Psalm 72: A Comparison to the Epiphany of the Lord

Psalm 72: A Comparison to the Epiphany of the Lord

Picture yourself standing on a moonlit shore, waves gently lapping at your feet, as you contemplate the vastness of the ocean stretching before you. In that tranquil setting, surrounded by the whispers of the night, look up at the Sky.  Can you see it? Can you see the starlit night, much like the one that guided the Wise Men to the humble manger in Bethlehem? Now, picture a solitary figure, the psalmist, standing on a hill, gazing at the celestial canvas, and inspired to pen the words of Psalm 72. It was a moment of divine connection, a time when the heavens seemed to whisper the promise of a righteous ruler—a leader whose reign would bring justice, compassion, and universal acknowledgment. 

Psalm 72, attributed to Solomon, stands as a majestic and prophetic hymn within the Psalter, providing a glimpse into the ideals of a righteous king and the universal reign of the Messiah. As the Christian world celebrates the Epiphany of the Lord—a moment symbolizing the manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles—Psalm 72 serves as a profound testament to the glory and universality of the Messiah's reign. This article will delve into the psalm's rich imagery and what I believe to be the profound messages, drawing connections to the Epiphany narrative and reflecting on its timeless relevance. As a bonus I have include 5 suggestions for journaling related to the themes of Psalm 72 and the Epiphany. 

The Context of Psalm 72:

Before delving into the intricate details of Psalm 72, it is crucial to understand its historical and theological context. Traditionally attributed to Solomon, the son of David, this psalm is often seen as a royal prayer or blessing, envisioning the qualities and reign of an ideal king. However, the Christian tradition has embraced this psalm as a Messianic prophecy, viewing its verses as a foreshadowing of the coming Messiah—Jesus Christ.

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Understanding the Epiphany:

The term "Epiphany" finds its roots in the Greek word "epiphaneia," meaning manifestation or appearance. In the Christian liturgical calendar, Epiphany marks the manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles, often symbolized by the visit of the Wise Men or Magi to the newborn Jesus. This event is significant not only in the context of the Nativity but also in underscoring the universality of Christ's mission and salvific work.

Psalm 72: A Prophetic Tapestry:

Psalm 72 opens with a plea to God, a cry for divine guidance and righteousness to be bestowed upon the king and the king's son. The language is poetic and rich, setting the stage for a profound exploration of the qualities of this ideal ruler.

  • The Righteous Rule of the Messiah:

The psalmist implores God to give the king divine judgments and righteousness, envisioning a ruler who administers justice and righteousness. This echoes the Messianic prophecy found in Isaiah 11:1-4, where a shoot will come from the stump of Jesse, filled with the Spirit of the Lord, bringing justice and righteousness to the oppressed. In the Christian tradition, Jesus is often called the "Son of David," connecting him directly to this royal lineage.

The imagery of mountains and little hills in verse 3 symbolizes peace and righteousness spreading across the land. It paints a picture of a kingdom where justice is not only a distant ideal but a tangible reality, reaching the impoverished and oppressed.

  • Justice for the Poor and Needy:

Psalm 72 underscores the compassionate nature of the Messiah's reign by emphasizing justice for the poor and the needy. The ruler, anointed by God, is likened to rain upon the grass before mowing, a refreshing and life-giving force. The Messiah will bring justice, save the children of the needy, and shatter the chains of the oppressor. This theme resonates deeply with the Christian understanding of Christ as the savior who came to seek and save the lost (Luke 19:10).

In the context of the Epiphany, this emphasis on justice for the poor and people in need aligns with the broader message of salvation being extended to all people, regardless of their social standing or background. The arrival of the Wise Men from the East to honor the infant Jesus signifies the inclusive nature of Christ's mission—reaching beyond the confines of a specific nation or social class.

  • Universal Dominion and Homage of Nations:

Psalm 72 paints a vast panorama of the Messiah's dominion, extending from sea to sea and from the River to the ends of the earth. The mention of kings from Tarshish, of the isles, Sheba, and Seba bringing presents and offering gifts symbolizes the universal acknowledgment of the Messiah's sovereignty. This expansive imagery echoes the words of the angelic proclamation in Luke 2:10-11, where the birth of Jesus is declared as good news of great joy for all people. “But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.”

