Formations 06.29.2014: New Spanish King Promises Honesty, Transparency

Psalm 101

The seat of the Spanish monarchy,

Madrid’s Palacio Real, the seat of the Spanish monarchy (El fosilmaníaco, Wikimedia Commons)

On June 19th, Felipe VI, 46, was formally proclaimed the new King of Spain by Parliament. The proclamation ceremony is a more subdued affair, without the pomp of foreign dignitaries and elaborate ceremonies of the coronation proper that took place later that morning.

His father, Juan Carlos, had been king for thirty-nine years before abdicating.

Dressed in military uniform, as he stood with his family before the Spanish Parliament, the king promised to be a monarch “for new times.”

“We have a great country, we are a great nation—let us trust in it,” he told the packed parliamentary chamber as well as millions watching via television across the nation.

The new King swore an oath promising to uphold Spain’s constitution. He further vowed to carry out his duties, remain loyal to his nation, and work for the interests of Spain. “I will honor the pledge and the oath I have just taken,” he said. He added that the head of state must set an example of honest and transparent behavior—perhaps an acknowledgement of the scandals that have beset the monarchy in recent times. While many Spaniards have struggled to find jobs amid the country’s financial woes, many have accused the royal family of corruption and excess. The new king has remained untouched by these accusations.

Felipe’s biggest task will be to make the dealings of the royal palace more transparent. Compared with other European monarchies, his family has a reputation for relative austerity. Even so, there has been increasing resentment in Spain over the public costs of maintaining the monarchy.

Just as King Felipe VI of Spain swore an oath to rule with justice and integrity, Israel’s kings made similar promises. Psalm 101 may, in fact, have originally served as this sort of royal oath of office. In later history, however, it perhaps functioned both as a description of the integrity all the faithful should embody as well as an implicit plea for national restoration (see v. 8). The psalm is an affirmation of the psalmist’s resolve to follow God more faithfully. He will sing to God, study God’s way, and walk with integrity.

Lara Smith-Spark, Al Goodman, and Steve Almasy, “King Felipe VI Takes Over in Spain, Promises to be Monarch ‘for New Times,’” 19 Jun 2014


• What can make an oath of office more than an empty formality?
• What do you expect of leaders in terms of their integrity and commitment to justice for all?
• How is this like or unlike the expectations you place on yourself to lead a life of integrity?
• When have you made promises to God? How faithful have you been to keeping those promises?
• What does a wholehearted commitment to God and God’s ways look like in the twenty-first century?

Reference Shelf

Justice and Righteousness

It was primarily the prophets who sounded the charge that Israel’s kings (e.g., Jer 22:13-19) and official leaders (e.g., Mic 3:1-12); cf. Jer 2:8; 5:31; 6:13-14; 8:8-12) had failed to live up to [God’s] high standard of justice. Certainly the prophetic condemnations focused on the breaking of the Law. This is especially clear in their attacks on such clearly prohibited offenses as bribery, idolatry, and murder (e.g., Jer 7:3-15). But it is also the case that the prophets concerned themselves with behavior which, under the letter of the law, may not have been illegal. They were particularly concerned, for example, with false attitudes that would permit one to observe faithfully the formalities of worship while at the same time plotting to defraud and cheat their neighbors (Amos 8:4-6; cf. 2:6-8; 5:10-12; Mic 3:9-12). Such behavior makes a mockery of justice (Amos 5:7; 6:12), and God will not abide it (cf. Amos 5:21-24; Mic 6:6-8). Gradually the prophets come to look toward the future when the ideal King will at last embody the true justice that is God’s (Isa 11:1-4) and toward the new Jerusalem where programs of social reform will assure that justice can be achieved outside the Temple and not only within it (Ezek 45:8-17; 46:16-18).

Samuel E. Balentine, “Justice,” Mercer Dictionary of the Bible, ed. Watson E. Mills et al. (Macon GA: Mercer University Press, 1990), 483.

Royal Psalms

Israel lived in an environment in which the king’s authority was based upon a mythology that made him the representative and mediator of the divine order of the cosmos. An ancient Sumerian text traces kingship to a divine origin in primeval times, “when kingship was lowered form heaven.” The king, by virtue of his royal office, was elevated to a lofty status in society and, indeed, in God’s cosmic administration. In ancient Babylonia the king was regarded as divinely commissioned; in Egypt, the Pharaoh was considered to be the divine Son of God. Ex officio the king was held to be the channel of cosmic blessing to the social order. He was the representative of his subjects before God, and the representative of God (or gods) to human beings….

Israel, however, did not adopt the mythical view of the king without modification. According to Israelite tradition, kingship emerged not in mythical times but out of the harsh realities of secular politics, particularly the crisis caused by the Philistine attempt to build an empire in Palestine. Above all, the institution of kingship in Israel was connected with Israel’s sacred history, that is, the formation of Israel as the People of God. The raising up of David was a decisive act of Yahweh in Israel’s historical pilgrimage. Therefore, the royal psalms, despite their dependence upon the court poetry of the ancient world, do not confer divinity upon the king. The king is God’s “Son” by adoption, as we read clearly in Psalm 2:7 (quoted in Acts 13:33)….

In short, the king’s authority is not absolute: it is derived from Yahweh, who is the King. The Davidic king is chosen to perform a task: to rule as Yahweh’s representative in the kingdom on earth. In this royal capacity, his role is to obtain justice for the weak and the oppressed and to mediate divine blessing to the social order (Ps. 72). Above all, the king rules under the judgment of God (cf. Deut. 17:14-20).

Bernhard W. Anderson, Out of the Depths: The Psalms Speak for Us Today, rev. ed. (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1983), 187–88.

Darrell Pursiful is the editor of Formations. He is an adjunct professor at Mercer University and an active member of the First Baptist Church of Christ in Macon, Georgia.


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