A Reflection on Psalm 72.1-7 by Canon Rob,
4th December, 2nd Sunday of Advent
We are now in the Church’s season of Advent: these four weeks full of expectation and wonderful hymns, like “O come, O come, Emmanuel” with its chorus, “Rejoice, rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.” For Christians, Christ is Emmanuel: the Hebrew word meaning “God [is] with us.” As we recalled just two weeks ago, we also celebrate Christ as King and today’s psalm is all about the king. We only use the first seven verses, but verse 11 says, “All kings shall fall down before him; all nations shall do him service.” So it is easy to read Psalm 72 with Jesus very much in our minds.
However, it is likely that the author of Psalm 72 has King Solomon in mind. Indeed, the heading says that it is a psalm of Solomon who prayed, above all else, for the gift of wisdom. [See 1 Kings 3.5-9.] So, as we reflect upon verses 1 – 7, we can see that they describe the ideal king. He will be just, care for the poor, rescue those in need, defend his country against oppressors and bring about peace. Certainly Solomon was one of the great kings of Israel and his name and example live on. Yet, again as you reflect upon these verses and think of Christ, our King, you might also want to read Luke 4.16-19 where Jesus joins the people in the synagogue in his home town and reads to them from the prophet Isaiah [Isaiah 61.1-2]: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free.” Christ is not just “a king”, but “The King” whom all others kneel before.
But, still in the season of Advent, we are in danger of getting ahead of ourselves, having in our minds the image of the 3 Kings who visit the child Jesus at Bethlehem. Let us wait patiently for that moment, and instead continue to reflect upon the verses of our psalm for today, especially on verse 6 which may seem strange and out of context. In the second paragraph above we saw what the attributes are of the ‘ideal’ king. Now the prayer continues, “May he come down like rain upon the mown grass, like showers that water the earth.” God’s promise to King David, Solomon’s father, was that his kingdom would be prosperous. So in verse 6, that is likened to the rain which stimulates growth. [See 2 Samuel.3-4] Those who are subjects of the king will flourish for all time. We find the same sentiment in Psalm 92 verse 12: “The righteous will flourish like a palm tree, and shall spread abroad like a cedar of Lebanon.” Cedar trees can grow to become giants which last a great many years and in the psalm they are a metaphor for the kingdom, under this king, which will grow from strength to strength and last for ever.
Verse 5 of today’s psalm puts this beautifully: “May he live as long as the sun and moon endure, from one generation to another.” We find this echoed in the Lord’s Prayer when we say, “For thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory, for ever and ever.” During this season of Advent we are looking forward to the coming of Christ both at Bethlehem and at the Second Coming when, as we say in the Nicene Creed: “He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead” and remembering our psalm today, the Creed continues, “and his kingdom shall have no end.” Without doubt, Solomon was a wise and good king, even more so than his father before him. However, the real King of Israel and subsequently the whole world, is God. In our own day and in this United Kingdom, Charles is now King but he reigns under the authority of God. God’s Kingdom may not be of this world, but His Son, Christ The King, came to show us the Kingdom. Through the coming of Christ, God’s reign is here.
“The advent of our King our prayers must now employ,
and we must hymns of welcome sing in strains of holy joy.”
[Hymn 633 in Complete Anglican Hymns Old and New]