This psalm is a prayer for the king. The title is ‘Of Solomon’. That might mean it was written by Solomon. However, some of the commentators believe it was written by David for Solomon to mark his coronation and to ask the Lord’s blessing on his reign. And that seems to make sense, because the reference to the royal son in verse 1 fits Solomon. But, of course, it’s hard not to read this psalm without thinking of King David’s Greater Son, Jesus Christ, who perfectly fulfils what this psalm says about the royal son.
It can be divided into four parts. In verses 1 to 7, the psalmist asks God to give the king justice and righteousness. In verses 8 to 14, the psalmist asks God to extend the king’s influence throughout the world. And in verses 15 to 17, the psalmist asks God to give the king long life. Verses 18 to 20 are the final part of the psalm and they mark the end of the second book of the psalter. When we were studying Psalm 41, which comes at the end of the first book of the psalter, I mentioned that the psalms are divided into five books and each of the five books ends with a doxology or an expression of praise to God. In fact, the fifth book of the psalter ends with five psalms of praise to God. And so, the second book of the psalter ends with this expression of praise to the Lord God, the God of Israel, who alone does marvellous deeds. Praise be to his glorious name for ever; may the whole earth be filled with his glory.
But let’s turn now to study the first part, verses 1 to 7.
Verses 1 to 7
In verse 1 the psalmist asks the Lord to endow the king with your justice and the royal son with your righteousness. In other words, give the king your justice and righteousness. The king needs justice and righteousness in order to rule well, because who wants a king who is not just and who wants a king who does what is wrong instead of what is right? The king needs justice and righteousness in order to make good decisions, so that he will treat his people fairly; will settle disputes justly; and will turn from evil; and will do what is right in the sight of God. And, of course, the psalmist wants the king to have God’s justice and righteousness. What he does and what he decides must reflect the justice and righteousness of God. In Deuteronomy 17, God spoke through Moses and said that when a new king takes the throne, he must write for himself a copy of the law so that he can have it with him at all times and read it all the days of his life so that he will learn to revere the Lord and to follow carefully all the words of the law. If the king carefully follows the words of the law, then his reign will be characterised by God’s justice and righteousness.
And so, according to verse 2, if the Lord gives the king justice and righteousness, then he’ll be able to judge the people with justice and the afflicted ones with righteousness. He’ll do what is right for the poor and the needy who come to him for justice. And the whole land — represented in verse 3 by the mountains and the hills — will bring prosperity and the fruit of righteousness. The word translated ‘prosperity’ is shalom, that Hebrew word which speaks of peace and well-being and wholeness. And so, if the king does what is just and right, then the Lord will bless the whole land and the people who live there. One commentator suggests that the mountains are normally barren. Not much grows high up on a mountain. But the Lord will so bless the land that even the mountains will become fertile fields.
And the king will defend those who are afflicted: the poor and needy among the people. He’ll save their children from injustice and trouble and will crush the oppressor. Do you remember how Samuel warned the Israelites that a king like the nations have will only take and take and take from them? He’ll take their sons and daughters and their land and their livestock and their crops and everything else. A king like the nations have will be greedy. But this king, the king of Psalm 72, is the exact opposite, because he cares for the poor and needy and instead of oppressing them, he will help them; and instead of ignoring their cries, he will get justice for them.
He will endure as long as the sun and the moon, the psalmist says in verse 5. There’s a footnote beside the word ‘endure’ which tells us that the word should perhaps be ‘You will be feared’. In that case, he’s saying that, because of the king, the people in every generation will fear the Lord. The king will set them an example of godliness and they will be pleased to follow his example. So, instead of rejecting the king’s God, the people are willing to worship him too. And the king will be such a blessing to the people that he will become like rain falling on a mown field and like showers falling on the earth. He will not make them tired and weary by the decisions he makes, but what he does and decides will be refreshing and beneficial for them. And the righteous will flourish. When the king is wicked, the wicked will flourish. But when the king is righteous, then those who do what is right and who love what is right will flourish. And once again, the word translated ‘prosperity’ in verse 7 is that word shalom. So, the king’s reign will bring peace and well-being and wholeness and contentment and tranquility and all those good things to the land.
Before moving on I should say that while the NIV regards verses 2 to 7 as statements about the king, other English translation regard them as requests. So, may he judge your people. Let the mountains be prosperous. May he defend the afflicted. May they fear you. May he be like rain. Since the psalm begins with a very clear request to God to give the king justice and righteousness, then it perhaps makes sense to regard the following verses as requests as well. So, this is a prayer to God for the new king. The same applies to verses 8 to 11, which the NIV regards as statements, but which can also be taken as requests to God for the king.
