Psalm 72 sermon audio
Powerpoint slides (quite important to teaching Gen 3:15 and Adam and Christ)
Born in a shed, laid in a feeding trough, He was born into the poorest of poor families. He spent his childhood on the run from His own king and his henchmen. After being an asylum seeker, He then grew up in a northern backwater of a tiny oppressed nation, ruled by a ruthless super-power, the Romans, who would crucify sometimes scores of His countrymen by the roadsides as a warning about what rebels can expect. His own people constantly taunted Him over His perceived illegitimacy – taunts that stuck throughout His life.
He learnt His adoptive father’s trade, a builder’s labourer, and worked at that for the great majority of His adult life. Then aged 30 He collected together an unlikely assortment of no-hopers and miscreants. Ill-educated fishermen, despised tax collectors, political zealots, notorious sinners. And for three years, just three years, He toured little Israel as a penniless, homeless, sometimes wildly popular, sometimes wildly unpopular preacher. Just three years in little Israel, an occupied province under the thumb of mighty Rome. Three years before His own people hated Him enough to hand Him over to the Romans, and they did what Romans did best. They snuffed out this upstart who claimed to be King.
Or did they? Because this unlikely mob of followers swore, even as it cost each of them their lives, they swore that Jesus had risen bodily from death, just as promised. And that He had ascended to the throne of the universe. These former fishermen, tax collectors and sinners, spread the word that Jesus was indeed the eternal King, the long promised Messiah, the Son of God. It was a truth that turned the world upside down. And within a few hundred years the empire that executed Jesus confessed Him Lord and King.
It is without doubt the most stupendous fact of all history. How is Jesus the central figure of human history? Why is the whole world about to stop to mark His birth?
In His day, Jesus was ignored and completely insignificant to anyone with any power. Then when He caused a minor and short-lived stir He was despised, rejected and condemned. Today, He commands more allegiance than any other human being ever has or ever could. Not bad for a kid born in a shed.
You see these are the facts. They are not in dispute by any reputable historian. Jesus – that penniless preacher, never entered political office, never entered religious orders, never entered the military, was never schooled in the customary way, never founded a school, never wrote a book, never led an army, never had an ounce of earthly power. He was butchered as a blasphemer aged 33.
And He is the single most important human ever born and billions call Him Lord.
These are the facts, they are not in dispute. Tell me, how do you account for all this?
I tell you, there’s only one way to account for it. The bible’s way. This is the only explanation for the most stunning fact of history. So what we’re going to do is spend a few minutes unpacking how the bible explains the significance of Jesus. Here’s the bible’s answer as to how on earth the kid born in a stable rules the world.
In the beginning… Christ was there.
Before there was a universe, Christ was there. Christmas is not the beginning of Jesus. Jesus has no beginning.
That’s what we remember every Christmas when we read John chapter 1:
In the beginning was the Word (that’s Christ). Christ was with God and Christ was God – He too can take the name ‘God’. The divine Christ was with God in the beginning. Through Him all things were made. Without Him nothing was made that has been made.
Christ is the divine and eternal King.
When we read the Gospels, we read of a man who walked around planet earth like He owned the place. You know why? Because He does own the place! He is this world’s true Lord and Maker. There’s a Christmas carol with this line:
Lo within a manger lies, He who built the starry skies.
That’s who Jesus is. The wriggling baby is He who built the starry skies. Jesus is really powerful and really old.
And from the beginning God has always acted through His King, Jesus.
God made the world through Christ His eternal King.
And, interestingly God and His Son Christ decided to set a man as king over the world.
[SLIDE - Adam]
Do you ever think of Adam as a king? He was a king. He was told to rule the earth (Genesis 1:26,28). Adam was king.
[SLIDE – people]
And all the people who came from him…
[SLIDE – world]
…and even all creation under him was dependent on his righteous rule.
But of course he proved to be an unrighteous ruler.
[SLIDE – arrow]
And so he fell, but with him fell his whole kingdom. Everyone who is from him fell. In fact the whole world fell.
The rule of King Adam affected everyone and everything. And the only hope for humanity, the only hope for creation is for Christ the eternal King to come and do Adam’s job properly.
