A Reflection Based on Catholic Social Doctrine: A Nation Under God
Though the words were added to the pledge, their intent is as old as God's plan for Israel and all the Nations which seek to be truly just and free
Though Israel understood Yahweh to be king, that does not mean He comes down from heaven to rule direct in some sort of theocracy. In the history of Israel, Yahweh ruled through the charismatic leadership of Moses, followed by Joshua, and then through his successors in the so called "judges" (shofetim or shoftim. Singular shofet).
These judges were not judges in our usual sense, but were both political and military leaders that governed Israel after Joshua led them into Canaan. They ruled over Israel for about 350 years (between approximately 1228 B.C. to 877 B.C.), until the last such judge, Samuel, was persuaded by the people to give them a king (melek) like the neighboring kingdoms, and he anointed King Saul. (see 1 Sam. 9:16)
Because of Israel's sacred history, its notion of kingship was different from those of its neighbors. Its notion of kinship is messianic. In Israel's view, the king is chosen by Yahweh (cf. Deut. 17:15; 1 Sam. 9:16), is consecrated or anointed (mesahehu, from where we get the word Messiah) by and unto Yahweh (1 Sam. 16:12-13), and, indeed is seen figuratively as "God's son," (Psalm 2:7 "my son," (beni)). Israel's human king is not intended to glorify himself, but is meant to "make God's dominion and plan of salvation visible" to the people of Israel. (Compendium, No. 377)
Saul, the first king, was a sort of catastrophe, and it was to be his successor, King David, who was to be regarded as the "prototype of the king chosen by Yahweh." (Compendium, No. 378) It is with David that the connection between king and priest, king and messiah, king and sonship, is most clearly developed.
For all King David's faults (and there were many), and for all the faults of his successors, the reign of Israel's messianic kings somehow beckon towards a "son of David," who would be the King of kings, a Lord of lords, the Anointed of all anointeds. "[T]his tradition," so central to the Old Testament, "culminates in Jesus Christ, who is par excellence 'Yahweh's anointed' (that is, 'the Lord's consecrated one'), the son of David." (Compendium, No. 378) (citations omitted)
Israel's kings failed "on the historical level." Indeed, Israel soon split into two kingdoms, Israel and Judah, were temporarily rejoined, and then split again between King Jeroboam of the northern kingdom of Israel and King Rehoboam of the southern kingdom of Judah. The northern kingdom of Israel lasted until it fell to the Assyrians in the 8th century B.C. The southern kingdom of Judah lasted until the 6th century B.C. when it fell to the Babylonians. But this "failure of kingship on the historical level does not lead to the disappearance of the ideal of a king who, in fidelity to Yahweh, will govern with wisdom and act in justice." (Compendium, No. 378)
This hope of a messianic king is a central theme in many of the Psalms, particularly in those psalms called the "Royal Psalms" (Ps. 2, 18 (17), 20 (19), 21 (20), 45 (44), 72 (71), 101 (100), 110 (109), 132 (131), 144 (143)) and those psalms categorized as "Messianic Psalms" which prophecy or intimate the characteristics of the Messiah (Ps. 2, 8, 16, 23 (22), 34 (33), 35 (34), 40 (39), 41 (40), 41 (40), 45 (44), 68 (67), 69 (68), 89 (88), 102 (101), 109 (108), 110 (109), 118 (117)). It is prevalent in the so-called "messianic oracles," most pointedly in the book of Isaiah (Is. 11:2-5) and in the book of Jeremiah (Jer. 23:5-6). These include some of the most beautiful and yearning words in Scripture.
As an example, we might turn to Isaiah:
"The spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him: a spirit of wisdom and of understanding,
A spirit of counsel and of strength, a spirit of knowledge and of fear of the LORD,
And his delight shall be the fear of the LORD.
"Not by appearance shall he judge, nor by hearsay shall he decide,
But he shall judge the poor with justice, and decide aright for the land's afflicted.
He shall strike the ruthless with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall slay the wicked.
"Justice shall be the band around his waist, and faithfulness a belt upon his hips.
Then the wolf shall be a guest of the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; The calf and the young lion shall browse together, with a little child to guide them.
"The cow and the bear shall be neighbors, ...
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