Treatment as Kings
(43) You have delivered me from the strife of (ordinary) people. You have placed me as head of the nations. People I have not known have served me. (44) As soon as they hear of me, they obey me. Foreigners come cringing to me. (45) Foreigners lose heart and come trembling out of their strongholds.
Certain passages in the so-called “royal psalms” contain statements that apply uniquely to the experience of those who serve as rulers of nations. In these three verses, David describes how his position as king set him apart from his subjects. In today’s world, we might call such amenities the perks of leadership. National leaders do not have to deal with life’s ordinary hassles. They are waited on by a staff and are accustomed to having their orders immediately obeyed. Leaders are normally accorded great respect because of the office they occupy.
In the Pentateuch, Israel’s kings were warned in advance not to let such treatment seduce them into forgetting their humble origins (Dt. 17:14-20). The ruler of the nation was to be native born, a fellow countryman to the people he ruled. He was not to acquire stables of horses representing dependence on a large arsenal of weapons. He was not to multiply wives representing dependence on alliances with foreign nations. He was not to use his position to accumulate personal wealth for himself or his family. Instead, he was to become a student of God’s Law, copying it, studying it, embodying it as an example to his subjects. None of Israel’s kings fully measured up to such high standards. Only one king, Israel’s future Messiah, will fulfill God’s requirements for monarchs who lead Yahweh’s covenant people.
I. The king’s treatment by his subjects (43)
II. The king’s treatment by foreigners (44 & 45)
The king should be treated in accordance with the respect that is due to one entrusted by Yahweh with a responsible place of leadership.
Paul quoted from what was likely an ancient hymn, used in the worship of the early church, to encourage Timothy in his ministry: “Here is a trustworthy saying. If we died with him, we will also live with him. If we endure, we will also reign with him. If we disown him, he will also disown us. If we are faithless, he will remain faithful, for he cannot disown himself” (2 Tim. 2:11-13).
Note the statement, “If we endure, we will also reign with him.” Many students of Scripture believe that one of the rewards faithful believers will someday receive is the right to rule with Christ in the coming kingdom he will establish on earth (Rev. 20:1-3). This is also supported by the Parable of the Talents where the master states: “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness” (Mt. 25:23).
The privileged treatment granted to kings as described in today’s passage is almost never the experience of believers in this present era. Instead, as Christ’s disciples, we have the responsibility of taking the Gospel into a hostile world ruled by the enemy. As Jesus was despised and rejected by men, so we should expect to receive the same kind of treatment wherever we serve. However, we can look forward to a future time of blessing in his kingdom when we will actually reign with Christ, not lording it over those entrusted to our care, but serving the great Shepherd of the sheep as his under-shepherds. What a glorious day that will be!