The Songs of the Kingdom

What the Psalms say about the Kingdom

Last time, we discussed key parts of the Kingdom plan as it is presented in the historical books of the Bible. Now, we move to the Psalms. The Psalms have a completely different feel to them. They present the truth of the Kingdom in poetical form, not in chronological form. They are not theological essays, but beautiful hymns proclaiming the truth of God. As hymns, like poetry in general, God uses metaphors and symbolism to express his truth. While some of the symbols are hard to interpret, most of the are understandable in their proper context.

There are many Psalms that talk about the kingdom. Within the Psalms, ten are labelled Royal Psalms. These Psalms speak of the king and the kingdom, sometimes in historical contexts, sometimes in eschatological contexts.  Besides the Royal Psalms, there are many other Psalms which talk about the kingdom. Psalm 89, for example, is one of them. For brevity sake, we will not cover all the Psalms about the kingdom, but we will cover four of them which speak about different aspects of the kingdom.

Psalm 2

The first psalm which we will consider is Psalm 2. It begins with an observation by the author that the nations of the world rebel against God (vv. 1-3). But God laughs at their futile attempts and declares that his Anointed will rule the earth (vv. 4-9). The Psalmist ends with a word of wisdom to the kings of the earth: submit to the Anointed (vv. 10-12).

This Psalm is mainly about the king of the Kingdom. God—YHWH—is king and the nations rebel against him. But he also has a chosen one who reigns with him called the Anointed (v. 2). The word Anointed is the word Messiah (Heb. מָשִׁיחַ) and when the Greek translated this word, they used the Greek equivalent which is χριστος, where we get our English word Christ. In the Bible there are many (lowercase) christs, that is, anointed ones. Prophets, priests and kings were all anointed. There is even a reference to a pagan king who is called God’s anointed—Cyrus king of Persia (Is. 45:1). But the Anointed in Psalm 2 is more than just a human king.

The NT clearly identifies Jesus as the Anointed from Psalm 2. In Acts 2:25-27, the disciples link the rebellion of the world with the crucifixion. In Acts 13:33, Paul quotes 2:7 saying “God hath fulfilled the same unto us their children, in that he hath raised up Jesus again; as it is also written in the second psalm, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee.”[1] As for Jesus’ kingship Paul adds “And as concerning that he raised him up from the dead, now no more to return to corruption, he said on this wise, I will give you the sure mercies of David.”[2] The sure mercies of David are God’s loyalty to the Davidic Covenant. The Author of Hebrews ties the king of Psalm 2 with the priest after the order of Melchizedek. Finally, John clearly presents Jesus as the king who will come, conquer his enemies, and rule with a rod of iron (Rev. 2:26-27; 12:5; 19:15).

Thus, this Psalm presents the king of the kingdom. People, nations, kings rebel against him now. But through the resurrection, God will use the Anointed one—Jesus—to establish the kingdom. It will be a universal kingdom. Therefore, as the author of Psalm 2 enjoins, we are to kiss the son lest he be angry. We must submit to him now, or else dies before him later.

Psalm 18

Psalm 18 presents the international reach of the kingdom. David praises God for delivering him in battle in verses 1-43. David cried to YHWH and He came with glory and power. God rescued him and gave him strength. God empowered David to destroy His enemies.

When the report of David’s strength came to the rest of the world, David said, “As soon as they hear of me, they shall obey me: The strangers shall submit themselves unto me. The strangers shall fade away, And be afraid out of their close places.”[3] In response, David praised God among the nations. But this Psalm is not just about David.

The last verse (50) links the greatness of God’s loyalty to “the Anointed.” “Great deliverance giveth he to his king; And sheweth mercy to his anointed, To David, and to his seed for evermore.”[4] The anointed being David and “his offspring.” Hebrews 12:2 identifies the speaker of the Psalm as Jesus who “is not ashamed to call them brethren, 12 Saying, I will declare thy name unto my brethren, in the midst of the church will I sing praise unto thee.”[5]

Paul cites Psalm 18 in Romans 15:9. In Romans 15:1-7, Paul urges the church to build each other up, and help each other out, mentioning Jesus as the example. Verse 8 elaborates on Jesus example, pointing out how he was a slave to the Jews. Jesus’ slavery had two purposes. First, through it, Jesus confirmed the promises to the patriarchs, that is, the Abrahamic and Davidic covenants. Jesus did not complete or finish the promises to the patriarchs, but he conformed them. His servanthood ensured that those promises would indeed come to pass.

The second purpose is to bring the gentiles into the kingdom. This concept Paul develop in the next four verses (9-12). Paul first quotes Ps. 18:49 “Therefore will I give thanks unto thee, O Lord, among the heathen, And sing praises unto thy name.”[6] He connects Psalm 18 with Deuteronomy 32:43, Psalm 117:1, and Isaiah 11:10. Isaiah best supports the gentile inclusion in the kingdom, “And again, Esaias saith, There shall be a root of Jesse, and he that shall rise to reign over the Gentiles; in him shall the Gentiles trust.”[7]

The Kingdom includes all the nations of the world. Thus the 18th Psalm indicates the universal scope of the Anointed’s Reign. This universal scope of the kingdom motivates Paul to preach the Gospel of the kingdom to the gentiles. The good news that they too can enter into the kingdom.

