Theme: The Universality of the Kingdom
In this week’s lessons we see how this psalm ultimately points to the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Scripture: Psalm 72:1-20
The third stanza of this psalm (vv. 8-11) speaks of the great expanse of Christ’s kingdom, and the point here is that it is universal. It is “from sea to sea and from the River to the ends of the earth” (v. 8). The “River” is the Euphrates, but this does not mean that these words are meant to describe only the geographical territory contained in the earthly kingdom of Solomon, though at its fullest extent Solomon’s kingdom did extend from the Euphrates to the Mediterranean (1 Kings 4:21; 2 Chron. 9:26). These verses speak of all lands, the Euphrates being the farthest point the writer could think of to the east, Tarshish the farthest city to the west, and Sheba and Seba the farthest kingdoms to the south. In fact, so extensive is this kingdom that, according to the psalmist, even “the desert tribes will bow before him and his enemies will lick the dust” (v. 9). Also, “All kings will bow down to him and all nations will serve him” (v. 11).
So the rule of Jesus extends not only over all times, that is, from age to age. It also embraces all places and all peoples. None can escape his righteous rule. That is why the hymn I referred to yesterday starts as it does:
Christ shall have dominion over land and sea,
Earth’s remotest regions shall his empire be;
They that wilds inhabit shall their worship bring,
Kings shall render tribute, nations serve our King.
In a similar vein the last stanza of James Montgomery’s great hymn says,
O’er every foe victorious, he on his throne shall rest,
From age to age more glorious, all-blessing and all-blest;
The tide of time shall never his covenant remove;
His name shall stand forever—that Name to us is Love.
This is one of the themes of the songs that will be sung in heaven too. For one of these songs says, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he will reign for ever and ever” (Rev. 11:15).
The fourth characteristic of the kingdom of Jesus Christ describes its nature: It is compassionate. This is developed in stanza four (vv. 12-14). Most of this world’s rulers want to be thought compassionate, and some of them probably genuinely desire to be so. In his last presidential campaign George Bush called repeatedly for “a kinder, gentler America.” But America did not become kinder or gentler for all his good will or rhetoric. On the contrary, it is increasingly a harsh, mean, unkind, brutal and even dangerous place in which to live. It is made so by the sin of people, who have rejected God. The world is like this everywhere. By nature people are not kind or gentle or compassionate.
Ah, but where Jesus rules his kindness becomes evident, and people are treated gently for his sake. Those who are needy and cry out receive help (v. 12). Those who are weak are pitied, and those in danger of death are saved (v. 13). People who have suffered oppression and have been victimized by violence are rescued by those who love and serve King Jesus. What an unacknowledged debt the world owes to those who are Christ’s people!
1Sheba was located to the southeast of Israel, Seba (Ethiopia) to the southwest. The mention of Sheba inevitably recalls the visit of the Queen of Sheba to Solomon, recorded in 1 Kings 10:1-10. The land was named after Sheba, one of the sons of Joktan (Gen. 10:28). Seba was among the sons of Cush (Gen. 10:7).
What’s the significance of the expanse of Christ’s kingdom being universal?
Exactly who and what does Jesus’ rule embrace?
How is the compassionate nature of Jesus’ rule expressed?
Why can’t America just work to become kinder and gentler?
Reflection: Contrast the lack of compassion around you with what you see in Jesus Christ.
Prayer: Reflect for a moment on the evangelistic efforts that have continued in spite of oppressive governments around the world (China, the former Soviet Union, the Middle East, etc.). Thank God that his work continues despite efforts to suppress it. Pray for those working now in uncooperative countries.
Application: You probably think of yourself as compassionate, but reflect on the things you’ve said or done in the past that were not. Pray that God would make you more sensitive to the needs of others in the coming week. Then look for opportunities to demonstrate Christ’s compassion to others.