Psalm 72 – Justice and Right Judgment for God’s Anointed
The core of this psalm is its opening words: it is a prayer on behalf of the king for God’s judgment and justice. In biblical Israel, as well as in other nations of the ancient Near East, kings and rulers were considered God’s representatives and responsible for divine order on earth. The prophets looked to God’s Anointed to care for the poor and needy, to deliver justice and righteous judgments, and to rule with equity and uprightness (cf. Isa 26:7-8; Jer 9:24; Amos 5:14-15; Mic 6:8 ). How well this psalm reflects their hopes and dreams! It was believed that when such wise governance became the order of the day, there would be peace in the land, freedom from enemies, and prosperity for all. This psalm is rightly categorized among the Messianic psalms, expressing all that Israel hoped for in the Davidic rulers. Such hope is expressed with a degree of hyperbole here: grain waving on the mountain tops (v. 16), a population as numerous and hardy as grass (v. 16), the homage of foreign nations (vv. 10-11) and enemies put down to the ground (v. 9). All these images bespeak an enduring hope for a ruler after God’s own heart. In v. 14, the Hebrew verb translated as “redeem” carries a particular meaning: it evokes familial ties requiring that the head of a clan rescue blood relatives from danger, deprivation or captivity. This was how God’s lieutenant, the king, was expected to act toward those under his charge. All of this takes on special meaning for the Christian who sees the messianic hope for the Davidic kingship fulfilled in the person of Jesus Christ, who took on our flesh and redeemed us by the shedding of his own blood (Rom 3:25; 5:9; Eph 1:7; 2:13; Col 1:20; Heb 9:22). The liturgies of Advent fittingly recall both the hopeful longing of the people of Israel and Christian anticipation of the return of Christ by the frequent use of this psalm. The gospels are replete with examples of how Jesus’ own care for the poor and the needy fulfill this psalm through teaching, healing, and caring for those in need (Matt 14:14-21). And as this psalm looks forward to one who will act as God acts, we realize that we can fulfill this psalm by our union with Christ, becoming God’s eyes, hands, and words for those in need of love, kindness, mercy, or forgiveness.
Psalm 72 (71)
1 Of Solomon.
O Gód, give your júdgment to the kíng,
to a king’s són your jústice,
2 that he may júdge your péople in jústice,
and your póor in right júdgment.
3 May the móuntains bring forth péace for the péople,
and the hílls jústice.
4 May he defénd the póor of the péople,
and sáve the chíldren of the néedy,
and crúsh the oppréssor.
5 He shall endúre like the sún and the móon
through áll generátions.
6 He shall descénd like ráin on the méadow,
like shówers that wáter the éarth.
7 In his dáys shall jústice flóurish,
and great péace till the móon is no móre.
8 He shall rúle from séa to séa,
from the Ríver to the bóunds of the éarth.
9 Let the désert-dwellers fáll befóre him,
and his énemies líck the dúst.
10 The kíngs of Társhish and the íslands
shall páy him tríbute.
The kíngs of Shéba and Séba
shall bríng him gífts.
11 Before hím all kíngs shall fall próstrate,
all nátions shall sérve him.
12 For he shall sáve the néedy when they crý,
the póor, and thóse who are hélpless.
13 He will have píty on the wéak and the néedy,
and save the líves of the néedy.
14 From oppréssion and víolence he redéems their sóuls;
to him their blóod is déar.
15 Lóng máy he líve!
May the góld of Shéba be gíven him.
They shall práy for hím without céasing,
and bléss him áll the dáy.
16 May gráin be abúndant in the lánd,
wáving to the péaks of the móuntains.
May its frúit rústle like Lébanon;
may the péople flóurish in the cíties
like gráss on the éarth.
17 May his náme endúre foréver,
his name contínue like the sún.
Every tríbe shall be blést in hím,
all nátions shall cáll him bléssed.
 Blést be the Lórd, God of Ísrael,
who alóne works wónders,
 ever blést his glórious náme.
Let his glóry fill the éarth.
Prayer for Psalm 72
O God of compassion, whose love and care are perfectly manifest in Christ our Redeemer, strengthen us to follow his example as instruments of your peace in a world hungering for your presence. Permit us serve others with joy, grateful that we bear your mercy to those in need, through Christ our Lord. Amen.