Epiphany Sermon – Psalm 72

wise-menThe Feast of Epiphany

Today is our first worship gathering of the New Year. New Years always feels like a new beginning. Many of us are making New Years resolutions, using the calendar to mark the day when changes will be made. The new calendar gives us a feeling of new beginnings. The church calendar is different than the one on your walls or in your phones. The New Year for the church calendar starts on the 1st week of advent, where we await the coming of Jesus. This is followed by a couple weeks of Christmas. And today on the church calendar marks the beginning of a new season.

Today on the church calendar is the feast of Epiphany, where we commemorate Jesus 1st showing Himself to the gentiles, represented by the Magi. Epiphany is also a season in the church calendar where, in general, we celebrate the arrival of Jesus. Matthew 2, tells us that “After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” It tells us how they found Jesus is a house w/ His mother. They bowed down and worshipped Him, bringing Him gifts. This event happens perhaps a couple of years after Jesus’ birth, and it shows us that Jesus is king of ALL people, and worthy of our worship.

In the season of Epiphany we celebrate that the king has come. And so, over the next 7 weeks of Epiphany we are going to do this by studying the prophetic Psalms of Jesus. These are Psalms that, when written, pointed to the coming messiah. They are Psalms that give us a picture of who Jesus is and how He will rule His kingdom. We will be asking ourselves, “what do these Psalms and prayers teach us about Jesus?”

 

Psalm 72

The traditional Psalm for the feast of Epiphany is Psalm 72. You can turn your Bibles to Psalm 72. Before this Psalm begins, we are told that it is a Psalm of King Solomon. But many scholars believe that this Psalm was penned by Solomon, but the words are actually King David’s. John Calvin, and many others, believed that King David on his deathbed prays for his son, Solomon, and the reign of his dynasty (which was fully realized in Jesus). Calvin believed that Solomon authored the Psalm, but that it was the reduced prayer of David, meaning this was Davids last prayer. If we agree w/ this, we can say that David prays for the prosperity of the kingdom promised him, for its legacy and dynasty. With that in mind, read Psalm 72 and ask yourself, what is said of the king, and ultimately the messiah, Jesus.

1 Endow the king with your justice, O God, the royal son with your righteousness. 2 May he judge your people in righteousness, your afflicted ones with justice. 3 May the mountains bring prosperity to the people, the hills the fruit of righteousness. 4 May he defend the afflicted among the people and save the children of the needy; may he crush the oppressor. 5 May he endure as long as the sun, as long as the moon, through all generations. 6 May he be like rain falling on a mown field, like showers watering the earth. 7 In his days may the righteous flourish and prosperity abound till the moon is no more. 8 May he rule from sea to sea and from the River to the ends of the earth. 9 May the desert tribes bow before him and his enemies lick the dust. 10 May the kings of Tarshish and of distant shores bring tribute to him. May the kings of Sheba and Seba present him gifts. 11 May all kings bow down to him and all nations serve him. 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. 15 Long may he live! May gold from Sheba be given him. May people ever pray for him and bless him all day long. 16 May grain abound throughout the land; on the tops of the hills may it sway. May the crops flourish like Lebanon and thrive like the grass of the field. 17 May his name endure forever; may it continue as long as the sun. Then all nations will be blessed through him, and they will call him blessed. 18 Praise be to the Lord God, the God of Israel, who alone does marvelous deeds. 19 Praise be to his glorious name forever; may the whole earth be filled with his glory. Amen and Amen.

In this Psalm there is some trouble implied. If you read closely, you will notice that the world does not seem as it should be. There are poor, needy, oppressed, weak, and victims of violence. Why else would David pray these words if these folks were not present? The same trouble implied in the text is very present in our world. The trouble for us is that our world is not as it should be either, w/ fear and oppression present. So if this is true, then why is this Psalm good news for its readers? What is the good news of this Psalm, and what is said about the King, and the messiah? What is the good news of the text? The good news is that the king will rescue the weak.

 

Implications 

Why is this good news to the readers of this Psalm? It is good news b/c all too often we feel stuck. The oppressions, addictions, unhealthiness, and fears we live with seem to dominate us. And so, we make promises to ourselves each New Year about how we will change, but we are weak. The news that the king will rescue the weak is good news b/c all too often we look at the news or events around us and feel like we are powerless to do anything. We often live like the king is dead, or inaccessible. So the news that the king will rescue the weak is good b/c we know that the unpleasant realities we live in and see are not the end of our story. We are not stuck. Our addictions, fears, and unhealthiness do not define us, b/c our identity resides in identity of the king. When God looks up you, He does not see the messiness that we often see. He sees that you are in the company of the righteous king. That b/c you have been rescued, and will be rescued further, you are holy, free, clean and welcome to reside w/ God.

The good news is that to King has come and is rescuing the weak. Jesus is our expected king. He is messiah. He rules w/ power and compassion. And b/c He paid the ultimate price for our wrongdoings, and then rose to life again, we have access to Him. The king is not dead, but very much alive. The king is not guarded in some inaccessible tower, but rather walks among us, healing, conquering evil, and bringing redemption. Jesus is our King, who is w/ us, and in the season of Epiphany we celebrate that He has come.

From this Psalm we learn that b/c we have access to Jesus, the king who rescues, we can pray w/ confidence and expectation that He is making things right. I love how the New living Translation reads v.14. It says: He will redeem them from oppression and violence, for their lives are precious to him. The truth is that you are precious to Jesus. He loves you, and is fighting for you. We can know Him, and be known by Him. So may we live in the reality that He is our king, our messiah.

Amen.

One Response to “Epiphany Sermon – Psalm 72”

  1. Connie Buckley January 7, 2015 at 10:44 pm #

    This lesson really struck a powerful chord in me. This has been a very rare, but welcomed, quiet holiday season for my husband and myself. The quietness has given me the opportunity to ponder just what the birth of Jesus means to me; and also ponder what that first Christmas season must have been like.

    Certainly, the physical birth of Christ was not entirely quiet. The whole country was in turmoil because of a government required census. Who knows how the sounds traveled to the stable and how the turmoil and birth of a human baby affected the animals who resided in the stable. Was it quiet? Yet, the shepherds in the field…! Well, can you imagine sitting there watching out for prey, alert for any unusual sound? and an angel appears? It may have been a quiet night for the shepherds, until….the angel. And then a host of heavenly voices. Anything but quiet here.

    Mary and Joseph must have lingered a year or 2 in Bethlehem. Because certainly the Magi did not hop on a plane to follow the prophetic star as soon as it appeared in the sky. It took them a while to question what that new shining star was…and what the heck it could signify. Traveling was a huge, slow, cumbersome means of transportation in those days. A LOT of thought was put into that trek. What would they find? And how would they find it Are you sure the gifts are appropriate? So where was Jesus when those Magi finally arrived?…certainly (hopefully) not still in the stable. was Jesus crawling yet?…or even toddling? What was Joseph doing to make a living? Had they made any plans to return back to their home village? I would assume that raising a first child had to be difficult with no family around. And then Magi show up at your front door?…with gifts?…expensive gifts? Were they being set up for a robbery? Did they have the wrong house?

    I love the song, “Mary Did You Know”, and I wonder too. A 14-15-16 year old girl? What is she thinking? And Joseph probably wondering how he got involved in all of this also.

    This very quiet holiday season was a gift to me. I did not have to bow to consumerism or traditional customs. I celebrated Christ’s birth by pondering. Pondering about what it must have been like that first Christmas day….whatever day it happened to be. I don’t have any better answers than I did any other Christmas. I just enjoyed the gift of pondering. Thank you Aaron, for helping me to ponder even further.

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