Psalm 72: The Bible’s Grown-Up Christmas “List”

On Main Street in a small city in North Dakota sits a monument of the Ten Commandments. The people of the city drive by this monument week-in and week-out, but it seems that few pay attention to it. Perhaps many do not even know it’s there. The problem with the monument is that its words are written on stone, and not on the tablets of human hearts (c.f. 2 Corinthians 3:3).

But imagine, for a moment, that a day arrived when not only this city’s residents perfectly kept the commandments, but that all the nations of the world did too. Wouldn’t that be a veritable heaven on earth? Imagine (to borrow the title of John Lennon’s famous song) a world where no murders were committed, where thieves did not break in and steal, and where moth and rust did not destroy (Matthew 6:19). Imagine a world filled with the knowledge of the glory of Yahweh as the waters cover the sea (c.f. Habakkuk 2:14). Is it possible?

Not only is it possible, but did you know—this is what the Bible promises?

For many reasons, the Christmas season brings out deep longings within the human heart for a better world, one that is not irrefragably broken. Perhaps you’ve heard the song “My Grown Up Christmas List” in which an adult sings to Santa:

“Do you remember me
I sat upon your knee
I wrote to you with childhood fantasies
Well I’m all grown up now
And still need help somehow
I’m not a child but my heart still can dream

So here’s my lifelong wish
My grown up Christmas list
Not for myself but for a world in need

No more lives torn apart
That wars would never start
And time would heal all hearts
And everyone would have a friend
And right would always win
And love would never end, no
This is my grown up Christmas list”

Wouldn’t you like to live in a world where these wishes came true? I would too. Is it all a pipe dream?

What the world longingly (and, we must say, foolishly and blasphemously) requests from Santa, is actually promised by God, with whom nothing will be impossible (Luke 1:37). Jesus tells us that a day is coming when mourners will be comforted (Matthew 5:4). A day is coming when the nations will beat their “swords into ploughshares” and not “learn war anymore” (Isaiah 2:4). A day is coming when access to the tree of life will be opened for the “healing of the nations” (Revelation 22:2). A day will come when God’s people will “be [together] with the Lord forever” (1 Thessalonians 4:17). Right will win, evil will not (Isaiah 11:4). The curse will be no more (Revelation 22:3). And love will never end (1 Corinthians 13:8-12).

Isn’t it amazing? What the world longs for, God promises. But note this: God promises these things on his terms, in his way, and in his timing.
When will these things be? The Bible’s answer to when these things will be is in the age to come. And how will these things be? The Bible’s answer to how these things will be is through the coming reign of God’s Messiah (Psalm 72, see below). And how long will it be until these things take place? The Bible’s answer is soon (Revelation 22:12).

In Psalm 72, God’s people pray that God would establish on earth the righteous rule of David’s Son, the “greater than Solomon” (c.f. Matthew 12:42). They are begging God for a righteous ruler who will bring to completion God’s eternal plan for redeeming the universe. Verses 6-7 ask, “May he come down like rain upon the mown grass, like showers that water the earth. May the righteous flourish in his days, as well as an abundance of peace, until the moon is no more.”

While political leaders in this age often cause their citizens to groan, in Psalm 72 God’s people plead for the refreshing, righteous rule of a king the likes of which the world has never seen or experienced. This is a king that the nations will gladly submit to, under whose rule the righteous (i.e. those who keep God’s law) will flourish. So, God’s people pray, “May the kings of Tarshish and of the islands bring gifts; may the kings of Sheba and Seba offer tributes. And may all kings bow down before him, all nations serve him” (v. 10-11). Here is the Shiloh-ruler from Judah (Genesis 49:10). Here is the son of man from Daniel 7:13-14, granted an everlasting dominion and a kingdom which will never pass away (c.f. Isaiah 9:6-7). God’s people are saying—may these things happen—may heaven come to earth through your Messiah!

God’s people also ask for the reign of David’s Son to be universal in nature, “May he also rule from sea to sea, and from the Euphrates River to the ends of the earth” (v. 8). While Solomon filled out the borders of Palestine, here is a king who reigns over the whole world. The prophet Zechariah picks up this language from v. 8 to describe the universal reign of the Messiah who would first ride humbly into Jerusalem on a donkey (Zechariah 9:9-10). Jesus is the one who will reign from sea to shining sea—over all the new creation. Psalm 72 is describing the fruition of God’s plan to “unite all things” under Christ’s Lordship, things in heaven and earth (Ephesians 1:10).

The people of God then ask for the prosperity of Messiah’s kingdom, “May there be abundance of grain on the earth on top of the mountains; its fruit will wave like the cedars of Lebanon; and may those from the city flourish like the vegetation of the earth” (v. 16). Here, all of the blessings of the Mosaic covenant (c.f. Deuteronomy 28) come to fruition through David’s obedient Lord (Psalm 110:1). No exile will be possible in the day when God sends his Christ to save those eagerly waiting for him (Hebrews 9:28).In Psalm 72, a never-ending stay in the worldwide Eden-Canaan is brought to fruition. Jesus will preserve the meek in the earth (Matthew 5:5) because their lives are precious to him (v. 14)—God’s people will have nothing to fear. Imagine it—a king whose interests subserve those who can never pay him back for his goodness! A king who cannot be bought by the billionaires! Do you long for it?

Finally, God’s people plead that the reign of the king’s Son would be perpetual. “May his name endure forever [this entails that the king have an indestructible, resurrected life]; may his name produce descendants as long as the sun shines; and may people wish blessings on themselves by him; may all nations call him blessed” (v. 17). Long before this Psalm was penned, God promised Abraham that all the nations would be blessed in his seed (Genesis 12:3; 22:18). Here, we see Scripture interpreting Scripture, showing that the transnational blessing from Abraham flows to the nations through David’s Son, who is the seed of Abraham (c.f. Matthew 1:1).

All of this sounds wonderful, does it not? Who can bring this all about? Verses 18-19 state, “Blessed be the Lord God, the God of Israel, who alone works wonders [only he can do it!]. And blessed be His glorious name forever; and may the whole earth be filled with His glory. Amen and Amen.” How will God’s glory be throughout the earth? When will the hopeful requests of God’s people be fulfilled? It will be through the established reign of the Jesus Psalm 72 is pleading for. Then all creation will sing for joy (Psalm 96, 98)!

The awesome thing about singing and praying Psalm 72 is that God will surely respond to our prayers taken from his word. He will bring these things to pass, answering every request his people have prayed. Psalm 72 is what we’re praying for when we say, “Your kingdom come” (Matthew 6:10). It’s what we’re longing for when we hear Christ say in Revelation 22:10, “Yes, I am coming quickly.” Our response to Jesus’ second coming should be the same as John’s: “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.” We should pray, “Father, make these things true! Set all that is wrong to right through your Messiah who was born in Bethlehem—come to rule and reign through him! Judge and save!”

This Christmas season, ditch asking from Santa what only God has promised to bring through the righteous reign and rule of his Messiah. There will come a day when the righteous will flourish like the grass! Open up your Bible, and pray the prayers of God’s people from Psalm 72. List these requests in your prayers. Mary’s boy-child Jesus Christ will prevail. The kingdom of the world will become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and Jesus will reign forever (Revelation 11:5). And if doubts in your mind assail these truths, just remember what Isaiah said: “The zeal of Yahweh of Hosts will do this” (Isaiah 9:7).