Reflecting on the Psalms: Yahweh is King

The monarchy in Israel lasted from Saul (ca 1020) to the last king of Judah, Zedekiah (597-587). Then came the devastation of Jerusalem and the exile in Babylon.

Oct 08, 2021


By Msgr James Gnanapiragasam

The monarchy in Israel lasted from Saul (ca 1020) to the last king of Judah, Zedekiah (597-587). Then came the devastation of Jerusalem and the exile in Babylon. During the exile (between 587 and 538), the Jews had attended the feasts in honour of Marduk, the national god of Babylon and had been impressed by his enthronement ceremony each year after his combat with Tiamat, the Dragon.

After the exile, the belief in God as king emerged strongly, especially since Second Isaiah had called on the people to recognise God as King who would come to establish his Kingdom (Is 43:15). This belief found expression in the liturgy of an enthronement in which all the elements were found: the procession, loud clapping of hands, blowing of trumpets and loud acclamations: God is King; however, there was no presentation of the symbols of the royal office or the army since God is King right from the beginning. Israel never considered that she was conferring royalty to Yahweh by means of these rites. It was a symbolic enthronement.

Royal Psalms (2) Psalm 95 (96) Week 3 Monday Morning Prayer.

When one reads this psalm slowly, one cannot but be struck by the number of words that speak of joy and exultation. There is singing and joyous acclamation. Some of these royal psalms recall the procession accompanying the King (Psalms. 24; 47; 68; 98), while others depict the royal homage accorded to Him while seated on the throne (Psalms 29; 93; 97; 99). Psalm 96 brings the two phases together in a magnificent combination of homage (Verses 1-9) and welcome to the King who is coming (Verses 10-13).

Verses 1-3 call on the people of Israel to sing, and this is repeated three times in Verse 1. They have to sing and bless His name. They have to proclaim his salvation (yeshuah). He has saved them, bringing them back from the exile. And therefore, they have to sing a new, appropriate song because it is a new intervention by God. It is not only the people of Israel who are called to sing, but the whole earth, nature. They are all invited to be missionary, to declare the wonders that the Lord has done on their behalf to the nations. These ‘wonders’ are God’s unique works in nature and on behalf of His people.

Verses 4-6 portray the Lord as the only God because He is the one who created the heavens where the other gods are supposed to be. Yahweh is to be feared because these other ‘gods’ are just non-entities, they are idols. Therefore, power only rests in the God of Israel: notice the words ‘majesty’, ‘state’, ‘splendour’. And these attributes are found in Yahweh who sits in his sanctuary, in the holy place. There was a time when Israel believed that Yahweh is for them while the other nations also have their gods. However, with Second Isaiah and the faith in Yahweh as the Creator and Victor over these other nations, the concept of monotheism was gradually emerging: Yahweh is the only God, which Deuteronomy will encapsulate in the Shema (Dt 6:4).

Verses 7-9: These verses give the second invitation, this time to the nations. They are invited to give glory to Yahweh. Just as in the enthronement of an earthly king, the conquered peoples come in to pay homage to the King, so now, the peoples of the earth are called to come in and pay homage by bringing their gifts of offering into the courts. It is only by this act of offering that they show submission to his glory and power.

Verses 10-13: This third invitation is given to the whole of creation for it is the Lord who established the whole universe over which He gives fair judgment. The acclamation ‘Yahweh is King’ rings out to the whole of creation. Verses 11 and 12 give the three-fold structure of creation: the heavens, the earth and the sea with everything in it. All these must now be filled with joy because God is king over them. The earth includes the cultivated countryside and the forests which shout for joy because of the coming of the just judge, God, who will see that the universe is run according to his divine will of justice and righteousness.

Christ inaugurated the Kingdom with His preaching and miracles for the poor. He taught us to pray, “Thy Kingdom come.” He has sent us to be a missionary people to bring his presence of justice and peace to the world of humans. We are filled with joy as we proclaim His Kingdom. Being spiritual and welcoming His presence should make us joyful. A sad disciple is a lost disciple!

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