Psalm 72:1-7, 18-19 (NRSV)
Prayer for Guidance and Support for the King
1 Give the king your justice, O God,
and your righteousness to a king’s son.
2 May he judge your people with righteousness,
and your poor with justice.
3 May the mountains yield prosperity for the people,
and the hills, in righteousness.
4 May he defend the cause of the poor of the people,
give deliverance to the needy,
and crush the oppressor.
5 May he live while the sun endures,
and as long as the moon, throughout all generations.
6 May he be like rain that falls on the mown grass,
like showers that water the earth.
7 In his days may righteousness flourish
and peace abound, until the moon is no more.
18 Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel,
who alone does wondrous things.
19 Blessed be his glorious name forever;
may his glory fill the whole earth.
Amen and Amen.
Someone once offered a compliment to me after a sermon. “I like your sermons. They aren’t political,” they said. I did take it as a compliment for how they meant it. I don’t talk “politics” from the pulpit. In our over politicized culture, where everyone and everything is judged through the political lens, I tend to steer away from political issues in sermons. And, I usually think I am right in doing that.
However, when I read parts of the Bible, like Psalm 72, I wonder if I am right. Psalm 72 smacks of politics. Psalm 72 is thought to be a coronation Psalm, a song that would have been sung at the crowning of a new King, or the celebration of a King’s anniversary of his reign. It quickly turns political. “Give the king your justice, O God, and your righteousness to a king’s son. 2 May he judge your people with righteousness, and your poor with justice.” The people are praying for the new King, but praying a very specific prayer that the new King practice the Hebrew words for justice and righteousness, mishpat (justice) and zedekah (righteousness). The word mishpat denotes when we care for the “least” in our society, that justice is only justice when EVERYONE is included in the provision. Zedekah (righteousness) means living in the “right” relationship with God by living in right relationships with each other. If God is to be loved, the proof of that love is how well we are caring for the lower rungs of the societal ladder. God’s will for us to love him and love each other must be embodied in how we treat the poor and the marginalized.
When we read this Psalm today through the lens of our Christian faith, we quite naturally see Jesus as the true King. Jesus is the embodiment of the hopes of the people, that the true King will establish mishpat and zedekah. But, what if, as Romans 13 says, that the political leaders of our day are given their authority and are instituted of God? Does the prayer of Psalm 72 call us to pray for our President, and our Congressional representatives, and our Mayor and Council, and all elected representatives to work for mishpat and zedekah? Maybe Psalm 72 is a call to get political!?