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Epiphany A Psalm

Psalm 72:1-7, 10-14

Kelvin St. John | Professor of Practical Theology, MidAmerica Nazarene University

I am writing this the week that Donald Trump became president elect of the United States. This was the most acrimonious presidential election in the history of the United States. Hopefully, we will never experience another one like this. However, as culture continues its sad trajectory, I am more cynical for future elections. Both candidates, this election cycle, are deeply flawed. I have been telling students, family, and friends that I did not vote for the president; rather, I voted for the party platform and the vice presidential candidate I preferred. A poor excuse, I realize.

While there has been much complaint and commiseration concerning the candidates and the process that allowed them to rise to the top of their parties, there has been little, if any, commentary offered as to what the attributes and personal character of an ideal president would look like. I have been in conversations bemoaning the ethical and moral downhill slide of the presidency. Perhaps we should consider what an ideal president would be.

Background Material:

Israel knew what the perfect or ideal king would look like. Psalm 72 is one of ten royal psalms (2, 18, 20, 21, 45, 72, 101, 110, 132 and 144:1-11). Some of the royal psalms offer praise for the king, some include lament, but all feature the person and the office of God’s chosen (anointed) king. In this royal psalm, we have a prayer God’s people can pray for God’s ideal king. There are several points covered in the prayer: “justice, prosperity, long life, universal dominion with power over his enemies and submission for other kings and their nations, the prayers of his people, fame and admiration” (Mays 236).

This psalm may have been written for the coronation of a king or for an anniversary of the king’s ascendancy to the throne. It’s important to note that this psalm focuses on the relationship of God’s chosen king with God’s chosen people. This differs from Psalm 2, where the relationship featured is that of the king and God (Tate 222).

One of my favorite commentators and Old Testament scholars, Derek Kidner, who is now with the Lord, noted: “As a royal psalm it prayed for the reigning king, and was a strong reminder of his high calling; yet it exalted this so beyond the humanly attainable (e.g. in speaking of his reign as endless) as to suggest for its fulfilment no less a person than the Messiah, not only to Christian thinking but to Jewish” (254). This means that, as we study this psalm, we will consider how to apply its prayer to an ideal human ruler, but we will also push past the earthly rulers to consider our spiritual leader, King Jesus himself. He is the King of the “already, not yet” Kingdom of God with us. While some verses and phrases of Psalm 72 may be prayed for our pastors, we surely can pray this psalm for our King Jesus.

The prayer of this psalm expresses David’s hopes and expectations for his descendants who will follow him to the throne. Read Psalm 72 through one time as if you are standing in David’s sandals. See how it might have sounded to him.