A Psalm for Our "Kings"
Psalm 72:1-2. Give the King your justice, O God, and your righteousness to the King’s Son; that he may rule your people righteously and the poor with justice; that the mountains may bring prosperity to the people, and the little hills bring righteousness.
Often categorized as a “royal psalm” because it mentions an earthly king and his heir, Psalm 72 is a prayer for those royal ones, a prayer that they will be instruments of God’s righteousness and justice so that even the land—the mountains and the little hills—can flourish and contribute to the prosperity of the people. Though we do not live in a monarchy, and though our history and civics classes teach us to value the separation between church and state, this psalm offers much to consider.
First, it offers an image of a government that is “godly”—that is, so grounded in justice, mercy, compassion, and fairness that everyone prospers. While I don’t expect to see any government perfectly measure up to that standard anytime soon, the ideal is nevertheless worth naming and striving for. Moreover, the psalmist’s hope for the king offers itself as a good model of a prayer for our current leaders—whether they be spiritual leaders or public officials; corporate officers or scientists; environmental advocates or teachers at all levels; or medical workers, law enforcement personnel, and any others charged with promoting and protecting the common good. This psalm reminds me that there is a relationship between faith and civics, and that even if I have little ability to influence the powers of this world, I can at the very least lift them into the light of God through my prayers.
Second, there is the matter of inner “kings”. Who or what rules me? What impulses work in me for good or for ill? Who guides my ambitions? What drives my decisions about how I use my time, energy, and attention? Who informs how I spend money? What guides my consumption of food, water, and material goods? Do I have inner kings worthy of my support? Do some need toppling? Are there inner kings for whom I am called to pray?
Then there is Jesus, “king of kings, yet born of Mary,” as we sing in one of my favorite hymns. We move closer each day to that king, the babe born in Bethlehem. What is my relationship to and with him? What power does he have in my life? He comes among us that we might prosper— not, I think, in the sense of worldly riches but in a more basic sense of having an inner ease, being secure in his righteousness no matter what other circumstances surround us. How do I respond?
When you can, take a few minutes this week to read through Psalm 72, verses 1–7 and 18–19. (You can find it at https://lectionary.library.vanderbilt.edu/texts.php?id=2.) If you keep an Advent journal, you might want to jot down some of the “kings” in your life, whether they are inner or outer ones—and then pray that they too rule justly so that prosperity and righteousness might come to all God’s people.
Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence, Red Mountain Music