A Psalm a Day: Psalm 72

Throughout September 2022, I managed to read and reflect – briefly – on a Psalm each day. For December 2022, I attempted to pick up the discipline. I got part-way through that month, and so after a long hiatus, am determined to get going. I’ll read the Psalm, pray, and then ponder a few questions:

  • What is this Psalm about?
  • What does this Psalm teach about God?
  • How does this Psalm connect to God’s people today?

I’ll close the post with a simple prayer, trying to draw the themes together.

psalm 72

On the 11th of December 2023 (one month since I did Psalm 71!), here’s Psalm 72:

Endow the king with your justice, O God,
    the royal son with your righteousness.
May he judge your people in righteousness,
    your afflicted ones with justice.

May the mountains bring prosperity to the people,
    the hills the fruit of righteousness.
May he defend the afflicted among the people
    and save the children of the needy;
    may he crush the oppressor.
May he endure as long as the sun,
    as long as the moon, through all generations.
May he be like rain falling on a mown field,
    like showers watering the earth.
In his days may the righteous flourish
    and prosperity abound till the moon is no more.

May he rule from sea to sea
    and from the River to the ends of the earth.
May the desert tribes bow before him
    and his enemies lick the dust.
10 May the kings of Tarshish and of distant shores
    bring tribute to him.
May the kings of Sheba and Seba
    present him gifts.
11 May all kings bow down to him
    and all nations serve him.

12 For he will deliver the needy who cry out,
    the afflicted who have no one to help.
13 He will take pity on the weak and the needy
    and save the needy from death.
14 He will rescue them from oppression and violence,
    for precious is their blood in his sight.

15 Long may he live!
    May gold from Sheba be given him.
May people ever pray for him
    and bless him all day long.
16 May grain abound throughout the land;
    on the tops of the hills may it sway.
May the crops flourish like Lebanon
    and thrive like the grass of the field.
17 May his name endure forever;
    may it continue as long as the sun.

Then all nations will be blessed through him,
    and they will call him blessed.

18 Praise be to the Lord God, the God of Israel,
    who alone does marvelous deeds.
19 Praise be to his glorious name forever;
    may the whole earth be filled with his glory.
Amen and Amen.

20 This concludes the prayers of David son of Jesse.

What is this Psalm about?

This is a royal Psalm, likely prayed at the coronation of a king, and a prayer for God’s blessing on his chosen and anointed king. It weaves requests for God’s blessing of the king, and the king’s reign, with statements about what that rule and reign should or will be like.

What does this Psalm teach about God?

Firstly, Psalm 72 makes it clear that everything an earthly King has and does ultimately flows from God, the King of Kings. From God comes justice and righteousness (v. 1). Second, focusing just on the verses that clearly and at face value teach us something about God, God is to be praised because he ‘alone does marvelous deeds’ (v. 18). This praise is also due to his ‘glorious name’ – which will fill the whole earth with his glory (v. 19). Clearly, the God we read about in Psalm 72 is worthy of worship and praise – above all earthly kings.

It would be reasonable though not perhaps obvious to see some messianic themes in Psalm 72 – the king being described here occasionally seems more than human, or has aspirations (or prayed-for-hopes) that are grander than any human king could sustain. That would be Christological interpretation, though, which is not what I’m doing in these ‘Psalm a Day’ posts, unless it’s explicit.

How does this Psalm connect to God’s people today?

Firstly, Psalm 72 reminds us to pray for those in authority over us – regardless of what we think or understand about them. We are to pray for their good and their wisdom, in the knowledge that all good things come from God, and God alone is the true king of Kings, ‘who alone does marvelous deeds’ (v. 18b). This is a challenge and comfort, whether we find ourselves in a context with a good ‘king’, or a bad ‘king.

Second, Psalm 72 reminds us and warms our hearts towards King Jesus, the ‘royal son’ who fulfills every part of this prayer and is the truly human king that reigns today.

A prayer drawn from Psalm 

Lord, may King Jesus’ name endure forever; may it continue as long as the sun. Praise be to the Lord God, the God of Israel, who alone does marvelous deeds. Praise be to his glorious name forever; may the whole earth be filled with his glory. Amen and Amen.

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