Psalm 72: The promised king
In this ongoing series, there are examples of Psalms where a verse from a psalm in the New Testament is applied to Jesus, while other verses clearly cannot refer to Jesus. Now we look at the opposite: a psalm that is declared applicable to an earthly king, but who can never find his complete fulfillment in him; it is only in Jesus that he is truly fulfilled.
The second book of the Psalms
We can divide the psalms into more than five books on further study, for which space is lacking here. The first two contain many psalms of David, while in the last three hardly any psalms are attributed to David. The second book is therefore concluded with the words "Here are the prayers of David, the son of Jesse" (Psalm 72:20). In the penultimate psalm of this book (Psalm 71), we see someone who is old and weak, as if the era with David is coming to an end. He looks back on his life and realizes that he will soon die. The following Psalm (Psalm 72) is then a summary of the promises made to him. Here David asks God's blessing for his heir to the throne, Solomon. He transfers the kingship, as it were. The picture you get from that is that David is at the end of his life, but that the promises do not stop with his death: with his son, there will be a realm of peace in which God's blessings will flow freely. This son is in the first instance Solomon, but the psalm will only become full reality when the promises are fulfilled with the true Son of David, who will reign on his throne.
A prayer for the king
A prayer just before or at the beginning of Solomon's kingship. It is a prayer to God that this king may really become a true successor to David. David was promised that God would give him peace on all sides and that he would also be the head of a dynasty, where a son from his line would be king forever. We see elements of this coming back in this psalm. But before being asked to make all these blessings a reality, is asked if the king is allowed to fulfill his task properly. This is typical of much that we find in Scripture. First, man must be willing to take a step himself before he can expect God to bless him richly. The first verses, therefore, deal with the king's duty to speak justice on behalf of God. Obviously the Law gave rules and regulations, but in daily life, there were disputes for which one sought the intervention of a judge. One of the most famous statements is that of Solomon in the dispute between two mothers.
When the people only lived in the country, God appointed judges. In the NBV this Bible book is called Judges. But when these judges did not turn out to be honest, the people asked for a king. According to the Law, the first task of a king was to have his own copy of the Law, to always have that in the neighborhood, and to read it regularly in order to base his case law on it (Deuteronomy 17:18). When Solomon is allowed to express one wish at the beginning of his government, he, therefore, asks for wisdom, just to be a good judge.
"Give your servant an attentive spirit so that I can rule your people and distinguish between good and evil, because how else could I speak justice to these immense people of yours?" (1 Kings 3: 9).
There was, of course, the risk that the rich would be favored, or the own circle favored. Hence the prayer:
"Give, O God, your laws to the king, your righteousness to the king's son. May he judge your people righteously, your poor people according to law and law ... May he do justice to the weak, offer salvation to the poor, but suppress the oppressor "(Psalm 72: 1-4).
This is followed by a few verses that may well apply to Solomon. In Kings, we are even shown a few fulfillments. Solomon becomes a king in high regard.
"The people of Judah and Israel were as numerous as grains of sand by the sea. The people had plenty to eat and drink and were happy. Solomon had dominion over all kingdoms between the Euphrates and the land of the Philistines, and to the border with Egypt. As long as Solomon lived, they were subject to him and paid him an estimate "(1 Kings 4: 20-5: 1).
Rulers from surrounding countries come to visit him with presents and to pay tribute to him. Seba is mentioned by name. But the psalm continues:
"May he rule from sea to sea, from the Great River to the ends of the earth. Let the desert inhabitants bow before him, his enemies lick the dust of his feet ... Let all the kings prostrate themselves before him, all nations serve him "(Psalm 72: 8-11).
Here, therefore, no mention is made of the area from the great river (the Euphrates) to the border with Egypt, but to the ends of the earth. It is no longer the local peoples who bring it to him, but all the nations. Of course, you can understand this as poetic freedom, but then we would miss an important lesson from Solomon's kingship.
Solomon as foreshadowing Christ
The two great kings of Israel's golden age are David and Solomon. And it is precisely from these two (and also only from them) that they are said to sit on the throne of God, as his representative. We read, among other things,
"So Solomon ascended the throne of the LORD, and followed up David his father as king, and met no opposition, and all Israel accepted him" (1 Chronicles 29:23).
David was a man after God's heart, who was faithful to God, but also a man who had too much blood on his hands to build the temple. Solomon was a man richly blessed by God, who reigned in peace over a vast area, and with unprecedented wisdom could lead God's people. Neither could they be a complete picture of the Messiah, but the combination of the positive elements of both tell us a lot about the kingship of Christ. Christ is clearly a fulfillment of the promise: a son of David who will rule over God's people until the need for kings ceases when Jesus hands over the kingship to his Father (see 1 Corinthians 15:24). We also see how verse 8 of the psalm is quoted in a verse that clearly speaks of the kingship of Jesus:
"Shout, Zion, Jerusalem, cry out for joy! Your king is approaching, clothed with righteousness and victory. He humbly arrives on a donkey. ... He will establish peace among the nations. His dominion extends from sea to sea, from the River to the ends of the earth "(Zechariah 9: 9-10).
The first part saw the people happening before his eyes, a week before the crucifixion - the evangelists point to the fulfillment of this - but the rest is still future for us, despite their expectation then.
A holy kingdom
In this series, we have previously looked at Psalm 2 (see this article). Also in it is spoken about the kingdom of Christ. But it describes just how Christ will deal with his enemies, how He can "break them with an iron rod, break them like a clay pot." However, this Psalm 72 gives a very different view of the kingdom of Christ. Here the blessings come to the fore, blessings we also encounter with Isaiah, for example. This psalm is in the form of a prayer, in the first instance for Solomon. In the second half of the psalm, however, the NBV also leaves this letter form and changes to a description. Yet with this translation, an important link with God's promises is lost. We have already seen how this messianic king is the ultimate fulfillment of the promise to David. But it is also a fulfillment of another promise from God. In verse 17 we read in the King James Version "and they [the nations] will be blessed in him". You may recognize the promise made to Abraham in this:
"And with your seed, all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have heard according to my voice" (Genesis 22:18 NIV).
In Galatians Paul shows that in some places the "offspring" of Abraham describes a few and not the entire people.
Yet many Christians have trouble imagining what this Kingdom will be like. How can there be oppressors who try to oppress the poor? Their problem comes partly because they expect that the inhabitants of the empire will be the saints (the faithful believers), those who receive eternal life at the Second Coming. But if we compare all descriptions, we clearly see that the empire will be populated by mortal people (see, for example, Isaiah 65 from verse 17). The task of the saints is to assist Jesus in his role as king:
"A king who rules righteously and leaders who lead according to the law" (Isaiah 32: 1).
The king describes Jesus, and the leaders are the ones who have been found fit to assist him in this.
Thanks for reading.
Christ in the Psalms - Psalm 2
Christ in the Psalms - Psalm 34
Christ in the Psalms - Psalm 45