Some people have to live with pressures like this all of the time. From neighbours. From nastiness. From crime, corruption or conflict. From greed and graft. From disputes and divisions in the family. From sourness, cynicism and sexism. Because of racism, or rancour, or revenge. We cannot always pick our neighbours or protect ourselves.
So this psalm is a plea and a protest song, calling out from a place of frustration and fear. It starts with the thought that God might have switched off, turned aside and taken a step back. There are people around who are making life a misery. Has God noticed, or is God turning a blind eye? At the very least, God ought to be told about the situation.
‘The wicked’, according to the psalm, are living as atheists. They have decided that God and they can live at a safe distance, neither of them interfering much with the other. God sees nothing, they assume. God is not a reality to reckon with. The world offers them a clear run. They can pick easy targets, and mess their victims’ lives up with impunity. The blind eye is in fact not God’s; it is the wicked who have chosen not to see.
Which is this psalm’s discovery. Talk to God about the trouble, and you start to remember that God does see. God sees far more than the wicked have realised. God remembers, reigns, and responds. The fearful of the earth are noticed, held and loved.
Yet .. it doesn’t always seem to work out that way. So why use a psalm like this, when life sometimes struggles to match the theory? One answer might be that prayer stops us being short-sighted. It helps us to see the situation differently. The shadow side of experience is not life’s last word. A God of cross and resurrection will not rest until justice comes and judgment falls, the hurts of time are healed, and the weak of the earth can live without fear.
God of the victim, of the shadows, of the world’s griefs, pains and pressures, we pray for the places and people that feel overlooked. We ask you to see, to speak, to assure, to strengthen, and we pray for the day when justice will reign, the weak rejoice, and the oppressed stand tall, in Jesus’ name. Amen.
The Rev’d John Proctor is a member of Emmanuel URC, Cambridge and General Secretary of the URC
Sing Psalms! (C) Psalmody and Praise Committee, Free Church of Scotland, 15 North Bank St, Edinburgh, EH1 2LS