Psalm 72:1-7, 10-14
Give the king your justice, O God,
and your righteousness to a king’s son.
May he judge your people with righteousness,
and your poor with justice.
May the mountains yield prosperity for the people,
and the hills, in righteousness.
May he defend the cause of the poor of the people,
give deliverance to the needy, and crush the oppressor.
May he live while the sun endures,
and as long as the moon, throughout all generations.
May he be like rain that falls on the mown grass,
like showers that water the earth.
In his days may righteousness flourish and peace abound,
until the moon is no more.
May the kings of Tarshish and of the isles render him tribute,
may the kings of Sheba and Seba bring gifts.
May all kings fall down before him,
all nations give him service.
For he delivers the needy when they call,
the poor and those who have no helper.
He has pity on the weak and the needy,
and saves the lives of the needy.
From oppression and violence he redeems their life;
and precious is their blood in his sight. (NRSV)
This is a coronation psalm. It is known as a psalm of Solomon. Scholars believe it was written for the coronation ceremony of the King of Judah or the anniversary celebration of such. Could it possibly have been written by Solomon for his father, King David? If so, what a wonderful gift. But did you notice? He slipped in a little prayer for the king’s son too.
It is a prayer, of course, and it starts with a request for justice for the King. Is it a prayer for the protection of the king, that no one will perpetrate deceit against the king? Or is it a prayer that the king will do justice? That the king will be able to tell what the right path is and choose to take it? It might be either. And maybe it is both. There is no doubt that a king who does justice in his dealings with others will be setting the tone for the kingdom; making it more likely the subjects will treat one another justly. The leader sets the tone for the country. The prayer that the king will lead the people with fairness and righteousness is not only a prayer for the welfare of the king but of all the people. Goodness trickles down. Prosperity for the whole nation benefits everyone. This is a prayer for abundance and joy for the king and for the kingdom.
It is a pretty psalm. You may well appreciate the power and the purpose of this psalm as a prayer for the king. I suspect the lectionary committee chose this psalm for Epiphany Sunday because this is when Jesus was recognized by the foreign ‘kings’ as the newborn king. But what does it have for us? What does it have to say to today’s world?
I think we can read it two ways: First, as subjects in the Kingdom of God, we represent our King, so a prayer for the King to do justice is a prayer for the King’s subjects to do justice. We are called to act on the King’s priorities. We are to look out for the poor, take time for the needy, look kindly toward those who are in need of forgiveness or guidance. We are to serve the interests of peace and not our own interests. We are to recognize that all we are and all we have is with the generosity of the King, so to be grateful rather than greedy.
The second way that this psalm speaks to us is that we are to pray for our leaders. We should pray for our president and our members of Congress, for our governor and our state officials, and for the mayor and other local leaders. We do well to pray for God’s guidance for them, for them to hear the cries of the poor and oppressed and bring relief to them instead of increasing the burdens of the poor, for the government to make a difference for the good of society, for the leaders to work for the people, giving themselves for the good of the nation.
Either way, this psalm reminds us that the world turns on justice, compassion, and kindness. It may look otherwise at times, maybe even most of the time! But the truth is the truth and love is the most powerful power in heaven and on earth. Justice is love in action. Righteousness is love’s moral agent. Practice those and you will be part of something pretty great… making the world a better place.
Blessings to you,
Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.