America celebrates its independence on July 4. We’re thankful for our county and our freedom. God created us to be free. We know God loves us. We know God expects things from us, but does God expect things from nations and governments, too? Yes, God expects things from us personally, but does God expect things from us politically?
Psalm 72 says yes.
Psalm 72 asks God to bless Israel’s king by helping the king do what the king was supposed to do. The king was the ultimate political authority of ancient Israel. We, the People, are the ultimate political authority of the United States. Since the word of the Lord stands forever (Isaiah 40:8; 1st Peter 1:25), it stands to reason that Psalm 72 describes what God expects of the ultimate political authority both in ancient times and today.
So, what does Psalm 72 say?
It says that a godly king and a righteous nation are just: The poor are protected (verse 2). The needy are nurtured (verse 13). And the defenseless are defended (verses 4).
Psalm 72 asks God for rival nations to recognize and honor Israel’s King (verse 11). Why? Because he is just He protects the weak from the strong (verse 12).
Because he does that, Psalm 72 asks God to bless the king and his people with prosperity (verse 3), longevity (verse 5), abundance (verse 6), righteousness (verse 7), security (verse eight), and peace – with friend and foe alike (verse 9-11).
Just kings, godly nations, and righteous peoples do good things – especially for the poor. And because of that, Psalm 72 asks God to bless them and us with abundance, freedom, and life. Do right by others – especially the most vulnerable – says Psalm 72, and God will do right by you. Which begs the question: How are We, the People, as a nation – as America – treating others?
Like all nations, America has done wonderful things – and horrible things. America saved the world from fascism in World War II. That being said, we ended that war with nuclear blasts that killed 250,000 Japanese civilians. We also ended that war by feeding a starving, post-war Europe through the Marshall Plan, which Winston Churchill called “the most un-sordid act in all of human history.” We also illegally imprisoned without trial 120,000 Japanese American citizens during the war. President Reagan courageously apologized for that when he signed reparations legislation to help right that wrong. Like all nations – and like all individuals – America has done great harm – and great good. Our history makes that plain.
But what about today? We can’t change the past, but we can change the future by what we do today.
Yes, we have done good. But can we do better? As a nation, how can we better protect, defend, and stand up for those who are beaten down? In our county, 1 of every 3 children suffer food insecurity, which is a fancy way of saying they often go hungry. What can we do to do right by them?
What can we do to make things better so everyone can flourish? So that every child can grow to become who God created them to be? So that no one is shoved aside or left behind?
Those questions should guide us as individual Christians and citizens every day. Our answers should be lived out in our actions and spelled out in our checkbooks that record how much we spend on our wants and how much we share for our neighbors’ needs. Our answers should be also lived out in how we vote; in what we expect from our elected officials – in how they behave; in the budgets they approve; and in the laws they create.
Our personal goodness depends on how we act as individuals. Our collective, political goodness depends on how we act as citizens.
The good news is that we are free. With authoritarianism on the rise, we, who are free, must protect our God-given liberty – and we must protect the rights of our neighbors, too. All neighbors – without exception.
As we do, God will bless us. Psalm 72 asks God to do right by those who do right. We can count on God to always do that. Therefore, let’s always do that as well.
Let’s work with God and each other to create a more perfect union by respecting those who disagree with us; by shielding the vulnerable; by calling out what’s wrong and standing up for what’s right. Together with God and each other we can do better to create a loving community, a just nation, and a better world.
Thank God, we have that freedom, power, and responsibility.