/ messiah / Gentle Reformation

The King of Kings

Psalm 72

1 Give the king Your judgments, O God,
         And Your righteousness to the king’s Son.
 2 He will judge Your people with righteousness,
         And Your poor with justice.
 3 The mountains will bring peace to the people,
         And the little hills, by righteousness.
 4 He will bring justice to the poor of the people;
         He will save the children of the needy,
         And will break in pieces the oppressor.      
 5 They shall fear You
         As long as the sun and moon endure,
         Throughout all generations.
 6 He shall come down like rain upon the grass before mowing,
         Like showers that water the earth.
 7 In His days the righteous shall flourish,
         And abundance of peace,
         Until the moon is no more.     
 8 He shall have dominion also from sea to sea,
         And from the River to the ends of the earth.
 9 Those who dwell in the wilderness will bow before Him,
         And His enemies will lick the dust.
 10 The kings of Tarshish and of the isles
         Will bring presents;
         The kings of Sheba and Seba
         Will offer gifts.
 11 Yes, all kings shall fall down before Him;
         All nations shall serve Him. 
 12 For He will deliver the needy when he cries,
         The poor also, and him who has no helper.
 13 He will spare the poor and needy,
         And will save the souls of the needy.
 14 He will redeem their life from oppression and violence;
         And precious shall be their blood in His sight. 
 15 And He shall live;
         And the gold of Sheba will be given to Him;
         Prayer also will be made for Him continually,
         And daily He shall be praised. 
 16 There will be an abundance of grain in the earth,
         On the top of the mountains;
         Its fruit shall wave like Lebanon;
         And those of the city shall flourish like grass of the earth. 
 17 His name shall endure forever;
         His name shall continue as long as the sun.
         And men shall be blessed in Him;
         All nations shall call Him blessed. 
 18 Blessed be the LORD God, the God of Israel,
         Who only does wondrous things!
 19 And blessed be His glorious name forever!
         And let the whole earth be filled with His glory.
         Amen and Amen.

Solomon, the author of Psalm 72, ruled Israel at its height of unity and prosperity.  His wealth, fame, and wisdom easily surpassed all the kings who followed him.  But as this Psalm unfolds its vision of a glorious king and his prosperous realm, it becomes clear that this is more than self-display or courtly pomp.  Psalm 72 leaves Solomon behind and rises to a prophetic vision of the King of Kings and His endless reign.

David was promised a son whose throne would be established forever (2 Sam 7:13).  Now Solomon, David’s son, anticipates this promise being fulfilled by one greater than himself who is yet to come.  He begins this Psalm with a prayer for the king and his Son, still looking to the future for the promised Son of David.  What follows is a prophetic glimpse of the kingship of Christ as it is now unfolding in the world and as it will ultimately be displayed in its fullness and glory.

The first five verses describe the reign of the Messiah as perfectly righteous and just.  This is a welcome reminder that there is only one truly righteous Ruler, and that our Lord even now governs the world for His purposes, according to His wisdom, and for the good of His church.  It is also a sobering reminder for us not to trust in human leaders to fulfill every need, and not to follow self-styled political messiahs who promise more than they can deliver.  As a human government grows, so also grows its own sense of saviorhood until it reaches an outright charade of divinity, such as in ancient Rome.  There are modern examples – to say no more – of such political ambitions, but Psalm 72 lifts our eyes much higher to behold the one Ruler whose promises are always sure, whose reign is always righteous, and who is truly the Savior of His followers.

Another prominent theme of this Psalm is the Messiah’s justice for the poor (vss. 2-4, 12-14), which is a group more often defined in the Bible on spiritual terms rather than economic terms (e.g. Ps 22:26; Lu 6:20; Jas 2:5).  They are humble believers with wealth of a different and greater kind, and their truest need is perfectly met by King Jesus.  This is a timely reminder, in our days of economic obsession and class envy, that money does not define us.  Our great King looks upon those who are “poor in spirit” and promises them the kingdom of heaven (Matt 5:3).

The authority of Christ is displayed in its true dimensions, being both eternal (vs. 5, 17) and limitless (vs. 8).  All the kings and nations of the earth are pictured as paying homage to Him, giving us a depiction of what Philippians 2:10 plainly states, that every knee will bow, and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.  Included in that “every” are those who will submit to Him only when compelled by His justice, but the image of Psalm 72 is a gracious one.  It shows us the worldwide reach of His salvation and an outpouring of willing obedience by the poor and the powerful alike.  This psalm teaches us that the grace of Christ is extended not to all people without exception but to all kinds of people without distinction.

Verse 6 is perhaps the most beautiful image of the psalm: “He will come down like rain on the grass…like showers that water the earth.”  The kingship of Christ creates the conditions in which all that is good may flourish and grow.  This is the flip-side of the “rod of iron” (Psalm 2:9).  As a king He brings justice to the nations but He also brings newness of life and true vitality, like rain falling on a dry land.  The abundant crop of fruit and wheat pictured in verse 16 furthers the image of the vitality of His gracious kingship.  He is “a life-giving Spirit” (I Cor. 15:45).