Can you imagine being among the people of Israel during the celebration of the enthronement of a new king? We can almost see the sights: crowds of people as far as the eye can see. We can hear the sounds: songs and shouts of praise, the general hustle and bustle of crowds of people, the fellowship of family and friends celebrating together. We can smell the fragrances and taste the flavors: food and drink for everyone. It would be a grand time of celebration for the people.
As 21st Century Americans, we have a very different view of kingship than the people of Israel did. We tend to think of kingship as authoritarian and unjust. Monarchies are what we Americans gained our independence from. For the people of Israel, though, kingship meant leadership and guidance. A king was to lead the people in the ways of God. A king brought order to the chaos. One is reminded of the last verse of the book of Judges: “In those days there was no king in Israel; all the people did whatever was right in their own eyes.” Without a king there is chaos and disunity. With a king, there is order and leadership.
So the enthronement of a king was cause for great celebration for the people of God. That is the occasion for Psalm 47. Psalm 47 doesn't celebrate just any old king, though. Psalm 47 celebrates the enthronement of God. We are reminded of God's response when Samuel tells God the people want a king like the other nations have. God says to them, essentially, “I am your king.”
In Psalm 47, the Psalmist celebrates God as the king of his people. From time to time the people accept or reject God's kingship and leadership. The people are not consistent. In spite of that inconsistency, Psalm 47 is a reminder to the people that God is their king. Ultimately, God is the one who brings order from chaos. God is the one who brings unity and right-living. God is worthy of praise as the king.
There is another layer to this psalm. Yes, God is king of the people of Israel. The psalmist goes further than this. God is not only king of the people who dwell in a small strip of land in what we now know as the Middle East. God is “a great king over all the earth.” (v.2) Again in vs. 7 the Psalmist says “God is the king of all the earth...”
God's kingship is universal. In fact, by the end of the psalm we get this striking statement: “The princes of the peoples gather as the people of the God of Abraham...” The nations-that is to say Gentiles-gather as the people of the God of Abraham. Just as God told Abraham that all nations would be blessed through him and his descendants, now the nations are included in the people of God worshiping before his throne. Yes, God chose Israel to be his people. The goal of having a chosen people was that all peoples might “gather as the people of the God of Abraham”. In choosing Israel to go out as a kingdom of priests, God has chosen all peoples as his own. Here in Psalm 47, God is king over all the earth and over all nations.
There is one more layer of the psalm to dig into for our purposes. The God who is king over all the earth became human. The king became a carpenter. It was the original Undercover Boss. King Jesus lived among his people as one of them. For around 30 years he lived a normal life. Then Jesus' ministry, crucifixion and resurrection. Then the ascension.
“God has gone up with a shout”, the Psalmist writes. The king over all the earth is the one who came to live among his people. The king of all nations is the crucified carpenter. The king of all kings is the one who has ascended and sits at the right hand of the father.
So we return to our modern day American resistance to monarchy. If the king over all the earth was like all the other kings, we might have reason to worry. What if this king was unlike any other king before or since? What if this king's greatest command was love? Suppose this king didn't limit his kingdom to a small group of people but rather invited everyone in? Imagine that the king over all the earth did not find his power something to be held on to, but instead humbled himself even to the point of great sacrifice in order to restore relationship with all who desired to know him? Now that would be a king worthy of worship.