Sabbath and Social Justice in a Psalm?
By Debbonnaire Kovacs, Sept 22, 2016
Praise the Lord, O my soul!
I will praise the Lord as long as I live;
I will sing praises to my God while I have my being.
2 Put not your trust in rulers, nor in any child of earth,
for there is no help in them.
3 When they breathe their last, they return to earth,
and in that day their thoughts perish.
4 Happy are they who have the God of Jacob for their help!
Whose hope is in the Lord their God;
5 Who made heaven and earth, the seas, and all that is in them;
who keeps his promise for ever;
6 Who gives justice to those who are oppressed,
and food to those who hunger.
7 The Lord sets the prisoners free;
the Lord opens the eyes of the blind;
the Lord lifts up those who are bowed down;
8 The Lord loves the righteous;
the Lord cares for the stranger;
he sustains the orphan and widow,
but frustrates the way of the wicked.
9 The Lord shall reign forever,
your God, O Zion, throughout all generations.
I was struck when I read the psalm for this week and realized it goes hand-in-hand with last week’s devotion. In verse 5, at the words “ho made heaven and earth, the seas, and all that is in them,” my mind went straight to the fourth commandment. Speakers and writers often point out that this is something like God’s “seal,” a statement of God’s domain. In my book Ten Promises Carved in Stone, I call it God’s signet ring.
The “struck” moment happened in the next verse: “who gives justice to those who are oppressed, and food to those who hunger.” This reminded me of what Dr. Sigve Tonstad said about the social justice issues true Sabbath-keeping ought to bring out. To my mind, Psalm 146 had now connected to both listings of the Sabbath commandment, in Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5.
The rest of the psalm goes on to enlarge on the themes of social justice as seen by God, who loves the righteous and cares for and sustains strangers, orphans, and widows, but frustrates the way of the wicked. (In my view, that’s because God loves them, too, and is trying to bring them out of their wickedness and into the path of blessing.)
The beginning, middle, and end of this psalm repeats the very most important fact about God: complete trustworthiness. Beginning: all help and hope is to be found in God, who is worthy of praise (v. 1-4); middle: God “keeps his promise forever (v. 5); and end: “The LORD [YHWH] shall reign forever” (v. 9).
Debbonnaire Kovacs is a speaker and the author of 25 books and over 600 stories and articles for adults and children. To learn more about her work or ask her to speak at your organization, visit www.debbonnaire.com.