ALL powers and rulers are but nothing in the presence of the one true King:
It certainly is the case for many Christians – myself included – to wonder if God really is King over all. Or to put it another way, the claim that God is Lord over all does not seem to always match the reality we find ourselves in. With evil, sin, corruption and suffering everywhere, it seems like this divine kingship is nowhere to be found.
But all throughout Scripture we read that God is King, and he has not left his throne. He still reigns and rules. We know how often Jesus spoke about the Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of Heaven, especially in the Synoptic Gospels. But this theme runs all the way through the Bible. Let me feature just some of these passages, all from the Psalter:
Psalm 9:7-8 But the Lord sits enthroned forever;
he has established his throne for justice,
and he judges the world with righteousness;
he judges the peoples with uprightness.
Psalm 22:28 For kingship belongs to the Lord,
and he rules over the nations.
Psalm 29:10 The Lord sits enthroned over the flood;
the Lord sits enthroned as king forever.
Psalm 47:2 For the Lord, the Most High, is to be feared,
a great king over all the earth.
Psalm 47:6-7 Sing praises to God, sing praises!
Sing praises to our King, sing praises!
For God is the King of all the earth;
sing praises with a psalm!
Psalm 93:1-2 The Lord reigns; he is robed in majesty;
the Lord is robed; he has put on strength as his belt.
Yes, the world is established; it shall never be moved.
Your throne is established from of old;
you are from everlasting.
Psalm 95:3 For the Lord is a great God,
and a great King above all gods.
Psalm 96:10 Say among the nations, “The Lord reigns!
Yes, the world is established; it shall never be moved;
he will judge the peoples with equity.”
Psalm 97:1-2 The Lord reigns, let the earth rejoice;
let the many coastlands be glad!
Clouds and thick darkness are all around him;
righteousness and justice are the foundation of his throne.
Psalm 99:1 The Lord reigns; let the peoples tremble!
He sits enthroned upon the cherubim; let the earth quake!
Psalm 103:19 The Lord has established his throne in the heavens,
and his kingdom rules over all.
Psalm 145:10-13 All your works shall give thanks to you, O Lord,
and all your saints shall bless you!
They shall speak of the glory of your kingdom
and tell of your power,
to make known to the children of man your mighty deeds,
and the glorious splendor of your kingdom.
Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom,
and your dominion endures throughout all generations.
Some of these psalms are referred to as royal psalms and/or enthronement psalms. In his recent book, Discovering the Psalms, Jerome Creach discusses these sorts of psalms. He asks if there is a theological centre to the Psalms. He writes:
James Luther Mays argues that the theological centrepiece of the Psalms is the sentence ‘The LORD reigns!’ This statement expresses the main point of the so-called enthronement psalms (Pss. 47; 93; 95-99), but it is much more than a feature of this one psalm type. The sentence is a root metaphor in the Psalter that is a key to practically everything the Psalms say about who God is and what God does….
In the Ancient Near East kings exercised extensive authority as they provided protection and support in every area of life. As the Psalms speak of God as monarch, they extend the metaphor of divine rule into multiple dimensions of God’s work:
-As king, the Lord is also warrior….
-As king, the Lord is shepherd….
-As king, the Lord is a refuge.
In his 2014 volume on the Psalms, Walter Brueggemann also speaks to this:
Six psalms are regularly identified as hymns that celebrate the kingship of YHWH over all gods and all creation and are, for that reason, termed “Enthronement Psalms” (Pss. 47, 93, 96, 97, 98, 99). Each of these six psalms identify YHWH as “king,” a claim that evokes celebrative doxology in Israel that constitutes, in each case, the body of the psalm. It is the establishment and acknowledgement of YHWH’s kingship that makes the world safe.
A key example of this is found in the exodus event. After God shows himself to be the true King over Pharaoh and the Egyptians, the Song of Moses in Exodus 15 speaks to this great theme. Verse 18 especially makes this point: “The Lord will reign forever and ever.”
Brueggemann’s new book Delivered Out of Empire is all about the exodus. And his final chapter is on this particular verse. He writes:
In Exodus 14:30-31, the escaping slaves see the dead, failed Egyptians. They see the great work of YHWH. They trust YHWH and Moses as YHWH’s agent. They can see in an instant that the force of all worldly governance has shifted from Pharaoh to YHWH. They can sense deeply that the truth of their lives has moved abruptly from slavery to freedom. And so they sing! What else can they do amid such a wonder of transformation? They sing beyond themselves. They sing beyond Pharaoh in defiance. They sing in amazement to the God of rescue….
The song is capped by the enthronement formula of verse 18: “The Lord will reign forever and ever.” This is a theological conclusion drawn from the foregoing. It is a lyrical affirmation that bursts into voice, for this YHWH has demonstrated the capacity to rule and govern beyond all rival. What is affirmed theologically and sung doxologically is likely a liturgical performance, There is a strong interpretive argument that in the Jerusalem temple there was regularly conducted a dramatic pageant by which YHWH was yet again crowned and acknowledged as the God and king of all creation. The use of the term “reign” in the verse is a direct refutation of all worldly posturing by the likes of Pharaoh and all the pretensions of other gods. The formula has a deabsolutizing function concerning all other claimants to preeminent authority and dominating power.
He goes on to show how Jesus is of course the perfect and complete embodiment of all this. And that is why the Roman and Jewish powers saw him as such a threat. Jesus was asserting an alternative rule. And Brueggemann reminds us of how this all comes to an end. He cites Revelation 11:15: “Then the seventh angel blew his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, ‘The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever’.”
This is exactly what happened to Pharaoh but writ large. Just as Pharaoh’s might and power was nothing, and could not stand before the might and power of Moses’ God, so too at the end of all things we will see EVERY knee bow before Him.
We need to keep these important truths in mind as we look around us and see evil leaders using their power and control for evil purposes. We tend to read over these psalms and related passages too quickly and too superficially. We tend to overlook these tremendous biblical assertions.
Yesterday I wrote about the unseen world and how so many believers are so fixated on what they see in this world that they cannot see beyond it. We need to work on our spiritual vision: billmuehlenberg.com/2022/03/15/seeing-the-unseen-world/
But admittedly as we look around us it does seem like there is no Divine King. It seems like evil men and evil rulers and evil powers prevail. But God is in fact still the sole and true ruler of all things. He is still King over all. And all the earthly powers will bow – if not today, then very soon. That is good news. That is the gospel.