Psalm 72:12–20; Proverbs 27; 2 Corinthians 8:10–21

Originally published 6/06/2017. Revised and updated 6/05/2019.

Psalm 72:12–20: The opening and conclusion of this psalm describes the glories and righteousness of King Solomon. Sandwiched in the middle are the reasons why he deserves such praise and honor. As far as our poet is concerned, Solomon is the most righteous king to ever walk the earth. And as is always the case in the OT integrity and righteousness come down to how he treats the poor and defenseless:
For he saves the needy man pleading,
And the lowly who has none to help him.
He pities the poor and the needy,
and the lives of the needy he rescues,
from scheming and outrage redeems them,
and their blood is dear in his sight. (12-14)

In fact, our author is asserting that providing justice and aid to the poor is the king’s highest duty—and it’s the only kingly duty he describes in this psalm. Which, alas, is irony in the light of how kings have ruled through history and now how prime ministers and presidents rule. One has the feeling from reading this psalm that Solomon was essentially the sole exception throughout history. Other potentates may give lip service to the poor, but in reality they inevitably  focus on the wealthy and the powerful—and too many use their position of leadership to increase their wealth and power.

The coda of the psalm sings of the almost transcendent glories of the king with a surfeit of blessings and the willing duties of his subjects to honor him:
Long may he live,
and the gold of Sheba be given him.
May he be prayed for always,
all day long blessed.

May his name be forever.
As long as the sun may his name bear seed.
And may all nations be blessed through him, call him happy.” (15, 17)

But Solomon was a human being and eventually he died, albeit after a glorious reign. Nevertheless, the psalm remains highly relevant today. Depsite my reservations of over-interpreting it as being prophetic, we can certainly sing the these exact verses in worship of our own King, Jesus Christ.  I have to believe that somewhere there’s a song out there that has set music to these magnificent words.

The psalm ends not singing Solomon’s praises, but in a thundering credenza, singing the praises of God alone, reminding us that God is the sole source of wisdom and glory—even Solomon’s:
Blessed is the Lord God, Israel’s God, performing wonders alone.
And blessed is His glory forever, and may His glory fill all the earth.
Amen and Amen. (18-19)

Proverbs 27: This chapter opens with the famous verse that reminds us we cannot see into the future and that what we think will happen very well may not. As most of us surely know one’s carefully laid out plans can be foiled in an instant:
Do not boast about tomorrow,
    for you do not know what a day may bring. (1)

When a friend seems to harm us with what we think is an unkind word of correction we need to remember that it is our enemies who are more likely to be flattering us:
Well meant are the wounds a friend inflicts,
    but profuse are the kisses of an enemy. (6)

Our author advises us that while family is important, friends are equally important to our lives, perhaps even more so than our own relatives, especially in times of need:
Do not forsake your friend or the friend of your parent;
    do not go to the house of your kindred in the day of your calamity.
Better is a neighbor who is nearby
    than kindred who are far away. (10)

The idea that friends nearby are crucial certainly came home to me when I was diagnosed with cancer in 2009. While my parents were wonderfully sympathetic, it was my Christian brothers and sisters—my neighbors—praying for me and providing help who made the biggest difference in Susan’s and my lives during that time.

In turn, one needs to show consideration for one’s neighbors. Don’t wake them by mowing the lawn at 6:00 a.m., or knocking on their door and giving  a loud happy greeting. This behavior was even a problem even back then:
Whoever blesses a neighbor with a loud voice,
    rising early in the morning,
    will be counted as cursing. (14)

As we’ve noted before, our author must have been experiencing marital discord as he wrote because we encounter another famous epigram about his wife:
A continual dripping on a rainy day
    and a contentious wife are alike;
to restrain her is to restrain the wind
    or to grasp oil in the right hand. (15, 16)

His advice seems to be simply to accept the reality of a nagging wife because to try and change her behavior is a fool’s errand.  I think we need to leave it at that.

Another famous statement describes how we benefit from witty repartee, which has certainly been my experience with my good friend, Bob, even though he persists in clever puns:
Iron sharpens iron,
    and one person sharpens the wits of another. (17)

To which I can only add, “Amen!”

Finally, there is a reminder that wealth does not necessarily bring security but we nevertheless need to be good stewards, paying attention to our own resources, especially in retirement:
Know well the condition of your flocks,
    and give attention to your herds;
 for riches do not last forever,
    nor a crown for all generations. (23, 24)

2 Corinthians 8:10–21: Paul rambles on about the necessity of being cheerful and generous givers to the church. And once you’ve made a pledge, you need to fulfill that pledge: “now finish doing it, so that your eagerness may be matched by completing it according to your means.” (11)

But when we give willingly, the gift should be proportionate to what one actually has: “For if the eagerness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has—not according to what one does not have.” (12) For Paul, it’s all “question of a fair balance between your present abundance and their need.” (13b, 14a) Because at some point the persons to whom your giving now may be able to turn around and give back to you when you need it most.

Paul now goes on to praise Titus and his work at Corinth: “But thanks be to God who put in the heart of Titus the same eagerness for you that I myself have.” (16) In fact, Titus is so enthusiastic about serving at Corinth that “he is going to you of his own accord.” (17)

Paul then announces that he is sending a celebrity preacher along with Titus to Corinth: “With him we are sending the brother who is famous among all the churches for his proclaiming the good news.” (18) This person is not only a good preacher, he has church-approved bona fides: “and not only that, but he has also been appointed by the churches to travel with us while we are administering this generous undertaking for the glory of the Lord himself and to show our goodwill.” (18)

Unfortunately for us, Paul does not actually reveal this person’s name. Apparently he was so well known that Paul saw no reason to identify him. There’s been all kinds of speculation down through the centuries as to the identity of this “brother who is famous.” Perhaps it’s one of the men we already know: Luke, Apollos, Barnabas, Silas, Timothy, or Mark. Or some of the more obscure names like Sopater that are mentioned in passing in Acts.

In the end it doesn’t really matter, but it would have been nice of Paul to tell us. More important is Paul’s motivation is doing this: “we intend to do what is right not only in the Lord’s sight but also in the sight of others.” (21) In other words, Paul was not a complete loner, engaged in simply commanding others what would and would not happen. Instead, while Paul may have been primus inter pares among the apostles, he also saw himself as a member of a team. And he was not above wanting to make the team happy. This is a quality of leadership that is too often in short supply.

Speak Your Mind