The Great King over all the earth
Psalm 72 contains an apocalypse. Some of you who are familiar with the psalm might be scratching your heads. There is no mention of any destruction, wrath, or chaos in this psalm. Let me remind everyone of the basic idea of apocalyptic literature. An apocalypse is an unveiling, a throwing back of the curtain to reveal something ordinarily unseen. In apocalyptic literature, we get a glimpse into the mind of God. In prophetic apocalyptic, we get a snapshot of the hidden things which will occur yet in the future based on what we know of God’s innermost character. While destruction, devastation, and wrath will come during the Day of the LORD, this isn’t the sum total of prophecy.
After examining Psalm 72, I believe it to be written by Solomon. 72:20 seems to be an epilogue to the second book of the psalms of which Psalm 72 is the last. It should be pointed out that not every psalm in the second book (Psalms 42-72) was written by David. So even though some may think that David wrote Psalm 72 based on verse 20, I see the heading as meaning “Of Solomon” just the way that many of the psalms are “Of David”.
My reasoning is the description of the kingdom which is contained in Psalm 72. Although prophecy could be by anyone to whom God imparts knowledge, it seems that God many times used immediate circumstances to prophesy of future realities. One example is the rejection of David by his countrymen. These psalms prophesied of the rejection of the Messiah, Psalm 22, 41, and 69 for starters. Another example is the victory to which David led the children of Israel after his rejection period was over, see Psalm 18, 24, and 118. These psalms are prophetic of the future victory of the Messiah over the kingdoms of this world. In letting the text speak forth, I see the age of Solomon overshadowing the entire song.
1 Give the king your justice, O God,
and your righteousness to the royal son!
2 May he judge your people with righteousness,
and your poor with justice!
3 Let the mountains bear prosperity for the people,
and the hills, in righteousness!
4 May he defend the cause of the poor of the people,
give deliverance to the children of the needy,
and crush the oppressor!
Verses 1-4 compose the first section. The Hebrew structure of poetry can be quite beautiful even in the English language. Verse 1 shows the request for impartation of divine qualities to a human king. The two qualities are justice and righteousness. Verse 2 demonstrates that these qualities are for this royal son to use as he administers his position as the king over God’s people. Righteousness and justice are bestowed for this king to judge God’s people and more specifically, God’s poor people.
This is apocalyptic in the sense that here is a picture of Christ, the Messiah. While the plea was originally for Solomon to be able to rule the kingdom entrusted to him with righteousness and justice, ultimately there is a picture here of a king who will fulfill the messianic prophecies by being indwelled with these divine qualities. Messiah will rule over God’s people with righteousness and justice, paying attention to the poor in particular.
The mountains and little hills are pictured as bringing peace and righteousness to the people of this kingdom. He (the king) will bring justice to the poor, he will save the children of the needy, and he will break in pieces the oppressor. Solomon gained national fame when he used his divine wisdom to judge the cause of two prostitutes, I Kings 3:16-28. Socially speaking, neither of these women should have any stance in the kingdom. They were poor lawbreakers with very few morals. Yet Solomon heard their case and judged in such a way as to render a perfect verdict. Here is a picture of the Messiah. His kingdom will be established and the poor will receive righteous justice in their cases, even if they don’t deserve it. Needy children will be one of the chief concerns of the Messiah. Any oppression will be dealt with harshly.
5 May they fear you while the sun endures,
and as long as the moon, throughout all generations!
6 May he be like rain that falls on the mown grass,
like showers that water the earth!
7 In his days may the righteous flourish,
and peace abound, till the moon be no more!
Verses 5-7 show the relationship between the king and his subjects. They, the citizens of the kingdom, will fear this king as long as the sun and moon endure, throughout all generations. This is an everlasting relationship. The king’s influence will have the same effect as showers upon the grass and crops of the land. During this time, the righteous shall flourish, along with an abundance of peace. So here is the Messiah ruling over God’s people. God’s people fear this Messiah. The Messiah’s rule has the same effect upon the people of the kingdom as showers have upon the grass. The Messiah’s kingdom is an everlasting kingdom. The righteous flourish and abound, so by way of comparison, it seems that the unrighteous and wicked would wither away under the Messiah’s rule. The Messiah is nourishment and life to His people.
8 May he have dominion from sea to sea,
and from the River to the ends of the earth!
9 May desert tribes bow down before him,
and his enemies lick the dust!
10 May the kings of Tarshish and of the coastlands
render him tribute;
may the kings of Sheba and Seba
11 May all kings fall down before him,
all nations serve him!
Verses 8-11 begin to focus on the all encompassing nature of this kingdom. Clearly we have language which would extend his rule to the entire earth. Yet not all nations are immediately considered a part of his kingdom. There are those who are in the wilderness who will eventually bow before him. There are also those who are deemed his enemies who will be forced into submission to him. The kings of the coastlands will bring presents. Other kingdoms will recognize this king and offer gifts. Yes, ALL KINGS shall fall down before him and ALL NATIONS will serve him.
