John T. Willis

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Psalm 72:12-17

The prayer for the king in Psalm 72 concludes in verses 12-17 [remember that verses 18-19 contain the doxology at the end of Book II=Psalms 42-72 of the Psalter, and that verse 20 is the conclusion of an earlier collection of "Prayers of David" which have been subsequently incorporated into the present Book of Psalms]:

"May he [the king ruling on Zion] deliver the needy who cry out,
the afflicted who have no one to help.
May he take pity on the weak andt he needy
and save the needy from death.
May he rescue them from oppression and violence,
may their blood be precious in his sight.
Long may he live!
May gold from Sheba be given him.
May people ever pray for him
and bless him all day long.
May grain abound throughout the land;
on the tops of the hills may it sway.
May its fruit flourish like Lebanon;
may it thrive like the grass of the field.
May his name endure forever;
may it continue as long as the sun.
May all nations be blessed through him,
and may they call him blessed."

1. A vital, primary responsibility of the king is to protect those whom the rich and powerful oppress and exploit. All human beings are equal--made in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27). No human being has the right to exalt herself/himself over others, to oppress others, to treat others with hatred or disrespect, to look down on others, to show disdain toward others. Godly leaders will treat all alike, and will strive to maintain justice and righteousness among all--see Isaiah 1:10-17; 58:1-12; Amos 5:4-17; James 1:26-27; 2:1-13.
2. We all need the prayers of others, whatever our responsibilities in life. The Bible often summons God's people to pray for political and religious officials--see for example, Jeremiah 29:4-7; 1 Timothy 2:1-2.
3. God's people are on earth for the single purpose of bringing God's blessings to others. God told all three Patriarchs (Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob): "By you and your descendants (the Israelites) shall all the families of the earth BE BLESSED" (Genesis 22:15-18; 26:2-5; 28:13-14). The Bible repeatedly emphasizes this responsibility to God's people--see for example, Exodus 19:3-6; Isaiah 19:23-25; Jeremiah 4:1-2; Matthew 5:13-16; Philippians 2:14-16; 1 Peter 2:9-10.
Only by being united as one spiritual family can the people of God be a blessing to the world. May God help us practice this unity in him.

John Willis

Friday, August 19, 2005

Psalm 72:8-11

[Personal Note to "Blogees"--I have not done a blog for a couple of weeks because my wife and I have moved to Oxford, England to teach in the ACU Study Abroad Program this fall. At present, I am at a loss for the New Revised Standard Version because it is in one of our bags which we have not yet retrieved as a result of the British Air Lines workers strike about a week ago--so please bear with me].

The second paragraph in Psalm 72 is a prayer that God will bless Zion's king in his interrelationships with other nations. The composer says in verses 8-11:

"May he [the king on Zion] rule from sea to sea
and from the River to the ends of the earth.
May the desert tribes bow before him
and may his enemies lick the dust.
May the kings of Tarshish and of the isles bring tribute to him;
may the kings of Sheba and Seba offer him gifts.
May all kings bow down to him,
may all nations serve him."

Three specific ideas stand out in this prayer:
1. There is a progression from a smaller to a larger geographical range in these verses.
a. Verse 8 describes the "ideal" borders of Israel--from the Dead Sea to the Mediterranean Sea, and from the Euphrates River to the Brook of the Arabah (here called "the ends of the earth," meaning "the end of the land [of Canaan]," as the note in the NIV recognizes)(see Genesis 15:18-21; Deuteronomy 1:7; Joshua 1:4), which became a reality only in the reigns of Solomon (1 Kings 4:21, 24) and Jeroboam II of North Israel (2 Kings 14:25; Amos 6:14).
b. Verse 9 envisions a slight expansion beyond these borders to include desert tribes to the south and east of Canaan, like the Ammonites, Edomites, and Moabites.
c. Verse 10 broadens the territory even more to include Sheba and Seba to the south in Arabia (see 1 Kings 10) and Tarshish to the west on the southern tip of what is today Spain (see Psalm 48:7; Jonah 1:3).
d. Finally, verse 11 includes all nations and peoples ("all kings").
2. Verse 8 brings out the disparity between what God intended for his people and his people's own vision. God intended to give them much more territory than they usually had, because their dreams were much smaller than God's willingness and ability to provide for them.
3. The reason the psalmist can pray that Israel's king might be ruler of all nations (verse 11) is because the God whom Israel's king serves is the universal God: the God who created all nations, and who is in control of all nations. How would it change our lives if we really believed our God is in control of all nations and all peoples?

John Willis