A WEEKLY WALK THROUGH THE PSALM
If only we had a dollar for every time this question was asked: “Where are you, God? Don’t you care?” The psalmist says it this way: “Why do you stand so far off, O Lord? Why do you hide yourself in time of trouble?” In the midst of trouble, why do we struggle with God’s seeming absence from us? Admittedly, it sometimes does feel that way. God often does seem indifferent in the face of wrongs suffered by those who belong to God. This wouldn’t seem so bad if it weren’t that the unscrupulous, cruel, ‘ungodly’ seem so prosperous. This psalm is filled with bitterness toward the rich who are like ravenous animals with the poor as their victims. Keep in mind, though, that the psalmist’s complaint is not so much that oppressors exist, but that God doesn’t seem to do anything about them. Why does God seem to go on leave, especially in times of trouble? And how many people in our world today ask those same questions? It is important to note how so many of the psalmists who ask these questions still refuse to have their faith shaken by these severe trials or afflictions. They continue to seek some kind of solution or answer to the mystery of the ways of God.
In the meantime, there is no holding back in his description of the so-called wicked. They would do anything in their lust for possessions, they cast off the restraints of religion, they even deny God’s existence – because, after all, you can’t serve God and mammon. These people only believe in a reality they can touch and see and measure – and obviously, that doesn’t apply to God (or so they think). And since they believe they will always be in charge and have their way, what they do to others doesn’t really matter. Therefore, what they can’t get by tricky words they will take by violence, confident that “God has forgotten, has hidden His face and will never see it”.
These proud wicked are compared to gangsters, beats of prey, hunters, those who regard the poor as their victims and not as fellow human beings. Isn’t that what often happens in society? Those with the power and wealth and status somehow see themselves as better than and above everyone else, as if they don’t see the dignity in others no matter what their status. They just don’t see. Maybe that is why Jesus performed so many miracles restoring sight to the blind.
With all of this laid out before God, the psalmist turns to an expression of his faith. There is a direct prayer for strong and immediate action by God. He believes that God sees what is going on and based on his experience with God – “Thou hast been the helper of the fatherless” – his God is not one who has fallen asleep on the job but is instead the God who ‘neither slumbers nor sleeps’. So the psalmist ends with a confidence that God ‘will hear the desire of the meek, will strengthen their heart, will incline His ear, and will do justice’. Exactly how, may remain a mystery, but that it will happen is something he is confident of. So to all who say: “I could believe if God would only do something”, which turns out to be a very limited view of things, the Christian can say that God has already done something in Jesus Christ, is doing something through the Holy Spirit and will do something according to His promise – which is a very eternal view of things.
PRAYER: Faithful God, you are hope for the poor and refuge for the oppressed. Remember your people; do not hide your face from our troubles. Give us comfort in times of pain, that we may proclaim the joyous news of freedom in your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.