May 21: Psalm 72

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May 21: Psalm 72

The righteous King

Long meter double 88.88 D                     In Christ Alone
Before the Throne of God Above
Old 100th (Doxology), p. 99

O God, Thy justice give the king, his reigning son Thy righteousness;

He to Thy people right shall bring, with justice shall Thy poor redress.

The heights shall bring prosperity, the hills the fruit of righteousness;

He’ll save the poor, the child in need, and crush the men who them oppress.

Till sun and moon no more are known they shall Thee fear in ages all;

He’ll come as rain on meadows mown and show’rs upon the earth that fall.

The just shall flourish in his day; while lasts the moon shall peace extend;

From sea to sea shall be his sway, and from the River to earth’s end.

The nomads bow to him as king, and to the dust his foes descend;

The isles and Tarshish tribute bring, and Sheba, Seba gifts shall send.

All kings shall down before him fall, all nations serve and keep his word.

He’ll save the needy when they call, the poor whom no one else has heard.

He’ll show the poor his sympathy, and save the needy by his might;

From fraud and force he’ll set them free; their blood is precious in his sight.

So he shall live; a gift of gold from Sheba they’ll before him lay.

They’ll him in constant prayer uphold, their blessings on him chant all day.

On hilltops sown a little grain, like Lebanon with fruit shall bend;

New life the city shall attain; she shall like grass grow and extend.

Long as the sun his name shall last. It shall endure through ages all;

All nations shall in him be bless’d; bless’d all the nations shall him call.

Now bless-ed be our God alone. Jehovah, God of Is-ra-el;

For only He has wonders done; His deeds in glory far excel.

And bless-ed be His glorious name, long as the ages shall endure.

O’er all the earth extend His fame; amen, amen, for evermore.

Psalm 72 is often referred to as a “messianic” psalm, in the sense that it is concerned with God’s “anointed” king. Considering only the simplest reading of this psalm, it is difficult to escape the impression that it was composed for use at ceremonies of royal coronation, the ritual point of dynastic transition: “Grant Your justice to the king, O God, and Your righteousness to the king’s son.” The title added to this psalm does, in fact, ascribe it to Solomon, the first successor to the Davidic throne. Two narrative sections of Holy Scripture readily come to mind in connection with the theme of Psalm 72 – 2 Samuel 7 and 1 Kings 3, Nathan’s great prophecy about the royal house of David, and Solomon’s prayer for the “wise heart.” Both aspects of Psalm 72, as well as the two narrative texts that it reflects, proved to be more than slightly problematic in Israel’s subsequent history. Solomon’s vaunted wisdom didn’t last even to the end of his own lifetime; similarly, what is to be said about the permanence of the reign of David’s household over God’s people? More than half of that kingdom broke away shortly after the death of David’s first successor, nor was any Davidic king ever again to reign on his throne after the fall of Jerusalem in 586 BC. How were the promises in this psalm to be understood? As Christians, of course, we believe that the inner substance of all these prefigurings finds its fulfillment in Jesus the Lord, the goal of biblical history and the defining object of all biblical prophecy. The angel Gabriel announced to Mary that “the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end” (Luke 1:32-33). As for Solomon, was he the wise king? Well, in measure, to be sure, but now behold, one greater than Solomon is here! No matter how successful his reign, no other king in history fulfilled the hopes outlined in Psalm 72. The Kingdom here described is truly not a kingdom of this world. (Reardon, p. 141-142)

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