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Author:Rev. Reuben Bredenhof
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Mt. Nasura
 Mt. Nasura, Western Australia
Preached At:Pilgrim Canadian Reformed Church
 London, Ontario
Title:Bow before the King!
Text:LD 48 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:God's Providence

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Psalm 145:1,3                                                                                    

Reading – Psalm 72

Psalm 72:1,2,5,10

Sermon – Lord’s Day 48

Hymn 41:1,2,3

Hymn 4:1,2,3 [after Nicene Creed]

Hymn 19:1,2,3,4 
* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Reuben Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

Beloved in the Lord, nowadays a lot of people are talking about “failed states.” That’s a term that describes those countries where everything has fallen apart, from the top right down to the bottom. In your typical “failed state,” the government is all but powerless. The economy is badly broken, while poverty is rampant. Social services are non-existent. Today there are quite a few “failed states” in the world. You hear about them on the news, as these nations lurch from one disaster to another, its citizens caught up in an endless cycle of violence.

            And the problem with these nations is not that nobody’s in charge. For there’s always a government of one form or another. There might be a dictator, propped up by the military. There might be a prime minister, “elected” unlawfully. The point is, there’s always someone that’ll give direction to a country—for better, or worse. For as the government goes, so goes the people. If a government lacks all competence and integrity and stability, then the citizens of that nation will also surely suffer.

            Beloved, let’s apply this to ourselves. For what’s true on the world scene is true also for our own lives. Just picture yourself for a moment as a nation, albeit on a tiny scale. As a mini-nation, you’ve got your natural resources and your revenue. You’ve got your defense systems and your alliances. And apart from all that, you’ve got your government. That’s a most important matter: Who calls the shots in your day to day life? That’s key, because it’s your government (we said) that sets the tone.

So then, is ruling up to us? That’s what we’d prefer. For let’s admit it, we’ve got an independent streak. So it has always been, from Adam and Eve long ago in Paradise, to us today. History is littered with miniature versions of “failed states,” countless people who’ve said—who continue to say, “Never mind God, it’s me who’s in charge around here. I’ll make the decisions. I’ll do as I please.” It sounds like freedom, but ends up in destruction. That kind of life is doomed from the start, bound for an endless cycle of sin, and more sin, and finally death.

            Brothers and sisters, we should not take the throne! We shouldn’t imagine that we have the competence or the integrity or stability to handle things ourselves. But even so, in our misery and poverty we’re not hopeless—we have a gracious King, and we bow before Him. Our King shows us the way of victory, and not of failure; the way of glory, not of shame. That’s our theme,


            We bow before our King:

1)     acknowledging his glory

2)     praying for his victory

3)     yielding to his supremacy 

1)     acknowledging his glory: Have you ever wondered how the disciples first reacted when Jesus taught this prayer? Did they raise a collective eyebrow in confusion? Or did they all nod solemnly, knowing exactly what it meant? I wonder about that, because Jesus actually said very little to explain the Lord’s Prayer—the only petition He really commented on was the fifth, where we pray “Forgive us our debts.” He took a moment to highlight the importance of grace in this petition: that we forgive each other, just as in Christ God has forgiven us.

            But for all the others—including the second, the “kingdom petition”—Jesus said nothing at all. And in a way, we might’ve expected him to clarify. For at his time, “the kingdom” was a big idea. You say “kingdom,” and every Jew thinks of kicking the Romans out of Palestine and putting a son of David on the throne.

            And Jesus knew his disciples might’ve been unclear on this one. For even at Christ’s ascension into heaven, the disciples asked, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1:6). After three long years, they still thought that Christ had come to usher in some grand earthly kingdom in Palestine!

            So did the disciples really know what Christ meant by this petition, “Your Kingdom come?” Well, Jesus was never stingy with his words about the kingdom. From Day One of his ministry, He’d announced that the kingdom was on its way. He’d told them numerous parables about it, about the power of the kingdom, and the call of the kingdom. The disciples should’ve understood that a new age was dawning, not an age of military domination, but an age of righteousness and peace under the Messiah’s rule. For this kingdom to come, they ought to pray!

