PSALMS: Psalm 72 by W. Robert Godfrey

Psalm 72 by W. Robert Godfrey

From Learning to Love the Psalms

This last psalm in Book Two presents a remarkable picture of Israel’s king.  Solomon’s name appears in the title, suggesting that he is the author and that this psalm expresses his ideal vision of God’s king and kingdom.  It is a vision that seems to look far beyond anything that Israel had ever experienced.  Some in Solomon’s day may have seen it as the kind of poetic exaggeration often spoken in the courts of kings.  But in our day, we can see that it has been fulfilled in the kingship of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Most of the psalm moves back and forth between the ways in which God has blessed his king and the ways in which God has blessed his people through the king.  Here, we see that kingship was not an end in itself or simply a way to glorify one person.  Rather, kingship was to be both glorious in itself and a blessing to the people.  The king was to be shepherd and servant as well as sovereign.  He was to be more concerned for the well-being of his people than for his own success.

The blessings that God promises to his king in this psalm are astounding.  First, God will give justice and righteousness to his king, (v. 1).  This blessing is one for which many peoples have yearned in their rulers throughout history.  So often, justice is denied to people, especially the poor.  The mighty get whatever they want from rulers and judges, while the powerless most often are ignored or abused.  Truly righteous dealings are in short supply.  But Israel will have a king who will exercise true justice in a fully righteous way.

Second, God will give to his king long life.  The language of the psalm is at points rather traditional about the life of the king: “Long may he live,” (v. 15a), and, “May his name endure forever, his fame continue as long as the sun!” (v. 17a).  But verse 5 is truly amazing in its expectation: “May they fear you while the sun endures, and as long as the moon, throughout all generations!” (v. 5).  Here we have a promise, not a prayer.  Here is the vision of an everlasting king.

Third, God will give his king great wealth and universal rule.  The wealth is great: “May the kings of Tarshish and of the coastlands render him tribute; may the kings of Sheba and Seba bring gifts!” (v. 10)  His kingship will extend to the whole world: “May he have dominion from sea to sea, and from the river to the ends of the Earth!  May desert tribes bow down before him and his enemies lick the dust.  May all kings bow down before him, all nations serve him!  May people be blessed in him, all nations call him blessed,” (vv. 8-9, 11, 17a).  This promise of worldwide dominion echoes the promise to Abraham that in his seed all the Earth would be blessed.

This unique king will be used by God to give great blessings to his people.  First, as he is righteous, so he will bring justice to the people.  They will live in confidence and security that right will be done: “May he judge your people with righteousness, and your poor with justice!” (v. 2)

Second, this king who is so wealthy will bring prosperity to the people: “In his days may the righteous flourish and peace abound, till the moon be no  more!” (v. 7)  The people will expect the crops to grow and flourish: “May there be abundance of rain in the land; on the tops of the mountains may it wave; may its fruit be like Lebanon; and may people blossom in the cities like the grass of the field!” (v. 16)  Here is a vision of great success and well-being.  These visions of Earthly blessing will be fulfilled for the church in the perfection of the new Heaven and the new Earth.

Third, the king will care for the lowly and he will exalt them.  “May he defend the cause of the poor of the people, give deliverance to the children of the needy, and crush the oppressor!” (v. 4)  The psalmist expands on this expectation later in the psalm, showing how important it is to the vision of the ideal king: “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.  From oppression and violence he redeems their life, and precious is their blood in his sight,” (vv. 12-14).  Here is hope indeed for the neglected and despised of the people.

These blessings from God through the king will not be confined to the people of Israel.  As the reign of the king will be universal, so the blessings of the king will be worldwide.  “May people be blessed in him, all nations call him blessed,” (v. 17b).  The nations will pray for him as part of their worship of the great God who saved them: “May prayer be made for him continually, and blessings invoked for him all day!” (v. 15b)

These blessings lead to the praise of God that concludes this psalm and the second book of the Psalter: “Blessed be his glorious name forever; may the whole Earth be filled with his glory!  Amen and amen!” (v. 19)  The universality of the kingdom of this Earthly king brings glory to God, the great King in Heaven.

This glorious king can only be our Lord Jesus Christ.  Here is the picture of the glory of great David’s greater son.  That greater son is not Solomon, but the Messiah who would come.  When Jesus came, he commissioned his church to carry the gospel throughout the world to “make disciples of all nations,” (Matthew 28:19).  The church as it preaches the gospel is building the universal kingdom foreseen in Psalm 72.  While we will not see the full glory of that kingdom until Jesus returns, even now we see elements of it expressed in our world.  He is blessed in nations all over the world.  Prayers for him and his kingdom arise in every part of the Earth.  Now the kingdom comes through suffering, but one day the suffering will end and we will share in the fullness of Christ’s blessedness and glory forever.  Today, the church can and should sing this psalm to Christ as it speaks so gloriously of his kingdom.


Questions for Reflection and Discussion

  • How does this psalm illustrate that kingship was to be both glorious in itself and a blessing to the people?
  • What three astounding blessings does God promise to his king in this psalm?  What are three ways that the king will be used by God to give great blessings to his people?
  • How does this psalm, with all of its kingly references, point to Jesus Christ?  In what ways is the church building the universal kingdom foreseen in this psalm?

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