The mention of Sheba here is quite insightful. It reminds us of the Queen of Sheba who came to visit Solomon at the height of his glory and fame, I Kings 10:1-13. She came because she heard of a kingdom whose king was the wisest man on earth. She came because she heard that the subjects of his kingdom were truly happy and content with what they had. She came because she had heard of the God of Israel.
This is the picture of Messiah’s kingdom. When Messiah begins to rule, He will deal with oppression by forcing His enemies to lick the dust. But what then? What follows is an age of prosperity beginning with the nation of Israel, but eventually extending to Gentile nations and kingdoms as well. They will hear of the fame of this King and seek out His wisdom. The Messianic Kingdom is not an instantaneous transformation of society into the perfect kingdom. This psalm clearly demonstrates the progressive nature of the physical rule of the Messiah. The Messiah will be so wise in His dealings that Gentile kings will seek out His wisdom during the Messiah’s earthly rule. Ultimately all nations will bow before the Messiah, but that is the end result of His physical reign, not the beginning of it.
The mention of Tarshish (along with the coastlands) also reminds us of the reign of Solomon. Solomon had a navy of Tarshish which served the purpose of bringing wealth into the land of Israel, I Kings 10:22. Solomon ruled the commercial world through his superior methods of trade. Here is a mighty navy of ships not for war, but for prosperity. Peace had been established between the nations so that countries could deal with each other without fear. The result was the exaltation of Israel as a nation with Gentile nations willingly submitting to an inferior place. They realized as long as Solomon was at the head of the nations that they could benefit from his wisdom by submitting to his superiority. Again we see Messiah, and a peek into the Messianic Kingdom.
12 For he delivers the needy when he calls,
the poor and him who has no helper.
13 He has pity on the weak and the needy,
and saves the lives of the needy.
14 From oppression and violence he redeems their life,
and precious is their blood in his sight.
Verses 12-14 remind us of the integrity of the kingdom. I use the word integrity with a double entendre. We think of integrity as referring to moral soundness which is one application. But this is also how the kingdom maintains its unbroken character. The kingdom of this king has an integrity, an inner unbreakability due to its moral character. This moral character is defined here. The king concerns himself with the needy, the poor, the oppressed, and those who have no helper. The death of a street child with no parents will be most precious in his sight. One who suffers from a violent attack will be one of his chief concerns, no matter that person’s social status. He will redeem, he will buy back the poor from a life of oppression and violence. That’s the inner integrity of this kingdom. The seemingly most insignificant person receives full attention of the king. If this is how the king acts, how should the king’s citizens act? A kingdom consisting of a society of people who refuse to oppress anyone would be unbreakable. If everyone’s chief concern was their brother then no one would be neglected.
Wouldn’t many third world countries beg to be under the authority of a king like this? The poor and oppressed would rise up and choose to submit themselves to this benevolent ruler. This Messiah would then have the responsibility to care for the poor of that country as if they were His own countrymen. Those who were doing the oppressing would be dealt with as His enemies, but the poor would be redeemed, set free, liberated from tyranny, and learn to trust in the God of Israel.
15 Long may he live;
may gold of Sheba be given to him
May prayer be made for him continually,
and blessings invoked for him all the day!
16 May there be abundance of grain in the land;
on the tops of the mountains may it wave;
may its fruit be like Lebanon;
and may people blossom in the cities
like the grass of the field!
17 May his name endure forever,
his fame continue as long as the sun!
May people be blessed in him,
all nations call him blessed!
15-17 are as one section in the ESV, but NKJV has each verse standing separate. Reading from the ESV, they seem to go together being proclamations by the citizens of the kingdom. These people want this king to live long, even forever. They want the wealth of the nations to flow unto him. They want prayers to be made on his behalf every day. They want his name to be blessed continually. They want a dual abundance to flow out from the land, both agriculturally and socially. They want their king to be famous in all the earth. They want other people to be blessed as they trust in this king. They want all nations to call him blessed.
If you knew of a kingdom where crime was dealt with perfectly, where everyone received fair treatment, and where food was in abundance, wouldn’t you either want to move there, or to have this nation have a place of preeminence over all nations? If there were a nation whose citizens were happy and content, in which there was no civil strife; advancements in society would catapult this nation above all others. If everyone in that society lived for the good of others, wouldn’t other societies find the cure to their woes by looking to them? By making this nation the center of the world, it would ensure financial prosperity to the entire earth.
18 Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel,
who alone does wondrous things.
19 Blessed be his glorious name forever;
may the whole earth be filled with his glory!
Amen and Amen!
Verses 18-19 close the psalm with blessings upon God. The whole earth will be filled with the glory of the God of Israel, and this psalm proclaims in part how it will be accomplished. This kingdom is a real kingdom. It is the kingdom of the Messiah. When the Messiah came proclaiming His kingdom, He taught them, “Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth.” I hope you enjoy reading Psalm 72 as it apocalyptically unfolds for us the nature of the Messianic Kingdom. His rule will not perfect the earth in a day, but all nations will eventually bow down before Him. I hope I don’t sound like a Post-Millennialist. All of this will occur after the Pre-Millennial coming (presence) of our LORD Jesus Christ. It will happen here on earth, sometime in the future.
Have fun and stay busy – Luke 19:13
-The Orange Mailman