The Universal Rule and Reign of God: Psalm 47

Psalm 47 (NIV)

Clap your hands, all you nations;
    shout to God with cries of joy.

For the Lord Most High is awesome,
    the great King over all the earth.
He subdued nations under us,
    peoples under our feet.
He chose our inheritance for us,
    the pride of Jacob, whom he loved.

God has ascended amid shouts of joy,
    the Lord amid the sounding of trumpets.
Sing praises to God, sing praises;
    sing praises to our King, sing praises.
For God is the King of all the earth;
    sing to him a psalm of praise.

God reigns over the nations;
    God is seated on his holy throne.
The nobles of the nations assemble
    as the people of the God of Abraham,
for the kings of the earth belong to God;
    he is greatly exalted.

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One of the most striking observations about the Old Testament is that the Jews never regarded their God as a mere tribal god, as was typical of the nations that surrounded them. The Old Testament understood that God had entered into a special covenant with Israel, but he was always the Creator and Lord of the entire earth. Psalm 47 opens up with a call to all the nations of the earth to join in the worship of the true and living God: “Clap your hands, all you nations” (v. 1, italics added), “for God is the King of all the earth” (v. 7, italics added), and he “reigns over the nations” (v. 8, italics added). It is in the final verse of this psalm where the universal claims of biblical revelation reach a climax. The final verse actually envisions the day when “the nobles of the nations assemble as the people of the God of Abraham, for the kings of the earth belong to God; he is greatly exalted” (v. 9).

This psalm foreshadows the great vision of the new covenant, where men and women from every tribe, tongue, and nation will be adopted into the family of God. The church is not merely the instrument by which God sends his word of grace into the world; the church is what God is building in the world. The church is the place where heaven and earth meet. Being a son or daughter of Abraham no longer means that you must have an ethnic, blood tie to the great Jewish patriarch. Jesus, who binds all of his redeemed into one body, the church, connects us to Abraham. The God of Abraham is our God, a truth just as powerful for Christians in India, China, or the United States as it was for Abraham and Moses.

Psalm 47:9 is the psalmic equivalent of Philippians 2:10–11, which declares that “at the name of Jesus every knee should bow . . . and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Like Revelation 7:9, both envision that day when all the redeemed from every tribe and nation will be united in worship of the one true and living God, and all God’s enemies will be made a footstool for his feet (Ps. 110:1; Acts 2:31–36; 1 Cor. 15:25–27; Eph. 1:22; Heb. 2:7–8). In that day the church will officially become the bride of Christ, and we will be united forever (Rev. 21:1–4).

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