The Righteous King
Sermon Text: Psalm 72
Sermon Theme: Pray for the Son’s righteous and just reign, with His fame ever spreading throughout the earth.
This psalm belongs to Solomon in part, but to Christ more fully and clearly. Solomon was both the king and the king’s son, and his pious father desired that the wisdom of God might be in him, that his reign might be a remembrance of the kingdom of the Messiah. It is the prayer of a father for his child; a dying blessing. The best we can ask of God for our children is, that God would give them wisdom and grace to know and to do their duty.
This is a prophecy of the kingdom of Christ; many passages in it cannot be applied to the reign of Solomon. There were righteousness and peace at first in the administration of his government; but, before the end of his reign, there were troubles and unrighteousness. The kingdom here spoken of is to last as long as the sun, but Solomon’s was soon at an end. Even the Jewish expositors understood it of the kingdom of the Messiah. Observe many great and precious promises here made, which were to have full accomplishment only in the kingdom of Christ. As far as his kingdom is set up, discord and contentions cease, in families, churches, and nations. The law of Christ, written in the heart, disposes men to be honest and just, and to render to all their due; it likewise disposes men to live in love, and so produces abundance of peace. Holiness and love shall be lasting in Christ’s kingdom. Through all the changes of the world, and all the changes of life, Christ’s kingdom will support itself. And he shall, by the graces and comforts of his Spirit, come down like rain upon the mown grass; not on that cut down, but that which is left growing, that it may spring again. His gospel has been, or shall be, preached to all nations. Though he needs not the services of any, yet he must be served with the best. Those that have the wealth of this world, must serve Christ with it, do good with it. Prayer shall be made through him, or for his sake; whatever we ask of the Father, should be in his name. Praises shall be offered to him: we are under the highest obligations to him. Christ only shall be feared throughout all generations. To the end of time, and to eternity, his name shall be praised. All nations shall call Him blessed.
We are taught to bless God in Christ, for all he has done for us by him. It is sad to think how empty the earth is of the glory of God, how little service and honor he has from a world to which he is so bountiful. May we, like David, submit to Christ’s authority, and partake of his righteousness and peace. May we bless him for the wonders of redeeming love. May we spend our days, and end our lives, praying for the spread of his gospel.
(From Matthew Henry’s Commentary)
- Although the promise declared that “all nations should be blessed in Him,” though the Savior’s parting command enjoined that His “Gospel should be preached to all the world and to every creature,” have His disciples as yet acquitted themselves of the charge assigned to them in the realization of this purpose? If the Gospel be not universal, who, we ask, are answerable for this loss? where falls the blame of this delinquency? The commission given to those before us is continued with us—the promises that supported them are those we rest upon—the purposes of God wait on us still for their accomplishment; and those to whom He commits the fulfillment of His will, are no other than the reclaimed sinners who, like us, have passed from death into life, who stand obedient to His call, who are ready to start any service in which His interests demand their activity.
- How is a nation’s leadership to be measured—by their military campaigns, by their building projects, by the power and wealth they have created? What does God value? The powerful might be able to supply their own needs, so far as temporal things are concerned. But, what makes a leader’s government stand above others is how it cares for the unfortunate. This caring for the poor, in the context of this psalm, is not compassion or mercy—it is justice and righteousness. It is putting things right, the way they should be. It is what is expected, not an action undertaken voluntarily. For power is to be achieved not by grasping for the most but by caring for the least.
- Can the world recognize a leadership that is just and righteous rather then having an agenda to grasp power? The leader with the guidance of the Lord God is to be what the other leaders can not be, and, as such, the whole world is to recognize his reign as characterized by justice; there is no respect of persons; friends are not unduly favored, nor enemies unfairly punished; the condition and interests of all are considered, and the poor are specially regarded; but justice is blended with mercy. It is the glory of Christ’s government that it provides for the return of the rebellious, and for the restoration of the fallen. The form of the King’s justice is to actively save, that is, to exercise saving justice. He is no mere judge—He is a Savior.
- As a Christian, are you getting sick of this world and where it is going? Are you living to praise the name of Jesus Christ and to fill the whole earth with his glory? Man’s rule on this planet has been a dismal failure since the fall, characterized by oppression, injustice and corruption. Money and power talk on this planet, not righteousness, wisdom and justice. The Western world especially is moving quickly away from its foundations. Through some suggest that Jesus’ rule is only realized at the end of the world or at some time later in history, believers know that the Lordship of Jesus Christ is the very heart of the gospel preached by the Apostles in the book of Acts. In fact, with Peter’s very first sermon in Acts 2, he declares that God has made “that same Jesus whom you have crucified, both Lord and Christ.” Quoting Psalm 110:1, Peter declares that Jesus Christ is now on the right hand of the Father until all of His enemies are brought under His footstool. Therefore, what makes this psalm so poignantly relevant to us is the very fact that Jesus is currently and actively engaged all around the world.
- Are you dismayed in this fallen world that believers are subject to many injustices? It may be suffering at the hands of an unfair boss. Or it may be enduring the persecution of an unsaved spouse. Perhaps it is being misunderstood by others because of biblical convictions. Whatever the injustice may be take hope in a King and Judge who will rule with perfect fairness and justice is coming. This King will have the final word. May our prayer be: God, we are grateful for your Messiah who is greater than David and Solomon. He is the one to whom all kings will bow and the one who will be served by all generations. Lord Jesus, we acknowledge your rule over our lives as our Messiah. Praise be to your glorious name forever; may the whole earth be filled with your glory.