            And this petition too, was rooted deeply in the Old Testament. For what was Israel but God’s Kingdom? Who sat on the throne but the LORD Himself? The disciples knew Psalm 145, those words of praise, “I will extol you, my God, O King” (v 1). So much of the Old Testament revolves around this one idea, that the LORD is King, and that his Kingdom is over all. But how this was worked out left a lot to be desired. For God the King let his human representatives sit on the throne. In his place on earth, they’d rule the people of God. Some of these kings were pretty good, but most were very bad.

And the results were catastrophic! A “failed state” isn’t some new concept; one just has to look at what happened to Israel and Judah, year after year. Wicked kings on the throne meant corrupt judges, impoverished people, false religion, wars abroad and violence at home. No, this wasn’t how it was supposed to go. If only a better king could be found, a king who’d rule in God’s way! That’s what the people earnestly prayed for—and it’s just such a prayer that we have in Psalm 72.

This Psalm is full of expectation for one who’d be a king after God’s own heart. As Solomon prays in the opening verse, “Give the king your judgments, O God, and your righteousness to the king’s son” (v 1). In this prayer, we hear Israel clinging to hope. They’d keep looking forward, praying for more than an earthly king, for more than an earthly kingdom.

This was their conviction: one day there’d be a King to reign forever, one to endure “as long as the sun” (v 17). This King would bring justice. He would bring peace. He would be a King to give release from all their enemies, even from sin itself! “May this Kingdom come,” earnestly prayed the saints of old. And their prayers were answered—their prayers were answered in Jesus Christ.

            Christ was a King, born in David’s royal city, even one of his descendants. But don’t expect outward displays of glory from this monarch! As a child, He grew up in the backcountry. As an adult, He didn’t have a home—let alone a golden palace. And when the time came to enter Jerusalem, He came riding not a noble steed, but a humble donkey. He wore a crown all right, but one handcrafted of thorns. He wore purple robes, but they were borrowed. He held a sceptre, but it was made of wood, and it was used to beat him on the head. This king was even killed by his own people, nailed up with that mocking sign, “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews.” And the cross might’ve been the end of it—yet another failure, yet another hope cruelly dashed.

But this was indeed a different kind of king. It was barely three days, and King Jesus rose triumphant, He ascended into heaven, and He sat down, enthroned at the Father’s right hand in the glory above. There He lives and He reigns! And what a King we have! Looking ahead prophetically, God’s people can’t say enough about his glory, and the blessings that’ll rain down because He’s in charge: “There will be an abundance of grain in the earth… Its fruit shall wave like Lebanon” (v 16). Everywhere in the King’s domain, there’d be prosperity and blessing.

Promises of grain and fruit spoke directly to the Israelites—and today, that core promise holds true. Christ the King lifts us from our spiritual poverty, and brings us untold wealth. He lavishes on us all the riches of his favour. He promises us that we’ll never lack the things we need. From the fullness of his grace, we shall receive one blessing after another!

            For Christ isn’t a ruler out for his own gain. He’ll never treat his subjects badly. On the contrary, his greatest priority is the salvation of his people. As Psalm 72 puts it, “He will judge your people with righteousness, and your poor with justice” (v 2). That is to say, our King is faithful: what He says, He will also do. No empty promises from him, no deception, but He will treat us with integrity and honour! Christ is a king we can depend on.

            We need that. For though the Lord withholds no good thing, how often you and I still cry out for more and better. And how often we act like we’d rather be self-governing! From moment to moment, we choose to go our own way. We try to sit on the throne ourselves, do what we want, trust in our own devices. And sooner or later, we find out it’s not so great. We find out that we can’t handle it on our own. We find out that without God, we’re only bound for total failure. But even then—even when we have to come crawling back to Him, pleading for mercy, Jesus isn’t a King who looks down in disdain.

In humility we come to him, but in confidence, too. Because we know our King. We know the words of Hebrews 4, and they give us hope: “Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (v 16). Approach the throne, beloved, and there receive mercy and grace! For the King sitting on that throne is patient and long-suffering. He’s the King of the second chance. He sees our brokenness, and He restores us, He lifts us up.

Even though He’s the King of kings, He’s not too busy to pay us attention. Even though He’s Lord of lords, He’s not too exalted to bother with our little concerns and passing troubles. For we know this about our King: “He will redeem [his people] from oppression and violence; precious shall be their blood in his sight” (v 14). Our King cares! Yes, our very blood is precious in his sight—because He poured out his own blood on our behalf. On the cross, He bought us, body and soul, so that we might belong to Him forever. Beloved, we have a glorious King. Let us bow before him, and let us pray for his victory.

