“O God, give your judgment to the king … that the mountains may yield their bounty [shalom] for the people …” Psalm lxxii:1, 3.
God is the Source of every nation’s prosperity [Hebrew, shalom]. The key to this prosperity lies in a ruler’s or a government’s commitment to deliver God’s justice to the poorest in the land. Psalm 72 reminds us that it is the duty of every citizen to pray for rulers and bless them so that they might in turn usher in true peace and prosperity.
This psalm, written by David, was scripted to be used by God’s people as a prayer for Israel’s king. The primary petition was that God would give Israel’s king a divine sense of judgment or wisdom so that the king might “govern your people with justice, your oppressed with right judgment.” Every ruler needs the prayer support of God’s people to fulfill his sacred duty of rescuing the weakest in his domain from injustice and oppression. The rich and the powerful or a vociferous majority will always cry for attention. However, a righteous ruler should keep his ears close to the ground to hear the whimper of the oppressed, the voiceless and the insignificant minority. His mandate is to “save the poor and crush the oppressor” (v 4) because “precious” is the poor man’s “blood in his sight.“(v 14).
The timely dispensation of justice to the poor has a divinely ordained connection with the prosperity of any country—“that the mountains may yield their bounty for the people, and the hills great abundance.” The Hebrew word shalom is rightly rendered as bounty (NAB*) or prosperity (HCSB^). Shalom is the Hebrew concept of total well being of all people, all creatures and the Earth. Shalom, or total environmental nirvana, will not come about through human planning, innovation and austerity. It is God’s gift to the land of a ruler who is in tune with the justice agenda of the King of the Universe. In the words of Marvin E. Tate, “When the king gives the life of God’s justice to the people, then the blessings of fertile land and far-reaching power follow.”
The second part of the prayer requests God to grant long life to the king (v 5); the final petition is for the extension of the king’s domain. Although this psalm is not commonly regarded as a Messianic psalm, there are messianic overtones in it. How else do we understand the prayer that Israel’s king should “endure, like the moon, through all generations” (v 5) or that his dominion should extend to “the ends of the earth?” (v 8; Cf Psalm 2:8). This prayer for greater dominion is based on the nation’s observation that their king “rescues the poor when they cry out” and shows “pity to the needy and the poor” (v 12-13).
If Psalm 72 has messianic overtones, Israel’s prayer – “may all kings bow before him [the king], all nations serve him” – might be understood in term’s of the Messiah’s worldwide mission. It is particularly encouraging to note that “desert nomads [too] will bow before [the king]; his enemies will fall before him in the dust.” (v 9 NLT) No one – not even His enemies in Arabia – can withstand the Messiah’s march to global dominion. “May all the earth be filled with the LORD’S glory.” (v 19). This should be the prayer of God’s people today.
Do we pray for our rulers and kings? Or, do we just sit back and criticize them? Our rulers deserve to be “prayed for continually, [and] blessed day by day.” (v 15). God will answer our prayers and usher in His glory and shalom.
“First of all, then, I ask that supplications, prayers, petitions, and thanksgivings be offered for everyone, for kings and for all in authority, that we may lead a quiet and tranquil life in all devotion and dignity. This is good and pleasing to God our savior, who wills everyone to be saved and to come to knowledge of the truth.” 1 Timothy 2:1-4 NAB.
*New American Bible
^ Holman Christian Standard Bible