The writer of Psalm 82, named as Asaph at the beginning of the psalm, opens with a picture of God presiding over the council of judgment. Asaph brings his complaint to God in the heavenly council room: “How long will you judge unjustly and show partiality to the wicked?” How long, God of justice, will you let the wicked prosper? How long do we have to wait until you rescue the weak and needy from the hand of the wicked? How long can we bear seeing orphans, the lowly, and the destitute suffering?
Asaph is drawing on the concerns and values of the God he worships. Throughout the Hebrew scriptures, in the words of the law and in the prophets, God has revealed the fruit God wants to see in the lives of the people of Israel. The prophet Amos describes that fruit vividly: “Let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream” (Amos 5:24). Asaph is appealing to God’s own values and character. “When,” he asks God, “are you going to take care of the evil around us, so that justice and righteousness—care for the weak, orphan, lowly, destitute, and needy—can flourish in the land?” (82:3-4, AP).
Through the words of this psalm, God invites us to sit for a few moments with our anger at the fact that vulnerable people always bear the cost of selfishness. Some of that selfishness comes from the strong and powerful, but some of it comes from ordinary people like us. We are such a mix of generosity and stinginess, kindness and self-focus. Only God can sort it all out and help us bear good fruit.
God of mercy, help us to grieve with you at the suffering of the weak, lowly, destitute, and needy. God of truth, help us to confront our self-focus and self-absorption. Help us long for the fruit of justice and righteousness. Amen.
Amos is a farmer called by God to deliver a message to Jeroboam, the king of Israel (the northern kingdom in the divided monarchy). Because the king has not listened to the warnings from God, judgment will come. The psalmist also warns of judgment, in this case for those who oppress the weak and needy and fail to protect them from the wicked. Such heartless people will surely be brought low by God. The opening to the letter to the Colossians is a prayer of thanksgiving for their faith in Christ and the spiritual fruit they are producing in the world. The parable in the Gospel reading challenges our human tendency to ignore need. Jesus teaches that mercy should overcome any reason we might find to harden our hearts.
Read Amos 7:7-17. Look for God’s plumb line in the world. In what ways is the ground you stand on askew?
Read Psalm 82. If you sit on the council of the Most High, how does this change your perspective on the world?
Read Colossians 1:1-14. Prayers of mere words are just the beginning of prayer. To what prayerful actions do your prayerful words call you?
Read Luke 10:25-37. The author writes, “Even those trying to be faithful walk askew.” Consider how you live out Jesus’ call to love your neighbor.
Respond by posting a prayer.
This season, Whitney R. Simpson has given us the gift we must open: a clear, accessible invitation to connect with the divine spark that is within us. This is the best present: being present for Jesus’ birth, God made human.”
Learn more about our newest Advent resource, Fully Human, Fully Divine here.