There where the judges gather, a greater takes his seat; “How long, ” he asks the judges, “will you pronounce deceit? How long show special favour to those of ill repute? How long neglect the orphaned, the poor and destitute?
2 “Deal justly with the needy, protect the parentless, deliver the afflicted from those who would oppress. But you are wholly blinded, you do not understand; therefore foundations totter, injustice rocks the land.”
3 God speaks: “I named you rulers, to serve the Most High God; but you shall die as mortals and perish by my rod.” Arise, O God, in judgment, your sovereignty make known; for yours are all the nations; the peoples are your own.
In this imaginative piece of writing we have a poem written many years back and cast into modern verse two generations ago. We are invited into a conversation between God and ‘the gods’ (rendered judges above). Exactly what kind of beings these are is hinted at in the third verse but we might struggle to articulate it precisely.
The plot is straightforward; these gods or judges have not discharged their delegated responsibility well. I like the modern author’s use of the word judge here with its Biblical overtones of government or leadership beyond the narrow field of the courtroom. God the almighty is giving them a dressing down because they have wilfully oppressed others but also because they understand nothing.
We might think immediately of human governments and leaders or even the ‘powers’ that Paul writes about. But perhaps the poem applies to anyone who ever carries any responsibility for others whether fleeting or permanent. Don’t show partiality; defend the weak; uphold the voice of those without a voice. It might even apply to us, at least for one aspect or one season of our lives.
And at the end, after God speaks to the gods, there is a simple prayer: rise up O God, judge the earth for all the nations are your inheritance.
For those circumstances where I have some power or influence help me to understand more clearly, care more deeply and act more justly.
And for those circumstances where I seem to have little such power, I cry out to you : “Rise up O God and judge the earth.”
The Rev’d Alistair Smeaton, is a minister in the Cumbria missional partnership.