Text: Psalm 72
We are on the other side of Christmas day and my guess is that most gifts have been given and received by this point. The exception might be some of those delayed in shipping – we had some of that happen. Nonetheless, I trust that it’s fresh, or still fresh, in your minds.
Today we are concluding our Advent series called “Songs of Hope.” For the last four weeks we have been looking at the songs and prayers in Psalms to remember the hope that God provides even in the darkest times. Today we conclude with Psalm 72 which asks God’s blessing on the King of Israel. I was drawn to it because of the giving of gifts to the king, which brought to mind the Magi, their quest for the one born King, and their gifts to Jesus.
Who is this About?
While the Psalm is attributed to Solomon and reads as his prayer for God’s blessing to be a righteous and good king, it has such breadth and reach and is prayed for “the king’s son” that it is easy to see how God answered these prayers in the birth of Jesus as one anointed from the line of David. To say that another way, God promised David (Solomon’s father) blessing for him and his line. Solomon knew this well and also received God’s blessing. It was fitting, then, to pray for such blessing on his own reign as well as that of those that would follow. Since God promised an eternal kingdom through his own line, it is right to understand this as a prayer for the Messiah-King, who we believe to be Jesus.
A Righteous King (vv.1-4, 12-14)
In our call to worship we heard the prayer for and description of a righteous king. While it was laudable for Solomon to pray for this – and he WAS one of the good kings of Israel – we can readily see how this prayer is fulfilled in Jesus. The righteous king would “Judge the people with righteousness and the afflicted with justice.” (v.2) The mountains and hills – the kingdom of this king – would be known for peace and righteousness (v.3). The righteous king would “vindicated the afflicted of the people, save the children of the needy, and crush the oppressor.” (v.4)
Later, in verses 12-14, the Psalm re-iterates the work and kingdom of the righteous king:
“He will deliver the needy when he cries for help,
The afflicted also, and him who has no helper.
He will have compassion on the poor and needy,
And the lives of the needy he will save.
He will rescue their life from oppression and violence,
And their blood will be precious in his sight.”
This the kingdom and the message that Jesus proclaimed. Remember him reading from Isaiah in the synagogue (Luke 4:16-21) and saying that the freedom, justice, and deliverance promised there was fulfilled now in him? But it was also the way Jesus lived and died. He spent much of his ministry healing, inviting, and relating to the afflicted, the sick, and the poor. And he died for the ultimate affliction and captivity – the sin of the world.
The magi could not have known all that when they brought gifts to the child Jesus, but they were likely familiar with the Hebrew scriptures and the promise of an anointed king from the line of David. They knew enough to inquire about the one “born King of the Jews” and to offer gifts worthy of a king. And that is what the Psalm describes in verses 10-11, which remind us of the Magi’s gifts.
Gifts for a King (vv.10-11)
Let the kings of Tarshish and of the islands bring presents;
The kings of Sheba and Seba offer gifts.
And let all kings bow down before him,
All nations serve him. (vv.10-11)
Not only was it tradition and a sign of respect to bring gifts to a king, the scope of this Psalm describes kings and gifts coming from the remotest parts of the known world to offer gifts to the righteous king. This was far beyond the scope of anything accomplished in David or Solomon’s lifetime, but not in the scope of God’s plan. Indeed, the Magi came from a distance not unlike what is described in this Psalm. This was, perhaps, an early sign of the scope of God’s Kingdom and salvation, for God was going to redeem the world after all.
But this is not just to be a history lesson for us. We are also to offer gifts to the righteous king. But wait, I don’t have anything so fancy as gold, incense, or myrrh. I am reminded of the Christina Rossetti poem, “In the Bleak Midwinter” and its fourth verse:
What can I give him, poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb;
If I were a wise man, I would do my part;
Yet what I can I give him: I give my heart.
During our offering time today we will take time to personally ponder this question: What can I give him?
While our financial support of the church is one form this may take, that is surely just a small part of the larger question: How shall I respond to and relate to Jesus the King. Or in other language we sometimes use: What does it mean to say that Jesus is Lord of my life?
Jesus affirmed that the greatest commandment was to love God with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength – I like to paraphrase as “love God with all I am and all I’ve got.” And we are to love our neighbor as ourselves, a form of that “blessed to be a blessing” mandate we’ve talked about a lot this Fall. Sometimes we talk about committing our time, treasure, and talents. Surely ALL these things are in view, for Jesus being our King means our whole existence belongs to him: our priorities, our hopes and dreams, our needs and frustrations, our allegiance, our resources, our lives. Rosetti knew that where our heart goes, all of us follows. So that’s the question for us today: will we give God our heart? And what does that mean as we prepare to begin a new year?
On Christmas Eve I mentioned the importance of worship to not only express faith, but to strengthen wavering faith. Worship is also what is due to Jesus the King. And that’s where Psalm 72 ends. I’d like to end by simply reading that. One who gives their heart to Jesus Christ is one who worships. This is what it sounds like when that commitment, allegiance, and love of God overflows:
May his name endure forever;
May his name increase as long as the sun shines;
And let men bless themselves by him;
Let all nations call him blessed.
Blessed be the Lord God, the God of Israel,
Who alone works wonders.
And blessed be His glorious name forever;
And may the whole earth be filled with His glory.
Amen, and Amen. (vv.17-19)
Some Music Used
- Love Has Come
- Do You Have Room (Jim Terrell, 2011)
- We Three Kings
- Sweet Little Jesus Boy (Rick Bean, piano)
- O Come, Emmanuel (Rick Bean, piano)
- Let Your Kingdom Come
- In the Bleak Midwinter