God the King
Preached by Jason Abbott, senior pastor
1 Give ear to my words, O Lord; consider my groaning. 2 Give attention to the sound of my cry, my King and my God, for to you do I pray. 3 O Lord, in the morning you hear my voice; in the morning I prepare a sacrifice for you and watch. 4 For you are not a God who delights in wickedness; evil may not dwell with you. 5 The boastful shall not stand before your eyes; you hate all evildoers. 6 You destroy those who speak lies; the Lord abhors the bloodthirsty and deceitful man. 7 But I, through the abundance of your steadfast love, will enter your house. I will bow down toward your holy temple in the fear of you. 8 Lead me, O Lord, in your righteousness because of my enemies; make your way straight before me. 9 For there is no truth in their mouth; their inmost self is destruction; their throat is an open grave; they flatter with their tongue. 10 Make them bear their guilt, O God; let them fall by their own counsels; because of the abundance of their transgressions cast them out, for they have rebelled against you. 11 But let all who take refuge in you rejoice; let them ever sing for joy, and spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may exult in you. 12 For you bless the righteous, O Lord; you cover him with favor as with a shield.
Introduction: Why the kingdom and the king in the Psalms?
- First, I think the Psalms offer a rich picture of faithful worship, and, by studying the psalmists in the act of worshiping God the King, we might be awestruck by God’s kingship and might see more fully how God’s kingship finds its completion in the work and reign of Christ Jesus.
- Second, I hope such a study will then drive us to worship God out of a fuller experiential knowledge of how his kingdom has progressed throughout his redemptive history—reaching its fulfillment in our ultimate King, Jesus.
- Third and finally, I realize that it’s summer and that many of you will be gone during the course of the summer. So, I chose the Psalms because each offers a fairly self-contained unit for study, and thus you constantly vacationing slackers can keep from falling too far behind!
1. David needs the King’s justice in his life (vv. 1-6, 9-10).
a. So David asks the King for justice (vv. 1-3)
But, how does David ask? Three characteristics are important:
(i) David asks the King in a personal and transparent way.
David approaches God the King as one intimately acquainted with him. He says, “Listen to me and even consider my groaning sounds.” “Consider my moans,” he says to the King (v. 1)! David invites God into the personal and emotive sighs of his heart! He opens himself up to God!
Then David moves closer still. He needs help and he asks for it. However, he does not simply ask for help from some distant, powerful king. Rather he asks for help from “my king” and from “my God” (v. 2). David’s God “is close enough to his children that they may call him…the equivalent of ‘Abba’ [or Papa].”1 God is King, but he is also Father!
(ii) David asks the King in a consistent and continuous way.
David is relentless in asking the King for justice. This is apparently not the first time David has prayed for justice nor will it be the last time. The text tells us that he is up petitioning God first thing “in the morning” (v. 3). As one old commentary explains concerning this verse, “Prayer should have its set seasons, though it should not be confined to any.”2
This is precisely what David is doing here. He is calling out to God the King for justice first thing in the morning. This appears to be his habit. However, his morning prayer-time doesn’t end there. It’s no mere ritual; it’s relational!
(iii) David asks the King in an expectant and anticipatory way.
David prays and then waits expectantly for the King’s active answer (v. 3). David’s prayers are powerful—not in and of themselves but because of their connection to the King of all creation. Therefore, David anticipates that his prayers will be heard and will be answered. He waits on the Lord!
In our prayer practice (in our everyday conversations with God), we must learn to approach God the King as David does. We must be personal and transparent; we must be consistent; we must be expectant! We must recognize that the King of the universe is not merely powerful enough to answer our prayers but simultaneously compassionate enough to do so! As Jesus explains—our King is not an uncaring and unrighteous judge but a caring and just judge who will ultimately see justice done for his elect children (Luke 18:1-8).
In fact, God the King will see justice done:
b. Because the King hates injustice (vv. 4-6, 9-10).
In short, it is God the King’s love of justice that compels him to destroy injustice. It’s his love of good that drives him to root out evil. It’s the King’s hatred for sinful rebellion against him that moves him to action. Look at the text with me:
For you are not a God who delights in wickedness; evil may not dwell with you. / The boastful shall not stand before your eyes; you hate all evildoers. / You destroy those who speak lies; the Lord abhors the bloodthirsty and deceitful man (vv. 4-6).
For there is no truth in their mouth; their inmost self is destruction; / their throat is an open grave; they flatter with their tongue. / Make them bear their guilt, O God; let them fall by their own counsels; / because of the abundance of their transgressions cast them out, for they have rebelled against you (vv. 9-10).
Notice that the power of David’s prayer here is based in his understanding of the character of God the King. God hates wickedness because he is holy. God hates lying because he is truth. Therefore David argues—since “you are not a God who delights in wickedness” (v. 4)—defeat these wicked enemies.
