Almost every summer, our church preaches through the Psalms. This year I have been slowly going through the Psalms with a friend as well. I think we all have our most memorable Psalms that we turn to in time of worship, lament, or confession of sin. However, this year I was extremely moved and encouraged by a Psalm I had never enjoyed as much as I did this time around. That Psalm is Psalm 72.
The reason I loved Psalm 72 this time around was, you guessed it, the allusions in it to earlier Scripture. Not only that, the interconnectedness of the Psalm with all of Scripture. Due to the fact that I am preaching on this Psalm soon, I am purposely being short in this article, but I hope it whets your appetite to dive into this Psalm more for yourself.
Psalm 72 and Solomon
From the superscript (intro) to Psalm 72, as well as the last verse, I believe Psalm 72 is written by David as a prayer for his son Solomon. In this prayer, David is taking the covenant promises God made to him in 2 Samuel 7 to place David’s seed on the throne forever and to bring righteousness and justice to the kingdom, and is applying them to his son Solomon. In fact, if you read Psalm 72 alongside 1 Kings 8, you will see that much of David’s prayers line up with Solomon’s prayers at the dedication of the Temple. Psalm 72 also repeatedly calls for Solomon’s glory and fame to endure forever. David believed God’s covenant promises and expected them to be fulfilled in his own son.
Psalm 72 and Adam
Not only does David expect Solomon to fulfill the covenant promises of God, he also is remembering back to God’s call and promises to Adam in creation. In Genesis 1:26-28, Adam and Eve are commanded to rule and have dominion over the earth. As James Hamilton demonstrates, “…the Adamic dominion is the archetypal basis for various synonymous descriptions of how kings are to reign, and the one God will raise up to reign, across the Old Testament” (Hamilton, Typology, 148). Hamilton is demonstrating that Adam was always meant to be a king-type figure that all kings after him would imitate in ruling the earth. However, as Adam failed to protect the Garden of Eden and his bride from the serpent (Gen. 3:1-6), so Solomon gave into the serpent and failed to rule as he chose to worship idols over God (1 Kings 11:1-8). This left much of David’s longings for God’s covenant promises open to a King who would not just rule in righteousness and justice, but somehow do so forever.
Psalm 72 and Jesus
Once you see the connections between Adam, David, and Solomon, you cannot help but turn to the New Testament with eager expectation. Would Jesus be this King that God promised would come from David’s line?
The beautiful truth is that Psalm 72 only makes sense with Jesus in mind. Look at a few of the verses:
“Give the king your justice, O God, and your righteousness to the royal son! 2 May he judge your people with righteousness, and your poor with justice!” -Psalm 72:1-2
“May he have dominion from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth! 9 May desert tribes bow down before him, and his enemies lick the dust!” -Psalm 72:8-9
“For he delivers the needy when he calls, the poor and him who has no helper. 13 He has pity on the weak and the needy, and saves the lives of the needy. 14 From oppression and violence he redeems their life, and precious is their blood in his sight.” -Psalm 72:12-14
“May his name endure forever, his fame continue as long as the sun! May people be blessed in him, all nations call him blessed!” -Psalm 72:17
The entire Psalm points to the King that would come and rule and reign the way Adam, David, and Solomon should have. Jesus reigns through serving the needy, judging in righteousness, and promising a justice that will make all things right. Not only that, this King serves the most needy of all. He serves sinners who could not rescue themselves and he does so through the humiliation of the cross (Phil. 2:6-8). Yet, when he breathed his last he may have seemed like another failed king who would not fulfill the covenant promise God made to David that this righteous king would rule forever. Three days later, the King rose victoriously from the dead and eventually ascended to his proper place on the throne where he continues to serve his needy people through intercession (Heb. 7:25).
When we rightly understand this Messianic Psalm, we can rejoice and exult with Jesus’ disciple, Nathanael, by shouting, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” (John 1:49).