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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Thursday, January 9, 2020  

Today’s Scripture Reading | Psalm 72:1–7, 10–14

Give the king your justice, O God,
   and your righteousness to a king’s son.
May he judge your people with righteousness,
   and your poor with justice.
May the mountains yield prosperity for the people,
   and the hills, in righteousness.
May he defend the cause of the poor of the people,
   give deliverance to the needy,
   and crush the oppressor.
May he live while the sun endures,
   and as long as the moon, throughout all generations.
May he be like rain that falls on the mown grass,
   like showers that water the earth.
In his days may righteousness flourish
   and peace abound, until the moon is no more.

May the kings of Tarshish and of the isles render him tribute,
   may the kings of Sheba and Seba bring gifts.
May all kings fall down before him,
   all nations give him service.

For he delivers the needy when they call,
   the poor and those who have no helper.
He has pity on the weak and the needy,
   and saves the lives of the needy.
From oppression and violence he redeems their life;
   and precious is their blood in his sight. (NRSV)

Psalm 72 can serve as a roadmap for positions of leadership we find ourselves in and situations where we can impact the lives of others. The qualities or values described are ones of justice and righteousness. Definitions of justice speak to making things right, to returning conditions to God’s desired state of affairs. Righteousness is being in synch with and honoring God’s ways and will. These definitions beg the questions: What is God’s will? What are God’s ways? What conditions represent God’s desired state of affairs? This psalm clearly answers these questions.

There are no less than ten references to helping those who are vulnerable. A godly leader will defend the afflicted, seek justice for the oppressed, deliver the children of the poor and the needy that cry out for help, have compassion for and save the lives of the poor and needy and redeem them from oppression and violence. The stated motivation for these acts of protection and aid is not pity but rather a view of the lives of the vulnerable as precious. There is a beautiful image and metaphor comparing this kind of care to “showers on mown grass” or “rain descending on the ground.” Rain showers on a field do not discriminate and are not selective. The metaphor conveys that all in need are treated equally.

A verse of Woody Guthrie’s song “This Land Is Your Land” comes to mind,

In the shadow of the steeple I saw my people, 
By the relief office I seen my people; 
As they stood there hungry, I stood there asking 
Is this land made for you and me?

We can carry the values of Psalm 72 into our lives in how we care for those in need who are vulnerable, and in the ways we exercise our right and responsibility to vote for our elected leaders.

Loving God, you make it so clear that following your will is to protect and care for the poor and the oppressed I encounter. Just as you have lovingly cared for me in my neediness may I be an agent of your love and do the same for those who are vulnerable. Amen.

Written by Tom Schemper, Director, Replogle Center for Counseling and Well-Being

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