A King Reigns in Righteousness, Princes Rule in Justice


“Behold, a king will reign in righteousness, and princes will rule in justice.” – Isaiah 32:1

When Israel was threatened by Assyria, they looked to Egypt for help. In Isaiah 31, Isaiah says, “Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help and rely on horses, who trust in chariots because they are many and in horsemen because they are very strong, but do not look to the Holy One of Israel of consult the Lord.”

Like Israel, we are quick to run to the world for help for it appears to be strong and powerful. Strength, power, force, and violence, seem like the solution to our problems. They will get us out of trouble.  But, woe to those who do that instead of turning to the Lord.

We should not turn the world for help because “in that day” there will be a king who reigns in righteousness and princes who rule in justice. This king is Jesus, and the princes are his people.

Righteousness and justice have become confusing terms for many of us. Our western minds have turned them into words of morality and legality. But, that’s not really what these words are about.

Righteousness is about being communally faithful or beneficial. It is about loyalty and being faithful to a covenant. This is contrast to moral perfection, which seems to be what most of us think of when we think of righteousness.

Justice is about the administration, the doing, of what is righteous. This is in contrast to a legal sentence or punishment, which is likely the first thing most of think of when we heard the word justice.

Regardless, whatever we think of the words righteousness and justice, whatever the Hebrew words mean, Isaiah gives us four pictures to demonstrate it looks like when a king reigns in righteousness and his princes rule in justice.

  1. Like a hiding place from the wind
  2. A shelter from the storm
  3. Like streams of water in a dry place
  4. Like the shade of a great rock in weary land

Jesus calmed the winds. He was a shelter in the storm. And, Jesus as the great rock provided shade in a weary land. Notice that these three things provide protection.

To reign in righteousness and rule in justice is first and foremost to provide protection.  Jesus continually showed that this protection was to be given to the weak, the poor, the abused, the fatherless, the disadvantaged, the helpless. The protection is from the wind, which can blow you anywhere, the storm, which can destroy you, and the heat, which can burn you up.

Notice that the protection righteous king and just princes provide is likened to a hiding place, a shelter, and shade. Therefore, this king and these princes must stand between the wind, the storm, and the heat and the poor, the weak, the helpless, etc.

Like the vast majority of the time there is a list of four in the Bible, three of the things are similar and one is different. While the focus of this list is protection, the fourth thing a righteous king, Jesus, and just princes, his people, are is like streams of water in a dry place. In other words, they give life where there is no life.

Jesus is the living water for those who are thirsty.

Notice what happens when Jesus reigns in this type of righteousness and his people administer his righteousness.

“Then the eyes of those who see will not be closed, and the ears of those who hear will give attention. The heart of the hasty will understand and know, and the tongue of the stammerers will hasten to speak distinctly.” (Isaiah 32:3-4)

It’s when protection is provided and life is given that people see and hear. It’s at this time that hearts are changed and people truly confess the Lord. As God’s people, if we want to lead others to the kingdom, then we should first be about protection, standing between the oppressor and the oppressed. And, while doing that, we give the waters of life. Then the oppressed see and hear Jesus. Their hearts will be changed. And, they will declare the goodness of God.

Verses 5 through 7 give a contrast to Jesus’ reign of righteousness and his princes’ rule of justice. Isaiah calls these rulers fools. They speak folly, are busy with iniquity, practice ungodliness, and utter error concerning the Lord.

What is the result of the rule of fools?

They leave the hungry unsatisfied. They deprive the thirsty of drink. They ruin the poor with lying words. Instead of providing protection and life, the rule of fools denies those very things “even when the plea of the needy is right.”

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