Moreover, the power of David’s prayer here is based in his argument that these enemies should be cast out because they have opposed God the King, not merely David the king. David knows that God hates that which is against his holy and righteous reign, his kingship! Therefore, David prays cast these enemies out because—“they have rebelled against you” (v. 10).
Now here’s an uncomfortable practical question: Should we who have been saved by grace pray this way? Should we pray for the destruction of God’s enemies even though we were once enemies and were reconciled as such? Should we imitate such praying?
The answer, I believe, is a qualified, “Yes.”
We should pray for God’s judgment of evil to come! Isn’t this what John prays for when he prays for Jesus’ second coming (Revelation 22:20)? We should pray for God’s kingdom to reign now on earth. Isn’t this what Jesus teaches us to pray for in the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:10)? Such prayers certainly entail the defeat and destruction of God’s enemies!
However, the cross teaches us humility and compassion as we pray such things. The cross sobers the Christian’s worldview. It teaches us that God is both just and simultaneously merciful, both holy and concurrently gracious. It teaches us that our King is pleased to reconcile his enemies, and it teaches us that we are those reconciled enemies!
The cross teaches me to pray for the crucifixion of sin and unrighteousness. It teaches me to pray for the destruction, the execution of all of God’s enemies. However, it teaches me that the first enemy that must die is me. It convicts me that God’s reign here on earth must begin in my own heart! And it teaches me to hope for God’s reign in the hearts of others rebels like me!
This is how we must learn to pray! And it’s not too radically different from how David prayed. For:
2. David acknowledges his need for the King’s mercy and righteous reign in his life (vv. 7-8, 11-12).
Look at David’s admission of personal need here:
But I, by your great love, can come into your house; / in reverence I bow down toward your holy temple. / Lead me, Lord, in your righteousness because of my enemies—make your way straight before me (vv. 7-8).
But let all who take refuge in you be glad; let them ever sing for joy. / Spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may rejoice in you. / Surely, Lord, you bless the righteous; you surround them with your favor as with a shield (vv. 11-12).
These verses could teach us many things about God the King. But for now, let us focus on two lessons specifically:
a. We do not earn our salvation or move forward directed by our own righteousness.
David admits, in the first of these two passages, that he comes into God’s house only because of God’s great love. He doesn’t presume to come into God’s presence because he defeated a Philistine giant (1 Samuel 17). He doesn’t presume to come into God’s presence because he has a heart after God the King’s own heart (1 Samuel 13:14). He doesn’t presume to come into God’s presence on the basis of anything he can offer but only on the basis of God’s great, unmerited love for him!
Furthermore, having been ushered into the King’s presence on the basis of God’s love, David doesn’t suppose that he will move forward now on the basis of his own righteousness. He doesn’t assume (God having smiled upon him) that he will now determine his own righteous course. Instead, he prays that the King will lead him forward by his royal righteousness. He knows that he needs the righteous direction of the King each step of the way!
So too, our salvation is initiated by God’s great love for us: For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16).
And likewise, moving forward in our Christian lives, we need God’s righteousness and leadership each step of the way! Thus, the Lord Jesus is our wisdom and our righteousness (1 Corinthians 1:30) especially as we move forward (following him) in this fallen world.
The second lesson we learn is that:
b. God graciously welcomes and blesses us when we turn to him for mercy and protection.
Thus David sings the praises of God saying:
Let all who take refuge in you be glad; let them ever sing for joy. / Spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may rejoice in you (v. 11).
Clearly, David trusts that God’s mercy and protection are extended to all who take refuge in the King! Such people, David believes, will ever sing for joy and rejoice in God. These faithful praises remind me of what James writes in his New Testament letter:
Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded…. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up (James 4:8-10).
- What would cause people to seek refuge in God the King?
- Faith that the King will protect them.
- What would encourage people to draw near to God the King?
- Faith that the King will draw near to them.
But wait, David says in the last verse (v. 12) that surely God will bless the righteous! Doesn’t this suggest that one must be righteous in order to receive the blessings of the King? Doesn’t this mean that one must merit God’s favor?
On the contrary, when these last two verses are brought together they say quite the opposite! If seeking refuge in the King is an act that displays our faith then it’s also the instrument by which God reckons or accounts us as righteous. David is thus saying:
God my King let all who turn to you (who place their faith in you) be glad; let them sing for joy; let them be protected! Why?
Because certainly my King you bless the righteous (you bless those who faithfully seek refuge in you)! Not by any merit but by your mercy and grace!
Thus, as in Genesis 15:6—Abraham believed the Lord, and [the Lord] counted it to him as righteousness. So the righteous here are righteous because they place their faith in the King. He is their refuge! He is their love! The royal blessings travel through the conduit of faith! So too it is for us in Christ Jesus!