Theme: Praise to God the King
In this week’s lessons we look at the theme of God’s universal kingship, and see that all owe their allegiance to him.
Scripture: Psalm 47:1-9
There are quite a few places in the Old Testament in which God is addressed almost exclusively as the God of Israel—as if he is the Jew’s God as opposed to the gods of the nations round about. In fact, the Jews are repeatedly warned against serving these other gods. The first of the Ten Commandments is one example: “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me” (Exod. 20:2, 3). I count forty-eight similar warnings in the book of Deuteronomy alone. If we are to read these or other texts uncritically, without the whole biblical revelation in mind, we might get the idea that the world is ruled by what scholars call “tribal deities” and that the Jewish God, Jehovah, is merely the greatest of the lot.
That would be a terrible misconception, however. For there is only one God. His name is Jehovah, and all the other “gods” are, in fact, mere idols. Isaiah especially makes fun of such gods, explaining in irony how a worshiper finds a piece of wood, uses half of it to make a fire to cook his meal and then carves the other half into an idol. Such idols “know nothing, they understand nothing,” he says (Isa. 44:18; cf. vv.9-20). In the same chapter he quotes God as declaring, “I am the first and the last; apart from me there is no God” (v. 6).
What follows from this is important, namely, if the gods of the nations are mere idols and there is no true God but One, then that One is God of all the earth and King of all the nations—whether the people who compose those nations acknowledge it or not.
We have a soaring expression of this idea in Psalm 47. This psalm, in sharp contrast to many other passages, clearly praises God as King of all the earth and people of all nations are invited to praise him.
But there is even more to the psalm than this. “More than poetry,” writes Derek Kidner, “this is prophecy, whose climax is exceptionally far-reaching.”1 The psalm envisions a day in which the nations will, in fact, praise God, and will come to him freely “as the people of the God of Abraham” (v. 9). In other words, in this psalm we have an anticipation of that climactic moment in Revelation in which the nations will have been subdued before God and we are told, “The kingdom of this world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ” (Rev. 11:15).
We know that the LORD is king over all, whether they acknowledge it or not. But when the Bible speaks as if the LORD is the God of Israel, what is that meant to teach God’s people?
In what way does this psalm function as prophecy?
1Derek Kidner, Psalms 1-72: An Introduction and Commentary on Books I and II of the Psalms (Leicester, England, and Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press, 1973), p. 177.