Contributor: Drew Jackson

Put not your trust in princes,

in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation.

When his breath departs, he returns to the earth;

on that very day his plans perish.

Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob,

whose hope is in the Lord his God,

who made heaven and earth,

the sea, and all that is in them,

who keeps faith forever;

who executes justice for the oppressed,

who gives food to the hungry. {Psalm 146:3-7}

This psalm was written later in Israel’s history, after they had been disappointed by the reigns of a number of unjust and evil kings. In 1 Samuel 8 we find the account of Israel demanding that God give them a king like all the other surrounding nations, a king whom they could see. Samuel warns the people that the king will act unjustly towards them, constantly taking from them, and putting them and their children into slavery. Samuel’s final word of warning to the children of Israel is that the oppression of the king will cause them to cry out to God:

And in that day you will cry out because of your king, whom you have chosen for yourselves, but the Lord will not answer you in that day. {1 Sam 8:18}

This account in 1 Samuel 8 speaks specifically of King Saul, but Israel’s reality was that they experienced king after king who oppressed them. The point of Psalm 146 is clear:

Trusting in any politician for any sort of justice or salvation is ultimately an effort in futility.

Edmund Hill, as quoted in John Goldingay’s commentary on the Psalms, brings clarity to this point for us as he states,

Never trust the politicians…for any sort of political, social, national, or individual salvation. Not because they are more treacherous or fickle than other men, but simply because they are just like other men – they will die, and their plans and policies and panacaeas with them.[1]

Our hope for justice cannot rest in mortal men, but must ultimately rest on the faithfulness of the immortal, eternal God.

To trust in God over and against politicians does not mean that we do not engage in the political process. On the contrary, followers of Jesus should be those who are actively engaged in the political process because we know that it is God who sets up kings and takes them down, often for purposes unknown (Dan 2:21). Trusting God to bring about justice does not mean that we do not fight for justice. We have a responsibility to hold the powers accountable to act in accordance with God’s standard of justice. Part of how we do this is by raising our voices, exercising our rights, and utilizing the political process to defend the cause of those who have been marginalized and disenfranchised. When rulers fail to act justly and, in turn, trample on the rights of the poor and incite violence, the people of God must never stand idly by in silence but, rather, we are called to stand in solidarity with the vulnerable and lay down our lives for their sake. How will we respond in these times?

We set ourselves up for disappointment when we place our hope for justice in men and women whose plans will ultimately perish with them. This is why the psalmist says that blessed, or happy, are those who put their hope in God.

We can have confidence in God to bring about justice because God is faithful to keep the word that God has promised.

The psalmist goes on to detail the platform that God runs on:

The Lord sets the prisoners free;

the Lord opens the eyes of the blind.

The Lord lifts up those who are bowed down;

 the Lord loves the righteous.

The Lord watches over the sojourners;

he upholds the widow and the fatherless,

but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin.  {Ps 146:8-9}

This is what God has promised to do! Let us put our hope in this God who will reign forever and, as we hope, may we live out the way of justice and righteousness in the world.

Reflection Questions:

  1. Is it difficult for you to trust God to execute justice? Why?

  1. How can we keep from being disappointed by politicians who will fail us?

  1. What might it look like for you to hold the powers accountable to God’s standard of justice?

[1]Goldingay, John (2008). Psalms: Volume 3. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, pp. 713

Photo Credit//Gage Skidmore