12 For he delivers the needy when they call,
the poor and those who have no helper.
13 He has pity on the weak and the needy
and saves the lives of the needy.
14 From oppression and violence he redeems their life,
and precious is their blood in his sight. (Psalm 72: 12-14 NRSV)
The redemption from oppression, the help of the helpless, perhaps I’m biased, but I hear Mary’s song (Luke 1: 46-55) in Psalm 72. The prayers for a new ruler are prayers that the reign of God will come to earth. Like the ancients, who wanted a ruler who would be an extension of God’s character, we have high hopes for new leaders, and for transitional time itself. The election of a new leader is a transition of power, but we also have high hopes for other transitions in our public and private lives. The solstice, the new year, the new moon, birthdays, anniversaries, new schools, new jobs, all of these transitions can be faced with hope. Hope that a new start, a new year, a new whatever, can change the course of our lives. Sometimes it does, like Solomon’s reign. But even though Solomon was a wise and righteous king, he was not without his flaws. We need restarts because the old “new” only worked for a time. We need to restart, refresh, renew.
The cycle of the liturgical year, especially the season of advent gives us hope that we can start a new, that we can once again hope for the reign of God to come to earth, for the reversal of power, for the mighty to be overthrown and for the helpless to have their needs met. In advent, we hope for cycles of oppression and violence to end. All of us, the weary ones, watch and wait and slowly become aware of God’s presence with us once again. God, incarnate, Immanuel, is always with us. Advent reminds us that God is working in the world and we are invited to rest, to be renewed, and to participate in the reign of God once again.
I began writing Psalm reflections during Lent of 2020 shortly after we decided to close the church building, work from home, and worship via zoom. It is a practice I have continued since. Many churches use the Revised Common Lectionary (RLC) that rotates scripture on a three-year cycle (A, B, and C). Starting in Advent 2019, Third Church decided to worship with the texts from Year D, which is still not circulated as are years A, B, and C. Year D was created with the goal of including scriptures that were left out or not used as frequently as others. While we were using Psalms in year D, most other lectionary followers were using Year A. In Advent of 2020 we rejoined those who use the lectionary in year B. Advent of 2021 year C. Advent of 2022 year A.
I use the Vanderbilt Divinity Library’s resource for lectionary readings to make text selections.
Year A Psalms
1st Sunday in Advent Psalm 122, 2nd Sunday in Advent Psalm 72, 3rd Sunday in Advent Psalm 146, 4th Sunday in Advent Psalm 80, Christmas Psalm 96, Psalm 97, Psalm 98, 1st Sunday after Christmas Psalm 148, New Year Psalm 8, Epiphany Psalm 72, 1st Sunday after Epiphany Psalm 29, 2nd Sunday after Epiphany Psalm 40, 3rd Sunday after Epiphany Psalm 27, 4th Sunday after Epiphany Psalm 15, 5th Sunday after Epiphany Psalm 112, 6th Sunday after Epiphany Psalm 119, Transfiguration Sunday Psalm 2 or Psalm 99.
Ash Wednesday Psalm 51, 1st Sunday in Lent Psalm 32, 2nd Sunday in Lent Psalm 121, 3rdSunday in Lent Psalm 95, 4th Sunday in Lent Psalm 23, 5th Sunday in Lent Psalm 130, 6th Sunday in Lent Psalm 118 or Psalm 31.
Holy Week: Monday Psalm 36, Tuesday Psalm 71, Wednesday Psalm 70, Thursday Psalm 116, Friday Psalm 22, Saturday Psalm 31.
Easter Psalm 118 or Psalm 114, 2nd Sunday of Easter Psalm 16, 3rd Sunday of Easter Psalm 116, 4th Sunday of Easter Psalm 23, 5th Sunday of Easter Psalm 31, 6th Sunday of Easter Psalm 66, Ascension of the Lord Psalm 47 or Psalm 93, 7th Sunday of Easter Psalm 68, Pentecost Psalm 104.
1st Sunday after Pentecost Psalm 8, 2nd Sunday after Pentecost Psalm 33 or Psalm 50, 3rd Sunday after Pentecost Psalm 116 or Psalm 100, 4th Sunday after Pentecost Psalm 86 or Psalm 69, 5thSunday after Pentecost Psalm 13 or Psalm 89, 6th Sunday after Pentecost Psalm 45 or Psalm 145, 7th Sunday after Pentecost Psalm 119 or Psalm 65, 8th Sunday after Pentecost Psalm 139 or Psalm 86, 9th Sunday after Pentecost Psalm 105 or Psalm 119, 10th Sunday after Pentecost Psalm 17 or Psalm 145, 11th Sunday after Pentecost Psalm 105 or Psalm 85, 12th Sunday after Pentecost Psalm 133 or Psalm 67, 13th Sunday after Pentecost Psalm 124 or Psalm 138, 14thSunday after Pentecost Psalm 105 or Psalm 26, 15th Sunday after Pentecost Psalm 149 or Psalm 119, 16th Sunday after Pentecost Psalm 114 or Psalm 103, 17th Sunday after Pentecost Psalm 105 or Psalm 145, 18th Sunday after Pentecost Psalm 78 or Psalm 25, 19th Sunday after Pentecost Psalm 19 or Psalm 80, 20th Sunday after Pentecost Psalm 106 or Psalm 23, 21stSunday after Pentecost Psalm 99 or Psalm 96, 22nd Sunday after Pentecost Psalm 90 or Psalm 1, 23rd Sunday after Pentecost Psalm 107 or Psalm 43, 24th Sunday after Pentecost Psalm 78 or Psalm 70, 25th Sunday after Pentecost Psalm 123 or Psalm 90, 26th Sunday after Pentecost Psalm 100 or Psalm 95.
