Going Deeper 1/2/2019

The Psalm for Epiphany...

Psalm 72:1-7, 10-14   Give the king your justice, O God, and your righteousness to a king's son.  May he judge your people with righteousness, and your poor with justice.  May the mountains yield prosperity for the people, and the hills, in righteousness.  May he defend the cause of the poor of the people, give deliverance to the needy, and crush the oppressor.  May he live while the sun endures, and as long as the moon, throughout all generations.  May he be like rain that falls on the mown grass, like showers that water the earth.  In his days may righteousness flourish and peace abound, until the moon is no more.    May the kings of Tarshish and of the isles render him tribute, may the kings of Sheba and Seba bring gifts.  May all kings fall down before him, all nations give him service.  For he delivers the needy when they call, the poor and those who have no helper.  He has pity on the weak and theneedy, and saves the lives of the needy.  From oppression and violence he redeems their life; and precious is their blood in his sight.


Uh, oh!  This Psalm is "political."  😲  While this text being read on Epiphany might cause us to understand the "king" as a reference to Jesus, the King of Kings, nonetheless, it originally served as a kind of job description for Israel's kings.  That cannot be denied.


Here is what Beth Tanner, a seminary professor of Old Testament commented about this theme: Verse 4 is the heart of the job description of the human ruler. “May he [or she] defend the cause of the poor of the people, give deliverance to the needy, and crush the oppressor.” The king’s job is to assure the poor and needy are given care and concern and that he defends them with force if necessary. He is not to wage war for booty or territory but only against those who threated the weak. Pearl Buck wrote in The Good Earth, “the test of a civilization is the way it cares for its helpless members.” Quotes like it have been attributed to others. Did the idea come from the Bible or is this simply the measure of a responsible society regardless of nationality or religion? Either way, these words in Psalm 72 make it the responsibility of the king, and since he is the ruler to care for the helpless, by extension it also becomes the responsibility of all the people to do the same.  


This is a key touchpoint between our faith and our politics.  It is clear throughout the Scriptures that God greatly desires that His people take care of one another, that their lives be marked by compassion and generosity.  This is consistent from beginning to end.  Also consistent has been humanity's failure to live this way!  With the coming of the self-centeredness of sin, people have been consistently greedy, hoarding and squandering the resources which God has provided for all of His children.  


Here is the key point for today: the kind of compassion and generosity our God calls for cannot primarily be driven by government, nor forced or regulated.  This involves a spiritual process of first repentance, and then transformation.  Yes, we can seek to elect, pray for, and influence leaders with these qualities, but ultimately this is Kingdom of God work.  This all begins with the person we see in the mirror.


My hope and prayer is that each of us and all of us together might seek the transforming power of the Holy Spirit to create/grow these qualities within our hearts and that we might be the salt of the earth and the lights of the world through whom God works to promote "righteousness and justice" for all.


With You in His Kingdom,