A Reflection on the Psalms

Read through Psalm 10
As noted in the section above, these psalms have to do with the power and presence of God, and what that reality means for the righteous and the wicked. But these psalms are angled toward human perception of God’s power and presence. They are about the views of the practical atheist vs the views of the practical theist. Neither type of person reflects only in the abstract, removed from the life-view of God’s presence or His absence; rather they live these realities out practically in their own lives.

The practical atheist is one who bases his life on such ideas: “in all his thoughts there is no room for God” (v.4). He lives his life doing evil deeds thinking, “God will never notice; he covers his face and never sees” (v.11). He concludes his life thinking, “He [God] won’t call me to account” (v.13). In his atheism, the functional atheist lives a wicked life that creates victims and oppresses the weak. He lives and behaves as if God does not exist. The threat of the practical atheist to both the community and to the powerless individuals is not only in the content of their beliefs, but in the form of their actions (to the extent that their beliefs result in actions). By living without the “fear-of-the-LORD,” they feel free to oppress the widow, the orphan, and the weak if it leads to self-promotion or fulfills deep rooted selfish desires.

On the other hand, the psalmist can be described as a practical theist. He too does not only keep his beliefs in the abstract, but lives and acts upon these beliefs. The psalmist both affirms God’s active power and calls on God to “arise” and make His power known (v.12). The psalmist, as a practical theist, actually reverses the language of the practical atheist. The language of the psalmist is: “Do not forget the helpless” (v.12); “But you, God, see the trouble of the afflicted” (v.14); and He will “call the evildoer to account for his wickedness” (v.15). The practical theist understands that there are consequences for our actions (Psalm 9.16) and that the consequences come from God, who is both “the righteous judge” (Psalm 9.4) and “the helper of the fatherless” (Psalm 10.14). God will defend the oppressed and care for the hurting, and in order to do that He will have to inflict punishment upon the wicked. The psalmist lives out this faith in the concrete choices of daily life, just as the practical atheist lives out his concrete choices.

In these psalms there are two things that we can point out concerning what it means to keep faith in God: (1) to continue to trust in God’s faithfulness in spite of the presence of oppression – to know that His presence is near even if it feels that He is far away; and (2) it means to struggle against oppression, to refuse to throw in one’s lot with those who oppress the poor and the weak. We can now have a fuller picture of what it means to have faith in God when we are able to read and meditate on both Psalm 9 and 10.

Prayer: Father, we thank you for the faith you have given us. Like your faithful servant, the psalmist, we praise your name in both the theological highs and the tangible lows of life. We praise you that you are a God that is both the “righteous judge” who judges all impartially, and that you are the “helper of the fatherless” who pours out mercies on the lowly, the hurting, the poor, and the weak. Thank you for the whole revelation of yourself through your Son, Jesus the Messiah, and through your Holy Scriptures. We praise your name O Most High! Amen.

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