Some consider Psalm 72 to be a coronation Psalm, which would have been sung or recited at the crowning of a new king. On January 20, Donald Trump will take the oath of office of the Presidency of the United States. I would like to suggest that when he does so, he lay his hand upon a Bible opened to Psalm 72. Better yet, I want to encourage us all to pray that Mr. Trump will demonstrate the righteousness and justice called for in this and other Psalms as well as throughout Scripture.
The Psalm begins with righteousness and justice, but then moves on to remind the king of his responsibility to bring both prosperity to the land as well as deliverance for the poor from those who oppress them (vv. 3, 4). Soon thereafter, the prayer is that peace will abound (v. 7). Towards the end, the Psalmist prays that the king will be a blessing to all nations (v. 17). These are lofty ideals: too lofty for any king, and too lofty for any President.
Israel had three kings before she was torn in two by discord and rebellion. Courageous but insecure and frightening Saul was the first, and neither righteousness nor justice appear to have been of much interest to him. Next came David, someone after God’s own heart, it was said, but his own lust and bloody wars kept him from being the ideal king he is sometimes portrayed as. And then there is wise Solomon, to whom Psalm 72 is attributed. The moral of his story is that sometimes even wisdom lacks the strength to overcome one’s personal will and greed. There were many kings that followed Solomon: some good, most bad. But still, this Psalm remained the ideal image of Godly leadership until such a time that royalty and divinity was born in a manger and later emerged as the suffering king of Israel and all of humanity. Jesus shatters all notions of what a king is by being all that a King is supposed to be.
As we mark Epiphany and leave Christmas time, may we recall some of the myriad of ways Jesus reveals himself to us—the Savior of all nations, the prince of peace, the embodiment of righteousness, and the jewel of justice. Jesus Christ is the ideal king of Psalm 72 in every way. I would also like to suggest that Epiphany presents us with the revelation of Jesus Christ in ways that we as his Body are to move into and dwell with. As Jesus is the revelation of God for humanity, the church reveals Christ for the world. This is why it is important that we not only use Psalm 72 as a guide for praying for our national leaders, but also that we use it in praying for ourselves. By virtue of the Holy Spirit dwelling within us, may we be and work for the righteousness and justice of God. May we be people who dwell in peace and call others to do so as well. May we be the instruments by which the poor and oppressed are redeemed. May we be the light in the darkness that shines upon all who are precious in the sight of God.
I have no illusions about President-elect Trump. He will not measure up to the ideals of Psalm 72. But in fairness, no one else ever has, or will do so. But the Church? Now, that’s another story, and a New Year’s resolution worth making and keeping.