Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Reflections of Yahweh in the Psalms: King

Not to us, O Lord, not to us, But to Your name give glory…” (Psalm 115:1)

One of the intriguing marks of any artist is one’s ability to capture abstract ideas and place them in concrete images for their audience. Within their art forms, the artist uses an array of techniques and styles to lure an audience into an environment of passion, adventure, and suspense by tapping into our emotions. The participant is given the opportunity to share in the artist’s masterpiece and become entangled within plot or scene. Herein lies the mystery and beauty of art.

Even so with the Psalms, the psalmist uses poetical elements to reveal the glory and power of our God through words. Each expression is carefully used in order to illustrate the person of God. Within a single image, the psalmist captures for us the person of God but then hands over a key that will unlock the depth and richness of that image in order to describe who this God is. One particular image is the concept of a king.

In several of the psalms, the sage refers to God as King:

“The Lord is King forever and ever; Nations have perished from His land.” (Psalm 10:16)

“For the Lord Most High is to be feared, A great King over all the earth.” (Psalm 47:2)

“You are my King, O God; Command victories for Jacob.” (Psalm 44:4)

“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 skillful psalm.” (Psalm 47:6, 7)

“They have seen Your procession, O God, The procession of my God, my King, into the sanctuary.” (Psalm 68:24)

“For the LORD is a great God And a great King above all gods.” (Psalm 95:3)

“I will extol You, my God, O King, And I will bless Your name forever and ever.” (Psalm 145:1)

It is questionable to what extent the ancient Near Eastern world influenced Israel, but the role of the king in the ancient world spoke volumes about their countries. The position, prestige, and honor of the king’s position represented the country and their god. For example, the Egyptians revered Pharaoh as a god who established law and order within their land. However, in other countries, the king was seen as a divine son or servant of the king god (see Gary V. Smith, “The Concept of God/the gods as King in the Ancient Near East and the Bible.” Trinity Journal 3 (1982) 18-38).

Much of the kingship language in the Psalms has been debated. Whether the reference to God as King is in a type of liturgical form or some allusion to the mythopoetic language has been a source of discussion among scholars (see Elmer B. Smick, “Mythopoetic Language in the Psalms,” Westminster Theological Seminary 44 (1982): 88-98). There appears

Yahweh is King over creation.

“Yet God is my king from of old, who works deeds of deliverance in the midst of the earth. You divided the sea by Your strength; You broke the heads of the sea monsters in the waters. You crushed the heads of Leviathan; You gave him as food for the creatures of the wilderness. You broke open springs and torrents; You dried up ever-flowing streams. Yours is the day, Yours also is the night; You have prepared the light and the sun. You have established all the boundaries of the earth; You have made summer and winter.” (Psalm 74:12-17)

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