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(Part 37)


December 18, 2009

Today’s readings
Jeremiah 23:5-8
Psalm 72:1-19
Matthew 1:18-24

Crucial to the life of the world are the decisions and actions of those who rule or govern. In the world we often experience rulers who are corrupt, unjust and unmindful of the welfare of the people. But this is not how God intends it to be. God rules the whole universe, and He intends that humans who rule parts of it would do so according to His ways.

Today’s readings lead us to three rulers--one of the home, one of a kingdom, and one of the whole world.

They are Joseph, Jeroboam[1] and Jesus. Joseph is the head of his family and rules his home; the Israelite king in Psalms rules the kingdom; Jesus is the descendant of David prophesied by Jeremiah who as messiah would reign over the whole world.

What is the common denominator? It is justice and righteousness.

  • Joseph was a “just” (Mt 1:19,RSV) and “righteous” (Mt 1:19,NAB) man.
  • The Israelite king was to rule with justice and righteousness. “Give the king your justice, O God, and your righteousness to the royal son! May he judge your people with righteousness, and your poor with justice.” (Ps 72:1-2,RSV).
  • The messiah “shall do what is just and right in the land.” (Jer 23:5,NAB); he “shall execute justice and righteousness in the land.” (Jer 23:5,RSV).

We also see that justice and righteousness not only go together, but they are often interchangeable.

  • “This is the name they give him: ‘The Lord our justice.’” (Jer 23:6b,NAB); “And this is the name by which he will be called: ‘The Lord is our righteousness.’” (Jer 23:6b,RSV)
  • “O God, give .... your justice to the son of kings” (Ps 72:1,NAB); “Give .... your righteousness to the royal son!” (Ps 72:1,RSV)
  • “That he may govern your people with justice” (Ps 72:2a,NAB); “May he judge your people with righteousness” (Ps 72:2a,RSV)

Further, justice and righteousness are of the very essence of a person. It is something that you are; it is something that you do. There is no dichotomy. There is no hypocrisy. One walks the talk.

Joseph was a just and righteous man (Mt 1:19). The messianic king “shall do what is just and right” (Jer 23:5). Being and doing need to go together. And so Solomon prayed: “O God, give your judgment to the king; .... so “that he may govern your people with justice” (Ps 72:1-2).

What is the result when we have a just and righteous ruler? Because justice and righteousness are of God, and because we act like God when we are just and righteous, the result is salvation.

  • “he will save his people from their sins” (Mt 1:21b).
  • “In his days Judah shall be saved” (Jer 23:6a).
  • The king will “save the poor” (Ps 72:4b) and “saves the lives of the needy” (Ps 72:13b).

With salvation comes bounty and great abundance (Ps 72:3), defense against oppressors (Ps 72:4), help and rescue for the poor and oppressed (Ps 72:12-13), freedom from violence (Ps 72:14). Now are these not what we are looking for, as we live in a world of darkness and injustice and evil?

These good things can happen, as we look to justice and righteousness. God the Almighty is just and righteous. God reigns with justice and righteousness. We too are to imitate Him. We are to be just and righteous in all our ways -- in our home, in the nation, in the world.

* * *

[1] Jeroboam is not actually mentioned. But Psalm 72 was written by Solomon. It is a prayer for the king. Solomon certainly prayed it for himself, but since he did not use the first person in the psalm, then he was praying it for those who would succeed him as king. Because Solomon was unfaithful, God took the kingdom from him and gave it (10 out of the 12 tribes of Israel) to Jeroboam (1 Kgs 11:31).

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