Saturday, June 25, 2011

Psalm 47 – The King Has Ascended

“God has gone up with the shout,

the Lord with the sound of a trumpet.”

~Psalm 47:5 (NRSV).

Several things surrounding victory come together in this nine-verse psalm. The liturgy of praise and a celebration of faith to remain still when hemmed-in build together due cause for hopeful reflection.

It celebrates a king ascended; Christians find it a natural assertion of prophesy regarding Jesus’ ascension to be with the Father at Pentecost.

The Psalm Historically

Both Psalm 46 and 47 link historically with 2 Kings 18:12–19:37 and Isaiah 37:21-38. The forlorn conquest of Assyria’s King Sennacherib against Judah is both foretold and enacted here.

Judah’s king, Hezekiah, is commended by Isaiah to remain steadfast; he is gifted this insight of the Lord because the King came to pray about matters of stress instead of taking matters into his own cowardly hands. He was advised to be still; the Lord would drive Sennacherib away (Isaiah 37:29).

Isaiah’s words only led Hezekiah into comfort regarding his nation’s future because Hezekiah’s faith became practical; considered thought and prayer paved the way for considered action — in this case, to not panic.

The Lord (and Jesus) – King of ‘the Nations’

Of course, the great hope of the nation of Judah — in the psalm’s contemporary sight — is that one day all nations will call Judah’s God, their God.

This is also the Christian hope; that Islam-ruled countries, among others, will ultimately turn toward the Lord.

Connecting the history with the psalm’s ascension motif we can see how the Lord rose up to defend Judah. The Lord also defends us in our faith.

This is how God is known victoriously; via faith placed.

The Faith Answer

Just as Hezekiah resolved to lean on the Lord in prayer, warranting action not from his own understanding, but from revelation (Proverbs 3:5-6), we too are commended for running with the faith answer when perplexed and cornered by life.

The great message of this psalm is that faith is eventually vindicated; that one day (even every day) such faith will be the precursor to seeing the hand of God active in our lives; and beyond, to where all nations, tribes and tongues will see, finally, that faith is the way to God.

Faith, in the final analysis, is the composure of prayer, and the resilience of trust, to remain firm when all about is panicked and awry. Faith is the stuff of battle, not peace. Who needs faith when things are good?

Psalms like this one give us a tangible confidence in the faithfulness of God.

© 2011 S. J. Wickham.

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