And that’s precisely what Christ promises to do in Genesis 3 verse 15.
Do you remember Genesis 3:15?
Christ promises His own birth as the Offspring of a woman. The offspring of the woman will crush the serpent’s head, and the serpent will strike His heel.
Christ would be born into our situation – into Adam’s humanity. He would solve the problem by stepping into our shoes and dealing a death blow to Satan, the oppressor.
So ever since then the people of God have looked to this promise of Christ the King.
[SLIDE – offspring]
The promise rolls on through Genesis with people wondering, When will the Offspring come? Through whom will He come? Well we get to chapter 12 and a man called Abraham. He’s told that the Offspring will come through him and that through Abraham’s Offspring the whole world will be blessed.
Genesis rolls on and the promise of the Offspring is given to Abraham’s son Isaac and then his son Jacob. And then Jacob’s son, Judah. Here’s the prophecy of Genesis 49:10
Genesis 49 10 The sceptre will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler's staff from between his feet, until He comes to Whom it belongs and the obedience of the nations is His.
Kings would come in the tribe of Judah. And every Israelite king would be a throne-warmer for Christ. And when Christ takes to the throne, the whole world will become His kingdom.
And so Israel had its kings. And every little king who ascended the throne was meant to be a picture of Christ the true King.
So, for instance…
[SLIDE – David Anointed]
…David was anointed as king and the very next thing David did as king was to crush the oppressor.
[SLIDE – David crushes oppressor]
David killed Goliath, he dealt a death blow to Goliath’s head and he won the victory for his people. The people of David’s kingdom had done nothing to deserve this victory. None of them were able to defeat Goliath and none of them contributed a single calorie of effort to the victory. They just looked on and their king did everything. He crushed the head of the house of the wicked and they received the victory.
That’s what the king is meant to do. He is meant to step into our shoes, He is meant to join the fight and at the risk, perhaps even at the cost of his own life He is meant to crush our oppressor so that WE gain the victory.
As the people saw David, this little christ – christ with a little c – it would have made them long for the eternal Christ – Christ with a capital C – the One who would crush Satan himself.
Well their hope in Christ was helped along by the promise of 1 Chronicles 17.
Here the LORD says to David:
11 When your days are over and you go to be with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, one of your own sons, and I will establish his kingdom. 12 He is the one who will build a house for me, and I will establish His throne for ever. 13 I will be His father, and He will be my son. I will never take my love away from Him, as I took it away from your predecessor. 14 I will set Him over my house and my kingdom for ever; His throne will be established for ever.
How the people longed for the Son of David to come. In fact the phrase, son of David, became one of the most popular titles for the Messiah. The Son of David would be the Son of God the Father and His throne would be established forever.
Well if that’s true then, what about Solomon? Solomon was the very first son of David to sit on the throne. And Solomon’s name means Peace. Would He be the true Prince of Peace? Would He be the promised Offspring?
But like David, his father, he would picture the reign of Christ in many ways. He would be filled with the Wisdom of God, just as Christ is filled with the Spirit of God. And, turning back to our reading from Psalm 72, Solomon would reign over a unified and peaceful kingdom. He ruled from the Mediterranean sea to the Dead Sea and from the River Euphrates to the end of the land. So, looking at v8, you can see how these words could sort of apply to Solomon. He rules from Sea to Sea and from the River to the ends of the earth (the word for earth and the word for ‘land’ are the same in Hebrew).
And verse 10 can sort of apply to Solomon too. Kings and queens came to Solomon and joyfully bowed to his wisdom and generous rule. 1 Kings 10 gives a fascinating account of the Queen of Sheba whose breath was taken away when she experienced Solomon’s reign in all its grace and wisdom and peace and prosperity. So Solomon was a miniature picture of verse 10.
But what about v11: ALL kings will bow down to him. ALL nations will serve him. That’s simply not true of Solomon. Not even close.
And what about v5:
5 He will endure as long as the sun, as long as the moon, through all generations.
Solomon died and rotted. So Psalm 72 cannot be about Solomon. The King referred to in this Psalm will endure through all generations.
Solomon was a limited and local portrait of Christ. Christ is the eternal and universal King. And Solomon knew it. Which is why he writes this Psalm as a prayer for the true Messiah.
