If there was a struggle in the midst of trials, that issued in the hard-won hope of psalm 46, then that hope and confidence flowers into a great hymn of praise and joy in psalm 47, a hymn that rings with greater assurance precisely because it follows on from the struggles of the preceding psalm. Psalm47 is often set by Christians as a psalm for Ascension Day, especially with its ringing line, so often set to music:
God is gone up with a merry noise: and the Lord with the sound of the trump.
But to my mind the real joy of psalm 47 is not so much that he has gone up as that he has also come down. The great revelation here is that, though heaven is, in one sense, still to come, we can nevertheless begin rejoicing now because God has not abandoned us here on earth but has already come down to be our king and kindle our hope. So the key line for me is the second verse, which acknowledges that though the Lord is high and transcendent, the glorious king of heaven, he is also, ultimately, the king here on earth:
For the Lord is high, and to be feared: he is the great King upon all the earth.
Indeed psalm 47 begins a little sequence of psalms that anticipate the way that, in Christ, who is both fully God and fully human, heaven and earth can finally be brought together, and his will done on earth as it is in heaven. And that insight provided the key to my interpretation of this psalm.
As usual you can hear me read the poem by pressing the ‘play’ button if it appears, or else by clicking on the title. For the other poems in my psalm series type the word ‘psalm’ into the search box on the right.
That wrongs may be redressed and wars may cease
He must be king of earth as well as heaven
We must invite him here, to make his peace
Within us and between us, that forgiven,
We may release forgiveness here on earth,
Working and spreading like a holy leaven,
A secret of the kingdom, heaven’s breath,
A kindling from the place where Christ is king
For he has triumphed and defeated death
And even now he calls our hearts to sing
Sing praises in the kingdom still to come
And in the one already here, to bring,
Ourselves, our arts and music, trumpet, drum
And tabor, all to make a merry noise,
For heaven’s king has made the earth his home!
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