Psalms - Teachers Comments

2024 Quarter 1 Lesson 06 - I Will Arise

Teachers Comments
Feb 03 - Feb 09

Key Text: Psalm 12:5

In Lesson 4, we explored the idea that God is our shelter, refuge, tower, and strength. These metaphors signify the Bible truth that God stands at the side of His faithful children, providing protection and care. This week, we will study a similar trope: that of our God, as a Mighty Warrior, fighting for His children. We also shall consider this idea within the context of social oppression, which was all too common in biblical times as it is, unfortunately, in our own. The theme of social oppression, a primary topic in the prophetic books of the Old Testament, is echoed throughout the Psalms. While the abuse of people by their political leaders causes us distress, we are not without recourse to hope; surely, the Lord is the defense of the humble.

Part II: Commentary

Social Oppression

Mosaic law commands God’s people to take special care of three groups of people: “the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow” (Deut. 10:18, Deut. 14:29; Deut. 16:11, 14; Deut. 24:17–20; Deut. 26:12, 13; Deut. 27:19). Usually, these people didn’t have a source of stable income; many times they often didn’t own land that could be worked or tilled to sustain their families. Ideally, these fringe citizens and immigrants sought to find places where they could hire out their services or, at the very least, be permitted to gather the leftover fruits and sheaves behind the harvesters (see Ruth 2:6–8). Such persons didn’t have familial protection. Given their vulnerability, we can see how the abuse of widows, orphans, and strangers was considered one of the worst sins in society during Old Testament times. The prophets regularly admonished the people to provide for this underprivileged class (Isa. 1:17, 23; Jer. 7:6; Jer. 22:3; Ezek. 22:7; Zech. 7:10).

For this reason, the psalmist depicts the Lord as “a father of the fatherless, a defender of widows” (Ps. 68:5, NKJV). This is the Psalter’s promise: “The Lord watches over the strangers; He relieves the fatherless and widow; but the way of the wicked He turns upside down” (Ps. 146:9, NKJV; compare with Ps. 10:14). Our God is the God of the oppressed and the outcast.

Today, some places have social programs to help the fatherless and widows. Such programs provide opportunities to help the poor and needy move forward. Some governments also provide much-needed financial assistance. But there are always more people in need, even within the church, than the system can support. Nowadays, other forms of abuse and oppression, such as bullying and torture, are prevalent besides poverty. We, as Christians, should identify the victims of such oppression and injustice and aid them. We must commit ourselves faithfully to finding ways to provide for their needs.

Immigration is another challenging issue in many countries around the world. Immigration has been an issue since the first days of human history. People have always looked for better places to live and thrive. We are the hands of God—He asks us to support and give succor to the lost, the straying, the stranger, and the outcast in our society. We should invite the members of this group to fix their eyes on the One who is the Defender of the fatherless and immigrants.

God, the Divine Warrior

There is a powerful metaphor about God in the Old Testament and, to a lesser degree, in the New, which is not too popular among Christians nowadays: God as a warrior. Such an idea may be too harsh or militaristic to a culture that prefers the expressions of God’s love, mercy, inclusion, and peace.

The “Lord of hosts” (Josh. 5:14, 1 Sam 1:11, 1 Sam. 4:4, 1 Sam. 17:45, 2 Sam. 7:26, Jer. 10:16, Jer. 31:35, Jer. 32:18, Amos 5:16, etc.) is a common representation of God’s character. It depicts the Creator as a general of the heavenly armies. He is involved in conflict against evil powers. But the Word of God also describes Him as a warrior. “The Lord is a warrior” (Exod. 15:3, NIV; He is a “man of war,” NKJV); “The Lord marches out like a warrior” (Isa. 42:13, ISV).

The psalmist invokes this metaphor in Psalm 18:3–19. He claims to be delivered (Ps. 18:3) from a “strong enemy, from those who hated me, for they were too strong for me” (Ps. 18:17, NKJV). YHWH is described as a warrior, fighting for His servant, and as a Champion who, astride His warhorse, wields His weapons against the oppressors of His people. Read carefully verses 7–15. There are four scenarios, as follows:

Psalm 18:6–8: The Divine Warrior is in His castle (His temple); He is stirred to righteous anger on behalf of His servant after hearing his prayer. The Divine Warrior reacts with fury in His servant’s defense (Ps. 18:8).

Psalm 18:9–12: The description of the Divine Warrior, who rides down in a magnificent display of power, is impressive. This imagery creates confidence in the heart of the Warrior’s servant. Assuredly, our God is no weakling.

Psalm 18:13–15: In these verses, we read about an assault mounted by a Man of war, along with His fearsome munitions: hailstones, fire, arrows, and lightning. This figure of the Man of war, with His meteorological arsenal, connotes a powerful Soldier who, angered by injustice and oppression, fights valiantly and righteously for His loyal servant.

