Oct 24, 2010

Justice for Orphans and the Oppressed

You will bring justice to the orphans and the oppressed,
     so mere people can no longer terrify them.

Psalm 10 begins by wondering why the Lord lets the wicked do their evil deeds and even prosper because of them. The wicked even think God is absent or, at any rate, not paying attention to what they're doing. But the psalm writer knows that God is there and that he is, in fact, watching. Thus the psalmist cries out for the Lord to punish the wicked, to give them the justice they deserve.

The psalm ends on a different, tender note. The Lord pays attention, not only to the wicked, but also to their victims. He knows "the hopes of the helpless" and hears "their cries" so as to "comfort them" (10:17). The final verse of Psalm 10 affirms God's special care for victims of evil: "You will bring justice to the orphans and the oppressed, so mere people can no longer terrify them" (10:18). Orphans, in the ancient world, were often completely helpless and homeless. They were easily abused, enslaved, or simply left to die without anyone to care for them. The oppressed were those who were trampled by tyrants and others who abused their power. The Hebrew word translated as "oppressed" literally means "crushed."

The fact that God seeks justice for the powerless victims in society offers a word of hope to them. It also reminds those of us who have power to use our power for God's purposes. We must be people who seek justice for orphans, the oppressed, and others who cannot secure justice for themselves. If we have authority, such as in the workplace or the family, we must seek to treat those in our care fairly. Where we have the opportunity to do so, we must work for justice in systems and institutions, even as we lift our voices to defend the rights of the defenseless. Justice for those who lack it is not a partisan political concern, but rather a central passion of the Lord and all who seek to follow him.

QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: In what facets of life do you have the opportunity to seek justice for others? How would a commitment to justice make a difference in your daily life?

PRAYER:  Gracious God, how wonderful it is to know that you care for the weak and powerless. And not just wonderful, but also instructive. Your priorities teach us to seek justice for orphans, the oppressed, and others who are powerless.

Give me eyes to see those who need justice. Give me wisdom to know when I should act and how. Give me compassion for the weak and helpless. May my heart be shaped by your own heart, dear Lord, my actions by your actions.

All praise be to you, God of justice and mercy. Amen.

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