A lover of justice who is king of kings for all nations

 

Psalm 72:1-15  Tuesday, Dec. 2

The rule of God is to be characterised by righteousness and justice, and rulers who uphold these values will bring prosperity for all

Psalm 72 is entitled a psalm OF Solomon – or equally it could be read as a psalm FOR Solomon. It is a prayer by David for the king, or kings, that succeed him, and was probably used at coronations. Later on, the allusions to a future Messianic king became more important, and the Early Church saw it as a prophetic writing about Jesus. Scripture often conveys God’s truth on several levels, both historic and also contemporary.
1 Give your love of justice to the king, O God, and righteousness to the king’s son.
2 Help him judge your people in the right way; let the poor always be treated fairly.
  • The plea for Solomon – or a successor of the dynasty – to be endued with God’s love of justice and value of righteousness is also a plea for the nation will prosper, according to the cause-and-effect of covenant principles. “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people.” Proverbs 14:34 NASB
3 May the mountains yield prosperity for all, and may the hills be fruitful.
4  Help him to defend the poor, to rescue the children of the needy, and to crush their oppressors.
  • A striking feature of the king’s rule would be compassion and protection for the poor and needy. By contrast, the nation’s rulers at the time leading up to the sacking of Jerusalem, were denounced by prophets of that time as harsh and heartless shepherds: see Jeremiah’s prophecy which is also the basis of the covenant name of God “The Lord our righteousness”, Jer. 23:1-6.
5 May they fear you as long as the sun shines, as long as the moon remains in the sky. Yes, forever!
  • This is now pointing to a more enduring reign than the lifetime of one monarch.
6 May the king’s rule be refreshing like spring rain on freshly cut grass, like the showers that water the earth.
7 May all the godly flourish during his reign. May there be abundant prosperity until the moon is no more.
  • Here the blessings of good leadership are set out. Hebrew thought does not have our tendency to separate God’s favour and blessing, from the prosperity achieved by good management of resources — they are one and the same.
8 May he reign from sea to sea, and from the Euphrates River to the ends of the earth
  • The immediate boundaries are the Euphrates and the Mediterranean coastline, which became the limits of Solomon’s kingdom — however the focus then zooms out to take in the whole of the known world.
  • This verse is almost word for word the same as Zechariah 9:10  the context of which is messianic. So this is a messianic dimension becoming apparent.
9 Desert nomads will bow before him; his enemies will fall before him in the dust.
10 The western kings of Tarshish and other distant lands will bring him tribute. The eastern kings of Sheba and Seba will bring him gifts.
  • Tarshish was a large Western Mediterranean settlement – think modern day Catalonia. Seba, south of Egypt, and Sheba, southern Arabia, faced each other across the Red Sea. Kings would come bringing gifts and tribute to pledge their submission. They did for Solomon; this also looks forward to the bringing of gifts for Jesus, and what this symbolised.
11 All kings will bow before him, and all nations will serve him.
12  He will rescue the poor when they cry to him; he will help the oppressed, who have no one to defend them.
13 He feels pity for the weak and the needy, and he will rescue them.
  • A parallel is in Psalm 82:3. All Israelites shared responsibility for those who were marginalised (orphans, widows) or otherwise poor or needy. Kings, as God’s royal representatives, were said to have particular responsibility for protecting marginalised groups throughout Psalms e.g. Ps. 10:12-18, Ps. 12:5, Psalm 14:6 etc
14 He will redeem them from oppression and violence, for their lives are precious to him.
15   Long live the king! May the gold of Sheba be given to him. May the people always pray for him and bless him all day long.
  • The psalm ends (v.17, not shown) with a reminder of the Abrahamic covenant provision that “through your offspring ALL nations of earth will be blessed”: God’s people, and especially their king, were to represent God’s covenant beyond themselves, to the nations.  Genesis 12:2-3, Genesis 22:18.
  • This is clearly and simply summarised by Psalm 67, which is read every day in the parliamentary prayers that precede every sitting of the House of Commons.

Application

At first this psalm is a straightforward blessing on Solomon and those kings who succeed him as godly leadership for Israel. Fairly quickly it becomes apparent that its reach is longer than that, pointing to a Messianic king to come to whom other rulers far and wide defer and serve. Jesus, of course, has the title king of kings (1 Tim. 6:15, Revelation 17:14).

Such a majestic figure would hardly be expected to have much interest in ordinary people, but this king defends the poor and oppressed (v.4), rescues the needy (vv.12-13) and redeems them from oppression and violence as those whose lives are precious to him (v.14). In terms of the culture and history of the time, with slavery common and lives cheap, this is nothing short of extraordinary.

The learning point for us? True greatness is also compassionate. Where authority finds the need to be harsh, it is neither great nor godly.

For reflection and discussion

2.  If this is God’s pattern of leadership, and if this is a picture of Jesus’ kingdom rule, why does the church sometimes struggle financially?

For reflection and discussion

2.  If this is God’s pattern of leadership, and if this is a picture of Jesus’ kingdom rule, why does the church sometimes struggle financially?

 

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