Theme: Your Kingdom Come
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
Yesterday we said that psalms 46 and 47 may be pointing back to the story in 2 Samuel 6. But while that may be the meaning of the reference, of course, the problem I see is that 2 Samuel 6 does not describe a battle. In fact, normally the Ark did not accompany the people into battle, and the one time they tried to use it in this way, when they were fighting the Philistines, the Ark was captured and the battle was lost (cf. 1 Samuel 4:1-7:1).
The other way of taking the reference in verse 5 to God’s ascending amid shouts of joy is to the lifting up of the cloud of God’s glory, the Shekinah, from over the Ark of the Covenant which was in the middle of the Israelite camp during their years of wandering. There are more than fifty verses in the Old Testament that speak of this phenomenon. In them the rising of the Shekinah indicated that God was leading his people forward. When he moved they were to break camp and follow him. Later when the Shekinah settled down over the Ark and tabernacle again, they were to settle down also. This is described very clearly at the end of Exodus (Exod. 40:36-38), and in Numbers 10 we are told that when the cloud raised up and the Ark was lifted up by the priests to follow it, Moses said, “Rise up, O LORD! May your enemies be scattered; may your foes flee before you.” And when the cloud returned, he said, “Return, O LORD, to the countless thousands of Israel” (vv. 35, 36).
The Shekinah cloud that represented the presence of God with the people is mentioned again in Psalms 78, 99 and 105, and I will refer to it in greater detail when we study those psalms.
This cloud was no longer with the people, leading them, when Psalm 47 was written, of course. Therefore, the reference to the cloud in verse 5 cannot be literal. However, it can be figurative. It refers to God going out to meet Israel’s foes and defeating them, either in the reign of Jehoshaphat or in the reign of Hezekiah, and the point is that God showed his presence with his people in that recent victory just as he had shown his presence at the time of the conquest. Verse 6 of the second stanza (NIV) is an invitation to praise God for his continual presence and deliverance.
In verse 7 we come to the part of the psalm that caused Derek Kidner to call it a prophecy. It starts mildly enough, seeming only to reiterate what has been stated forcefully earlier: “God is King of all the earth” and “God reigns over the nations” (v. 8). But it ends with the nations actually assembling before God as his people: “The nobles of the nations assemble as the people of the God of Abraham, for the kings of the earth belong to God; he is greatly exalted” (v. 9).
This has not happened yet. That is why we call it prophecy. But it will happen, and we look forward to it. It is why we are so active in evangelism, bringing the gospel to the nations, and why we so often pray in the words taught us by Jesus, saying, “Your kingdom come” (Matt. 6:10; Luke 11:2).
This is a good point to remember the very different picture of the nations drawn for us in Psalm 2. In that psalm the kings of the earth are opposing the Lord and his Christ. They are saying, “Let us break their chains…and throw off their fetters” (v. 2). In that psalm God is laughing at such impotent folly. He scoffs at it and rebukes the people, saying, “I have installed my King on Zion, my holy hill” (v. 6). He admonishes, “Therefore, you kings, be wise; be warned, you rulers of the earth… Kiss the Son, lest he be angry and you be destroyed in your way” (vv. 10, 12). Psalm 2 reminds us that there are two kinds of compliance with the just reign of God and Jesus Christ. There is a willing, joyful compliance, on the one hand. But there is also an unwilling, forced compliance, on the other.
Our task is to bring the gospel to the nations now so that, by God’s grace and by the power of the Holy Spirit, many might willingly bow before Jesus Christ and thus come under the banner of his blessed rule. That is where history is going. It is what life is all about.
What was the Shekinah, and what did it represent?
What is the prophecy in Psalm 47 pointing toward?
From the lesson, what are the two kinds of compliance that are mentioned with regard to God’s reign?
Application: In light of the prophecy in this psalm, what are we to be doing now?