Psalm 47: What Does It Mean to Pray “Thy Kingdom Come?”
Every time we pray the Lord’s Prayer, we pray “thy kingdom come,” often sliding over the words without pausing to understand what the words mean. Jesus proclaimed that the kingdom of God was near. He compared the kingdom to a mustard seed (Mt. 13:31), yeast (13:33), a treasure (13:44), a pearl of great price (13:45-46), and a net that collects fish of every kind. The good is kept, the bad thrown away (Mt. 13:47-50). Based on this, the kingdom is something small that is growing, is of great value, and not everyone gets in. But what will it be like if it were to prevail on earth? Psalm 47 give us some clues.
By some accounts, Psalm 47 may be considered a national anthem. It speaks of great victory in battle. In fact, the victory is so great that even the conquered are to join in the praises of the conqueror (5-7), according to one interpretation. It is an emotional appeal designed to arouse the support and acclaim of all nations, much like a college fight song. There is no room for rational discourse. All people are to clap their hands (1). God has given Israel victory, “He subdued peoples under us, and nations under our feet. He chose our heritage for us, the pride of Jacob whom he loves.” (3-4) God is on their side, so how can they lose? Dangerous sentiments. Over the years, people have committed terrible deeds in the name of God.
Psalms of Enthronement
Scripture scholar, Sigmund Mowinckel, has designated Psalm 47 as one of the “Psalms of Enthronement,” hymns honoring God as King. All people are to clap their hands and praise our God as King. Even conquered nations join in the chorus for it is good to be conquered by God. I would rather lose to God than win on my own for with God losing is winning, without God winning is losing.
Jews after the return from exile, used psalms of enthronement during the New Year festival. They “foreshadowed the time when the kingdoms of the world would become the kingdoms of the Lord.” (The Interpreter’s Bible, vol. 4) This would be a time of peace where everyone lived according to God’s will. It would be a return to Eden where we walk with God and see God face to face.
It is God’s will that needs to reign on this earth, not human will masquerading as God’s will.
But what is God’s will? A tricky point. If God’s will were to finally prevail on this earth, I think we would all be surprised because it would be different than any one of us can imagine. No-one has a monopoly on God’s will. It’s so easy to impose our will on others and claim this to be God’s will. This is a form of idolatry. To pray for God’s kingdom is to put aside our own will and be willing to allow God to reign over us and our world.
We are still waiting for God’s kingdom to come and need to pray for this every day. It starts with each of us, making a choice for God, to choose God’s will over our own will. Not an easy thing to do but so necessary.
Christ the King
This coming Sunday is Christ the King Sunday. We end the Church year by reflecting on end times and God’s kingdom before beginning the cycle again with Advent. What can you do to help bring about God’s kingdom?
This post is part of a series of blog posts on the Psalms. Sign up to follow this blog and and receive a free copy of Still Dancing, the second book in my Dancing through Life Series. click here to sign up
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