Psalm 72:1-11 - The glorious reign of King Messiah
There is some question whether David wrote this Psalm or whether we are to ascribe it to Solomon. It is safe to say that Solomon was the subject of this Psalm and that the coming Messiah is also the subject of it.
Types of Christ
In the Old Testament we often observe two individuals who together are the type of the Christ who was to come. We see Moses and Aaron or Moses and Joshua, and David and Solomon. No one individual was rich enough in his own life to typify the Christ completely. He is to be the son of David. David was the man after God's own heart. David did great things for his God and David sang some of the most beautiful songs in praise of his God. However, the reign of Messiah will also be far different from the rule of David. David had shed much blood so that he was not even allowed to build the temple for his God even though that was his great desire. The peace and splendor of Solomon's reign spoke of the Messiah who was coming. In this Psalm, the reign of Solomon is referred to as typical of the reign of King Messiah. It will be a peaceful reign; it will be a glorious reign; it will encompass far more than the ancient people of God because His reign will have universal dimensions. Although the kingdom of Solomon had some of these attributes, the former days of Solomon and his latter days must be clearly distinguished. The former days were indeed glorious. What a relief that the wars were finished! What a blessing that the emphasis might now fall on the building of Jerusalem so that it became a famous city. But, in his later life, Solomon forsook his God, married outside of the covenant people, led Israel astray and placed burdens on the people greater than they could bear. The kingdom of Solomon has, therefore, both its lighter and darker side. In this respect Messiah's Kingdom will not be like Solomon's. His rule will last as long as sun and moon endure and it will be far broader in scope. Nobody will ever be the true type of the Christ. He is so far greater than any creature! He is unique! This must be borne in mind as we allow the light of the Old Testament to fall on the New. These types teach us, indeed, but they also teach us how much greater our Lord is.
The righteous king
The one who has mounted the throne is the king's son and as such has a right to this position. God had given the promise to David that He would cause his son to sit upon the throne of Israel after him and so build his house. This is now being fulfilled with the ascension of Solomon to the throne. The poet prays that God will give this new king His judgments and His righteousness so that he will be able to rule in the right manner. Not wealth or splendor is to characterize Solomon's kingship, but judgment and righteousness. God had given His laws to Israel many years before the reigns of David and Solomon. Therein He had revealed the pattern for the rule which would be pleasing in His sight. If the nation would walk in these ways, it would indeed be a theocracy — that was God's intention with Israel from the beginning. If Solomon will now receive from his God the spirit of judgment and of righteousness, he will be able to rule in the way God intended.
Besides, so much depended on the insight of the king into the various problems which were brought before him. If he would have His spirit of judgment and of righteousness, he would be able to give counsel which would stand. Later in the life and in the reign of Solomon we read of the wisdom which he exhibited, which was nothing less than the ability to judge righteously. Then the poor receive their due. If righteousness is lacking, the poor will suffer the most. Only when true judgment and righteousness characterize' the rule in a nation are people safe! The prayer is here uttered that Solomon may have that kind of wisdom so that he follows the commands of his God, for then he will judge the poor of the people, he will save the needy, and punish the oppressor. Only in this way will there be true peace in the land. Peace and prosperity are built on justice.
His prosperous rule
A country which is ruled in such a way will experience blessings which had never been expected. The Old Testament frequently speaks of the effect which the conduct of men have on nature (the wicked ... Jeremiah 12:4) Here in verse 3 the Psalmist speaks of the effect which the righteous reign of the just king will have on nature itself. The mountains will bring peace to the people and the hills in righteousness. In Palestine the valleys are very fruitful and produce in abundance. However, the hills and the sides of the mountains are often barren. These are the areas which are far too dry to produce a crop of any size. But, in the reign of this coming king there will be such prosperity that even the hills and the mountains bring forth in abundance. This will, therefore, be the kind of rule which the people have never experienced before. This promise certainly was not completely fulfilled during the days of Solomon, but it will be completely fulfilled during the reign of the greater than Solomon! Christ's dominion will be complete and it will bring blessings wherever His rule extends.
