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Bible Commentaries

The People's Bible by Joseph Parker
Psalms 72

 

 

Verses 1-20

The Kingship of Jesus

Psalm 72

There has not been wanting a disposition to empty the Song of Solomon -called Messianic Psalm , of their references to Jesus Christ. In a sense, it is not only right but spiritually profitable to get at the immediate and literal meaning of prophecy and Psalm , and every other Scripture; at the same time, why should there be any other disposition to limit the signification of the sacred writers to local and transient events, when many of them are evidently charged with greater meaning than can be justly limited to any one occasion? As a rule of criticism we should determine in the first instance to find out the literal and grammatical meaning of every passage, and where possible to fix the local operation of its primary significance; but this being done it is open to the religious imagination to fill in all the larger meanings of which the sacred words are susceptible, and where the history justifies the application of larger meanings the critic should take his stand upon historical conditions and vindicate himself by realisations which may not have entered into the dream of the original writer. It is quite within the compass of easy proof that many of the writers of holy Scripture did not themselves know the full extent of their own meaning. As in nature, so in revelation; even a stone may be put to various uses; all the elements of the earth may be gathered up and shaped into unexpected significations and symbolisms: and so a man may have written words which he himself limited as to time and space, and yet the meaning of inspiration may reach infinitely further than the boundaries which he imposed upon himself in setting down what he supposed to be his own words. For my part, I cannot read this psalm without feeling that as applied and limited to Solomon it is an intolerable exaggeration. There is no reason why Solomon should not take his place in the psalm as being in some way prefigured by its symbolism and apocalypse, but being like ourselves only a Prayer of Manasseh , there are expressions in the psalm which could not be literally applied to any human creature. If we are severely literal in one direction, we must be equally severe in the other; and according to this equal law we shall save ourselves from applying to King Solomon words which in their natural meaning would involve a species of idolatry and even blasphemy. In no profound sense should prayer be made to any man continually, nor daily should he be praised; nor should his name endure for ever in any other sense than what is generally understood by the term reputation or fame. It is evident, furthermore, that all nations could not call Solomon blessed, except in his relations to One greater than himself and his father. Allowing, therefore, that Solomon has his place in the references of this Psalm , we still adhere to the holy conviction that the psalm is only fulfilled in all its emblems, metaphors, and prognostications, by the King of kings and Lord of lords. We are entitled to go back and interpret prophecy by history, and we know of no psalm which more readily yields itself to historical interpretation than this noble ode.

The king often represented God to the Hebrew mind. The king was the medium through which the Hebrew poet and worshipper saw as much as possible of the divine nature and government; he was, indeed, a kind of incarnation of the divine righteousness and clemency: hence the veneration with which the very name of the king was regarded, and hence the confidence that it was impossible for him to be wicked, to pervert judgment, or to do wrong. The king was thus interpreted, not in his limited personality, but in the symbolism of his office, and so interpreted he became as god to the nations over which he reigned. The king referred to in this psalm is one who has peculiar regard for the poor and the children of the needy, and by virtue of that regard he sets himself in continual hostility to the oppressor and to those who live by unrighteousness. Surely this prophecy was fulfilled in the Son of God, whose words of recognition in reference to the poor were charged with the sublimest tenderness, and whose anger to those who were hypocritical and oppressive and selfish burned like an oven. The gentleness of Christ is beautifully represented by the words, "He shall come down like rain upon the mown grass: as showers that water the earth,"—there shall be nothing of tempest in his way of coming, nothing of violence; no storm shall follow in his track, as he moves forward to save and comfort the sons of men: he shall, so to say, be best represented by those processes of nature which are most gracious; he shall be part of the very grain that blesses the earth; he shall mingle with the light which brings the morning; he shall be within the warmth that comforts and fertilises the earth with gracious heat: no special chariot of thunder shall be created in which he may go forth; rather will he join the simplest and most familiar processes of nature, and come as one who attracts no attention except by the consciousness of fuller grace which he works in every heart that receives him.

The more active aspects of his ministry are shown in such words as—"In his days shall the righteous flourish; and abundance of peace so long as the moon endureth. He shall have dominion also from sea to sea, and from the river unto the ends of the earth." These words are pregnant even with military meaning, for they signify that, stand in the way who may, or what may, all shall go down before the progress of the kingdom of Christ. There is no threatening of hostility, there is no defiance of evil powers; nothing of the nature of challenge enters into these solemn and gracious words; yet there they stand in all the solidity of a decree, in all the brightness of a prophetic hope—"he shall have dominion also from sea to sea, and from the river unto the ends of the earth"—how much is involved in this promise, what a lifting up of things that are cast down, what a smoothing of rough places, what an overturning of evil fortresses, what an implication of Omnipotence! All these things can only find their fulfilment, and the perfectness of their glory, in the rule of him who was made perfect through suffering. We are told, indeed, in more aggressive language, that "his enemies shall lick the dust": this need not imply any violence being inflicted upon the enemies, although that also comes within the scope of the divine government and purpose; but it may mean that such shall be the progress of right, such the vindication of justice, such the comfort which the poor shall realise and enjoy and through which they shall be strengthened, that the enemies of Christ shall be bowed down with shame and confusion, and shall seek a dwelling-place within the very shadow of his feet.

