Give the king your justice, O God, and your righteousness to a king’s son.Psalm 72
Tonight’s psalm, the psalm appointed for last Sunday, is fit for a king. In fact, it is a prayer written for the coronation of a King, King Solomon, the son of David. We don’t have coronations of kings in our country, but we do have inaugurations of presidents, and this gives us a sense of the setting for this Psalm.
But what does this have to do with us? To answer that, we must ask a slightly different question: What does this Psalm have to do with Jesus?
In Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s wonderful little book on the Psalms (Psalms: The Prayer Book of the Bible), he suggests that we read and pray the Psalms best when we ask, not what they have to do with us, but what they have to do with Jesus Christ.
So, what does Psalm 72 have to do with Jesus Christ? Bonhoeffer himself answers his own question. He says that in this Psalm: “we pray for the victory of Jesus Christ in the world, we give thanks for the victory already won, and we ask for the establishment of the kingdom of righteousness and of peace under the king Jesus Christ.”
So, first, we pray for the victory of Jesus Christ in the world. It is true in every generation, I suppose, but it is certainly true in ours: We look around the world, and we still see brokenness and sin. And, as long as we do, we need to pray for Jesus’ victory.
And what will that victory look like? This Psalm answers that. The needy will be delivered. The poor and those who have no helper will be helped. The weak and the needy will be blessed. People will be judged with righteousness. And all nations will be blessed in Jesus. We pray for that kind of victory.
But we also give thanks for the victory that has already been won. Jesus has already won the victory. His death on the cross won it. The war has been won. As Jesus said on the cross, “It is finished.” And it is. We give thanks for that. As tonight’s Psalm puts it: “Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, who alone does wondrous things.”
And, finally, Bonhoeffer says, we “ask for the establishment of the kingdom of righteousness and of peace under the king Jesus Christ.” In other words, we pray: “Thy kingdom come.”
It has been said that every one of the Psalms can be associated with one of the seven petitions of the Lord’s Prayer. Or, to put it the other way around, the Lord’s Prayer can be seen as a shortened version of the Psalms. All of the prayers of Scripture, in fact, can be found in the Lord’s Prayer. And in tonight’s Psalm, we pray: “Thy kingdom come.” That is the theme of Advent. To pray for, and prepare for, the coming of the kingdom.
And one way to prepare for the coming of the kingdom is to pray for it. Why? Because, as I see it, two things happen when we pray for the coming of the kingdom.
First of all, we look forward to it more and more. The problems in this world and in our lives seem less important, somehow, when we are praying for the coming of the kingdom. When you read Paul’s Letters in the New Testament, you can’t help but see someone who really looks forward to the coming of the kingdom, and who sees all the problems in this world in that light. Nothing is too difficult to overcome; nothing is too painful to endure; because all of this is temporary. Our citizenship is in heaven, and from there we are expecting a Savior. So we do not set our minds on things of this world, but on things that are above. Thy kingdom come.
The other thing that happens, though, when we pray for the coming of the kingdom, is that we keep finding new ways to participate in the coming of the kingdom. Paul certainly did, as he raised money for the poor, worked for unity in the congregations he planted, mentored young people in the faith, and so on. He looked forward to the coming of the kingdom, but he also kept finding new ways to participate in its coming. That happens with us, too, when we pray for the coming of the kingdom.
It’s going to be a wonderful day, when the kingdom comes in its fullness. We pray for that day, and look forward to that day. But in the meantime, as we pray for that day, we find ways to participate in the coming of the kingdom this day. Loving, serving and proclaiming God’s eternal grace to all people, to quote our mission statement.
God’s kingdom comes on its own without our prayer, to be sure, just as Martin Luther said in his Small Catechism. But when we pray Psalm 72, just as when we pray “Thy kingdom come,” we find new ways that his kingdom comes, and new ways to participate in its coming. So, let’s keep praying and participating in the coming of the kingdom until that glorious day when it comes in its fullness.
Amen. Come Lord Jesus.