The Magi, representing the Gentiles, is pivotal in the Epiphany narrative. Their journey to Bethlehem to pay homage to the newborn King mirrors the prophetic vision of Psalm 72. The psalmist anticipated a time when the Messiah would be recognized and honored by kings and nations, irrespective of their geographical location or cultural background.

  • All Nations Shall Serve Him:

Psalm 72 boldly declares that all kings and nations will eventually bow before the Messiah, emphasizing the universality of His reign. This proclamation aligns with the teachings of the New Testament, where the apostles herald the message of salvation going forth to the ends of the earth.

The Magi, having followed the star to find the Christ-child, exemplify the fulfillment of this prophecy. Their act of worship signifies the recognition of Jesus as the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords—a sentiment echoed later in the New Testament by the apostle Paul in Philippians 2:9-11. The psalmist's anticipation of all nations serving the Messiah finds fulfillment in the ongoing spread of Christianity across diverse cultures and continents.

  • A Prayer for the Messiah's Prosperity:

The latter part of Psalm 72 serves as a prayer for the Messiah's prosperity. The psalmist acknowledges the Messiah's role as the deliverer of the needy and the oppressed. The imagery of an abundance of grain and flourishing landscapes reflects the prosperity and blessings accompanying the Messiah's reign.

This prayer resonates with the hope and expectation embedded in the Epiphany narrative. The Wise Men, guided by the star, bring valuable gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh, symbolizing wealth, worship, and sacrifice. Their offerings align with the psalmist's vision of prosperity and blessings accompanying the recognition of the Messiah's kingship.

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Journaling:

Before we go, here are 5 suggestions for journaling related to the themes of Psalm 72 and the Epiphany:

  1. Reflect on Moments of Divine Connection: Describe a time when you felt a profound connection to the divine, whether in nature, a sacred space, or during a meaningful experience.
  2. Explore Personal Understandings of Justice and Compassion: Define what justice and compassion mean to you personally. How do these concepts align with your values and beliefs?
  3. Contemplate on Inclusivity: Consider instances where you've witnessed inclusivity or experienced its absence. How can you contribute to fostering inclusivity in your own life and community?
  4. Examine Leadership Qualities: Identify leaders, either historical or contemporary, who embody qualities of justice and compassion. Reflect on how these qualities can influence your own leadership style, whether in personal relationships or professional settings.
  5. Review the Epiphany Narrative: Reflect on your understanding of the Epiphany. How does this celebration impact your spiritual journey, and how might it inspire personal growth and understanding? What practical steps can you take to share messages of hope?

Remember, journaling is a personal journey, and there are no right or wrong answers. Use these questions as a starting points, allowing your thoughts and reflections to flow naturally onto the pages of your journal.

We have delved into the rich imagery and profound messages in Psalm 72, drawing connections to the Epiphany narrative and reflecting on its timeless relevance. Remember that Psalm 72 envisions the reign of the Messiah, characterized by justice, compassion, and universal acknowledgment, which aligns with the Epiphany narrative. As I celebrate the Epiphany of the Lord, I believe that Psalm 72 invites us to reflect on the timeless significance of Christ's manifestation to the world. The psalm's depiction of universal dominion, justice for the poor, and the homage of nations finds resonance in the ongoing story of Christianity. The connections between Psalm 72 and the Epiphany narrative offer a profound meditation on the universal significance of Christ's manifestation. May the celebration of the Epiphany inspire us to embrace the inclusive nature of Christ's mission, reaching out to all corners of the earth. Let Psalm 72 serve as a reminder that the Messiah's reign extends far beyond our understanding, encompassing a divine plan for salvation that continues to unfold through the ages.

So the next time you look up at the stars, in that tranquil setting, surrounded by the whispers of the night, look up at the Sky, knowing that God is with you.  

I am interested to know your thoughts. Please share your comments below.
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