Advent 2, Year A
Advent 2, Year A
Ps. 72:1-7 & Isa. 11:1-10
“The Peaceful King & Kingdom”
Sermon by Pastor Garth Wehrfritz-Hanson
The peaceful king and the peaceful kingdom… What a beautiful vision of peace we are given in our psalm and first lesson today! Peace, which is perfect; peace without end; peace encompassing all peoples and the whole natural order. The very peace of God, coming down from heaven to earth, to dwell among us forever.
Today’s psalm was likely composed by David at the end of his life, but maybe written down by Solomon, serving as David’s scribe—since the title of Psalm 72 is “Of Solomon.” At any rate, the psalm is a prayer for the king, perhaps on the occasion of the king’s coronation ceremony. Its focus is certainly on appealing to God; requesting that God bless the king with God’s own divine justice and righteousness. At that time, it was believed that the king was God’s viceroy on earth—therefore, it was essential that the king rule with justice and righteousness, which reflected the divine attributes of God’s rule as King of the universe. In short, if the king was just and righteous, his subjects would view it as a true sign that God the King of heaven and earth blessed him, as well as the nation.
The psalmist goes on to tell us what the king’s rule of justice and righteousness looks like in the world. It involves a deep wisdom and insight to discern what is fair, just, and right concerning matters of conflict among people. The king was to have a compassionate heart towards the most poor and needy people of his nation. He was to see that they were treated with justice, as opposed to unfairly favouring the rich and the powerful. Furthermore, he was to play an active role in protecting the weakest of his kingdom by delivering them from the heavy burden of poverty, and by crushing or defeating their oppressors.
As the prayer continues, the psalmist prays for a long, secure rule of the king, giving new life, health and prosperity to the land—as well as an abounding peace as the root of all justice and righteousness.
In many respects, the psalmist’s prayer was answered, as Solomon succeeded the throne of David. Solomon’s rule as king was quite a remarkable one. According to the author of 2 Chronicles 9:22-26, Solomon’s fame, wealth and glory exceeded that of all the other kings of the earth. Other kings of the earth travelled far and wide to seek after Solomon’s wisdom. We are told that all the kings of the earth: “brought a present, objects of silver and gold, garments, weaponry, spices, horses, and mules, so much year by year. Solomon had four thousand stalls for horses and chariots, and twelve thousand horses, which he stationed in the chariot cities and with the king in Jerusalem.” (2 Chron. 9:24-26) Solomon as a blessed king of justice, righteousness and peace; was able to unite his people, establish lucrative economic trade partners with the nations of Africa, Asia, and Arabia, consolidate his political power through a series of expedient marriages, give pride and notoriety to his own people by completing several impressive building projects—including the Jerusalem temple, and rule in relative security for a long time—40 years altogether.
Yet, impressive as King Solomon’s rule was, all was not well. God was not pleased with Solomon’s apostasy—allowing the worship of other gods in violation of the First and Greatest Commandment. Moreover, Solomon likely failed to defend the cause of the poor and most needy by introducing a system of skyrocketing taxes in order to carry out his extravagant building projects. Therefore, the nation and people would subsequently suffer a series of short, often violent and corrupt reigns after Solomon—which eventually led to the division and fall of Israel and later Judah, along with Assyrian and Babylonian exile.
So our psalm cannot only be referring to the rule of King Solomon. Surely the references in verses five and six point us beyond Solomon, to the coming rule of the Messiah. A time when all prophecies, including that of our first lesson from Isaiah are fulfilled, and the Messiah shall rule, as the psalmist says: “while the sun endures, and as long as the moon, throughout all generations.”
You see, the true, lasting successor to the throne of David is the anointed one, the Messiah. His kingdom, no one else’s, is an everlasting one. Why is this so? Because he, and only he can give us the perfect justice and righteousness of God. He alone is the true Prince of Peace. His kingdom is the perfect peaceful kingdom. God has given him the power and authority, the wisdom and love, and every other blessing to draw together all peoples in perfect harmony and lasting peace. Perfect Shalom, where not only all wars and terrorist activities and organisations will become extinct; but all illnesses and diseases will disappear; all poverty, injustice, and inequality will be eradicated; all divisions of race, sex, and class will end; all hatred, suffering and evil will vanish; all sin, destruction, decay and death will be defeated.
The prophet Isaiah takes it even further, when he shares his vision of the Messiah’s Shalom as a complete reversal of the present orders of nature, with an end to the built-in aggressive instinct. According to Isaiah, natural enemies like wolves and lambs, leopards and kids, calves and lions, cows and bears shall live in perfect shalom together. Even little children shall not be afraid of such creatures as poisonous snakes. All of creation will be redeemed; made new to live in perfect peace and harmony.
As an Advent people, we deeply long for the time when Jesus our Messiah will come to fulfill the wonderful vision of our psalmist and Isaiah. In one way, Jesus has already accomplished this rule of perfect peace, in part, through his earthly life and ministry; his teachings and healings; his death and resurrection.
Maybe this vision of the Messiah’s perfect peace has even more significance to us this particular Advent—especially in light of the larger context of our world. We are a world divided, and plagued with conflicts, injustices, inequalities, and so much more. A world in which the mass-media increasingly panders to a population demanding more excessive and perverted violence all the time, as a means to feed their endless cravings “to be entertained.” A world where, according to some researchers, those most wealthy and capable of giving generously to benevolent organisations, now give the least, percentage-wise. A world that has lost touch with the beauty of God’s creation; which views creation merely as matter or capital that exists for the sole purpose of being exploited economically by human beings. A world of diminishing natural resources and species. A world of ever-growing materialism, valuing inanimate objects more than relationships with human beings and God. This, and so much more, may lead us to believe that our chances for perfect shalom are about as possible as two sheets resisting the wind.
Yet, we hang on tenaciously to the psalmist’s and Isaiah’s vision of perfect peace because we are an Advent people. We wait with eager longing for that Great Day when Jesus our Messiah shall come and usher in his rule of perfect, everlasting, eternal peace. Advent, we remember, means coming, therefore we expect and prepare, watch and wait and work and pray for our Messiah’s coming peaceful kingdom. As subjects of our Peaceful King, we live in peace whenever we are, by God’s grace able to: feed the hungry, cloth the naked, visit the sick and imprisoned; resolve conflicts without violence; provide sanctuaries of safety and compassion for those whose lives are in danger; practice wise, loving stewardship of God’s creation; and communicate God’s Good News to everyone.
So brothers and sisters, may we as an Advent people continue to live under the peace of our coming King’s rule. May we live with a confident trust, knowing that each day we are coming closer to that Great Day of our Messiah’s perfect peace, which shall rule over all of creation by reversing all injustices and defeating all evils forever and ever. Until then, may we too join in singing and praying the following words of James Montgomery’s hymn, “Hail to the Lord’s Anointed”:
Hail to the Lord’s anointed, Great David’s greater Son!
Hail, in the time appointed, His reign on earth begun! He
Comes to break oppression, To set the captive free, To take a-
Way transgression And rule in equity.
Kings shall fall down before him, And gold and incense bring;
All nations shall adore him, His praise all people sing. To
Him shall prayer unceasing And daily vows ascend; His kingdom
Still increasing, A kingdom without end. 1