We live in a dog-eat-dog world. Darwin’s “Survival of the Fittest” is the law of the land. The best team wins. The smartest and prettiest succeed. The strong prey on the weak. These are the kingdom values of this world. And in our most honest moments, we confess that we only aggravate these patterns.
Psalm 72 stands as a beacon of hope for a different kingdom with different values and different priorities. It’s a coronation song for the king as the people dream of what this new ruler’s reign will be—one of justice for the oppressed and righteousness for all.
This first week of January is an interesting time in which the Christmas memories (and pounds!) are still lingering. We celebrate the coming of a king, the King, who would eventually fulfill the vision of this Psalm. He loved the unlovable, touched the untouchable, and welcomed the un-welcome-able. Yet while this celebration is near in our minds and hearts, we are less than two weeks away from “coronating” a new ruler for our country. Some of God’s people will be cheering; others will be weeping.
Regardless of political affiliation, Psalm 72 is a fitting prayer for this man and for our country. Two things will inevitably happen if we pray this Psalm. First, just as the Psalmist describes a kingdom of righteousness and justice like a fresh rain for a parched land, our hearts cry out for such a kingdom. We gain a fresh perspective and a new longing for the kingdom that is to come. Second, as we pray this Psalm, we concede that the Psalmist’s desires for this “king” are impossible for any leader from any party to fulfill. Thus, we lift our eyes not just at the coming kingdom, but to the coming King.
While the new ruler in our country will soon recline at the White House, 500,000 other people will have nowhere to lay their heads in this same country. Over 100 million people worldwide suffer from homelessness. These are the needy, the afflicted, and the oppressed that Psalm 72 cares for.
Consider again the Psalmist’s desire for his king:
For he will deliver the needy who cry out, the afflicted who have no one to help. He will take pity on the weak and the needy and save the needy from death. He will rescue them from oppression and violence, for precious is their blood in his sight (vv. 12-14).
Two different “bloods” are at work here – the blood of the innocent crying out to God and the blood of God’s Lamb offered by the guilty.1 The kingdom value isn’t that the strong prey on the weak, but that the strong pray for the weak and that the strong protect the weak. The blood of the oppressed was so precious in God’s sight that he offered his own blood as a means for ultimate redemption and justice. We live in the often painful time between the “already” of his past work and the “not yet” of his completion. May we lift our eyes to the coming king and pray for the coming of his kingdom now—a kingdom of justice for the oppressed—for they are precious in his sight.
Thank you, Lord, for the signs that confirm you are indeed sovereign and your kingdom will always prevail. May these signs encourage us to persevere in working toward justice for all who have reason to question its possibility in this world. Amen.
Miroslav Volf, Exclusion and Embrace: A Theological Exploration of Identity, Otherness and Reconciliation (Nashville: Abingdon, 1996), 9. ↩