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Psalm 72

Till kingdom come

It’s easy to become cynical about our politicians’ love of power and the pig’s trough, but to no avail. Far better to pray, as this psalm teaches us, that goodness and justice will flourish throughout our government.

A Solomon psalm.

Endow the king with your just rule, God
righteousness to your royal son
2 enabling him to judge your people rightly
and your poor with justice.
3 May the mountains yield well-being
the hills justice for all.
4 May he defend the downtrodden
advocate for the children of the poor
and crush their oppressors.
5 May he reign for untold ages—
for as long as the sun shines
and the moon lights up the night sky.
6 May he be like rain falling on new-mown fields
like showers moistening the earth.
7 May the just flourish under his rule
and everyone know well-being
till the moon shines no more.
8 May he reign from sea to sea
and from the River[1] to the ends of the earth.
9 The Bedouin tribes will submit to him[2]
and all his enemies lick the dust at his feet.
10 The kings of Tarshish and other far-flung lands
will bring him tribute
the kings of Sheba and Seba offer him gifts.
11 All the kings will bow before him
and all nations will serve him.
12 He’ll rescue the poor when they cry out to him
the oppressed who have no one to help them.
13 He’ll look with compassion on the poor and lowly
and will save the lives of the needy.
14 He’ll redeem them from violence and oppression
because their blood is precious to him.
15 Long may he live!
May gold from Sheba be given to him
prayers ascend on his behalf continually
and blessings be invoked on him all day long.
16 May there be abundant grain in the land
right up to the mountaintops.
May its fruit thrive like the fruit of Lebanon
and his people flourish in the city
like grass in the field.
17 May his name be blessed forever
outshining the sun.
May every people be blessed by him
and all nations call him blessed.

18 Blessed be Sovereign Yahveh
Israel’s God, who alone performs miracles.
19 May his glorious name be blessed forever
and the whole earth be filled with his glory!
Amen and amen.

20 Thus end the prayers of David, son of Jesse. [3]

Charged with maintaining order for the common good, political leaders and their police, judicial, military and other backers have always found it easy to abuse their power. In every political system, they’re easily seduced to embrace self-serving politics, justified by an ideology of entitlement that renders the poor dispensable. They thus disenfranchise people, exploit them through unfair taxation and turn their youths into cannon fodder for their military adventures—all to support the governing elite’s lust for wealth and power. The old seer Samuel had warned about this. And one king after another, from Saul to the end of David’s dynasty, proved Samuel right.[4]

Likely written for Solomon’s coronation, this psalm spells out what God called Israel’s monarchy to and prays that it may be so. The king must share his divine master’s moral values, protecting the poor from injustice and creating an environment where everyone can prosper equally. By so doing, he moves in sync with both God and creation, as the land helps make wholeness, peace, prosperity and righteousness pervasive.

Israel realized a bit of its destiny over the nations in Solomon’s day. But by the time they’d returned from exile, the Jews realized that the psalm’s ideal and universal dimensions would be fulfilled only by God’s promised Messiah.

Grant us just government, Lord, with your blessing. Help me to want what you want, to value the lives of the poor and disenfranchised as I do my own life. Help me step back from the trough long enough to learn how I can help right any evils I’m complicit in. May your kingdom come. Amen.

During your free moments today, pray this prayer:

May his glorious name be blessed forever
and the whole earth filled with his glory!


[1] That is, the Euphrates.

[2] Being nomadic, Bedouins have earned the reputation of being the most unmanageable tribes of all.

[3] Verses 18-19 give the concluding doxology for not just the psalm, but also the second book of Psalms and the collection of David’s psalms in Books I and II. David’s other psalms are scattered throughout the other three books.

[4] Walter Brueggemann, “Wake-Up Call for Nation-States,” in S. Heinrichs, ed., Wrongs to Rights: How churches can engage the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, (Winnipeg, MB: Mennonite Church Canada, 2016) 71, 73.

Why Yahveh?

Every translator of the Psalms must decide how to handle God’s personal name, YHWH, which occurs repeatedly in its Hebrew text. Translators of the King James Version usually translated it “LORD” (all caps) and occasionally transliterated it (badly) as “Jehovah.” Modern translations, likewise, either translate or transliterate it. While translating it aims to make it more accessible to readers, transliterating it is more faithful to the text since it’s not a word at all, but rather God’s uniquely personal name. I’ve chosen to transliterate it to root it more firmly in the biblical story as the name—meaning the “self-existent One”—that God revealed to Moses on Mount Sinai. This name set Israel’s God apart from all the gods of Israel’s neighbors.

Personal names are, well, very personal. Even the sound of a name can evoke strong emotion. One problem with YHWH is that we aren’t sure how it was pronounced since Jews long ago stopped saying it in order better to hallow it. In transliterating it, I follow the advice of my esteemed Hebrew professor, Raymond Dillard. He advocated transliterating it as Yahveh—pronounced yah·vay—arguing that following the modern Hebrew pronunciation of its third consonant makes the name sound more robustly Jewish than Yahweh.
May these psalms be a light to you in dark times. You can read more of Mark Robert Anderson's writings on Christianity, culture, and inter-faith dialogue at Understanding Christianity Today.