Endow the king with your justice, O God, the royal son with your righteousness.
May he judge your people in righteousness, your afflicted ones with justice.
A Good King
Back when my oldest son was in college, I had the distinct privilege of being invited out for coffee on three separate occasions by three of my son’s friends, who “just wanted to ask me a few questions.” I was highly intrigued, deeply flattered and even a bit excited…at the first invitation. I remember sitting down with Ryan, wondering what kinds of challenging young-adult-life problems I might be able to help him navigate. Unfortunately, I soon discovered I was there to help him with a paper for his Political Science class. He needed to interview a pastor and I was the only one he knew, so here we were…thanks! Needless to say, when the second and third coffee invitations went down the exact same way, my excitement and somewhat inflated ego went down with them!
One of the questions Ryan asked me was, “According to the Bible, what’s the best form of human government?” I flipped through the possibilities in my mind for a moment and finally answered, “I think the Bible suggests that a benevolent and beneficent monarchy is best. It honors and represents God and it anticipates and foreshadows God’s kingdom.” I was pleased with my answer…my self-esteem began to recover. So then, after explaining what benevolent and beneficent meant, I added, “The only problem is…there’s no such thing.” Truth be told, every kingdom, every caliphate, even our own constitutional representative democracy—every form of human government–share the same fundamental flaw…humans!
The writer of Psalm 72 envisions the perfect answer to Ryan’s question. There is disagreement about the author of this psalm. At the inscription, it says, “Of Solomon,” suggesting he is the author. At the end of the song, however, the post-script reads “This concludes the prayers of David, son of Jesse.” If King David wrote this psalm, it is a hopeful coronation prayer for his son and successor Solomon. If Solomon is the source, it’s a prayer for himself as he steps into his impossible calling. Both arguments have merits. But both sides agree that the psalm ultimately point to a different King…a good King…the perfect kind of government and governance.
The song-writer (David, Solomon, whomever), begins the psalm by asking God to give this new King, this “royal son,” a coronation gift; namely, justice and righteousness. Specifically, the writer asks for the new king to be endowed with GOD’S JUSTICE and GOD’S RIGHTEOUSNESS.
What would THAT look like?
Well, the psalmist says it would result in prosperity for the people (vs. 3), compassion for the poor and afflicted, safety and security for everyone (vs. 8-9). It would be the best kind of human government possible…a just and righteous King…a benevolent and beneficent monarchy. It’s a great, heart-felt prayer and a noble, God-honoring desire. The only problem is…there’s no such thing! Despite all his good points, David hadn’t measured up to that kind of good king, and in spite of all the expectations and prayers, Solomon wouldn’t measure up either. [For more, read Solomon: Love Him or Hate Him, by Tim Mackie]
Maybe the question, “Who wrote Psalm 72?” isn’t the most important question to ask. Maybe a better question is, “Who on earth is Psalm 72 about?” Since we are only six days this side of Christmas, I bet you can guess the answer to that question!
Jesus is that Good King the author of Psalm 72 hopes and prays for. Jesus is the “royal son,” the one who will “deliver the needy who cry out, the afflicted who have no one to help.” (vs. 12) Jesus is the one who will “take pity on the weak…save the needy from death…rescue them from oppression and violence.” (vs. 13). Jesus—not David or Solomon or anyone we vote into office—is the one who will “endure as long as the sun,” the one who will rule “to the ends of the earth.” (vs. 8) “His name (Jesus) will endure forever…and all nations will call him blessed.” (vs. 17).
“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever.” (Isaiah 9:6-7)
“Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross! Therefore, God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:6-11)
The writers of another, more contemporary song ask the question, “How many kings step down from their thrones…how many greats become the least…for me.” There is only one answer. And there is only one Good King. His name is Jesus. Do you know him? He is not only everything you are looking for, He is everything the world needs—this Christmas and every day after. He is the Way, the Truth and the Life (John 14:6); he is the Living Water. Stay thirsty for Him!
SONG: How Many Kings
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