GOD’S KING SHALL REIGN OVER ALL Trinity
Psalm 72:8-14 22.8.21
News bulletins and news feeds are full of Covid stories and reports of daily numbers. Politicians grandstand to show us how tough they are. We wait to see what the updates are on what our leaders and a bunch of bureaucrats call “the roadmap out of Covid”.
We are in danger of losing our focus on the one roadmap that really matters, the one that makes sense of all the others.
The starting point for this roadmap is a place where there is freedom and love, no viruses, fear or death. It is beautiful, ordered, free and life-giving. It is the Garden of Eden.
However, we preferred the garden we made for ourselves. To use the title of John Steinbeck’s novel, since we turned against the God of the Garden, we’ve been living “East of Eden”.
That novel tells the story of deadly rivalry between brothers and rifts between parents and children. There is violence, sadism, murder and suicide, infidelity and adultery. Life outside of Eden has always been ugly, always been marked more by death than by life.
Here (far right) life is magnificent in the Garden. East of Eden (next right) it is profoundly ugly.
It is not uniformly ugly. Psalm 72 shows us one of the bright spots in the world East of Eden. Come along to about 1,000 before Jesus, to a wonderfully bright place on the roadmap – to the beautiful kingdom built by David and his son Solomon.
Last Sunday we heard that when Solomon became king of Israel, God said he could ask for whatever he wanted. Money? Power? Prestige? He asked for wisdom to rule well. God gave it to him in buckets full … and along with it abundant wealth and power.
With it all, Solomon became the most notable person of the Middle East. He had “dominion from sea to sea, and from the River (Euphrates) to the ends of the earth” (v8); “desert tribes bow down before him” (v9b). Other Kings pay HIM taxes (v10) … and rulers even from Tarshish (Spain) and Sheba (North Africa) bring gifts to him. “All kings serve him” (v11b).
His infrastructure program supplied Jerusalem with a water supply, a gorgeous green palace and a shining temple. His international trade and alliances made everyone rich, and safe. He shared the blessings with the people he ruled – all of them … the “needy” and the “poor” and the “weak”. Everyone was lifted up. The writer of 1 Kings 4 says that they all “lived in safety, from Dan to Beersheba, every man under his vine and under his fig tree.”
It is a great time to be alive when the man on the throne has God’s wisdom, and knows he is accountable to a God of absolute power. Of course people get blessed in a world like that!
If we want the poor and the needy to matter, peace and true prosperity of course we want rulers like that.
Our road map hasn’t finished, however.
Eden (far right) was wonderful.
East of Eden (next right), has always been tainted to a greater or lesser degree by what is deeply ugly.
In the middle, God has given us a picture of what can be, in the kingdom of Solomon, but Solomon’s kingdom is still not Eden. As we saw last Sunday in Psalm 72, it did not last. Warwick said then that it was neither perfect nor permanent.
With time, Solomon lost his way. His foreign wives turned his heart to their gods. His son, listened to the young hot-heads rather than the wisdom of God, and the result was civil war. The kingdom was broken in two. Forever, and freedom went out the door.
As great as it was, the kingdom of Solomon wasn’t the end of the road. It was a picture of something much better to come. Jesus comes … King David’s greater son he is called.
Jesus has always been the ruler of this world. Every drop of water in the Amazon, every earthly ruler and every deadly virus moves a millimetre only by the sovereign direction of Jesus the King.
The Muslim grand mufti in Sydney this week was urging Muslims to get vaccinated. The vaccine, he said, was a gift of Allah. It might be, if Allah were the Ruler-King of the world, but he isn’t. Vaccines are gifts from the Ruler-King of everything, who still pours gifts East of Eden.
Jesus is more than Ruler-King of this world. He has come into the world as the church-King. He comes to smash the power of Satan … and to make a new world, a new creation, by saving people and bringing people to himself in his church …
people from Africa and Spain and the Americas and the Pacific Islands today, and all over, to know him, every day
so that they are deeply blessed – the lost are found, hungry hearts are fed, wounded souls are healed, and enemies are turned into friends
and countless millions of people, rich and poor, black, white and brown, bow down and offer him their lives, as they are changed from the inside out. Not by brute force, but by compelling truth and deep love.
How different from the kingdoms where a servant who broke a goblet was thrown into a lake to be eaten by eels … or where up to 22 slaves could be traded for one hunting dog. There has never been a kingdom like his kingdom in the history of the world. Solomon gave us a glimpse of it, but the perfect and permanent comes only with Jesus.
There is a problem on this roadmap. His enemies don’t yet “lick the dust” at his feet. People still give their hearts to other gods. The Taliban openly blaspheme him. Millions of nice Australians just passively ignore him.
If his kingdom is perfect and permanent, why doesn’t it look like it.
Just wait a bit. In just a little while every person, every prime minister, every king and every petty ruler everywhere will “fall down before him and all nations serve him” (v11). His Father has raised him from the dead and exalted him as Lord and Christ. In just a little while, everyone is going to see that.
