The Fourth Sunday of Advent December 18, 2005
55, 74, 439(1-5), 60
Give the king Your judgments, O God, and Your righteousness to the king’s Son. He will judge Your people with righteousness, and Your poor with justice. The mountains will bring peace to the people, and the little hills, by righteousness. He will bring justice to the poor of the people; He will save the children of the needy, and will break in pieces the oppressor. They shall fear You as long as the sun and moon endure, throughout all generations. He shall come down like rain upon the grass before mowing, like showers that water the earth. In His days the righteous shall flourish, and abundance of peace, until the moon is no more He shall have dominion also from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth. Those who dwell in the wilderness will bow before Him, and His enemies will lick the dust. The kings of Tarshish and of the isles will bring presents; the kings of Sheba and Seba will offer gifts. Yes, all kings shall fall down before Him; all nations shall serve Him. For He will deliver the needy when he cries, the poor also, and him who has no helper. He will spare the poor and needy, and will save the souls of the needy. He will redeem their life from oppression and violence; and precious shall be their blood in His sight. And He shall live; and the gold of Sheba will be given to Him; prayer also will be made for Him continually, and daily He shall be praised. There will be an abundance of grain in the earth, on the top of the mountains; its fruit shall wave like Lebanon; and those of the city shall flourish like grass of the earth. His name shall endure forever; His name shall continue as long as the sun. And men shall be blessed in Him; all nations shall call Him blessed. Blessed be the Lord God, the God of Israel, who only does wondrous things! And blessed be His glorious name forever! And let the whole earth be filled with His glory. Amen and Amen. The prayers of David the son of Jesse are ended.
Dear fellow redeemed—citizens of the everlasting kingdom through Jesus Christ:
In our hymnal there is a melodic version of this psalm prepared by James Montgomery who also wrote the more familiar hymn: Go to Dark Gethsemane. Mr. Montgomery considered poetry his greatest calling.
A poet’s task is to take what is commonplace and give it a new look by causing us to see the common in a new and living light. Or, the poet might try to take what is extraordinary, profound, or mystical, and help us appreciate such things by setting them in a context of what we know and can experience. Hymn writers usually do more of this second kind of poetry—giving us insight into the awesome and profound, namely, the things revealed to us by the Holy Spirit.
It was, of course, the Holy Spirit who guided the ancient poets and gave us the Psalms. During this Advent season we have heard the poetry of King David, Asaph, and the sons of Korah. Today, our poet is David’s son—King Solomon—who at the time might have been considered Israel’s most glorious king. But, like his father, Solomon understood that there were things to come and things to believe that were far greater than he or his kingdom. So today we have the Messianic Kingdom as it is seen in the poet’s eye. He describes for us the Kingdom’s uncommon beauty in common terms. May the Holy Spirit lead us to see that beauty as well as we see I. A King who tends to the poor II. A King who reigns forever III. A King who prevails over his enemies and IV. A King with worldwide renown.
The first thing we should understand about the Hebrew notion of a king is that their king was more absolute than the sort of kings and queens we hear about today. Modern monarchies are hemmed in by constitutions, parliaments, and separation of powers. Not so with ancient kings. They had absolute authority and weren’t too good at delegating it to others. The king was also a judge. He determined right and wrong and dispensed proper justice even in fairly mundane matters. This is why Solomon found himself sitting at court in Jerusalem one day faced by two distraught women and one living child (cf. 1 Kings 3:16ff). No wonder this king had a special appreciation for the gift of wisdom, and what the Hebrews described as discernment—the ability to see through murky notions and understand the heart of an issue. That’s a quality we need more and more today.
So Solomon could appreciate the idea of a future King who would be endowed with a divine dose of judgment and righteousness: “Give the King Your judgments, O God, and Your righteousness to the king’s son. He will judge the people with righteousness, and Your poor with justice.” [vv.1-2] Solomon envisioned a dominion where peace would run down to the people like streams cascading out of the mountains.
Solomon saw a King who would be the very root of justice and judgment—especially for the poor! “For He will deliver the needy when he cries, The poor also, and him who has no helper.” [v.12] The mark of this King’s reign would be that the most helpless corner of society would receive His greatest attention: “He will bring justice to the poor of the people, He will save the children of the needy.” [v.13]
But the most important part of this divine justice is found in the cost it will exact from the King: “He will redeem their life from oppression and violence; and precious shall be their blood in His sight.” [v.14] The day would come when a King would save His people from tyranny and destruction, but it would cost Him. The blood price paid would be His own. That is a price Solomon could never have paid.
But Solomon saw more in this King. He understood that this King would rule forever. That is something we don’t quite appreciate. We’ve lived in a country that has enjoyed a stable government for lifetimes. We assume it will be the same indefinitely. But Solomon saw things differently. He understood that empires rise and fall. He also knew how Israel had suffered oppression from neighboring countries. Even a strong king might only reign forty years or so. Did Solomon have any inkling of the mess his son Rehoboam would make which finally resulted in a civil war? Did he understand how dark and troubled the future of his people was to be?
