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O God, do not remain silent;
do not turn a deaf ear,
do not stand aloof, O God.
Psalm 83 begins with a bold request: “O God, do not remain silent; do not turn a deaf ear, do not stand aloof, O God.” This is one of scores of places in the Psalms where the psalmist does not hold back from demanding something of the Almighty. This is not neat, tidy prayer, but gut-wrenching, heart-yearning, no-holds-barred communication with God.
Often, when a psalm writer cries out for God’s help, the cry comes in the midst of personal need. In Psalm 35, for example, the psalmist is being battered by his enemies. Thus, he exclaims, “LORD, you have seen this; do not be silent… Awake, and rise to my defense! Contend for me, my God and Lord” (35:22-23). Psalm 35, among many others, encourages us to shout out to God for help when our own individual lives are falling apart.
But Psalm 83 is different. Not once in this psalm does the psalm writer (identified as Asaph) speak of his own individual pain and trauma. Rather, he is deeply concerned about what is happening to the people of God. Israel’s enemies are scheming against them, seeking to wipe them out. The enemies have gathered together in an alliance to destroy Israel. Thus, when this psalm begins, “O God, do not remain silent,” the psalmist is looking, not for personal deliverance, but rather for God’s justice for others.
Psalm 83 inspires us to pray similarly. When we see oppression in our world, we should call out to God for deliverance. When we see violence, we should cry out for peace. When we see people mistreated, we should cry out for justice. When we see racism, we should pray for all people to be treated with dignity and respect. Though the psalms give us ample reason to pray for our own needs, they also teach us to intercede for others with the same passion that inspires our prayers in our own desperate situations.
QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER:
Do you ever pray in the mode of Psalm 83?
What helps you see the needs of others?
What stirs up in you a desire for their deliverance or justice?
Do you regularly pray for God to intervene on behalf of others? If so, why? If not, why not?
What might help you to imitate the example of Psalm 83 on a regular basis?
O God, do not remain silent; do not turn a deaf ear, do not stand aloof, O God.
Let your voice thunder with a call for justice in this world. Where people are caught in oppression, set them free. Where people are starving today, feed them. Where people are suffering abuse, may their abusers be vanquished. Where innocent lives are being taken, defend them. Where wars rage, bring your peace. Where hatred reigns, overwhelm it with your love.
Even as I pray this way, I recognize that I am part of your body in this world. Help me and my fellow members to live actively as your body, to be people of justice and peace. May the theme of my prayers guide my own living today, for your glory and for the sake of your kingdom. Amen.
Explore more at the Theology of Work Project online commentary: The Purpose of God’s Judgment
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