Bible Studies
Written by Jim Jordal   
Tuesday, 10 March 2009


By Jim Jordal

God presides in the great assembly. He judges among the gods. "How long will you judge unjustly, And show partiality to the wicked?" Selah.  "Defend the weak, the poor, and the fatherless. Maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed.  Rescue the weak and needy. Deliver them out of the hand of the wicked."  They don't know, neither do they understand. They walk back and forth in darkness. All the foundations of the earth are shaken.

Psalm 82:1-4 (ASV, emphasis mine)

I heard it for the first time this morning on national television: the dreaded "D" word, or Depression. It’s interesting how they slip these fear items in—a few months ago it was the "R" word slyly slipped into the conversation, and now it’s the threat of a real, old-fashioned Depression.

So what is it? Technically it’s still a recession, but if you talk to the unemployed who have lost their jobs to severe retrenchment and their homes to foreclosure it’s a depression just as real as the one of the early 1930s. Reports are that in some sections of the country dentists are doing very well repairing teeth broken during the night by clenching and grinding by persons suffering financial reverses. Dentists also report patients telling them to "fix everything you can, but do it within 30 days" because I’m about to lose my job and the dental insurance it provides.

But, bad as it is, many of our leaders still think to heal the economy through flawed, shortsighted policies aimed mainly at propping up rich institutions and the obscenely rewarded, clueless executives who ran them into the ground in the first place.

Psalm 82 seems to fit the current situation quite well. It describes how the true God stands in His role as Judge of the lesser gods (not capitalized; therefore referring to human leaders and power figures). He charges these tyrannical human kings, judges, and other civil authorities with perverting delegated authority to provide justice for all the people. Their indictment specifies that they have unjustly used their influence by showing favoritism in the legal process to the wicked, who have proven their evil intent by their callused treatment of the poor, fatherless, afflicted, and needy.

God’s "Call to Justice" demands that these human potentates take action to free the poor and needy from the hand of the wicked oppressors who have stolen their very lives. This implies that human authorities—although they may not be directly responsible for these abuses—still have responsibility to use their power to identify and correct evil. Should they fail in this task, they bear responsibility commensurate with those actually committing the evil.

To me, this passage means that the Obama administration, even though it may not be responsible for abuses perpetrated by past administrations and their cohorts, is still accountable to God for what it does or fails to do to redress grievances of the poor and oppressed. Since the Psalm above identifies favoritism toward rich, powerful manipulators as a major source of injustice; we might by extension then seriously question current attempts by the President and his advisors to first prop up arrogant and often criminal financial institutions before making meaningful attempts to directly help the people.

The Psalmist makes his plea for the political leaders of his people to take action because he knows full well that the financiers and oppressors of his day would never on their own do anything to redress the balances in favor of the poor. Those holding the reins of power do not surrender their privileges easily. So you might conclude that effective, righteous government then and now bears God-ordained responsibility to do for the people what the people cannot do for themselves. In this case that means delivering the people from the hand of an oppressive financial establishment concerned only with preserving their power.

Looking at the last verse in the Scripture above we see that the Psalmist views the situation he portrays as serious enough to shake the foundations of the earth. Perhaps the earth itself is not yet shaking, but certainly its financial pillars are. In this respect I don’t know if President Obama’s well-meaning interventions will halt the economic slide anytime soon. But I do believe that sooner or later we will have to realize that God has the answers we need and that mere human wisdom falls far short of accomplishing relief for the poor and oppressed of this world.