He did understand that the Lord God had a Kingdom in store for His people that would last forever. But how do you describe forever to people whose lives are so fragile and fleeting? You turn to the things they’ve always known: “They shall fear You as long as the sun and moon endure, throughout all generations…In His days the righteous shall flourish and abundance of peace, until the moon is no more.” [vv.5-7]
When someone wishes to speak of the Kingdom of God he has to aim high. No human has ever seen a day in which the sun did not rise. We’ve measured our lives by trips around the sun and the visible cycles of the moon. We talk about man doing harm to the earth, but we haven’t yet figured out a way to ruin those bodies that shine in space. How enduring must God’s kingdom be if it outlasts even these things!
Notions like this became precious to people who looked for some sort of stability and safety in their lives. An everlasting kingdom, an eternal King—it really is hard to imagine, isn’t it? It’s hard to think of God’s Servant always protecting, providing, ruling. Yet, that is just how things are!
No kingdom—not even God’s kingdom—can last long if it doesn’t prevail over its enemies. The world as we know it is all about the struggle between good and evil. Solomon understood that it was not the nature of God’s kingdom to compromise with His foes. He tolerates no rebellion. When the Israelites came into the Promised Land they were told to eradicate all the Canaanites. There could be no common ground between true worship and idolatry.
Solomon had personally seen an interesting approach in those turbulent years of his father’s reign when Absalom began a rebellion. There was a relative of the former king Saul, named Shimei, who carried a smoldering grudge against David for taking the throne from Saul. During Absalom’s revolt when David had to flee Jerusalem, Shimei came out throwing rocks and cursing David. Instead of letting his loyal men kill Shimei, David let his rant continue believing that it was God’s way of chastening David for his many faults. Later on, when David regained the throne and was acknowledged as the ruler of Israel, Shimei came and humbled himself before David, and became one of the King’s most devoted servants.
It is natural for a king to use his power to subdue his enemies. It is a more wonderful thing to see him win the hearts of such enemies. Solomon foresaw the King who would win the hearts of many millions of people who, by sinful lives and rebellious hearts, had been in the power of Satan and were servants in his dark kingdom. A King would come who would crush the head of Satan, and those under his power would find themselves free—free to serve the Lord with joyful hearts. People, like the Apostle Paul, who opposed the God’s kingdom in ignorance and unbelief, heard the Gospel and the Holy Spirit turned their hearts to kneel before the Lord Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit took those enemies and gave them hearts and souls dedicated to service in God’s kingdom.
Obedience and devotion like that will come, not from the Jews only, but from all nations. Later Isaiah proclaimed what Solomon already understood: “There shall be a root of Jesse; and He who shall rise to reign over the Gentiles, in Him the Gentiles shall hope” (Romans 15:12, cf. Isaiah 11:1,10).
Finally, Solomon could speak of a coming King who would enjoy worldwide renown. We think that the world which the people of Solomon’s time imagined seems very small. They conceived of the ends of the earth as only a thousand or two thousand miles apart. But it also took months to travel that far. So when Solomon spoke of his own experience, having the Queen of Sheba come with camel trains of exotic gifts to see the renowned kingdom of Israel under Solomon, that was like someone coming from the ends of the earth. But he saw the day when a King would arise to whom the wealth of the earth would come. Not only gifts and treasures would be given to the Messiah, but more importantly, their love, their praises, their devotion, and their prayers. This is the King who will save the lowly, who will reign forever, who will overcome his enemies. “He shall live; and the gold of Sheba will be given to Him; prayer also will be made for Him continually, and daily He shall be praised.” [v.15]
Prayer was made continually for this King—the Lord of many waiting people. The people prayed that He would come and save all those lost in sin. Finally, He was born, and soon wise men from the East appeared with exotic and rare gifts in hand to show the more exotic and rare devotion they had in their hearts. They worshiped the Babe, praised Him as their Lord and God, and went their way to serve Him with joy.
Prayer was again made to this King, as He rode into Jerusalem on a lowly donkey: “Hosanna, hosanna to the Son of David” (Matthew 21:9). Hosanna means Save, I pray! When people know that there is no sure thing in this world other than the curse of sin; they can only surrender to the King of righteousness and welcome Him with prayers of “Hosanna! Save us, Lord!”
From a human standpoint, some people are better poets than others. Some of us can barely string three words together, while others can speak with a golden tongue. But there is no greater, truer poetry, than the prayers and praises; the gifts and devotion, of people who see in their hearts what Solomon saw in prophecy: Jesus Christ, the Son of David, is our Lord and King.
When we pray “Thy kingdom come,” we seek something truly beautiful. When He reigns in our hearts through faith, His kingdom comes to us, indeed. Amen.
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All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.