted son of a god. As adopted son and king he is going to use his power, “You shall break them with a rod of iron, and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.”
Epilogue poet speaks again, warning people to be wise and serve the Lord by allegiance to true king, words not just to the people, but kings as well were to serve the lord. So we have it, a play in three parts with prologue and epilogue – conflict and resolution as God watches from heaven
What does this say to us today in our world without a king? Did it admonish the people to blind obedience to the king, or in our case, the rightful authority, whoever that may be? Psalm speaks of protection of God’s anointed, God’s son. As mentioned, common in those days to look upon the king as a son of a god, much as Hercules was the son of a god. So why not see the Israelite king in same manner? Certainly can see danger in doing so, making a king to be more than he really is, a son of a god. Pharoahs were looked upon as gods, power corrupts and ultimate power corrupts absolutely. It would seem that to declare a king God’s son is to set him up for corruption. Who is to guarantee that he will use his power for righteousness or destruction – breaking people with a rod of iron?
Two strains of thought in Old Testament in regards to the king. Some see the king as God’s anointed, appointed by God to lead God’s people and thus to be followed as one would follow God. See this in this psalm and other royal psalms as well as the books of Kings. There is another voice in Scripture that see the desire to have a king as the folly of the people, see this in Samuel and later in the prophets. The Israelite people looked around and saw that other people had kings to rule over them and wanted one so that they could be like other nations. They wanted a king so God gave them what they asked for even though king was not always the best leader, even though kings sometimes abuse their power. Before this they had been led by judges, some of them proved to be less than worthy, corrupt, just as the kings proved to be less than ideal. They thought it would be better with a king, especially if king were chosen by God.
Thus started a long line of kings, even from the beginning there were problems. Saul proved to not be up to the challenge of leadership so replaced by David, God’s chosen. David was a mighty warrior king, devoted to his God, yet very human in his failings, abused his power in taking Bathsheba and arranging for the death of her husband. David was followed by Solomon, a worldly wise king who consolidated power under him, making many alliances through marriage with other kingdoms, but not necessarily a Godly man. Solomon had 300 concubines as part of his search for power. These women brought with them their own gods, politically smart but not in keeping with God’s will. He was very interested in worldly power and gained that power, built the temple, established Jerusalem as a world power, so in that sense of great king. But that was it, followed by many lesser kings who did not heed God’s word, as well as some king reformers.
Still, the people wanted a king, saw the king as God’s chosen, that in following the king they were following God, this psalm is a testimony to that tradition. Kingship in this tradition was connected to following God’s ways, God’s laws, the good king kept God’s commands – yet there is more to this psalm
God declares in this psalm, you are my son, this day I have begotten you. What does it mean to be God’s son? In our reading from Jeremiah, see how God’s people, Ephraim, were considered God’s children, they were loved by God, and disciplined as well when they went astray, but even then, God could never forget his people. Tender passage from Jeremiah speaks of God’s great love for his people, the love of a father for a son, elsewhere speaks of how God carried Ephraim before he could walk, how God guided Israel in the desert, yet Ephraim sought after false gods, straying from the one true God, thus betraying their father – but even now, despite all of this, the Father’s love and mercy will prevail, God will forgive, bring back his people from exile.
But who is the ultimate king and son but Jesus. Christians can see many aspects of Jesus in the psalm. At his baptism God proclaims him his son and again when transfigured on the mountain. He was God’s own son, the anointed one, messiah and king, about whom they were spreading rumors, plotting against him, whispering amongst themselves as the religious leaders plotted his destruction. Jesus didn’t let any of this sway him, stood his ground, continued to do the Father’s work even as forces gathered against him. Jesus died because his was a kingship that the powers that be could not understand or accept. A kingship where the last were first, where those who were in power, those who would lead, had to serve the least among them – a kingship not of this world or focused on worldly power. Jesus laughed in the face of their contrivances, confident of his sonship, his identity. Jesus was the ultimate king, the Lord’s anointed, yet the world rejected him.
Peter in today’s gospel, recognized Jesus for who he was, Peter, the bumbling fisherman, was wiser than all of the greatest of the religious leaders of his day, for he saw Jesus as he was.
What does it mean for us to be God’s son, God’s adopted children? Does it mean all will bow down before us? That life will be easy? Of course not. It didn’t happen for Jesus, nor will it happen for us. Rather, people may plot against us, spread rumors or slander as the powers of this world work to bring us down. However in the end they will not prevail. God laughs at the foolishness of some of the things we worry about. God is angered by abuse of power, especially by those who reject his son, thereby rejecting him, by those who mistreat the poor among us, the vulnerable, those who make themselves king but do not follow his commandments to love. God laughs at our attempts to think we are in control, when we are not – but it’s okay because no matter how much we falter, our God will pick us up again and carry us on his shoulders.
Paul tells us in Romans not to be conformed to this world but to be transformed so that we may know God’s will, to live in humility as God’s children, none greater than the other.
God gave us the ultimate king in Jesus but the world did not accept him. First psalm spoke of importance of studying Scripture, God’s word/law. This psalm calls us to recognize our place as God’s beloved children and to accept Jesus as the Lord’s anointed one. And so we study scripture and come to know Jesus better through this study, accepting him as the one true king. In this we find our salvation.
Robertson, Copyright, November 2011