Psalm 72 is a prayer. Penned by King Solomon, David’s son, it expresses a desire for the king to be empowered by God to rule the nation in a godly way. It describes an ideal ruler who will establish the key priorities for God’s people. A number of themes leap out at the reader.
The prayer implores God to make justice and righteousness a key distinctive of the king’s reign. ‘Justice’, mentioned in verses 1 and 2, and ‘righteousness’, mentioned in verses 1, 2 and 3, are an important pairing of attributes. They sum up the conduct of the king and the impact his conduct will have. Righteous conduct will result in justice spreading throughout the land. Verse 4 describes the kind of effect an abundance of this pair of characteristics will have: the poor are defended, the children of the needy are delivered, the oppressor crushed. Justice removes, indeed eliminates, injustice. The same theme is repeated in verses 12-14 with deliverance, help, compassion, salvation and redemption being provided for the poor, weak, needy and helpless. The overriding message is that the life of every individual is precious and valued in the sight of this king.
The effect of such a rule, though, is not intended simply to create a paradise for the people of God. This perfect reign is described in vast and comprehensive language. Verses 8-11 describe the geographical extent of the kingdom. It will stretch across the known world from coast to coast and from the Euphrates to the ‘ends of the earth’ (v8). Desert tribes and enemies will be humbled before the king. Kings from surrounding nations will recognise his authority and pour their wealth out before him. In fact, so extensive will be his authority that Solomon prays, ‘May all kings will fall down before him, all nations serve him’ (v11) and declares that ‘all nations will call him blessed’ (v19) (emphasis mine).
But the reign is not just vast geographically. It is also vast chronologically. The king in this prayer has a reign that lasts throughout the generations (v5), a long life (v15), an enduring name (v17) and fame which continues until the sun expires (v17)! What is in view is a king whose reign has transformational impact in the present and a legacy which extends into eternity.
Two final observations are worth noting. Firstly, the king is not in this for himself. In fact, the abundance of his reign causes the people to ‘blossom in the cities’. It is a reign where the righteous flourish and where peace abounds (v7). This is a selfless reign where the good of others is paramount. Secondly, the strength and resources to reign like this come direct from the Lord. In verse 1 it is ‘Your [the Lord’s] justice’ and ‘Your righteousness’ which are requested in prayer.
Clearly, no human king can fulfil this prayer! No earthly kingdom will look like this glorious picture. But a day is coming when such a king will reign in righteousness and will usher in a kingdom of peace and justice. A day will come when there will be ‘there is no longer any death, no longer any mourning, or crying, or pain’ (Revelation 21:4). The king’s name is Jesus!
So Solomon provides us with an example in this Psalm – we should pray for our leaders. It is easy to notice the wars, trials, difficulties and injustices in the world. But it is in the midst of this that we should pray for the establishment of a glorious kingdom where justice and righteousness rules, where peace exists for all and where no-one is oppressed, mistreated, side-lined or abandoned. It is possible for God’s priorities to win out. It is possible for our leaders to be men and women who have the same agenda as God. And so we should pray for them.
And we should pray for Jesus to quickly come and establish His righteous rule. Because ultimately He alone is the Perfect King.
‘Your kingdom come’.