The title, ‘Of Solomon’, means here what it means throughout the book of Psalms that it was written by Solomon. So Psalm 72 is by King Solomon but Solomon recognizes there is a King of kings. So he writes about, v4, the One who will CRUSH the oppressor. He’s writing about the true Serpent Crusher.
He’s writing, verse 6, about the One who will restore this cursed creation. The eternal King will be like rains watering the earth. He will bring life and prosperity.
Solomon writes, v17, about the One who will bring blessing to the whole world. Verse 17:
All nations will be blessed through Him, and they will call Him blessed.
Solomon is a picture of this King, he writes about this King, but he is not this King. Psalm 72 is about the Messiah, the Serpent Crusher, this world’s Fountain of Blessing, the King of Kings.
And what is this King like? What is the reign of King Jesus like? Well the Anglican Prayer book describes the reign of Jesus as His just and gentle rule. And that’s a great description of this Psalm. Psalm 72 shows us Jesus as a just and gentle King.
Let’s look at the justice in the first 3 verses (and notice how often ‘justice’ words or ‘righteous’ words are used):
Endow the King with your justice, O God, the royal Son with your righteousness. 2 He will judge your people in righteousness, your afflicted ones with justice. 3 The mountains will bring prosperity to the people, the hills the fruit of righteousness.
The reign of Christ the King is a just reign. Don’t we long for that?
In the last couple of weeks, the Wikileaks saga has raged on. And if there’s one lesson we can learn from the Wikileaks saga it’s that revelations about our leaders are never flattering. Leaders like to keep things covered up – and that’s true of governments and of Wikileaks itself ironically. But whether it’s politicians or the Wikileaks founder, exposing our rulers is never flattering. When you dig, you find dirt. Whether the particular allegations against Julian Assange are true or not, it’s universally true about our leaders that when you dig for dirt you will find it. It’s true of every ruler, it’s true of every human heart – except one. When you expose Jesus you find only righteousness. In John 8:46 Jesus issued a challenge to His opponents. It’s a challenge that remains unmet: “Can any of you prove me guilty of sin?”
No. No-one ever did. No-one ever has. Even His fiercest opponents couldn’t make their accusations stick. And still today, the very fiercest opponents of Christianity nonetheless must admit they can’t prove Jesus guilty of sin. An exposee on Jesus does NOT reveal sin. We strung Him up on a cross and got a really good look at Him. We dissected Him on full display to the world and all we saw was righteous love bleeding from His veins. When you dig into Jesus, you don’t get dirt. Here is the one Man who stands up to scrutiny, the one King who rules in justice.
And when He rules in justice the world is set to rights.
Did you notice in this Psalm how even creation is redeemed by this King’s righteous rule? Verse 3 the mountains and hills bring prosperity and fruit. Verse 6 – He is like the rain that gives life to the earth. Verse 16 – corn abounds, fruit flourishes. He brings fullness and fruitfulness. When this King reigns in righteousness, creation is set to rights.
And you think, how could that be? How can a King change the weather, how can a human ruler affect creation like this? Well think of Adam.
The first king brought about cosmic ruin through His unrighteousness. When Christ comes in our flesh as the second Adam, He brings about cosmic redemption.
[SLIDE – Jesus, arrow up]
When He rules in righteousness the created order itself finds harmony again.
[SLIDES – Jesus redeeming world]
In the Gospels we see that in microcosm. Everywhere Jesus goes, Eden is restored. He is a little portable paradise and everything that’s cursed and dying and dark and broken, whenever it comes into His sphere it is brought to new life. What Jesus did in microcosm in the Gospels He will do cosmically when He comes again. When Christ stands on the earth again there will be flourishing and fruitfulness that far outweighs the curse and frustration that Adam brought.
So that’s the just rule of King Jesus. He is the Righteous Ruler who restores all creation. But He’s not just just, He’s also gentle. And this is written all across this Psalm. Look at v4:
4 He will defend the afflicted among the people and save the children of the needy; He will crush the oppressor.
How does King Jesus use His omnipotent power? ONLY to defend, save and protect the afflicted and the needy. What a different King is this? Power corrupts they say, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Well not with this King. This King HAS absolute power. And how does He use it? ONLY to bless.
