Justice and Righteousness (Advent Midweek II)

Audio here: .

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

If you have a good, benevolent, gracious king, then everything will go well. The good king, because he has power and authority to do so, can bring peace and prosperity to his entire realm. The bad king, however, because he has the same power and authority, can bring unrest and disaster to his realm. Psalm 72 is a prayer by or for Solomon to bless the king, and so bless the land. Give the king God’s own judgment and righteousness, so that the people under him may benefit. They need justice and righteous action, and then they can live in shalom and shua, complete peace and the wide and broad deliverance of God from all enemies.

If you have a good king, everything will go well. David and his son, Solomon, were the hope of Israel. They united and broadened the kingdom of Israel, and Solomon built the first great temple for Yahweh, who blessed Solomon with wisdom and riches. Things went well for a while. But for political reasons, Solomon married women from many other nations with many other gods, and he let himself be led astray in the worship of those gods. 1 Kings reports that he “built a high place for Chemosh the abomination of Moab, and for Molech the abomination of the Ammonites…and so he did for all his foreign wives, who made offerings and sacrificed to their gods” (1 Kings 11:1-8). Because of that, the nation of Israel was split into Northern and Southern Kingdoms, and finally both were taken into exile. When you have a bad king, things go badly. Neither David the adulterer and murderer, nor Solomon the idolater, nor any other king of Israel could fulfill the hope for a king that would bring everything for which Solomon and the people prayed.

Solomon and Israel prayed in this psalm, probably at his coronation, for a king who would give them full peace, righteousness, and fruitfulness of the earth, and deliver justice for the poor and the oppressed, whose rule would extend far beyond the borders of Israel. But they would not see that king’s coming. Israel’s kings were better or worse in various ways, but none of them was the Good King. Where was the Servant of Isaiah 42, upon whom Yahweh would put His Spirit, who would bring forth justice to the nations? The shoot and branch of Jesse, who would not judge by what His eyes see or decide disputes by what His ears hear? Who would judge for the poor in righteousness and decide for the meek of the earth in equity? Whose belt would be righteousness and faithfulness? Then, so much shalom and shua that even predator and prey would lie down in peace and eat the same food; then no hurt or destruction over the whole earth, because the knowledge of Yahweh will fill the whole earth.

You know the answer, of course. This King who would reign forever, and be Lord of all creation, has come. He who is born King of the Jews stands as a signal for all nations, that they might come to Him. And see the marvelous work of God: God, who was king of Israel, was set aside by the people in favor of a human king, who could not, finally, save them from themselves and their sin and idolatry. But then God takes that human king and puts him in the line of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, so that through that very genealogy, God would bring a King in the house and line of David, to be born at Bethlehem. God uses all the evil that people can throw at his word and promises, and brings it all full circle in His own promised Son and King.

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder…. Of the increase of his government and of shalom there shall be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness from this time forth and forevermore (Isaiah 9:6-7).

If you have a good king, then everything is shalom (complete peace) and shua (deliverance), justice and righteousness—the same justice and righteousness of God Himself, wrapped up in the flesh of a King who rides a donkey and dies on a Roman cross. But He rides in victory over the oppressor, and His death is life and salvation for Israel and for all nations—even for you and me. He has begun to open wide the good land of His Kingdom. He rains down His Word on barren hearts and faith sprouts as if in an eternal Spring. Waters break forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert; the burning sand becomes a pool and the thirsty ground springs of water (Isaiah 35:7)! His word comes down like rain and snow and it never returns empty, no matter what we think we see. And the wide and spacious deliverance of God spreads until the whole earth is seen to be under the eternal reign of its God and Creator.

Like rain on the mown grass and irrigating showers on the earth: the wilderness and dry land are glad, the desert rejoices and blossoms like the crocus. It shall blossom abundantly and rejoice with joy and singing (Isaiah 35:1-2). Behold, Yahweh your God comes with might! The King in the line of David, who shall tend His flock like a shepherd, and carry His lambs in His arms (Isaiah 40:10-11).

And when we see our King coming in glory, then all things will be made well and good. The only truly good, completely benevolent, and unconditionally gracious King is our king. And His goodness is our goodness. His righteousness is our righteousness. And His justice is justice for poor sinners, who cannot themselves escape the oppression of sin and death in this creation. Come, O King, and crush the oppressor! Judge your people in righteousness and your poor in justice. Lift up for us mountains of shalom and hills of righteousness! Plant us in Your House so that we may flourish in your courts (Psalm 92:14)!

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7, ESV).  Amen.

Pr. Timothy Winterstein, 12/11/19

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