Lamenting Injustice (Psalm 10)
March 11, 2012
A lament arises out of the tension we feel between what we know about the character of God and what
we experience in the reality of our situation. This week we looked at the tension between the just
character of God and the unjust character of the world. Out of that tension comes the cry of Psalm 10.
The Just Character of God: Psalm 10 depicts God as king (v16). And as Psalm 9 tells us, God “has
established his throne for justice” (9:7). The God who revealed himself in the Bible “loves justice” (Ps
37:28; Is 61:8) and the essence of justice is giving someone his or her due. This has a negative side and a
positive side. Negatively, justice entails stopping and punishing wrongdoing. To act justly is give
someone a punishment that is morally right and fully deserved. And this is certainly part of what it
means for God to be just (Ex 34:7; cf Ps 10:15). But in the Bible doing justice is not just punishing those
who act wrongly, doing justice is also giving the oppressed, the weak, and the vulnerable their due. This
is what Psalm 10:18 means when it says: “God does justice to the fatherless and the oppressed.” God
defends the rights of these people and gives them their due. A clear example of this comes from Psalm
146:7–9, which follows the statement “God executes justice for the oppressed”, with “[he] gives food to the
hungry; sets the prisoners free…; watches over the sojourners; upholds the widow and the fatherless.”
The Unjust Character of the World: We have a God who loves justice, but we are constantly
confronted by the reality of injustice in our world. Verses 2–11 of the Psalm give witness to this reality.
Verses 2–6 describe the arrogance that leads to the world’s injustice; verses 7–11 describe the injustice
that flows from such arrogance. The injustice of this world starts with humans who through arrogance
renounce God (v3–4). It is from a proud heart that injustice flows, first taking the form of violent speech
(v7) and then moving to violent acts (vv8–10). The Psalm is describing a part of our world that we
would prefer not to think about. But the truth is that ours is a world in which warlords kidnap children
for armies, in which sex traffickers abduct little girls, in which the poor are taken advantage of by the
rich and powerful. Often violent acts go unrestrained because those who commit them believe they are
exempt from repercussions, especially eternal ones (v11).
The Calling of the Church: What is the church to do about this world of injustice? Psalm 10 shows us
that, among other things, we should lament. A lament has three parts. First, as a testimony to what we
believe about God’s character and as a demonstration of our love for the world, we complain: Why, O
LORD, do you stand far away? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble (v1)? This complaint is an act
of faith arising from the confession that God loves justice and has established his throne for justice. We
follow that complaint with a plea for deliverance (vv12, 15). Our plea is that God will end his apparent
inactivity and act in a way that is consistent with his character. Finally, because laments are done in
faith, they often contain a resolution of hope. We pray knowing that “The LORD is king forever and ever”
(v16) and with the confidence that he “hears the desire of the afflicted, will strengthen their heart; will do
justice to the fatherless and the oppressed” (17–18). We have such confidence because in Jesus Christ,
God became poor, suffered injustice, and died “the just for the unjust to bring us to God” (1 Pet 3:18).
Passage for Discussion: Ministry of Jesus: Luke 4–7
In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus begins his ministry with a mission statement from Isaiah 61:1–2 (Lk 4:18-
19). From this, Jesus showed that his ministry would be characterized by justice. The chapters following
Lamenting Personal Sin (Psalm 130)
March 4, 2012
give a picture of what his justice-mission entails. But Jesus’ mission also raised questions in the minds of
many, not least John the Baptist. In answering John’s question about whether or not Jesus was the
Christ, Jesus reiterated this purpose to bring God’s justice-mission to earth (7:20–23).
Questions for Discussion:
Getting to Know Each Other:
1. Have you ever been outraged by an act of injustice? What was it? What most upset you about it?
Looking at the Bible:
2. Read Lk 4:16–21 alongside 7:18–23. What do these texts tell us about Jesus’ mission?
3. Read Isa 61:1–2. What does Jesus omit from his reading (4:16–21)? Why might this be
4. In Lk 7:21, Jesus says “blessed is the one who is not offended by me.” From what he has been
doing and saying, why would Jesus’ ministry be offensive? Go back and especially read 6:20–26.
Looking at Our Hearts
5. How does Jesus’ ministry reveal God’s love for justice (cf. Ps 37:28; Is 61:8; Jm 2:5)? How should
that practically inform our lives as his followers?
6. Why might someone find Jesus’ words in Lk 6:20–26 hard to swallow? Are they difficult for you
to swallow? Why or why not?
7. The French reformer John Calvin said that “since [humans] bear the image of God engraved on
them, …no one can be injurious to his brother without wounding God himself.”
a. Do you think you consider the violence done against other humans as an act of violence
against God? Why or why not?
b. Calvin goes on to say that if this idea were fixed in our mind, “we should be much more
reluctant than we are to inflict injuries.” How should knowing that to injure one’s
neighbor is to injure God affect your attitude toward injustice?
8. Do you lament injustice? If so, what motivates you? If not, why do you think that is?
c. How might a lack of lament be a symptom of a lack of concern for injustice?
d. Following what Calvin said above: How might a lack of lament manifest a lack of concern
for God and his glory?
Praying for Each Other (a suggestion to help focus your time in prayer together).
Share with the group some act of injustice going on in the world and lament it using the
words and themes from Ps 10.
Pray that we would be a community who hungers and thirst after justice.