By Alex Florez
The collection of psalms in Book II express lament and distress about present circumstances and conditions while looking to the faithfulness of God.
My eight-year-old son loves justice, as long as it’s carried out in his favor. He’s passionate about swift retribution against unrighteousness, as long as he’s the one being vindicated. So often, he storms tearfully out of the room, decrying the unfairness and wickedness of his two older sisters. Even when he’s clearly at fault, he persists in playing the innocent victim of some grave miscarriage of justice.
As any parent knows, it’s exhausting to repeat the same conversation about where a child went wrong, how they can reflect on it, and how they can do better next time. It would be much easier to drown out their tears with shouting, to overwhelm their childish paroxysms with adult-sized anger. Especially after a long day of teaching, my wife and I have precious little patience and gentleness to deal with our children when they lose their minds over who cheated in a game of Uno, whose turn it is to empty the dishwasher, or who is being mean. In those moments, I don’t care about justice; I just want everyone to shut up and be cool!
When we find ourselves so chronically bereft of all the things required to parent our children well, we need the Word and the Holy Spirit.
Reading Psalm 72, I imagine a king reflecting on the future. Closing his eyes, he prays, “God, give your justice to the king and your righteousness to the king’s son” (Psalm 72:1). I imagine him thinking about his legacy as he writes. “Son, you’ll be king soon. You’ll be tempted to make the kingdom all about your own comfort, prestige, power, and riches. But your greatest priority must always be the shepherding of God’s people. Never forget the poor, the afflicted, and the oppressed, for as king, you must bring God’s justice to bear for their sake. Pursue God’s wisdom daily. Pass your sense of His righteousness to your own sons so that your kingdom can reflect God’s goodness to all the nations of the earth.”
With this in mind, I picture finding my son slumped on his bedroom floor, utterly nonplussed, his cheeks red and his eyes swollen with tears. Before I open my mouth, I silently call on the Holy Spirit to awaken in me His fruit of patience and gentleness so that I can clearly and lovingly shepherd my boy back to a state of grace and peace. To do my job as a father the right way, I must proceed in the shadow of God’s wings, His Spirit guiding my words and even the look in my eyes as I speak to my child.
I may not be a king myself, and the stakes may not be as high for me in my little world as they were for the kings of Israel and Judah, but the obligation is the same: to be a father after God’s own heart, I absolutely must turn to the Word and rest in the power of His Spirit to do the job at hand.