Today: [Psalm 72] The Death Bed Prayer of David. David’s death bed prayer is not about himself. He does not pray for courage to endure the end of his life. He does not pray that he will see the Lord afterward. It seems that all of those issues are settled for David. Instead he prays for his successor, for the line of kings that comes after him and for the fate of the nation that he has led for 40 years. In this pray we see how we also should pray for our leaders and for our nations.
[Psa 72:1-20 KJV] 1 [[[A Psalm] for Solomon.]] Give the king thy judgments, O God, and thy righteousness unto the king’s son. 2 He shall judge thy people with righteousness, and thy poor with judgment. 3 The mountains shall bring peace to the people, and the little hills, by righteousness. 4 He shall judge the poor of the people, he shall save the children of the needy, and shall break in pieces the oppressor. 5 They shall fear thee as long as the sun and moon endure, throughout all generations. 6 He shall come down like rain upon the mown grass: as showers [that] water the earth. 7 In his days shall the righteous flourish; and abundance of peace so long as the moon endureth.
Psalm 72 is considered by many to be the deathbed prayer of king David. It begins as a psalm “for Solomon” but most scholars agree it is “by Solomon”. This is not because he wrote the psalm but because he transcribed it after attending the hour of his father’s death and hearing his father pray this prayer as his dying words. This being the case we see that David’s thoughts at the end of his life are for his people and for the king who shall rule over them. David was a good king, but he was also a king who made many costly mistakes and outright disobediences. For the king and the line of kings that come after him he prays to God for something more.
In reading the psalm we can see the heart of God for those who lead nations. Over the course of the last 500 years there have been very few morally unimpeachable rulers in the western world. For the church, Henry VIII was a very influential king, yet for all the wrong reasons. Henry was an immoral, murderous narcissist, yet decisions he made during his rule set the stage for the eventual rule of king James who brought us the King James bible. In the United States John Kennedy is seen as an almost mythical figure – an icon of exemplary American leadership. John Kennedy however was very flawed, from a family with a sordid background in organized crime. As believers we look to the words of David as a template for our prayers and expectations for our rulers.
Verse 1-3 is a prayer that God would give our rulers a sense of justice that does not disfavor the poor or other disenfranchised classes. Just because a people may be seen as a liability to the nation David prays that God’s rulers after him would give justice to those who cannot defend themselves. This is apparently at the top of his list in considering what makes a godly and a good national leader.
He continues in verse 4 stating that the godly leader will judge righteously for the poor. In other words he is hoping for a national environment where money does not rule the fate of the nation. In most capitalistic countries in the west is a fact that justice is bought more than brought and that a poor person facing the weight of judgment in the court system stands very little chance of fair treatment. It is hard to look at such things since we wrap our institutions in such high sounding sentiments but a moment of clarity is necessary now and then to help us know how to pray and not just get swallowed up by glib patriotism.
In verse 4 David also declares that the rule he is praying for will break in pieces the oppressor. In our day government itself as it gets larger and more regulatory in nature can seem to be the oppressor instead of that which removes oppression. The most basic role of a leader and a government is to afford the people freedom and liberty that is so easily lost sometimes in a single generation.
In verse 7 David prays that righteousness will flourish under the kings that come after him and that peace would be abundant. It is a sad fact that the greatness of our leaders is too often defined by waging war rather than waging peace. Peace is very difficult to pursue in modern times as it was in ancient times. We often find many pretexts to justify our nation going to war but that does not negate the words of Jesus in Matt. 26:52 that those that live by the sword shall perish by the sword.
This was spoken by Jesus as the soldiers were coming to arrest Him. Peter wanted to defend Jesus with violent resistance. Often this seems to be the only resort of individuals or nations. It seemed like nothing else could be done but in looking at the higher narrative we understand that this was all about a redemptive act brought about by Jesus on the cross. In seeking to defend Jesus, Peter was getting in the way of something God was about to do to benefit all mankind. How many times are our leaders quick to call up troops and armies when there is beyond that a redemptive solution that God would bring if we would just look to Him?
8 He shall have dominion also from sea to sea, and from the river unto the ends of the earth. 9 They that dwell in the wilderness shall bow before him; and his enemies shall lick the dust. 10 The kings of Tarshish and of the isles shall bring presents: the kings of Sheba and Seba shall offer gifts. 11 Yea, all kings shall fall down before him: all nations shall serve him. 12 For he shall deliver the needy when he crieth; the poor also, and [him] that hath no helper. 13 He shall spare the poor and needy, and shall save the souls of the needy. 14 He shall redeem their soul from deceit and violence: and precious shall their blood be in his sight.
