“Give your love of justice to the king, O God,
and righteousness to the king’s son.
Help him judge your people in the right way;
let the poor always be treated fairly.
May the mountains yield prosperity for all,
and may the hills be fruitful.
Help him to defend the poor,
to rescue the children of the needy,
and to crush their oppressors.”
Psalms 72:1-4 NLT
Psalm 72 was written by Solomon, David’s second son from his marriage with Bathsheba. This Psalm is a prayer with three interwoven themes, instructions to the king, prosperity for all, and justice and provision for the poor. But do these themes have any relevance for Western societies today?
Regarding instructions for the king we can overlay them onto our democratic system and its political leaders. The Psalmist lists love of justice, righteousness, treating people fairly and judging in the right way as being qualities that leaders should adhere to. So when the opportunity comes to vote for our leaders, we should look for these qualities in the candidates, praying for God to help us in the selection process. And it reminds us that we should pray for our political leaders, that they will faithfully follow God’s ways.
One word that repeatedly crops up in the Psalm is “May”. It’s a word that is full of a prayerful aspiration for something good to happen. An expression of hope. A yearning for better times. Verse 3 sets out a prayer for prosperity, with a picture of the mountains and hills providing a fruitful source. Prosperity for everyone, not just the favoured few. This is a prayer for today as well. Many parts of our world today are experiencing poverty. Famines and diseases are rife. Wars destroy what little some people have. And we have a terrible imbalance between the rich and the poor nations. So we must pray for all people, and provide from our resources what we can. But there is a wider, more prevalent, poverty. Poverty of spirit is a universal problem, affecting all nations, whether rich or poor. Jesus highlighted the “poor in spirit” in the first of the Beatitudes. Such people realise their need for God, and can approach Him with open hands to receive His riches, the prosperity found in His Kingdom.
But in this Psalm, Solomon writes about how the leader should protect the poor in his nation. It is interesting that Solomon didn’t pray for the poor to become rich and prosperous. He accepted that in spite of the prosperity of the nation, there were still poor, needy and oppressed people, and he prayed for the leader to do what was necessary to look after them. Though Western societies are generally rich and prosperous, we still have poor people who are needy and oppressed. Jesus said in John 12:8, “You will always have the poor among you…”. And that is certainly today’s experience. The solution has evaded every generation since Solomon. But as God’s people, we must pray and help those in need in our communities and families.
There is perhaps a prophetic hint of the Messiah’s reign to come in this Psalm, with its reference to the “ends of the earth” in verse 8. That is when we will see the reality of the prayers of this Psalm fulfilled.