Do You Celebrate A King? (Psalm 21)
In Psalm 21, the psalmist begins by extolling the great blessings of God that have been bestowed on His King. To this King has been given all authority, all glory and all power. To this King has been given “length of days, forever.” To this King, every desire of his heart has been granted. The first seven verses announce in sweeping and grand terms the glory and absolute authority that has been bestowed upon this particular King. All of His desires are fulfilled. All of His plans are accomplished.
Now this King is Jesus. He is the only one whom adequately fulfills this text.
But here lies the rub in this text: The language is so sweeping that it not only challenges our claims to any sort of autonomy, it crushes them. Herein lay the claims of Jesus and how they subvert and challenge the most foundational understandings of freedom and happiness in our society. Most of us don’t want a King to begin with, particularly one as supremely authoritative and powerful as Jesus. We like the pomp, the circumstance and the parades, but we don’t want anyone whose will is always accomplished whose purposes are never thwarted and whose glory is incomparable and will never end. We want a Jesus who advises us, who exists to help us attain to the desires of our hearts. We want honor. We want glory. We want authority. We want our plans to succeed. And far too often the aims and agenda of a totally free, totally glorious King conflict with our aims and our agendas.
In verse 8, the Psalmist uses a surprising phrase in beginning to describe those who face the wrath and judgment of God: “… Those who hate you…”
I’m struck by that word. The conflict described in Psalm 21 is not an exclusively moral one. It is a personal one. We see the strength of God bent wholly in the work of exalting Jesus, honoring Jesus, serving the purposes of Jesus and the problem is not that we do wrong things- no the problem is that we see this strength and we hate it. What is ascribed to Jesus the Great King we long to have for ourselves. The rule of Jesus will either be for you something to joyously marvel at or it will be a despotic terror. But if it is a despotic terror it will not be because there is something wrong with King Jesus, its simply that rightful authority and power always feels despotic when placed on the shoulders of those who hate all authority.
How much of our public life is marked by this singular divide: Do we love the authority of Jesus or do we hate it?
How many of our personal struggles are defined by this simple question: Is the authority given to Jesus good news to you or is it utter folly and something to be despised?
In Psalm 21 this is the most important question dividing the Psalm. The only power sufficient to diffuse this conflict is that which comes to us in the Gospel. In the gospel we see both the way Jesus wields his authority and the kind of King that he is. His authority is wielded to suffer in our place. He bears the penalty for our incipient treason. And we see vividly the goodness of a King who wields such authority to rescue His people. He is the only ruler who both can claim the kind of throne the Father gives & he is the only ruler who can be trusted with the kind of throne the Father gives.