Today we read the last two psalms (Psalm 71-72) in the second book of Psalms (Ps. 42-72).
This morning, one who once served as a singer in God’s temple does something he’s done many times before, but not as is now in life – as one advanced in years. His lament is what we know today as Psalm 71.
What shall we do with the words of this elderly man? Read this psalm in three movements (vs. 1-8,9-16,17-24) with a bit of pause for reflection and prayer of your own following each movements, won’t you? Bathe your reflections and prayers in mindfulness of those who are much older than yourself. Think of specific people and pray for them and their continued walk with God.
This evening we overhear a prayer for the weak and vulnerable in a nation – and make it our own. This prayer we overhear is for the oppressed in a land, that they be given great attention and care through the ways of the ruler of the land, namely, the king of Israel. And so, Psalm 72 is what we know as a kingship/royal psalm. We’ve encountered this kind of psalm before (Ps. 2,18,20,21,45) and we will see more of them yet (Ps. 89,101,110,132,144), but note well the focal point of concern of this particular one, the central/core/heart/middle psalm of the eleven royal psalms.
This person’s prayer – a prayer that leads others in it – is for the king to have a long reign (vs. 5,15) that experiences great prosperity/peace (shalom – vs. 3,7). Such prosperity/peace (shalom) will be the very gift of God himself (vs. 1) and is prayed for not for the sake of all or those who already have much, but for the specific benefit of the deeply hurting in society: the afflicted (vs. 2,4,12), the needy (vs. 4,12,13), the weak (vs. 13), the oppressed (vs. 14), and those who suffer violence (vs. 14). Further still, that not only the king’s own people will be blessed through his actions, but that other countries and peoples will be blessed by his ways, too (“all nations will be blessed through him” – vs. 17). This is the way that is true “justice” and “righteousness” (vs. 1-2). Amen and amen (vs. 19).
And so, what shall we do with this prayer? Pray for the leaders of all the nations of the earth, not merely the one in which you live. Pray for the leaders of every people to have great heart for those who hurt most and to seriously and consistently act for their benefit by means of their policies, pursuits, and proclamations. Pray they will not be satisfied with merely making promises or giving weak gestures to that end, but will become “like rain falling on a mown field.” (vs. 6)
Pray for yourself as well that you will support these leaders in that work by making this work your own. Pray that God will grow such a heart in you and that you will not be content with a “I’ll get around to it someday” mentality, but will have eyes to see and seek out the poor and hurting and will do what you can for them.