By Charissa Toeller
A month or so ago, I had my music streaming service playing in the background while I was working. It was just some background music until suddenly, it wasn’t. I stopped what I was doing and cranked the volume. The song was “As For Me,” which you might recognize because it’s one of our new worship songs at church. It caught my ear at first because I liked the music, and then I also realized the singer was one of my very favorite vocalists (Christy Nockels)! But as I clicked the back button and listened again, I found myself somewhat confused by the lyrics, because Christy kept singing that she was setting her king on Zion. A quick google search for the lyrics helped me understand what she meant.
It’s all about context. And a little bit about punctuation.
The pre-chorus section of the song says,
But the Word of the Lord has spoken That there's a God in the heavens Reigning over all, rejoicing as He says:
And here’s the chorus that follows:
“As for Me, I've set My King On Zion, on Zion! As for Me, I've set My King On Zion, on Zion!”
Those quotation marks make all the difference. So when we sing this song, we are not setting our king on Zion. It’s God in the Heavens setting His King (Jesus) on Zion.
At that point, I realized the full title of the song is “As for Me (Psalm 2).” For the sake of brevity, I’ll just link Psalm 2 here in case you’d like to check it out. Christy does a beautiful job of bringing the Psalm into our modern-day context. For example, verse 1 of the song says:
Everything that can be shaken is shaking Everything that can be sifted is sifting All the kingdoms of this world are unravelling And if you listen, you can hear the nations raging
Do you hear the nations raging? Here in 2023, we can quickly point to Russia and Ukraine raging at one another. Regardless of our political beliefs, I think most of us feel our nation raging internally, as well--and we’re not the only ones by far. Does the conflict in our world make you anxious? Angry? Desperate to do something to help? Or just the opposite, to turn it all off? The Psalmist’s answer is important: we look to our God who sees it all and who has chosen the true King of ALL nations. We may experience trouble in the world, but Jesus has and will continue to overcome it. (John 16:33)
The song’s second verse guides us in our response to the turmoil we find in the world:
There's a brightest hope our hearts can remember And a purest fire that burns in us like embers 'Cause we're the people of His heart, and His splendor! Returning to our God, our Defender
Now comes the bridge section that first caught my ear. If you listen (here’s a link!) the energy in the music shifts suddenly, and instead of a somber reminder of future hope, it becomes an all-out celebration:
Every nation is Your heritage All the way to the ends of the earth Everything belongs to You, Jesus! And blessed is the one Who takes refuge in Your name They belong to You, Jesus! They belong to You, Jesus!
In 2023, the reality is that Jesus has already conquered sin and death, but full restoration is yet to come. But because our God keeps His promises, we can celebrate the ultimate victory almost as if it’s already happened. The nations belong to Him even while sin still rules what we see. And we can take refuge in the fact that we’ve chosen to identify with the only King who will never be dethroned.
The bridge above could be the last message of the song, but we’ve got a reprise with a twist coming. Christy goes back to the pre-chorus we already talked about, but instead of describing God as “rejoicing” as He sets His King on Zion, this time He’s laughing. Without looking directly at Psalm 2, would you guess “rejoicing” or “laughing” comes directly from scripture? I would have guessed rejoicing. It sounds Biblical, right? But laughing is actually a quote from Psalm 2:4! It’s not a picture that leaves us wondering if God’s really got this, is it?! From our angle, sometimes it looks like God is barely winning the war against sin—if at all. But that is simply not the case. He’s got this. And that means we don’t have to carry the burden of fixing or agonizing over what the world’s doing. Sure, it can break our hearts. But He’s got this.
And the final chorus. No quotation marks anymore, which means now we’re the ones singing:
And as for me, I'll worship this King On Zion, on Zion!