Why this tumult among nations, among peoples this useless murmuring? They arise, the kings of the earth, princes plot against the Lord and his Anointed.
“Come, let us break their fetters, come, let us cast off their yoke.”
He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord is laughing them to scorn. Then he will speak in his anger, his rage will strike them with terror. “It is I who have set up my king on Zion, my holy mountain.”
(I will announce the decree of the Lord:)
The Lord said to me: “You are my Son. It is I who have begotten you this day. Ask and I will shall bequeath you the nations, put the ends of the earth in your possession. With a rod of iron you will break them, shatter them like a potter’s jar.”
Now, O kings, understand, take warning, rulers of the earth; serve the Lord with awe and trembling, pay him your homage lest he be angry and you perish; for suddenly his anger will blaze.
Reflection This ancient poem is either uncannily modern or little changes in our world! The Psalmist is exasperated with the kings and rulers who plot against the Lord who, in turn, laughs at their stupidity and promises to break them with a rod of iron. It’s a poem expressing hope that God will protect the Jewish king against the plots of his enemies; the poet knows that all the kings of the earth will, one day, have to pay God homage and stand trembling before the Most High.
Until quite recently believers understood that those who exercise secular authority do so only by God’s will. In the UK our coins declare that Charles Windsor is, by the grace of God, King. Yet we don’t generally think of His Majesty’s government exercising their authority by the grace of God! The ancients couldn’t rely on the democratic will of the people to be rid of a dishonourable or dishonest government. They had no courts that could overrule the king; instead they relied on God’s justice. Now, of course, we like to imagine that our courts will strike down unjust laws, imprison corrupt presidents, and puncture politicians’ inflated egos. Yet dictators still die in their luxurious beds rather than in plain prison cells. Money is still siphoned away from the poor into discrete Swiss bank accounts. Even the most appalling of democratically elected politicians earn well on the dinner circuit. So we still wait for the Lord’s anger to blaze, for the rulers of the earth to remember whom they will, one day, have to give account with fear and trembling. Of course we remember that we will be standing with them too.
Prayer When, O God, will you still the tumult, break the fetters and let Your anger blaze forth? When, O God, will You laugh with scorn and derision at the rulers of earth in their conceit? When, O God, will Your judgement come and Your people be free to flourish? When, O God, will we realise You call us to act for justice? Amen.
The Rev’d Andy Braunston is the URC’s Minister for Digital Worship and a member of the Peedie Kirk URC in Orkney.