Justice in the Psalms
The Psalms are songs to God. They were collected over many years and became Israel’s hymnbook. They bring life into the presence of God—all of life, not just the spiritual parts. All the circumstances of life, and all the emotions—delight, thankfulness, horror, fury—are brought to worship.
These deeply emotional poems have a theme: the struggle to set the world right. The psalmists praise God for his mighty works of justice, and they plead with God: Save me from evil. Come and judge the world. Set things right. The Psalms teach us how to pray about everything. Most of all, they teach us how to pray about justice.
Because of God’s concern for justice, many psalms speak of guarding the rights of the poor, defending the vulnerable and protecting them from violence (which almost by definition is the strong bashing the weak). Troublemakers, liars and cheaters are called to accounts. For the psalm writers, judgment is not something to dread; rather, it is something to pray for and dream of—because God judges with justice.
The Psalms are the emotional and spiritual diary of God’s people struggling against evil enemies. Dramatic highs and lows fly off almost every page. Sometimes within a single poem, the psalmist goes from serenity to extreme anxiety and back again. He longs for a refuge, a “stronghold.”
God’s justice extends beyond the psalmist’s troubles, beyond the life of Israel, to a great future for the whole world. “All nations” are meant to sing God’s praise; “all nations” will someday be counted as God’s people. This, too, is justice: the blessings that God promised to Abraham for the whole world.
They do understand, however, that God is at work to set a violent and unjust world right. The Psalms wake us up and enlarge our minds and feelings. They teach us how to pray for the weak and the vulnerable. They teach us how to pray as the weak and the vulnerable. We, too, can sing the songs of justice.
-- Tim Stafford, United States (excerpted from the book introduction to Psalms)