The transition of power from the reign of David to Solomon, his son, had proven challenging, but through the diligence of Bathsheba and Nathan, Solomon took his place on the throne, ultimately reigning for forty years (1 Kings 1:1-53; 11:42-43). Shortly after the responsibilities of sovereignty fell upon him, Solomon sacrificed at Gibeon, and the LORD offered to grant him a request. Solomon’s choice of an understanding heart with which to rule stands as one of the great decisions in antiquity (1 Kings 3:1-15), but the psalm he wrote at this time reveals the greatest aspirations of kingly leadership, far beyond simply ruling well.In Psalm 72 the newly crowned King Solomon expressed the necessity of God’s will as the foundation for every good judgment for all mankind for all time (Psa. 72:1). Whether caring for the poor (Psa. 72:2) or ensuring the protection of others (Psa. 72:3), the right kind of ruler seeks justice for those who have no one else to help (Psa. 72:4), and he is worthy of everyone’s respect for having done so (Psa. 72:5). The ruler’s care, properly given, blesses the people (Psa. 72:6) and makes righteousness available throughout his kingdom (Psa. 72:7). Such a ruler has great authority (Psa. 72:8), earning great respect through his victories (Psa. 72:9). His fame and glory will be known and honored throughout the world (Psa. 72:10-11) because of the character of his rule (Psa. 72:12-13). He receives honor because he values the people he rules (Psa. 72:14). He is worthy of great praise (Psa. 72:15), and his people will be blessed beyond measure (Psa. 72:16). He will never be forgotten. To the contrary, his rule brings blessings so rich that he will acknowledged throughout all the world (Psa. 72:17). But this recognition goes far beyond human praise, because the glory and the honor belong to the LORD. He alone could provide such marvelous care to the people, and thus He deserves all the praise (Psa. 72:18-19).
It is fitting that Solomon ended the psalm by noting the death of his father, and so the end of the many praises he offered to God in psalm (Psa. 72:20). However, it is even more fitting when we remember that Solomon’s reign did not fit this description in character—despite his great wealth and wisdom. As noted in 1 Kings 12:9-11, Solomon had placed burdens on the poor—not eased them. Therefore, however much potential Solomon had as a king to serve the people and make righteousness reign, he failed miserably. Moreover, David’s reign was filled with war—not peace. Nevertheless, there is a King for whom all these things are true: Jesus, the Messiah. For in expressing the possibilities of the king’s son, he was in fact describing the reality of the reign of God’s own Son. For in His reign righteousness does indeed prevail, blessings are bountiful, and God is glorified. So many people sadly look for an earthly reign filled with earthly blessings. When we come to appreciate ourselves as the poor and needy in sin, we will also appreciate the depth of the wealth made possible by the reign of our King (Col. 2:3), and we will begin to understand the depth of the wisdom of God’s plan for Jesus, the King, from the very beginning.