Saturday, 28 Nov, 2020.
“Who Is My Neighbour?”
By : Ong Hwee Soo/翁辉赐
Psalm 72:1-4 & 12-13.
1 Give the king your justice, O God, and your righteousness to the royal son! 2 May he judge your people with righteousness, and your poor with justice! 3 Let the mountains bear prosperity for the people, and the hills, in righteousness! 4 May he defend the cause of the poor of the people, give deliverance to the children of the needy, and crush the oppressor!
12 For he delivers the needy when he calls, the poor and him who has no helper. 13 He has pity on the weak and the needy, and saves the lives of the needy.
Psalm 72 is the first of the only two Psalms written by King Solomon, the other being Psalm 127. It is the concluding Psalm in Book II (Psalms 42-72) of the Psalter. The opening inscription “Of Solomon” signifies Solomon as the author. However, it ends with a postscript, “The prayers of David…are ended” (v 20). Most likely, the subject matter is David’s but he was too frail to pen it, so Solomon who caught his dying father’s song wrote the lyrics. As C.H Spurgeon put it, Psalm 72 is a Prayer of David but the Psalm of Solomon.
We know from I Kings 3:9 that Solomon prayed to God for wisdom at the beginning of his reign, “Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, that I may discern good and evil…” Thus, Solomon did catch a vision of his calling as king when he penned the opening lines of this Psalm: “Give the king your justice…and your righteousness…May he defend the cause of the poor…and give deliverance to the needy.”
In contrast to Psalm 82 (Devotional on 31 October) which opens with God condemning the earthly kings of social injustice, here Solomon understood that the primary characteristic of his rule is righteousness and justice, the former emphasising character and moral principle whereas the latter highlighting administration and moral practice. Hence, Solomon implored to God for these two godly attributes knowing that “righteousness and justice are the foundation of His throne.” (Psalm 97:2).
Solomon knew upfront that his foremost duty as king was to administer justice and especially to protect the powerless. Solomon understood that ‘misphat’ (‘justice) is when the poorest are cared for. Similarly, ‘zedekah’ (‘righteousness’) is not simply smug goodness but it is being in sync with God’s will.
Solomon looked to God as his supreme exemplar, “For he delivers the needy when he calls, the poor and him who has no helper. He has pity on the weak and the needy and saves the lives of the needy.” (v12-13).
A common English idiom, popularised by Algernon Sidney, says, “God helps those who help themselves.”, but what is highlighted here, is that God helps those who cannot help themselves nor find help in others. All helpless ones are under the special care of our Compassionate King. However, it is clear not only in the Old Testament but also in the New that God requires His people to help others in need.
In Luke Chapter 10, we read of a lawyer who knew the Ten Commandments well and even understood that the commandments are founded on two fundamentals, namely, to love God with our whole being and to love our neighbour as ourselves. But this law expert knew the law so well that he sought to limit the concept of ‘neighbour’ by testing Jesus with the question, “Who is my neighbour?” Jesus simply replied him by telling him the Parable of the Good Samaritan. In the story, by illustrating the indifferent priest and the Levite who didn’t stop to help the bleeding victim of robbery on the road, Jesus exposes the many false limits that religious leaders put on the command to “love your neighbour”. Whereas the lawyer tried to limit his moral obligations, Jesus expanded the notion of neighbour to include anyone who is in need and cannot help themselves.
In the story, we see the Good Samaritan rendering acts of mercy (10:34-35) such as emergency medical treatment, transportation, friendship, advocacy, a generous financial aid and even a follow-up visit.
In my Devotional on Psalm 68 (26 Sept), I cited the example George Mueller (1805-1898) who in his lifetime cared for 10,024 orphans, in England. Further, he provided educational opportunities by establishing 117 schools which offered Christian education to over 120,000 children.
For a local and contemporary example, I mentioned in my 31 Oct Devotional (Psalm 82), about a donor who generously contributed four new computers to a refugee school here, besides rewiring the old school building, to ensure adequate power supply for the new computers, printers and other devices. This benevolent individual is a retiree in his eighties.
Incidentally, David Roper (Our Daily Bread, 7 Oct), reflecting on Psalms 90 wrote: “Though our lives are short, they are not meaningless, if we leave a legacy of God’s love. We’re not here on earth to make money and retire in style, but to ‘show God’ to others by showing them His love.”
A key theme in this Psalm is ’the poor, the weak and the needy’ (v2, 4, 12, 13). The Luke 10 narrative begins with the lawyer confronting Jesus, “Who is my neighbour?”. Having told him the Story of the Good Samaritan, Jesus cleverly counters the lawyer with, “Which of these three, do you think proved to be a neighbour to the man who fell among the robbers?”, to which the lawyer is compelled to reply, “The one who showed him mercy.” Jesus’ injunction to the lawyer then and to us now is “You go, and do likewise.” (10:36-37).
How have we been a neighbour to the needy around us, as an individual, as a Care Group or as a church?
“No one can do everything, but everyone can do something and together we can change the world.” (Ronald Sider)
PRAYER: Heavenly Father, as we look around us, grant us wisdom how to be good neighbours to the needy in our community. Amen.