Not only are the poor to be blessed, and all the humble to be sustained and nourished by the comforting grace of Christ, but all the great powers of the earth, as typified by kings and rulers, shall offer their crowns to the Son of God,—"The kings of Tarshish and of the isles shall bring presents: the kings of Sheba and Seba shall offer gifts. Yea, all kings shall fall down before him: all nations shall serve him." Thus the Son of God does not rule along one line only, as if he were limited in grace or confined in power; he rules with both hands, he covers the whole space, he throbs in every pulse of time; nothing is kept back from him, for his right extends over all things, seeing that he made all things, and without him was not anything made that was made. How these kingdoms shall be brought into submission we are not told, but even here there are two processes by which kings and kingdoms, thrones and empires, may fall to the lot of the Son of Prayer of Manasseh , as a part of his decreed and eternal possession. The mighty powers of the earth may be smitten down and crushed by irresistible force. Almightiness may breathe upon them, and cause them to lose all their pride, and to give up all that is defiant and hostile; or a great spiritual operation may take place within the heart of the mighty and the noble, and they may be lured from all that is ambitious, worldly, and selfish, and be brought in humble homage to the Son of Prayer of Manasseh , uncrowning themselves before his majesty, and offering him the tribute of their worship and love. This is the supreme method by which Christ makes men known, by which he enlarges and consolidates his kingdom. He will not have kings or subjects merely chained to his throne as if they were slaves; he will have them bound to his person and to his purposes, by the consent of their love, by the homage of their hearts, by the yielding of their illuminated and sanctified judgment. He acquires his supreme and eternal power over men by delivering the needy when they cry, and the poor, and him that hath no helper; by sparing the poor and the needy, and saving the souls of the needy; by redeeming their souls from deceit and violence, and by counting their blood precious in his sight. He thus lays hold of the very foundations of society, and works his upward way to the very topmost stratum, taking with him all men, women, and children,—poor, feeble, homeless, lost; and never resting until he has brought within the circle of his sovereignty, and the helpfulness of his benediction, men of every grade and quality. Predictions of this kind could never be fulfilled in any one merely human personality. They encompass too great a scope to be thus fulfilled. It is the glory of the Son of man that he knows every heart, speaks every language, is present in every clime, and that throughout all the days of time he grows upon the consciousness of men with ever-increasing and ever-brightening vividness. No language is foreign to him; no life is beneath his regard; no place is too remote for his visitation; all things lie before the vision of his love, and everything is touched by his redeeming power. The earth longs for some such ruler. All the rulers that have been, all the monarchs that have come and gone, have surely been charged with the meaning that there is yet to come a King whose right it is to reign and whose dominion shall extend over all the earth. Such a king we see in Christ Jesus. Blessed be his glorious name for ever: and let the whole earth be filled with his glory; Amen, and Amen. Oh that those who love the Saviour would arise, and clothe themselves with all their spiritual light, and proclaim to those who have never heard of the Son of man how great he Isaiah , how rich in promise, how richer still in all that can redeem, touch, and bless the heart of the world. Jesus Christ trusts himself to the love of his Church; he cannot but feel that a Church which loves him with all its heart will not keep silence respecting his name, but will go forth from land to land proclaiming it with all the emphasis of thankfulness and affection. It is for the Church to say what part it will take in bringing about the glad and heavenly time when the fruit of the handful of corn which God himself has sown shall shake like Lebanon and be a store of nutriment to all mankind. It is not enough to read poetry of this kind, to be charmed with its sweet cadences, and to regard it in a merely literary aspect; all that is poetical, tender, and charming in divine promise and prediction should be turned into nerve and power and courage, through which the Gospel shall be preached fearlessly in all lands, however great the obstructions, however bitter and resolute the hostility. We have a glorious King to proclaim. We need not be ashamed of his name, of his descent, of his decrees, of his power. If any man shall ask who he Isaiah , and what right he has to reign, let the inquirer find the answer in our lives, in our pureness, in our tenderness, in our charity, in our self-sacrifice; and let the world feel that any king who can make men so characterised is worthy of universal confidence, and is alone fitted to occupy with dignity and beneficence the throne of universal empire.

Prayer

Almighty God, if we are not afraid of thee, we owe our confidence and boldness to Jesus Christ thy Song of Solomon , our Saviour and our Priest. By him we come to thee, boldly asking that we may find grace to help in time of need. We have no confidence in ourselves, but we have confidence in the Cross—the key that opens heaven, the way into the broad universe, because the way into pardon and purity and peace. We come by that way time after time, and our feet delight to walk it, for in walking it our hearts glow with sacred fire. Jesus himself joins us, and makes our hearts burn with love, and sets before us in the furthest distance a light that makes us glad. We bless thee for the revelation of Christ Jesus, Son of Prayer of Manasseh , Son of God, Physician of souls, Redeemer of sinners. He is our supreme joy, our infinite trust; in him we have peace, and in him we have eternal joy. Cleanse us in his most precious blood, purify our hearts by faith, drive away from our souls all temptations towards self-trust and forgetfulness of God, and comfort us with a sense of thy continual presence in the light and in the darkness, in all the beauty of summer, and in all the cold and bitterness of winter. May we always know thee to be near, and, knowing that, our souls shall have no straitness and narrowness, but shall live in an infinite liberty; and our joy, like our peace, shall be unspeakable. Amen.

 


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Bibliography Information
Parker, Joseph. "Commentary on Psalms 72:4". The People's Bible by Joseph Parker. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jpb/psalms-72.html. 1885-95.

Lectionary Calendar
Thursday, September 19th, 2019
the Week of Proper 19 / Ordinary 24
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