Psalms: Songs of Hope for the Oppressed (Ps. 9:7–9, 13–20)
The book of Psalms is a delightful read not only for its richness of themes, which cut across many aspects of worship, but also because of the numerous messages of comfort. A legitimate question about life asked by believers and unbelievers alike has to do with God’s justice: “O God, how long shall the adversary reproach? Shall the enemy blaspheme thy name for ever?” (Ps. 74:10). It is a meaningful question, and God’s apparent silence does not amount to indifference. All the difficulties in making sense of why some prosper at the expense of others will be answered in judgment, where each one will be rewarded “according to his work” (Rev. 22:12, NKJV). This does not mean that even presently God does not act on behalf of His people (Ps. 9:9). Through willing human instrumentalities, God clothes the naked, feeds the hungry, and visits the ones locked up in prison (Matt. 25:40).
The ones who have experienced the worst that this present life has to offer have more reason to look forward to the next one.
“Do Something, God” (Psalm 82)
Every time we have an unprecedented bite of life’s bitter lemons, our cries for the justice of God rise up. The realization of the glaring inequality between the rich and the poor and how the former exploits that advantage at the expense of the latter is enough ammunition for the skeptic to discredit the acclaimed fairness and love of God. The Scriptures affirm that He is concerned with us intimately, even keeping count of the hairs on our heads (Matt. 10:30). He may not visit immediate judgment on the wicked, but He does not keep quiet forever. His promise cannot be better news: “ ‘I’ve had enough; I’m on my way to heal the ache in the heart of the wretched’ ” (Ps. 12:5, The Message).
A King’s Promises (Psalm 101)
While hardship does not entitle anyone to the blessings of God, who allows His sun to “rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matt. 5:45, ESV), it does make us realize more intimately our need of God. The ones who have experienced the worst that this present life has to offer have more reason to look forward to the next one. God promises them the life they have never experienced if only they remain faithful. Proud and independent people will not need the “reward in heaven” (Matt. 5:12) when they have had theirs now while trampling over the weak and helpless.
Walking With the Lord (Psalm 146)
It is a sign of tremendous faith when we can praise God in the midst of affliction. When darkness seems to veil His face, we can rest on His unchanging grace. David speaks of walking in the valley of the shadow of death with no fear. He knows what it’s like to live with his heart in his mouth, given how badly Saul wanted him dead. This kind of confidence in God’s power does not take away the reality of hardship, but it does give hope of conquering “through him that loved us” (Rom. 8:37). This is the work we have been called to as Christians (Mic. 6:8).
When we share Jesus, we share hope and faith that comes with knowing Him. The little we have to offer to alleviate the temporal suffering is nothing compared to the abundant life that comes from knowing and experiencing Him (John 10:10). This joy smiles through sorrow and longs with bated breath for the revelation of the King of kings.
Proverbs: Mercy on the Needy (Prov. 10:4; 13:23, 25; 14:31; 15:15, 16; 19:15, 17; 22:2, 22, 23; 30:7–9)
The Proverbs are known to be succinct yet punchy. One cannot help noticing the close relationship that they depict between wealth and character. There is something about how we relate to money and power depending on where we stand as far as the law of God is concerned. It is even better to have little with character than abundance with none (Prov. 15:16).
This relationship probably has something to do with the law of love. At the core of love is unselfishness; the willingness to lay down our lives, if that is what it takes, for the benefit of someone else (John 15:13). Perhaps wealth is a curse when all the purpose it can serve is gratifying our desires. Jesus made it clear that there will always be poor people (Matt. 26:11). Is this an arbitrary curse for God to keep some people poor? That would make God a mean and unfair ruler. But we must remember that there is also a “prince of this world” who wields a considerable amount of control (John 12:31).
Poverty is not the only problem aching humanity today; disease, death, war, and hunger, among others, are equally destructive to peace of mind. We are to recognize these as openings to introduce people to the Savior. After all, more than just coming to die, Jesus came to give “beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair” (Isa. 61:3, NLT).
We cannot do this if we are selfish and living only for excess and indulgent gratification. Our work is cut out for us.
1. Does God care about suffering and pain? If He does, why isn’t He doing anything to stop it?
2. Can Christians be poor if God has anything to do with it?
3. What is more important? Relieving human suffering or presenting the gospel? How can our humanitarian efforts be different from what secular organizations do?