Messianic – 2, 18, 20, 21, 45, 72, 89, 101, 110, 132, 144
Canticles of Zion – 46, 48, 76, 84, 87, 122
Hymns of Yahweh’s Kingship – 47, 93, 96, 97, 98, 99
What does it mean to say God is king in our democratic society? While some of the candidates might like to be crowned king or queen (think King Donald the first or Queen Hilary), their power is limited as well as their time in office. At every step the president is hindered or helped by congress. Not so for God. God is not the president, elected by people with limitation on his power. God is king, it is his birthright; there are no restrictions on his power.
Our psalms for today explore kingship. They include the Messianic Psalms that refer to earthly kings, pointing to Jesus, the Messiah; Canticles of Zion which speak of God’s presence in his holy city Jerusalem and favoritism towards Zion; and psalms that praise God as the one true king.
Included in the Messianic Psalms is the second psalm. With Psalm 1, it sets the stage for the rest of the psalms, preparing us for prayer by letting us know that our God is king. Where Psalm 1 speaks of quiet meditation on God’s law, Torah; Psalm 2 takes the same Hebrew word for meditate but uses it in a different context. The word indicates a murmuring, absorbed interest, however in one it is positive, reflecting on God’s word, in the other it is against the Lord. People are plotting against the Lord and his anointed – the king. It acknowledges an earthly king, whom God has anointed, but also points us to God, and points us to a future king, the Messiah.
These earthly kings, great though they are, answer to a greater power. Where Psalm 1 encourages us to meditate quietly on God’s word, Psalm 2 raises the question, how can I meditate on God when others are plotting against God? How can I meditate amid all of the trials of this life? I can because there is a king greater than any earthly king.
God looks down on earth and laughs at the antics of his people, “The one enthroned in heaven laughs.” (2:4a) Who are they to challenge him? Who are they to challenge the one he has appointed as king to be his representative on earth? The psalm ends by telling us, “Happy are all who take refuge in God.” Happy indeed for we have a God whose kingdom surpasses any worldly kingdom.
It’s notable that when God wants to show his rule, he chooses a person, a simple shepherd boy in the case of David, and anoints him to be his representative. He doesn’t go for the big and showy. He doesn’t chose the strongest or fairest, the richest or most powerful, just a simple boy. And ultimately he sends the Messiah, his very own self in human form, which is presaged in this psalm.
Jesus tells us that the kingdom is both present among us and yet to come. These psalms speak of a king on earth as well as God in heaven. The earthly king, in that he is of David’s lineage and anointed by God, is God’s representative and yet not the one true king.
Some of these psalms are prayers for the king, in particular, Psalm 20 and 72. Others are the prayers of the king, prayers that he succeed in battle or rule according to God’s ways. And so it is appropriate that we pray for kings on earth, for our leaders, that they may lead well, following God’s ways and that they should pray in turn.
There are prayers for Jerusalem in the Canticles of Zion, an earthly city that foreshadows the New Jerusalem, the holy city in God’s kingdom, heaven. Often used in a liturgical setting as the people process to the Temple, they speak of the splendor of Jerusalem and the joy of the pilgrim as they enter the Temple – “How lovely is your dwelling, O Lord of hosts!” (84:1) “The Lord loves the city founded on holy mountains.” (87:1) “I rejoiced when they said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the Lord.’” (122:1) As lovely as Jerusalem is, how much more will the heavenly Jerusalem be?
The hymns of Yahweh’s kingship address God as king – “All you peoples, clap your hands; shout to God with joyful cries. For the Lord, the Most High, inspires awe the great king over all the earth.” (47:2-3); “The Lord is king, robed in majesty.” (93:1); “The Lord is king, let the earth rejoice; let the many islands be glad.” (97:1) “Sing a new song to the Lord who has done marvelous deeds.” (98:1); “The Lord is king, the peoples tremble.” (99:1). The Lord is king which is reason to rejoice. God is in his heaven and all is right with the world.
God as king, though, confronts us with a choice. Are you for God or against? St. Ignatius Loyola in his spiritual exercises asks us to choose, under whose banner do you march? Are you under God’s banner or the world’s banner—the banner of Satan? You need to make a choice. Who is king of your life? Who do you follow? Even if you made that choice years ago, it needs to be looked at over and over again to see if you have remained true to that choice. Are you living that choice in reality or only in words? Do you say God is king, yet let the cares of the world distract you from serving God?
Jesus tells us to pray, thy kingdom come. That implies that God’s kingdom has yet to arrive. We reflect on: what does it mean to say God’s kingdom is now and yet to come? What does it mean to say God is king? And what are we called to do to bring about God’s kingdom?
Reflect on the questions mentioned above. What does it mean to choose God as king? Are you truly following God in your thoughts, words and deeds?
Take time to pray each day for our world leaders, that they follow the ways of God and not the ways of the world.
Go on pilgrimage to the “courts of the Lord” – visit your local church.