For Those Who Govern
Give the king [knowledge of] Your judgments, O God,And [the spirit of] Your righteousness to the king’s son [to guide all his ways]. May he judge Your people with righteousness,And Your afflicted with justice. The mountains will bring peace and prosperity to the people,And the hills, in [the establishment of] righteousness. May he bring justice to the poor among the people,Save the children of the needyAnd crush the oppressor, Let them fear You [with awe-inspired reverence and worship You with obedience] while the sun endures,And as long as the moon [reflects light], throughout all generations. May he come down like rain on the mown grass,Like showers that water the earth. In his days may the righteous flourish,And peace abound until the moon is no more. May he also rule from sea to seaAnd from the River [Euphrates] to the ends of the earth. The nomads of the desert will bow before him,And his enemies will lick the dust. The kings of Tarshish and of the islands will bring offerings;The kings of Sheba and Seba will offer gifts. Yes, all kings will bow down before him,All nations will serve him. For he will rescue the needy when he cries for help,The afflicted and abused also, and him who has no helper. He will have compassion on the poor and needy,And he will save the lives of the needy. He will redeem their life from oppression and fraud and violence,And their blood will be precious in His sight. So may he live, and may the gold of Sheba be given to him;And let them pray for him continually;Let them bless and praise him all day long. There will be an abundance of grain in the soil on the top of the mountains;Its fruit will wave like [the cedars of] Lebanon,And those of the city will flourish like grass of the earth. May his name endure forever;May his name continue as long as the sun;And let men bless themselves by him;Let all nations call him blessed. Blessed be the Lord God, the God of Israel,Who alone does wonderful things. Blessed be His glorious name forever;And may the whole earth be filled with His glory.Amen and Amen. The prayers of David son of Jesse are ended.
In 1787, after a long hot summer of debate in Independence Hall, Philadelphia, delegates from the thirteen American colonies approved the final draft of the United States Constitution.
Ben Franklin was one of those delegates. Now in his eighties and infirm, he was carried into the Hall each day. When George Washington, the chairman, declared the document adopted by the delegates for ratification by the colonies, it is said that Franklin stood up from his reclining chair at the back of the room and said to Washington:
“Throughout these months, Mr. Chairman, I have listened to arguments pro and con while my eyes constantly looked up to the dais and your chair which sits there. On the top slat of your chair back, there is carved a sunburst. I have wondered during these days whether that sunburst represented a setting or rising sun. With the adoption of this Constitution, I am now persuaded it is a rising sun.”
What kind of government does a nation have whose sun, from God’s perspective, is just beginning to rise? And, what kind of self-government do you exercise over your own life which brings God’s approval? Solomon tells us in this psalm.
Psalm 72 poses a question: How do we determine what’s right and what’s wrong? Is it by a vote of legislature or perhaps an act of a president or executive? Could it be determined by a decision if a judge or judiciary?
Well, not according to Solomon. He knew better! Moral laws come from God, and those who seek to rule wisely seek to become endowed with His justice and righteousness.
History records that human society ultimately breaks down when legislature and law derives from the politics of the moment or public opinion rather than choosing the standards set by the Almighty. Any one of the branches of government that loses this perspective finds itself descending into the moral relativity and ethical chaos.
George Wood says: “As example, the same year (1973) the United States Supreme Court decided to legally permit abortions( resulting in approximately 1.5 million abortions annually) it also blocked the development of a dam In Tennessee to protect the snail darter, a three inch fish. In the Court’s twisted thinking, fish had an inalienable right to life, but not children in the womb. The decision is only one example of the many ways our society seeks to make a moral wrong a legal right.”
Psalm 72 reminds us that those of faith know that God instituted government to validate and implement moral law and to thereby promote common good. The definition of good government is that it always defends the afflicted and needy while oppressing the oppressors because this action is consistent with the character of God’s personality.
How long good government lasts, according to what Solomon believed, depends upon whether it’s built upon the qualities of justice described in verses 1-4:
“Give the king [knowledge of] Your judgments, O God,And [the spirit of] Your righteousness to the king’s son [to guide all his ways]. May he judge Your people with righteousness,And Your afflicted with justice. The mountains will bring peace and prosperity to the people,And the hills, in [the establishment of] righteousness. May he bring justice to the poor among the people,Save the children of the needyAnd crush the oppressor…”, If Solomon chose this path then his tenure would endure. Governments that govern with moral laws foster and promote stability and prosperity.
Solomon further believed that a nation would remain strong as long as it was rooted in God’s moral law. When this is at its peak, the borders and influence of a country extends outward. We can also ascribe this to the church.
On the other hand, the Word of God in Isaiah 47 shows the demise of mighty world powers when they become cruel to His people, proud and self-reliant, wicked, and practicing occult.
“For you [Babylon] have trusted and felt confident in your wickedness; you have said,‘No one sees me.’Your wisdom and your knowledge have led you astray, And you have said in your heart (mind),‘I am, and there is no one besides me.’ “Therefore disaster will come on you; You will not know how to make it disappear [with your magic]. And disaster will fall on you for which you cannot atone [with all your offerings to your gods]; And destruction about which you do not know will come on you suddenly.”
Isaiah 47: 10-11
Solomon, as king, knew that he had a responsibility to the poor. This concept derived , from the character of his God. It’s not just the blood of the rich and influential that is precious when spilled, it is also the unnoticed ones- the orphan and widow, the abandoned and the homeless, and the dispossessed and oppressed- the very ones that society disregards. A government that operates with godly justice takes notice of the great worth of the weak and the helpless, and doesn’t crush them, stamp on them or disregard them. When those who are true victims are protected and helped, nations flourish. When this doesn’t occur, they perish.
Psalm 72 reveals that Solomon never confused his administration with God Himself. It was not the attitude that said, “My country, right or wrong.” God stands above all governments. He is the One “ who alone does marvelous deeds.” No glory of any earthly king or government can compare with Him to whom we say, “Praise be to his glorious name forever, may the whole earth be filled with his glory. Amen and Amen.
Psalm 72 ends with a postscript that concludes this second book of Psalms as “the prayers of David, son of Jesse, the chief bun not the only author of this series of psalms.
David had laid a base for Solomon to have a long and successful reign. David had finished the long, restless and lonely nights of his pilgrimage and they had resulted in stability for his son and the people. Through his own self-sacrifices, David birthed an era of justice and security that would follow after him. All his wilderness moments had brought a solid reward. Those times of testing he faced in his effort to serve God in his own generation now served as a platform for the next generation.
I conclude today by urging us as the people of God to stand strong upon the bedrock principles of righteousness that the Bible has provided and to further insist that those we vote for make them their priority as well. May we as Christians insist that especially those who lead the church define their character and principles by the Word of God rather than popular public opinion or the pressure of culture.
George Wood offers this prayer:
“Help me, Lord, to base the government of my own life on Your eternal character. Keep me from making up the rules as I go along. As with David, may my life bless those coming after me. And bless this country with the kind of leaders who anchor their thinking and decisions upon what’s right rather than the results of the latest poll.
Dr. John Thompson