Sources and notes:
“Since the king overhears this prayer offered to God about the king he is also addressed and pressured rhetorically to fulfill what is expected of him. The psalm becomes a warning for the king in its function as a “mirror” that allows him to evaluate his reign. …. Also overhearing the psalm are the king’s subjects both peasants and the elite.” W p. 221 Also overhearing this prayer is Solomon’s mother. “Queen Mother Bathsheba would probably have noticed the idealistic hyperbole in the prayer at her son’s coronation, which contradicted her own earlier experience of monarchy.” W p. 225 If I were preaching this text, wondering about how Bathsheba reacted to it would be part of it. When women’s voices are silence we forget that they were part of the event. Bathsheba certainly would have been at the coronation for her son and her emotions/thoughts/prayers were likely complicated. Maybe she hopes that Psalm 72 is true even after her very different experience of what kings are like.
“Psalm 72 is a particularly clear example of Israel’s appropriation of this view. Repeatedly the poem connects what God is asked to do for the king with the hoped-for acts of the king for the people (v. 1 and vv. 2-4, v. 5 and vv. 6-7, v. 8-11 and 12-14, v. 15 and v. 16). Mays p. 236
“Saving justice for the helpless is the definitive mark of the reign of God, the sign of the one who represents the lord of all the world.” Mays p. 237
“The correlation in this psalm between the place and way of God and that of human kingship is unmistakable. The king himself is to be the source of righteousness, well-being (shalom), fertility, and victory, the one who saves the helpless when they call, the one served by nations, and the one whose name endures forever. All these things are said first of all of God in the psalms. Though prayers were to be made of the king continually (v. 15), he clearly has a vocation that is an extension of the character of Israel’s God.” Mays p. 237
“In the attribution to Solomon the psalm is read as Scripture in the context of other Scriptures, a record of the past for instruction of the present. The account of Solomon in I Kings comes closer to fulfilling the model of the true king sketched in this psalm than that of any other king of Judah. But the Scripts also records his failure and judges him a flawed example of the model.” Mays p. 238
“The doxology in verses 18-19 is the liturgical marker of the conclusion of book II of the Psalms. As the conclusion of Psalm 72 it turns attention to the One who also does marvelous things. It reminds the reader that it is the God of Israel who alone will be forever praised and whose glory will fill the whole earth. The sovereignty belongs to the LORD, and all that is wished and claimed for the king is but a reflection of the heavenly reign (cf. vv. 18-19 and vv. 17 and 8). According to verse 20, Psalm 72 is the last of David’s prayers. The verse is an endnote to a collection of David psalms that constituted the basic material of the Psalter and now in a revised form makes up the first two books of the Psalms.” Mays pp. 238-239
WBC Allen, Leslie C. 1983. Word Biblical Commentary: Psalms 101-150. Vol. 21. Waco, TX: Word Books, Publisher.
Bonhoeffer, Dietrich. 1974. Psalms: The Prayer Book of the Bible. 8th ed. Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Press.
Brueggemann, Walter. 2007. Praying the Psalms: Engaging Scripture and the Life of the Spirit. 2nd ed. Eugene, OR: Cascade.
Brueggemann Brueggemann, Walter. 2014. From Whom No Secrets Are Hid: Introducing the Psalms. Edited by Brent A. Strawn. 1st ed. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press.
Chittister Chittister, Joan. (2011). Songs of the heart: reflections on the psalms. John Garratt Publishing.
WBC Craigie, Peter C. 1983. Psalms 1-50–Word Biblical Commentary. Vol. 19. Waco, TX: Word Books.
Creach Creach, Jerome Frederick Davis. 1998. Psalms: Interpretation Bible Studies. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press.
DAFLER, J. (2021). PSOBRIETY: A journey of recovery through the psalms. Louisville, KY: WESTMINSTER JOHN KNOX.
W de Claisse-Walford, Nancy L. WISDOM COMMENTARY: Psalms Bks. 4-5. Edited by Barbara E. Reid. Vol. 22. Collegeville, MN: Liturgical, 2020.
W Hopkins, Denise Dombkowski. WISDOM COMMENTARY: Psalms Bks. 2-3. Edited by Barbara E. Reid. Vol. 21. Collegeville, MN: Liturgical, 2016.
NIB Keck, Leander E. 2015. The New Interpreters Bible Commentary. Vol. 3. Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press.
Lewis, C. S. (2017). Reflections on the Psalms. Harper One, an imprint of Harper Collins Publishers.
Mays Mays, James Luther. 1994. Psalms. Louisville, KY: John Knox Press.
McCann McCann, J. C. (1993). A theological introduction to the book of Psalms: The Psalms as Torah. Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press.
McCann, J. C., & Howell, J. C. 2001. Preaching the Psalms. Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press.
Merrill, N. C. (2020). Psalms for praying an invitation to wholeness (10th Anniversary Edition ed.). London, England: Bloomsbury Publishing.
Miller Miller, Patrick D. 1986. Interpreting the Psalms. Philadelphia, PA: Fortress Press.
Schlimm Schlimm, Matthew Richard. 2018. 70 Hebrew Words Every Christian Should Know.Nashville, TN: Abington Press.
Spong Spong, M. (Ed.). (2020). The words of her mouth: Psalms for the struggle. Cleveland, OH: The Pilgrim Press.
WBC Tate, Marvin E. 1990. Word Biblical Commentary: Psalms 51-100. Edited by David Allan. Hubbard and Glenn W. Barker. Vol. 20. Waco, TX: Word.
OTL Weiser, Artur. 1998. Old Testament Library: Psalms. Translated by Herbert Hartwell. 3rd ed. New York, NY: Manchester University Press.