January 4, Year A

Inspired by Psalm 72

“May all the kings fall down before him, all nations give him service.  For he delivers the needy when they call, the poor and those who have no helper.  He has pity on the weak and the needy, and saves the lives of the needy.  From oppression and violence he redeems their life; and precious is their blood in his sight.”  Psalm 72:11-14 (NRSV)

What are the characteristics of a leader governing according to God’s own heart?  What would such a leader’s priorities be?

Some claim that a godly leader would enforce biblical codes of morality on his citizenry, and attempt to impose ancient societal norms on a modern population.  Those who obeyed God’s law (as interpreted by such a leader) would be prosperous and powerful, while those who didn’t would be harshly punished as both an enemy of the state and as an enemy of God.

But when the biblical witness refers to a leader who governs according to God’s own heart, morality codes and societal norms are rarely mentioned.  Instead, such a leader is described as being compassionate and merciful towards the most vulnerable.  He values the lives of the poor and needy just as much as he values the lives of the rich and powerful.  He abhors violence and oppression, and works to eliminate both from his realm.  Governing according to such principles should be cause for all the leaders of the world to recognize his greatness and work to carry out his mandate.

In this fallen and sinful world, a leader who governs according to such principles is often called weak, and is accused of rewarding self-defeating behavior.  But the definitions of the world do not define God, and God’s will shall not be co-opted by the desires of the powerful.  God delivers the needy when they call, and God is the helper of the poor.  God has pity on the weak and the needy, and their lives are precious to him.  God works against oppression and violence, and God calls all who claim to follow him to do the same.

Let us pray.  Compassionate God, you have mercy and compassion on those whom the world despises.  Help us to recognize the inherent value you have given to all your people, that we may be inspired to practice your compassion and mercy.  Through Christ our Lord, Amen.