2)     praying for his victory: There’s something unfinished in the second petition, something incomplete. For our prayer is that the Kingdom “come,” that it keep on advancing! By his ministry, Christ brought God’s Kingdom very near, yet it’s still in progress. He’s made a beginning, but it’s still not full.

            That’s also a theme of Psalm 72. It describes a time of great peace and prosperity. There is great blessing, but you don’t have look hard on the radar to find the trouble spots. Enemies still circle. The people of the King people yet remain in danger. Consider verse 4. Right beside all those caring activities of the gracious sovereign—defending the afflicted, saving the children of the needy—there stands yet another important work carried out by our King: “[He] will break in pieces the oppressor!”

We see it also in verses 8 to 10. There the royal son is said to rule “from sea to sea,” even to the ends of the earth. It’s a nice image. But how do you think the king acquires such a wide extent of power? Same way as today: A kingdom ensures its peace through war! Just watch as those desert tribes and other enemies, the kings of Tarshish and of the distant isles—watch them come before the king (v 10). They’re not coming in good-will and friendly feeling. They’re not coming to start a free trade agreement. No, they’re coming in defeat. These enemies bow before the king; they give him their gold and wealth as tribute. They even get down and lick the dust. They’ve been humiliated, crushed by the King’s sceptre. That’s what the Israelites prayed for in Psalm 72—for the total triumph of David’s Son. And for this same victory we must pray!

            As Christians, we often ask that the Kingdom spread through the efforts of mission and evangelism. We pray that many will receive Bibles and good instruction in the Word. We pray that thousands may join the church and find their salvation in Jesus Christ. Those are indeed “Kingdom prayers!”

But praying for God’s Kingdom also means that we pray Psalm 72. We pray for the destruction of all who oppose our King. We pray for the final, terrible collapse of the kingdom of Satan. We pray that God’s enemies be crushed, never to rise again. We pray the pointed prayer of the Heidelberg Catechism, “Destroy the works of the devil, and every power that raises itself up against you!” (Q&A 123).

            It’s sometimes said by us as believers, “In Christ, we’ve won the war, and before the end there’s left just a few last battles—skirmishes, really.” And this is true. Christ has already sealed the defeat of Satan, already guaranteed the victory of God. He did so by his death on the cross, and his resurrection three days later. Satan’s an enemy doomed to destruction! He’s got no hope. He will surely lick the dust.

But not yet. There’s time for Satan to fight. The oppressor still has his opportunity. The hostilities haven’t ended. And what does this mean? It means we are at war. It means there’s no time for sitting back. We must not minimize the power of the devil, nor downplay the cunning of those who’ve joined his side! To underestimate your opponent is to let down your guard, even to open yourself to a deadly attack.

In desperation, Satan will enlist any ally for his cause, any one to help him damage to the kingdom of Christ. The nations and peoples of earth, the leaders and rulers, the college professors and novel writers, the entertainers and CEOs, the judges and law-makers, the movie-makers and media barons, the scientists and even the theologians—so many of them join ranks with the prince of darkness. Together they conspire and mount their attack on Christ and his Word, on his Kingdom and his church.

In desperation, Satan will attack on any front, at any time. In this spiritual war, there are no rules of fair play! In this war, he doesn’t send out those little red men with forked tails and pitchforks, the ones we’ve seen on cartoons—Satan is far more subtle and dangerous.

Satan directs his followers: “Distract God’s people from reading the Bible. Lure them with lust. Divide them with pride. Worry them with material things. Get them to believe that there’s more than one truth. Divert them with constant and ever-present entertainment. Lull them to sleep with false comforts. Confuse them with wrong teaching. Cool them with complacency so that they become lukewarm in prayer and love. And above all,” Satan says, “make the cross of Christ just a background detail in their busy lives—something unimportant, something forgotten!” Satan might be doomed, but he’s no dummy. He encircles the Kingdom of God, looking always for that weak spot, the place for a well-directed blow.

Beloved, let’s be ever-vigilant in this war. Our life depends on it! Be on guard… And pray for victory! Yes, we’re completely safe inside Christ’s Kingdom. We know that the gates of hell will surely not overcome his church. Yet we still need to pray it fervently: “O God, destroy the works of the devil, every power that raises itself against you. Crush all your competitors—crush the idols of the nations, crush the attractive gods in our hearts—and crush the devil once and for all, that your Kingdom may come in its ‘fullness’” (Q&A 123).

