“For the Lord, the Most High, is awesome, a great king over all the earth. He subdued peoples under us, and nations under our feet. He chose our heritage for us, the pride of Jacob whom he loves. Sing praises to God, sing praises; Sing praises to our King, sing praises. For God is the king of all the earth; Sing praises with a psalm.”–Psalm 47:2-4, 6
We call God by many names: Lord, Savior, Shepherd, Jehovah, Heavenly Father, and King to name a few. And what we call God often reflects our sense of who God is (though I admit that sometimes we all fall into the rut of calling God by only one name).
For example, perhaps we call on God as Savior in times when we need to feel rescued from some aspect of this present life. Maybe we call on God as Shepherd in moments where we feel we need to be protected or led. Or we possibly call on God as Heavenly Father on days when we need a sense that our God is far bigger than us tiny little earthlings.
But what do we say about God when we call God King?
In this psalm, God being King means that God fights our battles. God defends the divinely loved and chosen nation against its enemies.
This can be a comforting image to know that God will fight on our behalf and be our protector. It can be reassuring to know that God has chosen us to be the ones that God will defend.
But, I think there is another side to thinking of God as King. Kings who subdue nations normally use weapons (swords, guns, nuclear bombs, etc.) to do so. Also, the image of God defending the chosen is an image of the God who plays favorites, draws lines, and spites those on the outside.
While I like to think of God as my protector, I’m not as fond of thinking about the violent God who vanquishes those God doesn’t like.
Because of this, I’ll admit that I personally cringe a little bit when we sing songs that include lines such as, “…crown Him King of kings,” because I’m worried about the “of kings” who were on the outside of the chosen and thus had to be decimated for the divine one to be crowned King over them.
But that doesn’t stop me from singing those songs (at least on most days).
God has accepted thousands of years of praise offered to God as King…and as Holy Warrior…and as Heavenly Father…and as Loving Mother.
God is bigger than any title or image.
So while I think it is a good practice to consider the implications of the names we give to God, I cannot be egotistical enough to think that in this moment we have finally and definitively figured out the best and only right ways to call on the God of the universe.
Creator God, accept the praise we offer in the tradition of our ancestors, and help us to creatively imagine new words, titles, and images that will continue to connect our finite minds to the infinite God.