Solomon’s Prayer

“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.

Poverty

Oh, the joys of those who are kind to the poor!
The LORD rescues them when they are in trouble.
The LORD protects them
and keeps them alive.
He gives them prosperity in the land
and rescues them from their enemies.
The LORD nurses them when they are sick
and restores them to health.
Psalm 41:1-3 NLT

The very first line of the first verse in this Psalm associates joy with showing kindness to poor people. Sadly, for people in affluent societies, being poor is associated with negative connotations, and perhaps unkind judgements about why they are “poor”. We tend to look at poverty as being a lack of finances, but that is to neglect so many other forms of being poor. There are, perhaps, a few hints in these verses about other kinds of poverty. The poverty of being in trouble. The poverty of being in physical danger. The poverty of sickness. I would add too the poverty of being lonely, without friends or family. 

In Matthew 5, Jesus said to His disciples, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” The “poor in spirit” are those people who recognise that they lack the resources God puts value on. Heavenly currency is not anything of earthly value, like gold (we read in Revelation that it is used to make roads!). Having spiritual currency starts with the realisation that we have nothing to offer God of any value. Because of our sins we are destitute before Him and have to recognise this by coming to Him in faith for the salvation He has offered through Jesus. In Matthew 6, Jesus encouraged His disciples to build up “treasure in Heaven” through their service to Him.

But what was David referring to in these verses in Psalm 41? In verse 1, he was, I think, referring to Godly people in his day, who were looking after the needy people around them. And through them God was providing for them. Although God can directly provide the resources people need for life, most of the time He chooses to deliver His provision through His people. So we are encouraged to be His servants by looking out for those who are poor, in our communities, in our families, supplying fellowship, a helping hand. Nursing those in need. Providing a listening ear when needed. The opportunities are endless. There is a young woman in my community who every week, uses her lunch hour to walk the dog of an old lady, now immobilised following a fall. A young woman banking spiritual currency for her future.

So we, as God’s people, have a challenge today. As the King’s servants, what does He want us to do to relieve the poverty around us? There may not just be financial needs, there will be others as well. In our communities, who can we find who is “poor”?