Eden was beautiful. East of Eden, it is ugly. God kept giving pictures, such as Solomon’s kingdom, so we would know it would one day be different. That day came with Jesus … and the kingdom he brings is very soon to be brought to a glorious completion.
We are not at the end of the roadmap yet. What shall we do, here in the middle, still living in a world East of Eden?
DON’T GO BACK
We can’t go back to Eden. God blocked that off.
We don’t want to go back to Jerusalem – no king in Israel was ever good enough. Israel was always a promise of a better, a much better kingdom, to come.
We don’t want to go back to some golden age in Australia, or to pre-Covid times. Nowhere back there delivered the deepest answers to longlining and needy souls.
God’s roadmap brings us to Jesus, the heart and soul of all his plans. Jesus, who says that the person who comes to him and believes in him will never go hungry or be thirsty ever again. Jesus, the centre of all of history and all of life. Jesus the perfect and the permanent king.
DON’T GET OFF BEFORE THE END OF THE ROAD
You may not want to go back to go, but you may be tempted to get off the bus. There is enough in life in this world, East of Eden, that we cannot understand, that we find painful and sad, and which reduces us to tears.
Ask those Christian parents in Afghanistan whose 14 year old daughter was taken from them this week, to be given to some old Taliban guy as a wife. I’ll bet they are tempted to give Jesus away.
Are we crazy to believe that Jesus is here and now Lord of all and his kingdom glorious? Not if he rose from the dead. Not if he now rules in heaven. Not if he redeems us from a hell which is eternal. Not if today, right now, he says “precious is the blood (of my children) in my sight” (v14).
Not if the completion of his rule means justice for every unpunished crime and every blasphemous deed and thought.
His Father says that day is almost here when God “considers it just to repay with affliction those who afflict you, and to grant relief to you who are afflicted … when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord, Jesus.” (2 Thess 1:6-8).
We can bide our time. God’s justice will be perfect and worked out in his perfect time. We can wait, and one day we will see how right it was to wait.
Dear friends, don’t get off the bus before we get to the end, will you? It’s not far away, and it will be glorious both in its perfect justice and its great grace.
Don’t go back.
Don’t get off before the end
KEEP MOVING FORWARD
Isaac Watts read these verses in Psalm 72 and wrote his hymn “Jesus shall reign … his kingdom stretch from shore to shore”, based on these words. He knew the day would soon come when the certain completion of the kingdom of Jesus would be evident to all.
Watts knew that when he returned, there will be people in every tribe, in every nation, in every language group who will stand up and sing out “Jesus is Lord”.
We don’t belong to a kingdom that is weak or insipid or can’t deliver; or on a par with Solomon’s kingdom; or just the reinvention of the Garden of Eden? No, what is coming is so much better than anything before, including Eden.
So much so that Watts rode a verse in his hymn that is missing in most hymn books …
“Where he [Jesus] displays his healing power
Death and the curse are known no more
In him the tribes of Adam boast
More blessings than their father lost. Better than Eden!
Does Jesus reign now over all? Yes. Is he sovereignly building every child of God into his church? Yes. Is the day soon when every knee shall bow and every tongue confess him King? Yes, it is.
In 2 Peter 3:12 God says something quite strange. He speaks about our “waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God”. Isn’t the date of Jesus’ return fixed? Of course it is. How then do we hasten it, or bring it nearer?
Jesus will not return until the full number of the elect are brought to him. Every time one of those whom God has chosen believes the gospel, we are that much closer to that day. We hasten the day, as it were, when we tell people about the Lord Jesus … and people believe just as they were predestined to do.
If the kingdom of Jesus has been won, and is very soon to be complete once all the elect are brought to Jesus … then let’s make him known in a message that God will use to convert those he has elected.
To what shall we give our first and focussed attention in 2021? Eradicating Covid? Saving our culture from woke or progressive views? Reclaiming the nation? Not if we love God’s roadmap.
It is because we love and serve him, we want to be salt and light East of Eden in every way we can – that is a no-brainer. It is because we love and serve the King over all, we work hard to love our neighbours during Covid and all the time.
Our focus is not to rebuild Jerusalem or remake the Garden of Eden in Australia or anywhere else.
Focussing on the roadmap out of Covid can so easily shrink our horizons. Fear replaces certainty. Self-protection replaces love for others. Divisions in our culture replace unity.
It is because Jesus is Lord and we live under his rule of grace, and we trust his wise and sovereign purposes, and at the heart of all we do, we make him known, and build his church. While we wait for the day when he will rule visibly and openly as just judge and mighty saviour.
The start of God’s road map was beautiful. The loss was devastating. The promises along the way feed hope. The kingdom of Jesus brings life and healing and unity across generations and nations. It is all heading to a day which is absolutely certain, and stunningly glorious.
Don’t go back. Don’t get off the road. Let’s do all we can to help one another move to the destination of the complete kingdom of Jesus. When we get there, none of us will regret that we stuck with the plan until then. Not one of us.
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