A Meditation on Psalm 107

Kevin J Youngblood

He turns a desert into pools of water, a parched land into springs of water.

36 And there he lets the hungry dwell, and they establish a city to live in;

37 they sow fields and plant vineyards and get a fruitful yield.

38 By his blessing they multiply greatly, and he does not let their livestock diminish.

39 When they are diminished and brought low through oppression, evil, and sorrow,

40 he pours contempt on princes and makes them wander in trackless wastes;

41 but he raises up the needy out of affliction and makes their families like flocks.

42 The upright see it and are glad, and all wickedness shuts its mouth.

43 Whoever is wise, let him attend to these things; let them consider the steadfast love of the Lord.

The closing line of Psalm 107 is a sobering admonition to those who consider themselves wise or who want to be wise to pay special attention to the way YHWH rectifies this world’s inequities. According to the psalmist, this is a function of YHWH’s hesed (boundless mercy, fiercely protective love).

It is a well-known fact that those who lack power are often forced to take the “leftovers” in this world and the “leftovers” are almost never enough in and of themselves to live on. They scrape out whatever living they can along the margins of the habitable world, in the harsh deserts or in the frozen extremities, while the rich and powerful monopolize the productive and temperate climates with its abundance of food and resources. This may go unnoticed and unaddressed by the powerbrokers of the current world order, but it does not escape YHWH’s attention. God specializes in reversing fortunes and balancing the scales. Barren landscapes transform into lush oases at YHWH’s word and the fertile and well cultivated estates of the wealthy dry up and wither under YHWH’s rebuke. Suddenly the political map is radically altered. It is vogue in our current political climate to take up causes, but it seems to me that we are forever taking up the wrong causes or at least secondary and tertiary causes while ignoring the primary and most urgent ones – the truly poor and the desperately hungry are ignored while we engage in identity and sexual politics. Meanwhile, God abases the proud oppressors (could this include me?) even while he exalts the despairing oppressed.

But here is where the psalm shot an arrow into my heart. The psalmist says that this is the kind of thing that the righteous long to see and rejoice in when it comes. It is what the righteous and the wise pray for and work toward as YHWH’s agents of justice. Nothing brings us more joy than when we see YHWH suddenly act on our prayers and bless our efforts to bring about such dramatic reversals. As I reached the end of this reading this morning I was convicted by how drastically my spiritual priorities need to change. I suddenly realized how self-centered and self-absorbed my piety tends to be. My priorities are not YHWH’s priorities nor have I yet learned to see the world as YHWH sees but, oh, how I want to have YHWH’s priorities and to share his perception. Too long have I allowed the pundits and politicians to set the agenda of my priorities, to define for me who the oppressed are. What would happen if I suddenly gave YHWH my undivided attention and asked YHWH to show me the world as he sees it, to reveal to me who are the truly oppressed, the silent sufferers who are always falling between the cracks of our insane politics?

Our Father in Heaven,

Forgive us for not sharing your priorities and for closing our eyes against the inequities and injustices that are right before us. Holy Spirit, give us eyes to see the needs that we are missing, those who are struggling right in front of us but we overlook while we get caught up in the hype of the “cause du jour” trying desperately to appear wise and “woke” and trendy, but all the while degenerating into narcissistic foolishness. Lord Jesus, enable us to hear your voice above the din of special interest groups vying for our attention and let you direct us to the truly oppressed, the truly needy, whoever they may be, whether they are making headlines or not.