Verses 8-10 speaks of the king maintaining order within his borders and being honored both within his borders and without. One of the most basic responsibilities of leaders in a nation is to defend her borders and maintain order across our land. At the present time we see rising unrest and violence in our nations throughout the western world. We see that borders have become very porous in nature to the point that any orderly immigration into any country is almost impossible to bring about. This is not a recent development. This has been brought about after decades of mismanagement of immigration policy that has allowed millions upon millions of people to come into our countries without due process. We want to lay the blame on the undocumented resident and yes they bear responsibility but the government also and the citizens they represent must accept responsibility as well for electing leaders who made this a non-issue for decades and the current chaos is the result.
David understood the need for order and solidarity within the borders of a nation. His first choice was not to establish a council of leaders or what we would call a think-tank to come up with a solution. The first order of the day is as David’s example shows – to pray and ask God for mercy and forgiveness for mismanagement on the part of past and present leaders and a way forward out of the confusion and chaos that we are facing as a people because of the malfeasance of our leaders where immigration reform is concerned.
15 And he shall live, and to him shall be given of the gold of Sheba: prayer also shall be made for him continually; [and] daily shall he be praised. 16 There shall be an handful of corn in the earth upon the top of the mountains; the fruit thereof shall shake like Lebanon: and [they] of the city shall flourish like grass of the earth. 17 His name shall endure for ever: his name shall be continued as long as the sun: and [men] shall be blessed in him: all nations shall call him blessed. 18 Blessed [be] the LORD God, the God of Israel, who only doeth wondrous things. 19 And blessed [be] his glorious name for ever: and let the whole earth be filled [with] his glory; Amen, and Amen. 20 The prayers of David the son of Jesse are ended.
In verse 15 David prays that the king shall live and prosper. The king for us represents the executive branch of government. The executive branch of government includes the police and the military. When tensions flare among nations and in the populations of our nation’s leaders ultimately die by the hands of those angry and bitter about what is happening. When you pray for your government we need to pray for their safety. It is a very despicable thing when I hear Christians alluding to the possible assassination of a leader as a solution to a political disagreement they may have. Death begets death. Violence begets violence. Here in the summer of 2016 we see violence ripping a gaping wound across the US and Western Europe. The answer is not more violence. We need to pray for the peace of our land and for the lives of our leaders at every level.
In verse 16 we see David praying for a leader who will encourage and strength the establishing of a strong economy. When leaders mismanage their roles the economy suffers and the ranks of the poor swell. For many years in the United States the middle class has been shrinking at an alarming rate. We have many more poor people yet reforms are being enacted to diminish the size and availability of services that meet the needs of the poor. The solutions offered by opposing parties are in total conflict with one another basing their policies on so-called facts that are in complete opposition to the other party’s “facts”. What is the answer? As David we must pray for the prosperity of our nation. Prayer and not policy must be our solution of first resort.
In the remainder of the chapter David prays with his last breath. He prays that the name of the king will endure and that the name of the Lord will endure in the land. We should not assume that our land and our nation will endure. In reality the American experiment is quite young – 200 years which is not very long in the scope of history. To believe that our union is insoluble and would never diminish or break apart is extremely naïve in by anyone with even a faint grasp of modern history. Our answers are not political. The military will not save us. The next charismatic president will not save us.
I was in church just yesterday when someone gave an impassioned, thinly veiled endorsement of a political candidate. There were tears of frustration on this person’s face. They were genuinely fearful for what they see happening in our nation. I suggest to you that we are finding our where our faith lies. Jesus did not die to bring about the political. Jesus did not lay down his life to create a church that only exists as a voting block to be manipulated by politics.
We should participate in the political arena. Voting is a right and a responsibility. But though man pulls the voting lever ultimately God decides what happens next – and prayer should be our first resort. Are you praying? Are you connected with a group that prays out loud, as a group for a prolonged period of time on a regular basis? The church for the most part does not incorporate prayer as a regular activity. Let us as individuals and as groups at the grass roots level begin to correct this and along with David on his death bed pray for the fate of our nations.
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