Psalm 45

Here we come to another Psalm with important details about the kingdom. This Psalm is not counted as a Royal Psalm, but the center of the Psalm is about the Kingdom. I classify this Psalm as a Coronation Hymn. The setting for this Psalm is something like this. We, the kingdom citizens, will sing this song when Jesus comes to reign. I envision thousands upon thousands standing before him, and princes and nobles enrobed in their splendor. The armies are decked out in the parade dress. The king will come into the temple of God and receive his crown. This Psalm describes the awesome wonder of that King and the joy of the new kingdom.

  • The first verse is the introduction: My heart is inditing a good matter: I speak of the things which I have made touching the king: My tongue is the pen of a ready writer.[8]
  1. The Glorious King (vv. 2-9).
    1. The king is blessed of God (v. 2)
    2. The king is victorious (v. 3-5)
      1. He is enrobed in glory as a military conqueror (v. 3).
      2. He conquers for a cause (v. 4)
        1. Truth—the truth of God.
        2. Meekness/Gentleness—he will not be a cruel leader.
        3. Righteousness—his reign will be just (no corruption).
      3. His enemies will not stand against him (v. 5)
    3. The king is God (v. 6).
      1. This is a side proof of the trinity. God (the Father) blesses the king (Jesus), and the king (Jesus) is God.
      2. Because the king is God, His throne will be forever.
      3. Jesus fulfills this statement in Hebrews 1:8 “But unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom.”[9]
    4. The King will reign will in glory (vv. 6-7)
      1. Because
        1. Jesus reigns in righteousness (v. 6)
        2. Jesus hates wickedness (v. 7)
      2. Jesus will be abundantly joyful (v. 7)
      3. Jesus robes will smell amazing (v. 8a)
      4. Jesus palace will have music (v. 8b).
      5. Jesus courtiers will be enrobed in beauty

Application: Maybe God has gifted you with talents for you to use in the kingdom and not necessarily in this life.

  1. The Queen will be preeminent.
    1. The queen is beautiful, but subject to the king (v. 10-11)
      1. Worship means to bow down and pay homage.
    2. The richest nations will giver great riches (12-14)
      1. Tyre was a rich sea-port city.
      2. As when Israel left the promise land and the Egypt gave up their wealth to Israel, so to the nations will pour out their wealth on the queen.
      3. The queen has companions and servants are filled with joy (14-15).
  • The King will reign universally
    1. His sons will be princes in the earth (16).
    2. His name will be remembered through time (17a).
    3. All nations will praise him (17b).

Psalm 145

I close our look at the Kingdom in the Psalms with Psalm 145. This Psalm takes a step back and looks at the eternal kingdom of God and its relationship to us. Often times in our study of the kingdom, we can get so focused on the eschatological aspect of the kingdom, that we forget that God is reigning now and His reign effects our lives every day. Psalm 145 is a jubilant Psalm, written from the perspective of the here-and-now. The Psalmist reflecting on God as King, writes a hymn of glorious praise.

The Psalmist alternates between explosions of praise and statements of facts about his God. Verses 1-2 opens with a declaration of praise coming from only himself. Verse 3 is a statement of fact about his God. Verses 4-7 the Psalmist includes with himself in the praise generations of people and humanity in general. Verses 8-9 are two more statements of fact about God. Verses 10-12 identify those who praise God as “all the works of God” and God’s saints, and they speak to “the sons of men.” Verses 13-20 are statements of facts about God and his kingdom. Verse 21 the Psalmist personally directs praise to God and calls on “all flesh” to bless God.

