O YHWH, You have heard the longing of the oppressed; You will make firm their heart. Your ear will give heed, to judge the orphan and the crushed. Psalm 10:17-18
Give Heed – “Now pay close attention!” That’s the idea behind this Hebrew verb, qashav. YHWH hears the cry of the oppressed. He hears it today just as He heard it in the time of Israel’s bondage in Egypt. What will He do about it? The Psalmist says that He will judge. This word is just as important as qashav. God will not only pay close attention to the plight of the orphan and the crushed, He will act on their behalf. To judge is to bring about justice. The word is shaphat. It means a lot more than simply deciding between two or more alternatives. This word encompasses the entire range of government. It covers the executive, legislative and judicial operations of the King of the universe. In simple terms, when God judges (shaphat), He lays down the law, enforces the law and prosecutes those who violate the law.
Ah, you say, “Well and good.” We want a God who rules every aspect of human social systems. We want a God who brings justice. Or do we? Who do you suppose God is listening to when He brings justice for the orphans and the crushed? I’m afraid that it isn’t you and me. Those of us who belong to the 5% of the world’s wealthiest citizens, those of us who live in moderate safety and comfort, who rely on our governments to protect us, who enjoy property rights and financial sustenance; we are not the dak, the crushed. More often than not, our demands for better living are the very cause of the tragic lives of the crushed. We want our coffee – and we don’t care who is taken advantage of in order to get it. We want our imports, our stability and our nice, big houses. We conveniently forget how many children are forced into squalid labor in order to provide us with soccer balls and leather jackets. We ignore the many children who are sold into sex slavery or simply abandoned as our demands for more and more goods and pleasures raise the price of the one meal a day that sustains two billion people. We consume at the expense of the rest of the world.
But God hears them. What do you suppose justice will look like when God brings His rule to bear on those who live a lifestyle that endorses such global defilement? Do you suppose God will say, “Oh, I didn’t realize that you were ignorant about the situation in Haiti, India, Cameroon and Somalia. You’re excused.”? Do you think He will excuse our investments in self-satisfaction? Do you think He is listening to our prayers for success when we systematically ignore those who make His heart ache?
When justice comes, do you think God will allow us to keep our cars and houses and iPods and jewelry, or will He strip us as He stripped the Egyptians? Perhaps it’s time to look at the frantic pursuit for economic recovery as a sign of something else. Perhaps God has been listening to the cries of the orphans and the crushed, and He is going to do something about it. Now which side of the road will you stand on?
Topical Index: Oppressed, listen, judge, qashav, shaphat