Summary: Year A. Second Sunday in Advent December 9th, 2001 Title: “Hunger and thirst for justice.”
Year A. Second Sunday in Advent December 9th, 2001
Title: “Hunger and thirst for justice.”
Psalm 72:1-7, 18-19
(Reader) Give the king your justice, O God, and your righteousness to a king’s son.
C. May he judge your people with righteousness, and your poor with justice.
(Reader) May the mountains yield prosperity for the people, and the hills, in righteousness.
C. May he defend the cause of the poor of the people, give deliverance to the needy, and crush the oppressor.
(Reader) May he live while the sun endures, and as long as the moon, throughout all generations.
C. May he be like rain that falls on the mown grass, like showers that water the earth.
(Reader) In his days may righteousness flourish and peace abound, until the moon is no more.
C. Blessed be the LORD, the God of Israel, who alone does wondrous things.
(Reader) Blessed be his glorious name forever; may his glory fill the whole earth. Amen and Amen
Title: “Hunger and thirst for justice,”
Classified as a “Royal Psalm,” this psalm closes the second book of the Psalter that is, Psalms 42-72, an early collection of Davidic psalms later incorporated into the larger collection, with a vision of the future- the entire world under the just and merciful rule of God. The human king is merely the viceroy of God who, by acts, decrees, attitudes and actions, expresses the character of God and leads his people by example to multiply justice to such an extent that not only the peoples of the earth but the earth itself yields abundant examples of God’s life-giving love. This psalm is a prayer that the Davidic hopes be fulfilled in his descendants.
Composed during the period of the monarchy, even attributed to Solomon, Psalm 72 was probably used at the coronation of a new king and at the anniversary celebration of his coronation to remind him and all of just how different God’s viceroy should be and behave. After the exile, when there was no actual king, this psalm would be prayed in hope for a future, messianic, king who would come and do all these things. Hence, Christians would see this as a prophecy of Christ. Indeed, this king and his realm are close to the prophecies of Isaiah 11: 1-5 and 60-62. Like all people of faith, the speaker here would be under the spell of the Holy Spirit and have a vision of what lay underneath and behind history and its facts and what lay beyond the present moment, in the case the act of enthronement. We have a picture of a king who is not a dictator, like Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, but is kind, merciful and just, concerned for the poor, weak, and oppressed. This psalm does not even mention Jerusalem or Zion or conquest by military means. It is completely irenic, stressing that the result of just acts is peace.
The structure of the psalm is clear. The psalmist prays that God give the king justice verses one to four, life verses five to eight, universal leadership verses nine to eleven,, compassion verses twelve to fourteen, and prosperity and peace verses fifteen to seventeen. It ends with a benediction verses nineteen to twenty.
In verse one, Give the king your justice, the word for “judgment,” Hebrew mishpat, refers to all functions of government and not merely the judicial ones. It means everything the king does. It is qualified by “justice” or “righteousness,” Hebrew tsedeqah, in the second half of this verse. The two words encompass all aspects of justice: the abstract notion of justice, the divine character, concrete acts of justice and the spirit of justice, which creates the concrete acts. The psalmist prays that the king, and by implication all his people, would be given this gift and, like God himself, would be scrupulously faithful to his responsibilities in every particular situation.
To the king… your righteousness to a king’s son. The Hebrew reads “son of the king,” singular. The NAB translates this as “kings,” plural, without textual foundation. The crown prince is the king’s son, heir to the dynasty.
In verse three, May the mountains yield prosperity for the people, and the hills, in righteousness.
The psalmist knew that human injustice, acting in ways contrary to the revealed character of God, had consequences on every level of life, including the fertility of the land. The fertility of nature is intimately connected to the righteousness of humans, especially the head human, the king. “Bounty” translates Hebrew shalom. Shalom is that condition when things are as they should be, all they can be, a state of being filled full, of perfection. When the crops that grew on the mountainside yielded their full potential, a state of shalom existed. This can be so only when the king and people act justly in regard to planting, caring for the land, and distributing the food fairly. “Harmony,” or ecological balance is a form of justice as well as peace. Thus the second half of this verse, which poetically says the same thing in different words, uses “justice, righteousness,” Hebrew tsedeqah, translated here as “great abundance.” The idea here is a harmonious relationship between human action and nature, the result of which is prosperity.