Scripture: How long will you judge unjustly and show partiality to the wicked? Give justice to the weak and the fatherless; maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute. Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked. Psalm 82:2-4 ESV
Observation: The heartfelt cry to the Lord, “How Long,” finds its expression primarily in the books of Job and the Psalter, both of which express laments over suffering and injustice and seek God’s relief. But in this psalm of Asaph, the script is flipped. Yahweh assembles all the gods of heaven (the godly patriarchs and rulers who are now present with the Lord) and questions Israel’s leaders about their preferential treatment to the wicked while neglecting those oppressed by the corrupt. He commands those who have privileged positions and resources to rescue the weak and needy, for they “have neither knowledge nor understanding, they walk about in darkness” (verse 5).
Takeaway: When unbelievers explain why they reject any notion of a good and all-powerful God, they often cite the unmitigated suffering of the poor and oppressed. “How can a good God allow those who are impoverished and helpless to starve, to suffer persecution? In this psalm, Asaph captures the audacity and hypocrisy of such an arrogant accusation toward God. Instead, the Creator of the universe asks us, “How long will you, who I have blessed with abundant resources and good health, stand by and do nothing?”
Sadly, and unwittingly for most of us, we benefit from wicked people who abuse others through slave labor to provide affordable products and services. And we in developed countries who live a comfortable life are often guilty of expressing sympathy without investing time or resources to do our part in relieving the oppressed’s suffering. (I certainly am guilty.)
How can we respond? By refusing to buy cheaper products produced in regions of the world where employers abuse laborers. By writing or calling our political leaders and asking them to present legislation to provide aid and disaster relief to those who suffer. Or by donating to a faith-based charity that provides care and comfort to the poor and oppressed. Lastly, we pray—because nothing moves without prayer. We pray for God to mobilize people who have necessary provisions and connections to the poor and needy—and that might include us.
Prayer: Father God, we thank you that your heart is for the poor and needy. Would you please forgive us when we arrogantly question your goodness when we see others suffer? Instead, would you please pour out your grace on us and mobilize us to be your hands and feet of mercy and relief? Amen.
Rev. Gordon Green, M.Div., M.A. Counseling