God’s King Brings Life
The second time Lucy and her siblings go through the wardrobe into Narnia, it’s all very different because although it’s only been one year for them in England, it’s been 1000s of years in Narnia.
They can’t find their bearings, they get lost, and all kinds of terrible things happen to them. Then one night as their beaten and bloody and unsure about what to do, where to go and ready to succumb to despair, they’re seated around a campfire, this shadow emerges on the edge of a clearing, and Lucy looks up and sees Aslan.
She’s so excited she runs up and she grabs this lion around the neck and hugs him and tells him how much she loves him and she pats his mane and he lets her ride on his back.
She says, “Oh Aslan, you are so much bigger than you were last year.”
Then Aslan smiles at the little girl and says, “Lucy it’s been 1000s of years. The truth of the matter is, I haven’t changed a bit. I’m the same size right now as I was 1000 years ago. I look the same. I act the same.
For you see I am the same yesterday, today and forever.
I’ve noticed something strange, and that is the more people get to know me, the bigger I look to them.”
What an insight C. S. Lewis gave us in that children’s story, because that’s the message of the Bible.
The more we get to know Jesus, the bigger he becomes to us. Not because he changes (Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday, today, and forever), but because we change as we actually start to realise just how good and great and gracious and glorious Jesus really is.
In today’s world, full of uncertainty and reasons for despair, a small Jesus won’t be enough.
We need a big Jesus, or rather, we need to see just how big Jesus really is. We need to get to know him.
We’re going to spend three weeks looking at Psalm 72. Which means we can go slowly, think about things, not skip over any themes, because there are a number of terrific themes to unpack.
Let’s get into the text.
Psalm 72:1, Of. Now, let’s just pause there for a moment.
The word “of” in Hebrew, as it is in English, is very non-descript. It can mean just about anything.
So when it says, Of Solomon, does it mean it was written:
We don’t know exactly. We do know it’s got something to do with Solomon – he fits in somehow. It’s certainly got to do with a king of Israel. Which one, David, Solomon, somebody else?
If we look at the content and ask some questions, I think we might be able to just work it out.
Who’s it talking about?
It’s King Jesus. Of course it is. He is the subject of this psalm.
It’s a royal psalm. It’s a messianic psalm. It’s a Jesus psalm.
What sort of king is Jesus? Two things for today, and then some more things in the coming weeks.
1 Give the king your justice, O God,
and your righteousness to the royal son!
What is righteousness?
“Righteousness” is basically – doing the right thing. Caring about justice. In the OT those two words “righteousness” and “justice” are often seen together.
So it includes things like:
Speaking with honesty. Acting with integrity. Defending the vulnerable. Judging the wrongdoer. Administering justice.
Not being motivated by success or popularity or money. Not showing partiality. Not judging by appearances.
It’s not any old righteous. It’s not any old justice. As if the psalmist is saying, “Well you just think about it for yourself, and you come up with your own version of what’s right and wrong, and you just be true to yourself.”
Give the king your justice O God, and your righteousness.
In other words, God is the source of right rule.
Take God, and what he says is right and wrong, out of the equation and you end up in a mess…
Rod Dreher: “In his 1983 Templeton Prize address, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn offered this summary explanation for why all the horrors of Soviet communism came to pass: ‘Men have forgotten God; that’s why all this has happened.’”
That’s what we’ve been seeing in western cultures around the world. God has been sidelined or silenced, and what’s the result?
Life becomes cheap: abortion, euthanasia, why not?
Morals become antiquated: if it feels good, just do it.
Ethics become selfish: you can’t tell me what to do, I just need to be authentic to myself (and if you read the article in the latest Trinity News on this he says, this idea that I have to be true to me – the rest of you can live with the consequences – such authenticity is fundamentally selfish.)
Anxiety and depression continue to rise, particularly among youth.
Debate is silenced and people are “cancelled” under the guise of tolerance. The hypocrisy ought to be blinding, yet it goes unseen, or at least suppressed.