- Are we living our lives with obedience to the sovereign reign of Jesus Christ? The laws of the kingdom are not only adapted to the nature and necessities of man but designed for the welfare of those who obey them (Deuteronomy 32:47; Isaiah 48:18); they are not arbitrary, but founded in truth; they are not alterable, but eternally fixed. Earthly governments so far regulate their laws according to circumstances, and there may be improvements made and reforms carried out from time to time for the greater advantage of the people; but the laws of this kingdom do not need improvement—they are perfect as God is perfect. We see the result in the character and privileges of the people (Isaiah 43:21). They are enlightened, contented, law-abiding; they strive to mold their lives according to the will of their King, and in loyalty and devotion to him they find their highest honor and their highest happiness. In this kingdom alone can liberty, equality and fraternity, in the truest sense, be enjoyed.
- What is appealing about living in the Kingdom where this King reigns? Is it the righteousness that marks this King’s reign? For isn’t righteousness describing how this King treats the people whom He rules? In short, He saves by righteousness, and He punishes by righteousness. Yet another mark of this King’s reign is peace. It is a peace that comes by righteousness. Without righteousness, we have no peace with God and no peace with each other. From the prophecy of Isaiah we read, “There is no peace, says my God, for the wicked.” By righteousness, our King saves the humble, the downhearted, and the needy. He puts His own righteousness to their account and justifies them, and He makes them willing in the day of His power, both to will and to do of His right and good pleasure (Psalm 110:3; Philippians 2:8-9). On the basis of the same standard of righteousness, He breaks in pieces the proud oppressor who refuses to repent.
- Should an exhilarating surge of awe and exaltation sweep over us as we contemplate the rule of our sovereign King? Unlike the fallen kings of the earth, this One is perfectly righteous: He stoops to care for the orphan and the downcast, and He is worthy of our praise, honor, and glory. For when we worship, we bless the name of our King—He is a good King. He has saved His people by giving His life for them. He rules us with infinite tenderness, power, and wisdom. The human heart is built for adoration and praise. The only trouble is that we resort to adoring things that are not worthy of adoration. Well, here is One worthy of all of our adoration and praise. Worship this King.
- How should the church today pursue prosperity and peace in our nation? Take a look at what Paul writes to Timothy: “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way” (1 Timothy 2:1-2).
- In what ways do the people under Christ’s reign flourish? What would flourishing look like in our city? Our nation? Our world? What part can believers in Jesus play in helping others to flourish?
- What should be the burden of our prayer? We do not want in any case to utter vain words when our knees are bent before the throne, but when we are praying for Jesus we must exercise very special care. We must endeavor to discover what Christ desires. We must pray intelligently, reverently, lovingly, and to purpose. How may this be done? The best way to plead intelligently for Christ is to remember the promises that are given concerning Him. Get hold of a promise and wrap our prayers about it; let the Word of God be the nucleus of your petition, and then frame your own loving supplications round the Spirit-breathed predictions. Contemplate Him, meditate upon His character, reflect on His tastes and predilections. Try to discover what would please Him most. Why did He come on earth? He said Himself, “The Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.” Then pray that the lost may be saved; that will please Him well. He was here to make disciples; to gather round Him and behind Him a fitting retinue, as became the Prince of Life. Pray that the number of the disciples may be increased, that those who profess to follow Him may follow, not afar off. He was here to sanctify the saints, to wash them with the washing of water by the Word. Pray that the saints may be made holy and kept holy, for this will please Jesus.
- It is not mere admiration or respect that we give our King, but we give Him our hearts. Every mention of His name should touch our deepest affections. What wonder that He should receive the homage of a world! But what is He to us? That is the all-important question. Has such a friend, such a Savior, no beauty in our eyes? God forbid that we should refuse Him that love which He asks for, and so richly merits from us.
What history owes to Jesus Christ: We need to take the simplest, plainest facts that lie upon the surface of history, to see what a revelation was implied in the entrance of Christian ideas into such a world as this. It brought, for one thing, a totally new idea of man himself, as a being of infinite dignity and immortal worth; it taught that every man’s soul, even the humblest, poorest, and the most defiled, was made in God’s image, is capable of eternal life, and has an infinite value—a value that made worth while God’s own Son’s dying to redeem it. It brought back to men’s minds the sense of responsibility to God—an idea that had never been possessed, or had been altogether or almost altogether lost. It brought into the world a new spirit of love and charity, something wonderful in the eyes of those heathen as they saw institutions spring up round about them that they had never thought or heard of in heathenism before. It flashed into men’s souls a new moral ideal, and set up a standard of truth, and integrity, and purity, which has acted as an elevating force on moral conception in the world till this hour. It restored woman to her rightful place by man’s side as his spiritual helpmate and equal, and created that best of God’s blessings on earth, the Christian home, where children are reared in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. It created self-respect, a sense of duty in the use of one’s powers for self-support and for the benefit of others. It urged to honest labor. “Let him that stole steal no more,” etc. And in a myriad ways, by direct teaching, by the protest of holy lives, by its gentle spirit, it struck at the evils and the corruptions and the malpractices and the cruelties of the time. For the eternal benefits: “Jesus hath abolished death,” we read, “and hath brought life and immortality to light through His Gospel.” And what was better, He not only taught men the way of life, but stood there Himself, the great medium of return to God. He stood there not only teaching men what the way of life was, but He Himself was there to place their feet in its paths. He not only taught us about God, but showed us how to be at peace with Him—brought us back to God, from whom we had wandered, and reconciled us with God. He not only warned us of the dangers and the evils of the life of sin, of the ruin, the destruction which sin brought with it, of the alienation, the estrangement from the life of God that was in sin; but He united Himself there with us, with His infinite mercy in our lone, and lost, and condemned condition, took upon Himself there, on His own soul, that burden we could not for ourselves bear, and through His cross and passion opened the kingdom of heaven to all believers.
(James Orr, D. D.)
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