Prayers for God’s Blessing
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Psalm 71:1-24, Psalm 72:1-20
The collection of psalms in Book II express lament and distress about present circumstances and conditions while looking to the faithfulness of God.
Beginning in the late 1980s, United States presidents have a tradition of leaving hand-written notes in the Oval Office to their successors on inauguration day. These letters, particularly in an age of technology and partisanship, have become a legendary symbol of the country’s founding principles and a sign of goodwill. As eras end and people and policies change, these letters are meant as a reminder of the country’s past and encouragement for the future.
Psalms 71 and 72 mark the end of Book II of the Psalms and the end of an era. Some scholars believe that Psalm 71 is written from the perspective of all of Israel, looking back at God’s faithfulness to its people for the past few generations as it reaches maturity. Psalm 72 was written on the occasion of a new king’s coronation as a prayer for the Lord to be his wisdom and guide.
I love the contrast these two psalms provide: a sweeping backward review of how the Lord has blessed His people and a forward-looking plea for the Lord to remain faithful as a new generation takes over. Endings are hard for us because we are people wired for peace. And yet, endings disrupt our carefully constructed lives, forcing us to find safe harbor in something more permanent. In the case of believers, our safe harbor is in the steadfast love of the Lord, which endures forever.
Psalm 71 asks God to be a “rock and fortress,” words that remind us of safety and security—necessary in times of shifting sands. I’m struck by the beauty of this psalmist’s reflection from old age, with decades of wisdom earned through reliance on God. “I am like a miraculous sign to many, and you are my strong refuge” (Psalm 71:7) speaks to the lifelong journey of sanctification and trust. May we all describe our lives as such when we are near the end!
Psalm 72 is the last in this book, and it looks forward to the new king Israel will crown and references God’s overarching promises to His people through time. We see echoes of the promise to Abraham in verse 17, which says, “may all nations be blessed by him and call him blessed.” From that promise, we reach all the way to Jesus, the Messiah, the forever King of God’s people. All of these prayers for a righteous, just king (Psalm 72:1) would be fulfilled one day in Jesus.
The next three books of the Psalms will unfold a story of hardship, when the psalmists’ descendants struggled to stay faithful to God and His Word and when Israel would be divided and conquered by the Assyrians and the Babylonians. The endings and new beginnings would have been exhausting, and yet the steady faithfulness of the Lord, His commitment to justice and righteousness, and His never-failing promises of the forever King, Jesus Christ.