Endow the king with justice, LORD, The royal son with righteousness. Your people, your afflicted ones, He’ll judge with truth and uprightness.
The mountains will bring peace to them, The hills the fruit of righteousness. He will defend and save the poor, And crush all those who them oppress.
As long as sun and moon endure, So will he live time without end. He’ll be like showers on the earth, Like rains that on mown fields descend.
The righteous then will blossom forth Throughout his everlasting reign; Until the moon no longer shines, Peace in abundance will remain.
From sea to sea he will hold sway And from the River to earth’s end. His enemies will lick the dust, And desert tribes the knee will bend.
Then Tarshish and the distant shores Will send the tribute of their kings; Sheba’s and Seba’s kings will come And bring to him their offerings.
You can hear a Free Church of Scotland congregation sing v 1-7 to the pleasant tune Cannock here, v 1-10 to the tune Crasseliushereand later verses to the tune Church Triumphanthere.
Let me come clean from the outset: Metrical Psalms do not feature prominently in my personal spirituality. It was the date of this reflection that drew my attention initially rather than today’s text. I wondered how people singing this Psalm might have experienced it a century ago on Armistice Day.
This is a prayer for the king in David’s line. One can see how this could easily be taken slightly out of context and applied to our own royal family – was that how it might have been sung at the end of World War I?
The Psalm is “of Solomon.” Only this and Psalm 127 have this attribution. Calvin thought that the words were uttered as a death-bed prayer by David, and Solomon later put it into the form of a Psalm. He seems to be in a minority with that particular view. It is certainly about the Davidic dynasty. The Psalm opens with a prayer for the king, and closes with praise for God’s rule over all of humankind (read the second half of the Psalm to see that.) The Psalm then goes on to express a hope for righteousness and justice, showing how the people live with all the benefits of theocratic rule under the Davidic line. David, Solomon and their successors were to be kings for all the people (although careful study of their track records also shows their fallibility.) It includes a prayer for the king’s longevity and wide dominion (our National Anthem echoes this: “Send her victorious…long to reign over us…”)
Patriotism may be both a good thing and very dangerous. Certainly it was the greatest recruiting sergeant in WWI and in many other wars since. On this Sunday, commemorating the 100th anniversary of the end of “the war to end all wars,” take some time to reflect on the fourth stanza. What must you and I do to allow the righteous to blossom forth for all time, so that “peace in abundance will remain”?
Compassionate God, we pray for those whose lives have been blighted by war. On this anniversary Sunday, stand close to all who grieve, even decades after the loss of loved ones. Grant them hope and comfort. We pray that we may be peacemakers. Through our words, our actions and our thoughts, may we always show others Jesus, Son of David, Prince of Peace, to whom be all glory with you, Father, and the Holy Spirit, one God forever. Amen.
The Rev’d Steve Faber, Synod Moderator, West Midlands Synod