Zlatan Ibrahimovic, during his brief stint at Manchester United
This is an enthronement Psalm, celebrating God as King (v1). The One who rules the world is none other than God! This is full-blown “shock and awe”: the proper response is to “tremble” (v1); “praise” (v3); “extol and worship” (vv 5,9).
This is dangerous stuff for God’s human subjects: God is “holy” – “separate”; “morally and spiritually excellent” – and we are not. God as King gets to make and enforce the rules that govern our lives. Israel had plenty of experience of bad kings and gods who enslaved them (the Babylonian gods). It was at least possible to check the power of a human king – he will eventually die, or can be killed – but when the King is God, we are utterly at his mercy … forever! So the power question is crucial: how will this power be deployed? Whether or not God’s rule is Good News depends entirely on God’s disposition towards us.
The key is v4. The “Mighty King” is a “lover of justice and equity”. The world under God’s governance is a safe and life-giving place to be – especially for weakest and most vulnerable. The Lord’s holiness does not issue in hostile separation from the world, but in intimate relationship. God’s rule is not about some cosmic-sized ego trip (Zlatan!); it is about ensuring “life in all its abundance” (cf John 10:10).
How does this relationship work? Not by royal diktat! The pattern is clear in v6b: Israel cries, and God answers. The Most High is a God who hears the cries of people in trouble and pain (Exodus 2:23-5). God yearns for Israel in compassionate love; God’s power is deployed for their salvation.
The Psalmist declares that God’s power and rule are Good News. He echoes the words of Graham Kendrick: “This our God, the Servant-King! He calls us now to follow him: to yield our lives as a daily offering of worship to the Servant-King!”