The point is repeated from v12:
12 For He will deliver the needy who cry out, the afflicted who have no-one to help. 13 He will take pity on the weak and the needy and save the needy from death. 14 He will rescue them from oppression and violence, for precious is their blood in His sight.
What is Jesus’ reign like? It is gentle. Do you see all the verbs in these verses? He delivers, He takes pity, He saves, He rescues. And who does He rescue? Look with me – ‘the needy who cry out,’ ‘the afflicted who have no-one to help’, ‘the weak and the needy.’ This is the just and gentle rule of King Jesus.
And Christmas confirms everything that’s written here. Because at Christmas, Jesus doesn’t just stick up for the little guy. He becomes the little guy. He doesn’t just fight for the needy and oppressed, He becomes the needy and oppressed.
How humble, how gentle is King Jesus? The Lord of Heaven became a single cell in Mary’s womb. He became a helpless baby wriggling in a wooden manger. He became a helpless sacrifice writhing on a wooden cross. All to crush our oppressor. All to save the needy. All to rescue you and me.
And you know what? He’s done it! He HAS done it. Like David felling Goliath, Christ has stepped into our shoes, joined the fight and dealt the decisive blow. And we HAVE the victory in King Jesus.
It’s not about you and how godly you are. It’s not about me and how much I’ve bent the knee to King Jesus. He has taken charge of things. He has taken our predicament entirely on Himself. The government is on His shoulders. He has determined to be this kind of King, to secure this kind of Kingdom and to bring us with Him.
There’s nothing we can do to earn this kingdom. Nothing we need do to earn this kind of kingdom. The only question is – do you want this King? Is your heart won by Christ? If so, you’re in. You are in on the universal and eternal reign of King Jesus. And so you’ll gladly echo the prayer from verse 15:
15 Long Live the King! May gold from Sheba be given to Him. May people ever pray for Him and bless Him all day long. 16 Let corn abound throughout the land; on the tops of the hills may it sway. Let its fruit flourish like Lebanon; let it thrive like the grass of the field. 17 May His name endure for ever; may it continue as long as the sun. All nations will be blessed through Him, and they will call Him blessed.
This Christmas the whole world will stop to bless Him. On no other day does the whole world come to a standstill, all in honour of the kid born in the shed. Billions call on His name. Every day 25 000 Chinese call Him King for the first time. Every day 20 000 Africans gladly submit to His just and gentle rule. Every day 40 000 more Asians find heavenly blessing in Him.
How do you account for it? The kid born in the shed is ruling the world, from sea to sea and from the River to the ends of the earth. There’s only one explanation: Jesus is the eternal Christ, the Son of the Father, the Offspring of the Woman, the Serpent Crusher, the Cosmic Redeemer, the Hope of the Ages, the Desire of all Nations, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
Maybe you’re not a Christian tonight or not sure you are. Well listen, Christ is for you. He is for you. He is your Maker who became a wriggling baby for you. He loved you to the manger, and then loved you all the way to the cross, to crush the Oppressor and lift you to the Father. Look to Him tonight and say to the Father – “Long live the King.” Recognize King Jesus, recognize His just and gentle rule. Because when you do, verse 12 gives you a promise – have a look at it. This King – King Jesus – WILL deliver the needy when they cry out. If you cry out to Jesus and say “save me from my sins, save me from myself, save me from trying to rule my own little world, save me,” the word of God promises He will deliver you. Cry out to Him even now in your heart. And talk to me or someone else about it tonight.
For those who already know King Jesus, take courage this Christmas. Jesus is our King. Jesus sits on the throne.
What a relief to know that the throne of the universe is not occupied by cruel fate or impersonal forces. The throne is not occupied by an absentee landlord, or a distant god. Jesus occupies the throne. Jesus. The One who defends the afflicted, who saves the needy, who HAS crushed the Oppressor. Who delivers those who cry out and takes pity on the weak. He sits on the throne. He is ruling this world and this week. So take heart. He IS reigning and when He stands again on the earth, He will bring peace, prosperity and cosmic redemption. So soon the kingdom of this world will become the kingdom of our God and of His Christ.