This psalm is a prayer for the king, that he will rule in justice and have victory over his enemies. The behavior attributed to the king – defending the poor and taking care of the needy – was expected of Israel’s king, who acted as God’s representative.
Of course, not even David, their greatest king, had followed God’s law perfectly. Some of the kings had been the exact opposite – oppressing the poor and enriching themselves at the people’s expense.
While the psalm may have been written and used in the context of a royal coronation, its interpretation can be extended to the Messiah-King, who would one day rule in perfect justice.
Most of the Old Testament was written by, to, and about the descendants of Abraham. It had been promised to him that, in him, all the nations of the world would be blessed. But much of the time his descendants saw the Gentiles as opponents or oppressors rather than those whom God had promised to bless.
Here and there, however, are reminders of that promised blessing. Paul, whose ministry took the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles, points out to them these promises in the Scriptures. Knowing that these long-ago promises to them had begun to be fulfilled in Jesus, they could have hope that God would go on fulfilling all His promises.
People were eager for the long-awaited Messiah to come, ushering in the kingdom of God. When John announced that the kingdom was at hand, and called on people to prepare for the coming of the king by repenting of the sins, they flocked to him in large numbers to be baptized.
This crowd included many Pharisees and Sadducees, members of rival religious groups. The Pharisees were scrupulous in keeping the Law – or at least in keeping the traditions they had been taught were how one kept the Law. Other people may have been surprised to see them coming to repent of their sins in a public baptism.
The Sadducees were associated with the temple and the priestly class. The focus of their religious observance was the ritual sacrifices in the temple. People may also have been surprised to see them coming to deal with sins through baptism by John.
We don’t know whether John was surprised to see them, but he certainly didn’t welcome them with open arms. Instead he challenged them to show evidence that they were truly repentant, because true repentance results in a changed life.