Psalm 72 : Give the king your justice, O God,
and your righteousness to the royal son!
 May he judge your people with righteousness,
and your poor with justice!
 Let the mountains bear prosperity for the people,
and the hills, in righteousness!
 May he defend the cause of the poor of the people,
give deliverance to the children of the needy,
and crush the oppressor!
Psalm 72:4 – “May he defend the cause of the poor of the people,”
What an incredible thing to say. The poor of the people. The nation of Israel was the covenant nation of God. They were they chosen of God, the apple of God’s eye, the people through whom God would bring the salvation of the world. And some of them are poor. Don’t let that one get away from us.
You listen to some preachers and you get the impression that the nation of Israel was Paradise on earth and that even today they are incapable of error. But the thing that is so striking here is the fact that THE people have poor among them. Note that this Psalm was written by Solomon. These are the glory days of Israel. The Kingdom is larger than it will ever be again. There is prosperity and peace and exploration and education and more. It is the height of Israel’s political, economic, educational life. And the King offers a prayer for the poor.
Wherever you find great wealth you will find great poverty, and the glory days of Israel were no different. These poor are not less chosen than anyone else. They are not half citizens. They do not live in the faithless district of Jerusalem anymore than anyone else does. In fact, when the nation does fall away from God and His Law, it will be the rich who will be blamed for their abuses of the poor. These poor are the brothers and sisters of the rich. They are full participating members of the commonwealth of Israel.
The church of Jesus Christ is the chosen of God. We are a chosen race, royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession. And there are poor of whom this is true and for whom we should be petitioning our God.
The sad reality, in the church in North America is that so few churches have poor people who are an integral part of their assembly. We hear Christian people talking about their church’s efforts to “help the poor”. But so often there is a tone of “us and them”. There has to be. Many times their churches do not have poor people in them. In their experience there are no “poor of the people”.
Why is it that the poor are so often people who are “out there”? Why is charity for the poor a work that is a bridge to the Gospel and not a work done for those in the body of Christ who are needy? Quite often it is because the church has no needy people. The poor are more noticeable and more numerous in the city and the suburbs is often where evangelicals congregate. Some will say that getting saved gets one out of poverty- a kind of respectable prosperity theology without having to carry the name. They will talk about the poor getting saved and becoming more industrious and disciplined, leaving the impression that their poverty was because they were lazy and haphazard. No doubt some are. Some of the rich are too, but it is easier to hide it behind large quantities of money.
The church worldwide seems to be made up of poor people. Churches in dumps because that is where the people from the church live; churches made up of Untouchables; churches of people who live hand to mouth. And yet, we can still speak, in this part of the world, or at least in the parts where our churches are, of the poor as those who we need to reach out to.
Rarely do we hear about the poor as those who we associate with on a daily basis, have into our homes for dinner, go to their homes for dinner, go on outreach teams with, who serve as deacons, Sunday School teachers, ushers or nursery workers. Is it because they are such an integral part of our churches that we do not mention it? That would be nice. But I fear that it may be because our churches are not the mixed bag of different kinds of people that we like to think they are.
When we talk about different kinds of people we think of race, culture, nationality. We do not often think of economics. God defends the cause of the poor of His people (Psalm 72:4). It is harder for a rich man to enter heaven than for a camel to go through the eye of a needle (and don’t bring up the nonsense about some needle gate – it doesn’t, and never did, exist) (Luke 18:25). God has chosen the poor of the world to be rich in faith (James 2:5).
My world is very small and it could be that my experiences, reading, and observations do not reflect the norm in the North American church. But even if that is the case it is still appropriate to encourage a call to pray that our churches reflect, more and more, the diversity in our culture that includes the poor.
May we be able to talk about the glories of seeing Psalm 72:14 being a truth in our churches for our people – He defends the cause of the poor of His people.
The ultimate “royal son” mentioned in this Psalm is Jesus Himself. He has done what the Psalm asks God to do. And He has passed onto us the task of demonstrating it to the world.