We pray for fullness. Before anything can be full, you need to start filling, and you’ll probably start small—seemingly miniscule amounts. And that’s what we see in our own lives: we see a small beginning of the kingdom. Already today, King Jesus is giving us those little victories. It’s a victory when we can say “no” to temptation. It’s a victory when we find the time to grow in the Word. It’s a victory when we can devote ourselves to building up his church, one donation at a time; one little child at a time; one Lord’s day at a time; one prayer at a time.

These are small beginnings of the coming kingdom. These are beginnings we don’t always appreciate. But seeing them in our lives and in the church, we know our King is on his throne, and He’s hard at work. We have a start, and that’s a sure promise of what’s to come—in the words of Psalm 72—that day when “all kings shall fall down before him; all nations shall serve him” (v 11).

3)     yielding to his supremacy: If our King is so glorious, and if his victory so assured, what does that mean for us? As we come into his presence, as we see him on his exalted throne, what must we do? For the blessed citizens of his kingdom, there can be no hesitation. We bow. We fall down on our faces, and we worship the King! This is yielding to his supremacy. This is surrendering to his greatness. This is what we ask in the second petition, “Your Kingdom come: Rule us by your Word and Spirit so that more and more we submit to you” (Q&A 123).

            We find this same submission throughout Psalm 72. For what are the people of God doing in this prayer, but placing themselves before their King? They’re expecting nothing from themselves, but grand things from him alone. They’re crying out, “He shall live! The gold from Sheba will be given to Him. Prayer also will be made for Him continually, and daily He shall be praised” (v 15).

            It’s a nice song—but isn’t it still so hard to submit? After all this, we still want to rule ourselves, to declare our independence, to press for our rights. It’s that old struggle, beloved. We want to be exalted ourselves, to become “like God.” We want to be the little ruler of our little lives, on our own little throne.

            So Jesus teaches each of us to keep praying, day after day, “Lord, may your Kingdom come. May your rule extend everywhere in my life. May you be the King of my weekend activities, and King of my quiet thoughts, King of my chequing account and my daily work. May you be the King of my family and the King of my marriage and the King of every relationship I have. Enable me in all things to seek first your kingdom and your righteousness!”

We pray, “Rule us…so that more and more we submit to you.” That phrase “more and more” says a lot. It tells us that submitting to God is a long process, it’s a learning process. Some parts of our life we find hard to yield. Some things we don’t want to surrender, some activities we don’t want to give up. We’ll always try to keep that hidden corner for ourselves: “This is our domain, our territory. Here I’ll do what I want.” But we must surrender it all to Christ! We must come to understand that Jesus Christ is King for our benefit, even for our salvation. He claims every square inch of us, because He died for every square inch!

Sure, He’s a King who issues rules and commandments. We hear them every Sunday, we read them on every page of Scripture. If you’re going to be part of this Kingdom, there’s a certain way you’re going to live. You’re going to live the “Kingdom way!” And Christ gives these precepts for a good reason. He wants to keep us from the cycle of sin and self-destruction. He wants to help us draw closer to Him. 

Which brings us back to the beginning. Picture yourself as a nation—just a small territory, but important in God’s eyes. In this land, who is king, who is queen? In your life, who’s in charge? Remember, there will always be someone or something giving our hearts leadership and direction—for better, or maybe for worse. So are you the commander-in-chief? Are you the one who has the last word, who calls the shots?

            Be assured of this: Every life that’s self-governed ends in failure. You end up terrorized by guilt. You end up spiritually bankrupt. Your end up corrupted. You even end up numbered among the enemies of Christ: licking the dust, bowing down not in worship, but in defeat.

Or beloved, is it the Lord who rules your life? Is it Christ who sits on the throne? That’s what He wants us to say. That’s how He wants us to live, that we confess in word and deed: “Christ is my King! I bow before His heavenly glory. I will trust in his faithful care. I will submit to his perfect Word. I will depend on his amazing grace.” And when we do that, his royal blessing will surely be upon us, now and forever, as we dwell in the Kingdom of God our Saviour. Amen. 

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Reuben Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2011, Rev. Reuben Bredenhof

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