Psalm 18:16–19: Here we read about the servant’s deliverance; the Warrior rescues, emancipates, and sustains him. “He also brought me out into a broad place” (Ps. 18:19, NKJV).

What an amazing and detailed description of the Lord’s work for His children under the most trying circumstances. This understanding of God’s character will transform the world and our church. The oppressed and persecuted must rest in the assurance that God is fighting for them.

Rebuke to the Leaders

Psalm 82 constitutes a strong reprimand to leaders, who have—but fail to exercise—the influence and power to change the situation of the “poor and fatherless; . . . the afflicted and needy” (Ps. 82:3, NKJV).

The Psalms describe a meeting in which leaders are scolded for their negligence and indifference toward the oppressed. They “judge unjustly, and show partiality to the wicked” (Ps. 82:2, NKJV). Are some leaders any less guilty of these crimes today? Is not the suffering of the poor and the needy the result of corruption? Also, does not our own selfishness and greed cause us to focus on ourselves and our families and forget those around us who need our support? Charity should start at home, within our own families and lives. We should teach our children always to be kind and generous to those who are in need.

The psalmist reminds us that we are “gods” and “children of the Most High” (Ps. 82:6, NKJV). God created humans in His image and likeness (Gen. 1:26), which means we are intelligent beings with a moral conscience. Therefore, we should support the afflicted, the stranger, and the needy. Whatever our sphere—whether the neighborhood or the ­workplace—we should strive to be a source of help to those in need.

God’s Judgment

Thursday’s study invites us to consider the plight of the oppressed within the context of the final judgment in the heavenly sanctuary (Ps. 96:6–10; Ps. 99:1–4; and Ps. 132:7–9, 13–18) and the great controversy between God and Satan, as depicted in the books of Daniel and Revelation especially.

Daniel 7 reveals two intentions of the pre-Advent judgment in heaven: to punish the oppressor (Dan. 7:26) and to vindicate the oppressed (Dan. 7:22). The judgment confirms that God’s actions are in favor of those who are righteous.

In the book of Revelation, the judgment transpires in the sanctuary. In Revelation 6, we learn that “the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God” are “under the altar” (Rev. 6:9, NKJV). They receive white robes while they wait for the final action of the Lord to redeem them from death.

Revelation 8 starts with the vision of the seven trumpets (Rev. 8:2), which are given to the seven angels who stand near the golden altar “before the throne” of God (Rev. 8:3). The trumpets are a symbol of the judgment of the Creator against those powers who have persecuted God’s people throughout the long centuries of human history (see the seven seals of Revelation 6 and 7). The sanctuary is the place where the Lord acts on behalf of His people to save and protect them from their oppressors. So, it’s no coincidence that the seven last plagues given to the seven angels are delivered from the temple, the seat of God’s judgment (Rev. 15:5, 6).

Thus, when the book of Psalms expresses the certainty that believers can pray to Heaven for deliverance, this statement is a serious indictment against the oppressors of God’s people and a source of faith for the oppressed. “Let us go into His tabernacle; let us worship at His footstool. Arise, O Lord, to Your resting place, You and the ark of Your strength” (Ps. 132:7, 8, NKJV).

The Bible truth in this verse reveals a fact we would do well to meditate upon as faithful believers. Yes, we should do all in our power to help and support the needy, the widows, the orphans. But we must bear in mind that the final and complete solution to all oppression and suffering will come from heaven. We must not be deceived by the idea that the church can achieve social justice on earth, or that the main goal of the church is to fight political battles in an attempt to solve all the injustice in the world. That kind of complicated issue can be totally solved only by the Lord of hosts. Our faith should be focused on the promise of divine action on our behalf and not on the illusory strength of human power, which is a mirage at best.

Part III: Life Application

God is the shelter and refuge of those who are in trouble, but He also is the divine Warrior who fights for the oppressed. Furthermore, He is a proactive leader. Thus, we should be proactive in confronting the social problems that face us today in the world. For sure, we cannot solve all of these problems, but we can strive to have a positive impact on our community and on the lives of the vulnerable and oppressed around us: the poor, the outcast, and the persecuted. We can do meaningful and life-changing work for those minorities who have been marginalized by society, just as Jesus did on behalf of the tax collectors, the sinners (Matt. 9:10), the prostitutes (Luke 7:37–39), and the outcasts (Matt. 15:21–28) in His time.

The psalmist’s rebuke for community and political leaders (Psalm 82) also includes us if we are indifferent to the suffering or injustices of society and fail to address or alleviate them. Finally, we must remember that the final solution for the evils of our unjust world will come from the heavenly sanctuary. Let’s do our part, trusting in the Divine Warrior for the final outcome of justice.