Verses 8 to 12
And in verses 8 to 12, the psalmist asks God to extend the king’s influence throughout the world. So, he will rule — or may he rule — from sea to sea and from the River to the ends of the earth. When he refers to ‘the River’, he’s referring to the Euphrates. And the expressions ‘from sea to sea’ and from ‘the River Euphrates to the ends of the earth’ refer to the whole world. He asks for desert tribes to bow before him in submission and for his enemies to lick the dust: an expression to convey how they will be humbled before him. And the psalmist anticipates how kings from distant lands will honour him by coming and paying tribute to him. We should remember how the Queen of Sheba heard about Solomon and wanted to meet him for herself to see if everything she had heard about him was true. And we’re told she was overwhelmed by everything she saw when she came to Jerusalem. And she presented him with gifts. And then the psalmist adds in verse 11 that all kings will bow down to this king and all nations will serve him. All other kings of the earth will submit to this one king.
And why would all other kings be prepared to submit to this one king? Because, according to verse 12, this one king delivers the needy who cry out to him and he delivers the afflicted who have no-one to help them. He takes pity on the weak and the needy and saves the needy from death. He rescues them from oppression and violence, because their blood — that is, their life — is precious in his sight. The kings of the earth are willing to submit to this one king, because he’s such a good king. His reign reflects the glory of God and God’s justice and righteousness, because doesn’t the Lord promise to deliver the needy who cry out to him? And doesn’t the Lord promise to deliver the afflicted who have no-one to help them? Doesn’t the Lord take pity on the weak and the needy? And doesn’t he save them from death? This king’s reign reflects the reign of God above. And so, all other kings of the earth will submit to him, because he’s such a good king who does what God does.
Verses 15 to 17
In verses 15 to 17, the psalmist asks God to give the king long life. So, long may he live. He asks the Lord to bless him and his kingdom. And he asks that his name will endure for ever. And may all nations be blessed through him and may they call him blessed. And so, his reign, will be a blessing to all the nations. His godly influence will extend beyond the borders of his own nation to affect the whole world.
Verses 18 to 20
And, as I’ve said, the psalm ends with a doxology: an expression of praise to God, who alone does marvellous deeds.
The commentators think this psalm was written by David for Solomon. And certainly it fits Solomon, because he was the royal son. And the Lord gave him the wisdom he needed to rule wisely. Whenever those women can to see him, after one of their children had died, he displayed wisdom and justice and righteousness in the way he handled their dispute and got to the truth of the matter. And the Lord blessed him and his people, so that the land enjoyed peace in his days and great prosperity. Think of the vast quantities of gold which were available to him to build the temple. When the Queen of Sheba visited him, she remarked ‘How happy your men must be!’ How happy they must be to have a great and wise king like Solomon. And not only Queen Sheba, but other kings and queens came to see him and to pay tribute to him. We’re told in 1 Kings 10 that the whole world sought audience with Solomon to hear the wisdom God had given him. And year after year, everyone who came brought him a gift.
And so, this psalm fits Solomon. He is the royal son and the Lord heard and answered David’s prayer for him and blessed him.
But, the psalm is fulfilled in an even greater way by Jesus Christ, who is King David’s Greater Son. Being God the Son, the second person of the Trinity in human flesh, he possesses divine justice and righteousness, because he is God. And because he is God, his reign perfectly reflects the glory of God and God’s justice and righteousness. And his name will endure for ever, because he is the Eternal God, without beginning and without end; and though, as a man, he died, yet he was raised to live and to reign forever. And all nations will be blessed through him, because whoever believes in him is blessed by God with forgiveness and the hope of everlasting life. And the wise men from the east who came to pay tribute to him after his birth were a foretaste of what is happening now, in these the last days, as the gospel message is proclaimed throughout the world and people from all nations are being gathered into his kingdom. And so, we read in Revelation 7 of that great multitude in heaven right now, which is made up of people from every nation who have been washed and cleansed in the blood of the Lamb, who is Jesus Christ the King. And in Revelation 21 we’re told that in the new Jerusalem to come, which is the church of Christ the King in glory, the nations will walk by the light of the glory of God; and the kings of the earth will bring their splendour into it. And the leaves of the Tree of Life, which is in the new Jerusalem to come, are for the healing of the nations. And so, it’s a picture of how, in the end, people from every nation will come to Christ the King and will be included in his everlasting kingdom. And there they will have shalom: true peace and well-being and wholeness and contentment and tranquility.
And so, we should give thanks to God for Christ our King who lives and reigns forever. And we should pray for Christ’s kingdom to be extended throughout the world and that more and more people in every nation will come to believe in him and yield their lives to him. And we should look forward to the day when Christ comes again to receive the honour and praise he deserves from every nation. And while we wait for that day, we should take comfort in the knowledge that Christ our King delivers the needy and the afflicted and he takes pity on the weak and saves them, because precious to him is the life of his people.