People are increasingly confused about who they are and what it means to be male and female, such that the statement “I am a woman trapped in a man’s body” is now actually regarded to be coherent and meaningful and celebrated. To deny that or question it in any way just reveals yourself to be stupid, immoral, or subject to yet another irrational phobia.
There’s probably never been a greater level of distrust and scepticism in politics and in the media. Or a greater level of irrational alarmism on different issues.
Disintegration of the family, civil rights, individual liberties.
Men have forgotten God, they have also forgotten man; that’s why all this has happened.
Julian Barnes: “I don’t believe in God, but I miss him.”
When we forget that there’s a God who made and owns this universe, and that human beings are made in the image of this God, and there are certain things that God has said, this is how it’s going to work best. When we forget that what’s left?
What’s left is a void, and that void has been filled by our version of righteousness, the gods of:
The rules of our secular culture say there are no givens, there are no laws, and there are no limits. Or as Os Guinness says, we’ve reached our “ABC moment” (Anything but Christianity). Any weird, wild and wonderful idea can be championed, and often is – so long as it’s not Christian.
Who is it that suffers most?
It’s the poor and the vulnerable who miss out and suffer most. Hence the cry in v4 to defend the poor, deliver the needy, crush the oppressor.
We need a leader who doesn’t take God out of the equation.
We need a leader who is wise enough to know, and powerful enough to enact, God’s justice and God’s righteousness.
Who is it?
Was Solomon righteous?
Yeah, for a little while, when he first became king. You might remember, right at the beginning of his kingship God asked him, “Tell me what you’d like and I’ll give it to you,” and he asked God for wisdom. Why? So he could rule justly.
However, Solomon didn’t live up to this high standard for very long. He turned away from the Lord, he followed other gods, he began to oppress the people with high taxes to fund his building projects.
That’s the way it is with human kingdoms. Sure, they might begin well, but sooner or later they are always marred by sin and stained with selfishness.
Do we pray that our human leaders will lead with righteousness and rule with justice? Of course, that’s what it says in v1, Give the king your justice, O God. It’s a prayer for just that.
But … human rulers always let us down.
Which is why our hope, ultimately, should never be in any political party. “If we can just get the right people in government, then we’ll be set.”
Human rulers always let us down.
Which is why your hope, ultimately, should not be in the elders of this church. Now, you mightn’t need much convincing about that one. Perhaps it’s only arrogance on my part to think that even needs to be said…….
but human rulers always let us down.
Which is why your hope, ultimately, should not be in any Christian leader or celebrity preacher or big-name author. “Now that this guy’s on the scene… Look at the crowds that he’s pulling.”
Now, do we pray for godly leaders in government? Of course. Do churches need godly elders? Of course. Are we grateful for men and women, past and present, who have been masterful teachers of the Bible? Of course.
When it comes to hope for this world, we look for the only upright, just, and entirely righteous rule of Jesus Christ.
The only rule in the whole world of which we can say truthfully and with full conviction, vv2-3
2 he [will] judge your people with righteousness,
and your poor with justice!
3 Let the mountains bear prosperity for the people,
and the hills, in righteousness!
What is this prosperity that Jesus brings? What’s the outcome of all of this?
There’ll be more to say in the weeks to come, but for now I just want to say this:
The prosperity that is the result from Jesus’ righteous rule far exceeds anything Solomon could have done or dreamt.
It was Solomon’s job, as it is the job of any good leader, to defend righteous people who are unjustly attacked.
It’s Jesus’ work to make people righteous. For those who belong to Jesus, he gives them his own perfect righteousness, so that now, before God, we are declared righteous. He gives us his Spirit to transform our hearts to stop loving our version of righteousness and start loving his righteousness.
Solomon’s work was to defend the innocent. Jesus declares people innocent.
Solomon’s work was to try and limit sin. Jesus forgives sin, and changes sinful hearts. No other king has ever done that.
Solomon’s job was to protect life. Jesus gives life.
So we get this picture in v6:
May he be like rain that falls on the mown grass,
like showers that water the earth!
You know that feeling you get when it rains just after you’ve just mown the lawn, and you sit back and think, ah that’s good. The smell, the sense of perfect timing.
That’s not the picture here.
