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Leading Question: What does it mean when God stands up?

Scripture Focus: Psalm 12:5, Psalm 18, Deuteronomy 15:7-11, Psalm 96, Psalm 99

The Big Idea: The writers of the Psalms understood God as a divine being who intervenes in the
human realm, standing up for justice and righteousness and advocating for the oppressed.

For Discussion:

Along with the metaphor of God as king, discussed earlier in the quarter, the Psalms also depict God as a mighty warrior and a just judge. Psalm 18 is filled with vivid imagery. The most famous metaphor in Psalm 18 is probably “God is my rock.” But the poet also uses memorable analogies with living things to paint pictures of what it looks like or feels like when God intervenes on behalf of his people.

Discussion question: What are some of the images in Psalm 18 that stand out to you? What makes them catch your attention?

The Theological Lexicon of the Old Testament notes that theologically the word qûm “anthropomorphically indicates Yahweh’s personal intervention.” For example, the lesson cites Psalm 12:5 “Because the poor are plundered and the needy groan, I will now arise,” says the Lord. “I will protect them from those who malign them.” Other examples of this use of the word are found in Psalm 3:7, 7:6, 9:19, and 10:12, in which the call for God to rise up is equivalent to a request for deliverance, justice, or intervention on behalf of the helpless.

The lesson points out how this depiction of God’s intervention builds upon the instructions found in Deuteronomy 15:7-11 regarding how the poor and needy are to be treated.

Deuteronomy 15
7 If anyone is poor among your fellow Israelites in any of the towns of the land the LORD your God is giving you, do not be hardhearted or tightfisted toward them. 8 Rather, be openhanded and freely lend them whatever they need. 9 Be careful not to harbor this wicked thought: “The seventh year, the year for canceling debts, is near,” so that you do not show ill will toward the needy among your fellow Israelites and give them nothing. They may then appeal to the LORD against you, and you will be found guilty of sin. 10 Give generously to them and do so without a grudging heart; then because of this the LORD your God will bless you in all your work and in everything you put your hand to. 11 There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your fellow Israelites who are poor and needy in your land.

There is sometimes a tendency among people who all claim to follow the same God, for some to emphasize human responsibility for standing up for those who are poor and needy and others to emphasize God’s role in stepping in and caring for people in need.

Discussion question: What are some ways we might discern when to step in directly and when to trust people into God’s care without personally intervening?

Many poetic lines in the Hebrew Bible depict the created world praising God.

Psalm 96

11 Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad;
  let the sea resound, and all that is in it.
12 Let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them;
  let all the trees of the forest sing for joy.
13 Let all creation rejoice before the LORD, for he comes,
  he comes to judge the earth.
He will judge the world in righteousness
  and the peoples in his faithfulness.

Psalm 99

7 Let the sea resound, and everything in it,
  the world, and all who live in it.
8 Let the rivers clap their hands,
  let the mountains sing together for joy;
9 let them sing before the LORD,
  for he comes to judge the earth.
He will judge the world in righteousness
  and the peoples with equity.

Discussion question: What differences does it make to remember we as humans are just one part of the created world? That care for God’s creatures and praise of God as Creator are not left to us alone?

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