Sunday, 30 August 2020
Title: “Quartet of the Vulnerable”
By: Ong Hwee Soo 翁辉赐
Psalm 146:6 -10 (ESV)
6 who made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, who keeps faith forever;
7 who executes justice for the oppressed, who gives food to the hungry. The LORD sets the prisoner free;
8 the LORD opens the eyes of the blind. The LORD lifts up those who are bowed down; the LORD loves the righteous.
9 The LORD watches over the sojourners; he upholds the widow and the fatherless, but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin.
10 The LORD will reign, your God, O Zion, to all generations. Praise the LORD!
Pastor Soong’s devotion on 11 July was on the first five verses of Psalm 146, entitled “How to be Happy”.
My devotion today is on the next five verses of the Psalm. Briefly, Psalm 146 is the first of the five concluding psalms in the Psalter. It begins and ends with “Praise the LORD!” – typical of all the concluding psalms (146-150).
Verse 6 introduces this “LORD” who the Psalmist praises. He is the Creator God “who made heaven and earth…” This Almighty Creator who the Psalmist shows us is one “who remains faithful forever” (NIV). Immediately following that, the Psalmist reveals what this faithful God does – “who executes justice” (v.7).
The Hebrew word for “justice” is “mishpat”, which occurs 200 times in the Old Testament (OT), emphasising the importance of justice in community life. The terms “mishpat” means “to give people their due”. Negatively, it means to stop and punish wrong (v.9b) whereas positively, it means to give people what they need (vv.7b, 8, 9a). Hence, justice is understood as being the same word as ‘righteousness’. It’s like two sides of the same coin.
Psalm 97:2 highlights that “righteousness and justice are the foundation of his throne”.
The pagan gods used their powers to help the pagan kings, but the “Maker of heaven and earth” (NIV) uses His almighty power to “execute justice for the oppressed”, “give food to the hungry” and “set the prisoner free” (v.7). Furthermore, the LORD “opens the eyes of the blind” and “lifts up those who are bowed down” (v.8) as well as “watches over the sojourners” and “uphold the widow and the fatherless” (v.9a).
In his classic book, ‘Justice’, Nicolas Woltenstorff, a renowned Christian philosopher, coined the quotable phrase “Quartet of the Vulnerable” to highlight the OT concern of caring and seeking justice for the vulnerable, namely, the poor, the foreigner, the orphan and the widow.
The “Quartet” is mentioned in different ways in various parts of the OT, but one passage where the whole quartet appears is in Zechariah 7:9 (NIV), “This is what the LORD Almighty says: ‘Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another. Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the alien or the poor.” Repeatedly, this ‘mishpat’ in the OT describes taking up the care and cause of widows, orphans, immigrants and the poor.
Psalm 146:6-10 points to, and more so by Prophet Isaiah to Jesus’ earthly ministry. In Jesus’ very first sermon, He quoted from Isaiah 61:1-3, “The Spirit of the LORD GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.” (Luke 4:8-19 ESV). Jesus modelled how to love and care for the marginalised.
This vulnerable group is portrayed repeatedly in the OT and NT as needy people whom God loves, protects and calls us to do the same.
Today, this ‘Quartet’ is expanded into an ‘Octet’, to encompass the refugees, the migrant workers, the homeless, the single parents and the aged. With all the massive needs around us, who does God call us to serve in our community and city?
Pastor Soong concluded his devotion on Psalm 146:1-5 by quoting Richard DeHaan’s “Ten Rules for Happier Living”. Remarkably, the first rule is to “Give something away” and the second is “Do a kindness”. While living a happy life is important, living out God’s rule is far more important. No matter how difficult the circumstances might be, life is good when you are happy but much better when others are happy because of you.
In Micah 6:8, the minor prophet asks a major question, “O man, what is good and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice and to love kindness and to walk humbly with your God?”
To reiterate, justice is defined as caring for, supporting, uplifting and restoring the vulnerable. The poet in Psalm 146 praises God for His justice which he sees as the way God supports the disadvantaged. Are we using our power and resources for the benefit of the ‘quartet or octet of the vulnerable’ in our community? As you look around you, ask God to show you where His place for you is amongst the vulnerable.
During the MCO, my CG was led by the Lord to ‘adopt’ a refugee family – a single mother with 5 children, whom we will continue to support in the foreseeable future. They are like a “Quartet” within the family. If any of you or your CG wish to support a refugee or a family, I do have some of their profiles for you to prayerfully consider ‘adopting’ or helping.
Heavenly Father, we echo the praise of the Psalmist that You are the “Father of the fatherless and protector of the widows” (Psalm 68:5). As we see around us, the plight of the oppressed, disadvantaged, under-privileged and marginalised, show us, O Lord, how we could help and support these who are vulnerable; as a church, as a CG or as individuals. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
异教的神明使用能力来帮助异教的国王，但”造天、地、海和其中的万物的耶和华”使用祂的全能力量”为受屈的申冤”、”赐食物于饥饿的”和”释放被囚的”(7节)。 此外，耶和华”开了瞎子的眼睛”，”扶起被压下的人”(8节)，以及“保护寄居的”和“扶持孤儿和寡妇” (9上节)。
在一位著名的基督徒哲学家 – 尼古拉斯•沃爾特斯托夫（Nicholas Wolterstorff）经典的书《公正》(Justice: Rights and Wrongs)中，写了这一句话：“脆弱者的四重奏”，来表示旧约圣经主要保护和伸冤的脆弱/受屈人士：贫穷人、寄居的、孤儿和寡妇。
诗篇146:6-10和先知以赛亚指的就是耶稣在世上的事工。耶稣第一次的讲道中，他就引用了以赛亚61:1-3的话： “主的灵在我身上，因为他用膏膏我，叫我传福音给贫穷的人，差遣我报告被掳的得释放、瞎眼的得看见，叫那受压制的得自由， 19 报告神悦纳人的禧年。”（路加4：18~19）。 耶稣模范如何爱护边缘人群。
宋牧师在他诗篇146:1-5的灵修分享以理查德 • 德汉 （Richard DeHaan）的“幸福生活的十个准则”结束。值得注意的是，第一条准则是“赠送一些东西”，第二条规则是“做一件善事”。虽然过上一个幸福的生活很重要，但是遵守上帝的规则要重要得多。无论环境多么艰难，喜乐能使生活美好，但当别人因你而喜乐时，生活将更加美好。