The picture here is of a paddock that’s been grazed within an inch of it’s life. It’s dusty and it’s barren. Then the rain comes and life springs forth. Where there was dirt there’s now grass.
That’s what Jesus does – brings life from death.
There’s no one like Jesus. No one even comes close.
If you can find me someone better than Jesus, I will give up Christianity.
Jesus is the righteous ruler.
Not to sound too ungrateful, we need more…
In 2 Samuel 8, King David’s kingdom is described as one of justice and righteousness. The same words used here. In that chapter, it describes some of the things David achieved, which match up very closely to this psalm.
His kingdom in many ways was full of justice and righteousness. He did some rather unrighteous things too. Overall, there’s hardly been anyone like him.
There’s a really short but telling sentence in 2 Samuel 21:15, David grew weary. Jesus never grows weary.
David was a great King. He ruled in Israel for forty years, then he died. His kingdom was passed on to Solomon.
Solomon, in many ways, was a good king. He also ruled in Israel for forty years, but then he died.
So it is with all the rulers of this world. It doesn’t matter how powerful, or just, or good, or benevolent their rule over their subjects is, or how loudly their subjects cry out, “O king, live forever!”, in the end they all die, and their kingdoms pass to someone else.
Not so with Jesus Christ. He is an ever-living king, and his kingdom is an everlasting kingdom.
It’s as if someone asks the psalmist, “How long does this go on for?”
Remember it’s poetry, so you can’t just say forever, that would be boring poetry. Let’s just say, v5, while ever the sun endures.
Just before you think, “Great, that must mean at night-time I can do what I like”, we’ll also add as long as the moon endures.
Just before you think, “Ok well that’s just for this generation, all bets are off for the next”, we’ll also add throughout all generations.
In other words, forever!
Sin can’t stop it. Satan can’t stop it. Sad circumstances can’t stop it.
Charles Spurgeon wrote: “We see on the shore of time the wrecks of the Caesars, the relics of the Moguls, and the last remnants of the Ottomans. Charlemagne, Maximilian, Napoleon, how they flit like shadows before us! They were and are not; but Jesus for ever is.”
King David grew weary. Jesus never grows weary.
You and I grow weary. Jesus never grows weary.
What’s the outcome?
There are a lot of things in this world that can cause people to fear…
There are only two legitimate reasons to fear in this world:
May they fear you it says in v5, about the king’s enemies. If you’re an enemy of the sovereign King Jesus you have reason to fear.
If your view of Jesus is not big enough, there’ll be a lot of things that cause fear.
If you’re not his enemy, but his friend. If you know that he is a big, righteous, everlasting king, then there’s nothing to fear.
7 In his days may the righteous flourish,
and peace abound, till the moon be no more!
Sin, Satan, and all our enemies have been crushed, v4, by King Jesus.
Spurgeon: “Even those things which were once our dread, lose all terror when Jesus is owned as monarch of the heart: death itself, that dark mountain, loses all its gloom.”
Friends, this is not a time for fear. It might be a time to do some things differently, but it’s not a time for fear.
Jesus is the King. He’s sitting on his throne. His rule is always wise. His rule is always good.
As his subjects, he will never ordain or order anything in our circumstances, except what is in line with his perfect and permanent justice and righteousness.
There is no one like Jesus, not even close.
We don’t need to fear.
What we need to do is keep preaching Jesus. The more you get to know him, the bigger he will become to you.
James Boice, in his commentary, recounts the time Ronald Reagan once spoke at a large Evangelical convention, after which the delegates were all very impressed and cheered wildly. One fellow named Charles Colson had the sense to remind everyone of this: “the kingdom of God does not arrive on Air Force One.”
It doesn’t. God’s kingdom arrives with God’s King, and God’s King is Jesus, and so we wait for his kingdom, not an earthly kingdom. We pray that his kingdom would come, knowing that it alone is truly righteous and that it alone will never pass away.
Forgive us for when we look for things on earth that can only be found in heaven. Give us a bigger picture of Jesus we pray. Make us people who seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, that we might rest in his sovereign grace and live for his satisfying glory.
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