  • God the King
    • Identified as the king (1) to whom the Psalmist directs his praise.
    • God (YHWH) is unsearchably great (3). His awesomeness and power exceed our understanding. He can do whatever He wants
    • If this King is unsearchable in his greatness, how does he relate to us? Is he good? Is he bad? Is he good, but require of us more than we can handle?
    • The King, YHWH, is not only a great king, but He is a good king. And he knows his subjects (8-9)
      • He is gracious—that is he is ready to forgive sin when the sinner repents.
        • When Israel sinned, God said that if they repented he would be gracious and receive them again into a relationship with himself (2 Chr. 30:9).
        • God pardons sin as part of his graciousness (Neh. 9:17).
      • He is full of compassion—that is he will withhold just judgment from sinners (Deut. 4:31).
      • He is slow to get angry—that is he does not leap to anger right away, but waits for the sinner to repent. However, just because he is slow to anger, does not mean that he cannot get angry. If no repentance occurs, then he will judge the wicked (Nah. 1:3).
      • He is great in mercy—that is he is loyal to his covenant (1 Kings 3:6, Neh. 1:5), particularly the Davidic covenant (2 Chr 1:8).
      • He is good to all—that is he is not a cruel tyrant beating his subjects, nor is he an indifferent owner. Rather he is good, showing his tender mercies to all his works.
    • Not only does kindness and goodness pervade the King’s character, but his deeds which flow from that good character are saturated with goodness (14-20).
      • He will lift up those in his kingdom who are weighted down with the cares of life. He cares about each of his subjects (14).
      • He provides for them. In the Psalm he specifically mentions food. But not only will he provide that which his subjects need, but also all the desire of his subjects (15-16).
      • He is righteous and holy in everything he does. That means, when he does something it is without corruption or scandal. You never have to worry that God is going to rip you off or that he will promise one thing, but mean another. No. God is righteous—he does things right (17)
      • He is nearby. The King does not dwell in an abstract palace somewhere. A place inaccessible by the common believer. Rather he is “nigh unto all them that call upon him.” This call comes in time of need. In verse 19 he states, “he also will hear their cry, and will save them.” Our king is not only great and good, but he is nearby to save those who call on him. When his people are under distress, he will preserve them. But those who oppress, he destroys (18-20).
    • God’s Subjects
      • The King has a certain class of people as his subjects. Not all people in the world receive the goodness of the great King, only his subjects. But who are they?
        • They call upon him in truth (18). The verse is not saying that God hears those who speak truth in their prayers. I think that whether or not we speak the truth, God knows. What is mean by truth here is the idea of faithfulness. God hears those who are faithful to him. The author of this Psalm, David, is himself an ideal illustration. Solomon says of him that he walked before You in truth and righteousness and uprightness of heart toward You” (1 Kings 3:6-9). The idea here is that David was faithful to God throughout his life. He walked before God and serve God. It is this kind of person that God hears and answers.
        • They fear him (19). Alongside of faithfulness, the King’s subjects fear him. Honestly, we tone the meaning of fear down when we say that it is “reverential awe.” The word fear only means reverential awe in Hebrew and Greek lexicons, but not in the actual usage in the Bible. One is hard pressed to find the meaning of reverential awe coming from the pages of Scripture. The fear of the Lord is not reverential awe, it is fear. The King rescues those who fear him those who fear him. It is a dread of his wrath or displeasure. It is a subjection to his will out of terror of disobedience. For they know that YHWH will destroy his enemies and will punish those who disobey. Therefore, they fear him.
        • They love him (20). But while the Kings greatness and power evokes terror in his subjects, the King’s goodness produces in the hearts of his servants a love for him. A love that choses to be loyal to him, but also a warm passion for him. This passion drives his people to obey him. As Jesus—who is the King—says to us, “If you love me, keep my commandments. Therefore, with passionate love, the subjects serve their King. And he preserves their life.
        • The servants are also his saints (10). The word saint is not talking about a few pious individuals nominated to sainthood by the church. It is talking about those who have been set apart to the King, those who are holy, those who are whole devoted to him.
      • These subjects declare the goodness of the King.
        • The saints bless the Lord, and praise him (10).
        • They speak of the glory of God’s kingdom (11).
        • They talk about his power (11).
        • For this purpose: that they should make his mighty acts known to the sons of men (12).
        • Here, in a nutshell, David the King of Israel describes the outgoing of the Gospel of the Kingdom. Because the saints are love and fear their King, they turn and spread the glorious of the kingdom throughout the world.

Conclusion

In conclusion, while we look forward to the eschatological hope of that kingdom, we live right now in realization that God has a kingdom which endures forever. He is a great King. He is a good King. And most of all, he is a King who is nearby. Thus, while we fall and are bowed down with the burdens of this world, we look for that coming Kingdom which the saints of God will inherit.

[1] He declares that God begot the anointed who is Jesus. But how does God beget or give birth to someone? The answer is that giving birth in this context is a bringing to life. And when God raised Jesus from the dead, he begot or brought Jesus to life.

[2] The Holy Bible: King James Version, Electronic Edition of the 1900 Authorized Version. (Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 2009), Ac 13:34.

[3] The Holy Bible: King James Version, Electronic Edition of the 1900 Authorized Version. (Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 2009), Ps 18:44–45.

[4] The Holy Bible: King James Version, Electronic Edition of the 1900 Authorized Version. (Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 2009), Ps 18:50.

[5] The Holy Bible: King James Version, Electronic Edition of the 1900 Authorized Version. (Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 2009), Heb 2:11–12.

[6] The Holy Bible: King James Version, Electronic Edition of the 1900 Authorized Version. (Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 2009), Ps 18:49.

[7] The Holy Bible: King James Version, Electronic Edition of the 1900 Authorized Version. (Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 2009), Ro 15:12.

[8] The Holy Bible: King James Version, Electronic Edition of the 1900 Authorized Version. (Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 2009), Ps 45:1.

[9] The Holy Bible: King James Version, Electronic Edition of the 1900 Authorized Version. (Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 2009), Heb 1:8.

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