Often we look at a situation, whether personal or political or otherwise, and come to a discouraging conclusion: this is so messed-up it’s beyond fixing, pitch it and start over. On occasion, that’s the right decision – the craft project is hopelessly mangled, paint that looked ok in the store but not on the house, you get the idea. Trouble begins though when we think that way about people and people-situations. Our fast-food instant-gratification culture helps get to the end-point sooner, not always a good thing.
No question, when adults in important positions act like spoiled brats it is very tempting to say: “kick ’em out, send ’em home, let’s start fresh”. The problem is that change for the sake of change isn’t necessarily good. When it comes to what we desire and pray for, the Bible’s focus is on what is right, not simply different. There is much more about change of heart than change of administration in the Bible. So how does all that relate to our present psalm?
Some details are obscure, but one thing is clear: Psalm 72 bears strong connection with two of Israel’s most significant political figures, David and Solomon. One commentator has said: “the prayers to which David gave utterance on his death-bed were reduced by his son into the form of a psalm, with the view of their being kept in everlasting remembrance.” Calvin If that be the case, it is a prayer for God’s blessing on Solomon but not only him. The one praying has in view all Solomon’s successors down to and including the greater Son of David.
“he doubtless endited to [produced for] the Church a common form of prayer, that the faithful, convinced of the impossibility of being prosperous and happy, except under one head, should show all respect, and yield all obedience to this legitimate order of things, and also that from this typical kingdom they might be conducted to Christ.” Calvin
This psalm is a prayer worthy of pleading on behalf of any ruler or political figure – a request that the one in authority would reflect the justice of God, that those under such a righteous rule would enjoy God’s blessing. It reminds us how far civil government falls short of God’s ideal, and at the same time, what we can expect from our perfect sovereign, King Jesus. Paul exhorted Timothy 1 Tim 2:1-2 “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.” God hasn’t given up on civil authorities, neither should we!
A. with righteousness v.1-7
God give the king justice and righteousness – give him ability to make good and right decisions (1)
Solomon’s request: “give to Your servant an understanding heart to judge Your people, that I may discern between good and evil.” 1 Kings 3:9
clearly discern and faithfully carry out all of his duties of leadership – important in government that right people be doing right thing; remember Moses & Jethro (Ex. 18:13-27)
more than simply knowing right from wrong; must know what means will bring about a right end
major theme – righteous ruler will bring about justice, deliverance from oppression, relief for poor and needy (see v. 2, 4, 12-14)
more when we get to v.12-14 – significant God-given task given to civil authority: relief from oppression
important to notice sequence: justice and righteousness, then peace (3)
word translated peace is shalom, not simply cessation of hostilities; includes idea of prosperity
will be no lasting peace or prosperity where there is no commitment to true justice and righteousness – examples multiply of attempts at peace without right underlying foundation
Solomon did get it right for a time: 1 Kings 4:25 “And Judah and Israel lived in safety, from Dan even to Beersheba, every man under his vine and under his fig tree, all the days of Solomon.”
righteous government and true religion are mutually supportive (5)
duty of good citizen to pray for and support good government
good government encourages Christian behavior in non-Christians; Rom. 13:3-4
righteous government is good for everyone (6-7)
blessing and prosperity and peace are characteristics of the “kingdom” under a good king
not because the king makes it happen – result of God’s blessing on faithful leader and those under his care
compare: nations committed to just and righteous government with ones committed to other principles; now compare standard of living, relative prosperity, etc.
two recent examples: Burundi, Paraguay; has God withheld material blessing because of their corruption?
B. with universal acclaim v.8-11
God give the king international respect – ability and opportunity to exercise broad influence
Solomon’s dominion: 1 Kings 4:21, 24 “Solomon ruled over all the kingdoms from the Euphrates to the land of the Philistines and to the border of Egypt. …For he had dominion over all the region west of the Euphrates from Tiphsah to Gaza, over all the kings west of the Euphrates.”
Solomon’s influence: 1 Kings 4:34 “And people of all nations came to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and from all the kings of the earth, who had heard of his wisdom.” 1 Kings 10:7 Queen of Sheba: “but I did not believe the reports until I came and my own eyes had seen it. And behold, the half was not told me. Your wisdom and prosperity surpass the report that I heard.”
the leader of nation that has reputation for doing what is right will have a large stage
Solomon was consulted by other world leaders because of his reputation for wise dealings
gave him opportunity to influence world affairs, degree of influence way out of proportion to Israel’s size
can all be lost overnight – look at next generation: Jeroboam, Rehoboam, divided kingdom and almost instant idolatry
C. with beneficence v.12-14
why are there poor and needy? why is there oppression? short answer: it’s the nature of sin
typical way of getting ahead is at expense of others; consider Rehoboam: 1 Kings 12:11 “And now, whereas my father laid on you a heavy yoke, I will add to your yoke. My father disciplined you with whips, but I will discipline you with scorpions.”
increase in evil increases oppression; e.g., brick making “industry” in India – wages can never pay off indebtedness
solution is not a handout, is not welfare or food stamps or socialized government
is a government that makes injustice unprofitable and rewards righteousness at all levels
one that implements practices and policies that are beneficial to all who would do good, provides a way out of oppressive situations
it’s government’s responsibility to see that poor and needy, the defenseless, are treated justly, protected from oppression – from those who prey on, take advantage of those in need
the ruler / government that follows basic principles in this psalm and Rom. 13:1-4 will experience blessing and prosperity and peace
D. with longevity v.15-17
God give the king long life and a long dynasty
who wouldn’t want to live in a place like that? under a benevolent ruler like Solomon started out?
prayer is that good ruler will live long and prosper, continuing along same godly course, then be followed by others who do likewise
prayer is also that God would continue to pour out blessings on the nation blessed with such a leader
E. closing doxology v.18-20
here’s the big goal: “let the whole earth be filled with His glory.”
and what better conclusion to prayer than praise: we pray to the one who deserves praise, who accomplishes amazing things, who should be worshiped by all his creatures
can pray this confidently: when the whole earth is filled with his glory, remainder of psalm will be fully realized
doesn’t take more than 2 or 3 generations to figure out: no mortal is gonna pull this one off on global scale
however,… doesn’t let us off hook for doing our best in all levels of government from local on up and praying earnestly for those in positions of authority
every governing authority whether Christian or pagan is under God’s supreme authority, subject to his direction; God does respond to our prayers
we live in the tension between already and not yet:
already fulfilled in Solomon but not fully – elements of Psalm-prayer seen in Solomon’s reign (1 Kings 3 & 4), but,… he turned away from God; his dynasty went downhill from there
already fulfilled in Christ, but not yet fully – he won victory over sin and death, has ascended to his throne, but…. his kingdom has not yet fully come
“This is the Kingdom for which the world still waits. It is a perfect order which has never yet been established, because the ultimate rule of God has never yet been recognized and obeyed. This was surely all in the view of Jesus when He taught us to pray for the coming of the Kingdom. The One King has come, and men would not have Him to reign. Therefore, notwithstanding all the best and highest efforts of man without Him, the needy are still oppressed, and peace and prosperity are postponed. To us the song of this psalm is a prophecy of hope. We have seen the King, and we know the perfect Kingdom must come, for God cannot be defeated.” G Campbell Morgan
When the King returns: 1) God’s righteousness and justice will be the norm for all in new heavens and earth; 2) all people on earth without exception will honor and serve their King willingly and perfectly; 3) God’s blessing will be enjoyed universally: Rev. 21:3-4“Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.”; 4) this is it forever, this King’s reign will be eternal, the whole earth will be filled with his glory.