Many churches throughout the world use a Bible reading schedule called a "lectionary." It's just a fancy word meaning "selected readings." Posts like this reflect on the readings for an upcoming Sunday or other Church holiday, as found in the three-year lectionary.
Our Psalm reading this week is from Psalm 72:1-15. It’s a plea that the king would be blessed and have justice to distribute. We might think this is a good thing, and it is. We would certainly like rulers and anyone in authority over us to do good, especially to us. And when things are going well for us, we normally think it would be good to help others as well.
I’d like to draw our attention, though, to verses 12-14. Here we find that the king rescues the needy and the poor, that he counts the lives of those who are oppressed or who are enduring violence to be very precious. My question is, “What kind of king in antiquity would be moved that way? Who would we expect to value the poor?” This is an important line of questioning. We find, outside of the Western world, and even in the West prior to the rise of Christianity, that it is a rarity, if not even completely unknown, for a ruler to show charity to any but his family, friends, and important allies. Acts of charity and kindness are not the rule, they are the exception. So where did this come from?
Let’s just say that Jesus’ commands to love your enemies, to pray for those who would abuse you, and to do good to the least of your neighbors would have provoked shock and wonder among just about everyone of his time. This was a new cultural idea. It was not entirely unknown in Judaism, because they were told to show kindness to the stranger since they were stranger in Egypt. But this could be seen as taking things too far. If we’re supposed to help people, even those people who can’t help us back, we are asking to be taken advantage of! It will be our ruin!
What kind of king do we find in our Psalm, in verses 12-14? This is none other than the King of Heaven. He is the one who lovingly controls all the resources of the entire planet. He is the one who has given life to all the living and who will raise the dead in the last day. He is the one who has seen us in our weakness and has lifted us up.
What’s the prayer of the Psalm? It asks the loving and redeeming God to be loving and redeeming. It asks God to be God. May he have dominion (v. 8)!
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