The Psalmist prays that the subjects of this king may be obedient and may fear their king. He is one who is to be honored. The people must realize how great is their privilege that they have such a monarch to reign over them.
An eternal kingdom
The emphasis now falls on the duration of the rule of this great king. It will last as long as the sun endures, that is, according to the mind of the oriental, forever — as long as the moon, throughout all generations! Here is the prayer "O king, live forever." David had a long reign, no less than forty years. Solomon will also have but forty years! He cannot expect that Solomon's life will be as long as that of the sun and the moon. But, Solomon's great Son will reign forever! This Psalm is Messianic! Solomon cannot exhaust the rich meaning of these words. Only Christ can!
The rule of this Messianic King will extend far beyond the time given to others and it will be of an entirely different nature. It will come down as rain upon the mown grass, as showers, gentle showers, that water the earth after the pastures have been denuded. This king will not come with the sword as David had done, but he will come down as the gentle rain. At the same time, this rain will again make the land fruitful. How dependent Israel was on the former and the latter rain! The land will have prosperity as never before.
The righteous, the law-abiding, will flourish during his entire reign. A nation is blessed when the righteous flourish. If the unrighteous are protected and therefore flourish, it is a blot on the record of that regime. But, under the Messianic reign the people who are the most deserving are the ones who are protected by their government.
The universal rule
The poet next speaks of the bounds of this reign of Messiah. He will have dominion also from sea to sea, and from the River unto the ends of the earth. This is the Hebrew way of saying that there are no bounds to His reign. From the great sea, the Mediterranean, to the sea on the other end of the earth, whatever sea that might be. So also from the River, (and The River is none else but the Euphrates in Hebrew thought), to the ends of the earth, no land will be able to contain the rule of Messiah. There will be no end to that rule nor will there be geographical boundaries. Heaven cannot contain Him. Then no temple can contain Him; nor will one country be able to contain Him. Israel thought they were highly blest during the reigns of David and Solomon, and they were. But, the future holds such blessings as they have never imagined. Let Israel sing its Psalms! Let them realize how great their Messiah will be! The word which they have received is the word which speaks of Him!
Having spoken of the extent of the reign of Messiah, the Psalmist now names the places and peoples who will fall under His reign. First he mentions those that dwell in the wilderness, the wild ones, spoken of both men and animals in the Old Testament. Those who had never been tamed will bow before Him. His enemies will lick the dust. They will humble themselves to the extreme before this great King Who is to come.
The vision of the Psalmist extends to the far-off foreign lands. The kings of Tarshish, which was likely found in today's Spain, and the kings of the islands of the sea will render tribute. They will bring their gifts, their wealth, to Him because He is the rightful Owner. Also the kings of Sheba (in Arabia?) and of Seba, very likely found in Africa, will offer gifts. These gifts and the tribute of which a previous verse spoke, are not only to be looked upon as taxes which are paid by subjugated peoples; they are the gifts which even have religious significance. They are of the nature of sacrifices. Finally, the Psalmist sums this all up saying: Yea all kings shall fall down' before him; all nations shall serve him. Never has there been a King whose rule has been so universal and so complete. The kings of Babylon, Assyria, Egypt and other lands, often boasted of the extent of their kingdoms and of the glory of their kingdoms. Compared with the kingdom of the One of Whom the Psalmist sings in Psalm 72, theirs was nothing. His kingdom is not only glorious and wide in extent; it is also eternal! Of all the others the final word is: "and he died." But, Israel's great King will reign as long as the sun endures and as long as the moon shines. His is a beneficent reign. His reign is greater than all others.
Questions for discussion:
- Is the Kingship of our Lord as important as His other offices? Is it of more practical value to us then the other two?
- In which ways was Solomon a true type of Jesus Christ? In which ways was he not?
- Should our proclamation of the gospel include more of the Kingly demands of the Christ? Will we ever have a just rule here on earth as long as men do not bow the knee to King Jesus?
- Why is His reign beneficial for men? He will be very gentle and yet His enemies shall lick the dust. Is there a contradiction here?
- The dominion of Christ will be much broader than the dominion of either David or Solomon. Does Psalm 72 teach the people to look longingly for His day to come? Does it teach us this truth today?