Theme: Singing of God as King and Savior
In this week’s lessons, we see the importance of song in worship.
Scripture: Psalm 149:1-9
The second truth about God that was a delight to the psalmist is that God is our King.
2. God is our King. This is true at the most basic and universal level. God is King of the entire universe, including all nations and all peoples. It is a cause for their just judgment that the rulers of the earth will not recognize this but “gather together against the LORD and against his Anointed One. ‘Let us break their chains,’ they say, ‘and throw off their fetters’” (Ps. 2:2, 3).
The peoples of this world are hostile to God’s rule. But they need to be taught that God is King in spite of their rejection of him, since it is only in this way that people can begin to understand that sin is rebellion against God and begin to realize how serious sin is. The people who must teach them this are those who have accepted God’s rule and praise him as King, which is what the writer of Psalm 149 does.
3. God is our Savior. The last of these three truths about God rounds out the picture, for it adds that in addition to being our Creator and King, against whom all human beings have rebelled, God is also our Savior who saves us from our rebellion. He punishes our sin in Christ and draws us to holy fellowship with himself by the power of his Spirit. The psalmist says, “… the LORD takes delight in his people; he crowns the humble with salvation” (v. 4).
It would be possible to write an entire theology around these three important truths about God. To know that God is our Creator, King, and Savior is the beginning of spiritual wisdom, and knowing them is clearly a cause for singing by God’s people. And we do sing, of course! We might even organize our hymnbooks along these lines.
Victory songs also play a part in the worship of God by God’s people, going all the way back to the song of Moses and Miriam after the Jews’ exodus from Egypt and their crossing of the Red Sea. Led by this impressive worship team, the Israelites declared: “I will sing to the LORD, for he is highly exalted. The horse and its rider he has hurled into the sea. The LORD is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation” (Exod. 15:1, 2).
Strictly speaking, the last stanza of Psalm 149 is not so much a victory song as it is an anticipation and prayer for victory. But its anticipation is so strong and its prayer so certain of being answered that we can almost visualize and hear the warriors as they march to battle with a song of praise “in their mouths and a double-edged sword in their hands” (v. 6).
This has been a problematic stanza for some people, especially those who are opposed to war and who cannot imagine a pious Jew or a pious anyone else engaging in it. Yet war is sometimes necessary in a fallen world, and being a soldier is not an unworthy calling for a follower of God. Leupold defends this view, saying, “It is quite possible that one may have the high praises of God upon his mouth…and a two-edged sword in one’s hand.”1 That is a way of saying, “Praise the Lord, and pass the ammunition!”
But I need to offer some qualifications, or what I have just said can be badly misunderstood. When I said that, in a sinful world, war is sometimes necessary and that being a soldier is not an unworthy vocation for a follower of God, I did not mean that Christians are to advance the work of God by killing enemies. A Christian can serve in the armed forces, but he does so as a citizen serving his country and its interests and not as a Christian battling for Christianity. He can contend for the faith, but when he does he must do it in a very different way.
1H. C. Leupold, Exposition of the Psalms (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1969), p. 1004.
Why is it important that people be taught that God is King?
The understanding of what truths about God lead to spiritual wisdom?
What part do victory songs play in worship?
Reflection: What are the implications for your own life that God is your Creator, King, and Savior?
Key Point: God is King of the entire universe, including all nations and all peoples.