For my weekly quiet time this week, I will blog about Psalm 94.
The Psalmist in Psalm 94 asks for God to execute vengeance on wicked rulers, whose policies kill the vulnerable rather than helping them, and who declare the innocent to be guilty. The Psalmist looks at the societal evil that takes the lives of so many innocent people. And yet, the Psalmist believes that God has delivered and will protect him personally. And it may be that the Psalmist even seeks some divine purpose behind his sufferings, for in v 12 he may be expressing a feeling that the affliction that he is enduring is God’s way of chastening him and teaching him God’s law.
Why would God deliver, protect, and instruct the Psalmist personally, when God seems to have failed to help the innocent victims of societal oppression? What makes the Psalmist so special? Or was God intending to instruct all of God’s people through affliction? If so, what about those who died as victims? How could any lessons benefit them, after they’re dead? (I’m assuming here the scholarly argument that ancient Israel lacked a rigorous conception of the afterlife.)
Some believe that we should despair of looking to political institutions for change, justice, and reform because the system is corrupt, and instead we should wait for God to intervene through the Second Coming of Christ. As one who leans towards the historical-critical method, I doubt that the Psalmist in Psalm 94 had a conception of the Second Coming of Christ. Feel free to disagree with me on this, but I prefer to read the Psalms in terms of the themes that are in the Psalms and elsewhere in the Hebrew Bible, not so much in terms of what the New Testament reads back into those Psalms.
But Psalm 94 does have a conception of God’s dramatic intervention to defeat evil. And perhaps the Psalmist is at the point where he believes that only God can do this, for the evil is institutional and hard for human beings to fight. I doubt that the Psalmist is one who thinks that we shouldn’t worry about having a government and should instead wait on God to intervene (I think of the Armstrongite notion that human beings cannot govern themselves), for the Psalmist probably agrees with the Torah that the government should protect the orphan, the widow, and the resident alien rather than enacting policies and making judicial decisions that oppress them. But what can you do when the system is stacked against you, in favor of unrighteousness?
In the United States, it often appears as if the system is stacked against the middle class and the poor. Lobbyists hinder genuine health care reform, with the result that we’re left with high bills that drive some of us to bankruptcy. What can we do? Should we follow a similar policy to what the Psalmist in Psalm 94 appears to have: pray for God to intervene, and, in the meantime, trust God to keep us and our loved ones healthy or to provide us with the funds that we need for expensive medical treatments? I suppose that we can do that—-there’s nothing wrong with praying for oneself and others.
But because the brokenness of society results in so many victims, I feel that, if reform is possible at some level, then we should pursue it. Those who are concerned about health care should make their wishes known, and they should expose the shenanigans that obstruct health care reform, either overtly or covertly. In the case of President Obama’s health care reform, I think that Obama genuinely is concerned about combating the abuses in the health insurance industry, for he has memories of his own mother wrestling with the insurance companies when she was dying, plus the insurance companies have criticized Obamacare. And yet, why is reform taking so long? Why do I still come across health insurance companies that say that they will not cover pre-existing conditions? Why are there still people who lack adequate health insurance coverage, or coverage, period?
(UPDATE: The insurance company that I thought denied coverage of pre-existing conditions actually pays for the pre-existing conditions to be treated after the person is on the policy for a certain period of time.)
I do not believe that progress is impossible in this system, for we do have Medicare and Medicaid. Nor do I think that human beings are so sinful that they cannot come up with a system that works, for there are other countries with health care systems in which not as many people fall through the cracks. But I just hope that the lobbyists didn’t do to Obamacare what has been done to so many other reform bills in the past—-watering it down with loopholes.