Praising God the King
“God has gone up with a shout, the Lord with the sound of a trumpet. 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!” (vv. 5–7).- Psalm 47
Where do we find instruction from the Lord that we are to go to the ends of the earth and call people to faith in Him? If asked this question, many Christians will undoubtedly point to texts such as Matthew 28:18–20, which calls the church to make disciples of all nations. They might also look to Acts 9:15, where Paul is identified as one who will proclaim the good news to the nations.
But the command to proclaim the truth of God to the nations did not begin in the new covenant era. In fact, the Old Testament is as much a missionary book as the New Testament. We see this particularly in the book of Psalms. Today’s passage, for example, calls the nations of the world to praise and worship the God of Israel (Ps. 47:1). These nations must hear of Israel’s God if they are going to be able to do that.
Psalm 47 makes universal claims. Ancient Near Eastern peoples often assumed that particular gods were exclusive to particular nations. In other words, Yahweh, the covenant Lord of Israel, would have been seen by many as the being whom the Israelites should worship but not the being whom the Syrians or the Babylonians should praise. Yet that is not the perspective of the Old Testament Scriptures. What set Israel’s religion apart from other ancient religions was its exclusivity—Yahweh was not one god among many who was bound only to Israel; rather, He was to be worshiped by all the surrounding nations as well. In addition to its exhortation for the peoples to praise the Lord, Psalm 47 also makes the claim that Yahweh is God over all the earth with its use of the title “great king” for the Lord (v. 2). This was a title that kings of larger nations or empires used for themselves when they entered into treaties with smaller states. Under the terms of these suzerain-vassal treaties, the great king of the larger and stronger empire (the suzerain) would pledge to protect the smaller state (the vassal) from other nations. In return, the vassal had to pledge absolute loyalty to the suzerain. By casting Yahweh as the “great king” (the suzerain) of the whole earth, the psalmist is calling the world to serve the God of Israel and no other.
Israel had a special reason to worship Yahweh because of His acts of salvation. He brought Israel out of Egypt and subdued nations under her (vv. 3–4). This points finally to the church, where the people of Yahweh conquer the nations with the gospel, incorporating them into the true Israel of God—Jews and Gentiles who serve Christ Jesus (Rom. 11).
John Calvin comments on vv. 3–4 of today’s passage: “By these words he intimates that the kingdom of God would be much more magnificent and glorious at the coming of the Messiah, than it was under the shadowy dispensation of the Law, inasmuch as it would be extended to the utmost boundaries of the earth.” God has conquered us with His Word, not destroying us, but bringing us into the company of His redeemed people.
Passages for Further Study