Sabbath School Lesson for February 3-9, 2024
Overview of Lesson 6, I Will Arise
Memory Text: ” ‘For the oppression of the poor, for the sighing of the needy, now I will arise,’ says the Lord; ‘I will set him in the safety for which he yearns.’ ” Psalm 12:5 NKJV
We know God is the Ruler of the universe; we know He is our Deliverer. The Psalms remind us that He is indeed both our Creator and Redeemer. We’ve seen some of the trials that drive us to seek God for answers. During our suffering and pain, or times when we are close to death, we are drawn to seek Him for answers, and discover that He is our refuge and fortress. Safety is always found under His wings of protection.
It’s sometimes easy to forget that there are other groups of hurting people who also need assistance from God. And He provides it by encouraging us to actively serve those who are less fortunate. These marginalized people, on the fringes of our communities, wait desperately for some human kindness to provide them with comfort and hope.
The groups of people most often mentioned in the psalms are those most vulnerable. In general, we think of them as the “poor and needy”. But repeatedly, the Old Testament proclaimed them to be widows, orphans, and foreigners. These were the main classes of people who were to be conscientiously taken care of by God’s people back then. It was not only forbidden to oppress them, but it was not allowed to ignore or neglect them either. Surely one day, God will arise to declare full justice for all who are oppressed.
What to expect from this study:
- Sunday: The Majestic Warrior–As a powerful Warrior, God delivers the oppressed.
- Monday: Justice for the Oppressed–Vulnerable people will receive justice in the end.
- Tuesday: How Long Will You Judge Unjustly?–Human leaders are called to be His representatives.
- Wednesday: Pour Out Your Indignation–Though harsh language is used, God’s retribution is full of justice and grace.
- Thursday: The Lord’s Judgment and the Sanctuary–The sanctuary helps us understand God’s impending judgment.
Sunday: The Majestic Warrior
God’s response to the cries of the oppressed is pictured quite vividly in the book of Psalms. At the end, in the final judgment, His anger is most pronounced. This is when He will arise to avenge the poor and needy in a glorious, warrior-like manner. With “Superman” splendor, His justice will deliver them from their oppressors.
David, who was hunted down by enemies intent on doing him harm, always gave God credit for the defeat of his oppressors. He knew that God was responsible for all of his victories, and he was quick to give God credit for them. His praises to this Warrior-like God are found all through the psalms.
We, too, must recognize that only God can provide the urgent, severe measures needed to deliver us finally and permanently from evil forces in this world. His plan of salvation includes a quick, merciful end to our oppressors in the final judgment.
- Psalm 18:3-18, 76:3-9, 12, and 144:5-7
How is God pictured in these descriptions of the final judgment?
How do these verses bring us hope that our deliverance will be lasting and complete?
Monday: Justice for the Oppressed
Although we find in Psalms the oppressed simply referred to as those who are “poor and needy”, we find in other parts of the Old Testament more defined terms for them. These vulnerable, needy ones consisted mostly of widows, orphans, and strangers (or foreigners). They were most likely to be without a stable source of income or family protection to help them survive, and were most likely to be targeted by those who would take advantage of their insecure circumstances.
Unfortunately, in our sinful, modern world, we find there are many groups that fall in the category of the oppressed. Some disadvantaged ones today might include the homeless and/or unemployed, women, single parents, the disabled, prisoners and ex-convicts, people of color, those with gender differences, and immigrants or refugees. These people, too, are often unpopular, looked down upon, and left with little or no support or justice.
God has a plan for the final deliverance of the oppressed, but He strongly desires His people on earth now to be the ones to relieve their suffering as much as possible, and certainly not be the ones who add to it by belittling or bullying them. He not only desires it, but commands our involvement in providing for their needs. There is much we can do to make their lives easier.
- Psalm 9:18, 40:17, 113:7, 146:6-10, and 41:1-3
Who might we include in the category of “poor and needy” today?
Who are the “oppressed” in your community and how are you helping them?
- Exodus 22:21-27 and Isaiah 3:13-15
What specific kinds of help did God expect from His people in regards to the “poor and needy”?
- Matthew 25:31-46
What kinds of humanitarian actions did Jesus expect of His followers?
How can we fulfill our obligations today to groups of people who are oppressed?
Tuesday: How Long Will You Judge Unjustly?
Psalm 72 and 82 contain pleas for Israel’s leaders, its kings and judges (called “gods” in Psalm 82:1) to provide justice for the oppressed–the poor and needy (Psalm 72:4) who struggle to live and thrive within their borders. These same entreaties are extended to all who are “children of the Most High” (Psalm 82:6). We are all His representatives on earth and responsible for our actions, as well as neglect, of the most vulnerable ones in our communities.
However, the leaders of the people, in particular, are held accountable for their injustice toward the people in their land. Although governing authorities are appointed by God (Romans 13:1), they, being human, are capable of walking in darkness, without knowledge of God. Psalm 82:5-7 is a good reminder that our leaders operate under the same moral law as the people they rule.
We long for the day when God will arise and judge the earth (Psalm 82:8). At that time, “all kings shall fall down before Him”, and “He will deliver the needy” (Psalm 72:11, 12).
- Psalm 82:1, 6, Deuteronomy 1:16-18, 16:18-20, and John 10:33-35
Although there have been misunderstandings about who the “gods” are in this verse, how did Jesus help us with the answer? Who were they most likely to be?
- Romans 13:1 and Psalm 82:5-7
If governing authorities are appointed by God, why are they often guilty of unjust, sinful actions?
Wednesday: Pour Out Your Indignation
Jesus gave express instruction for His followers to love their enemies, bless them, do good to them, and even pray for them (Matthew 5:44). Admittedly, it’s hard to see that kind of love in many passages in the book of Psalms. Calling for the destruction of oppressive evildoers, using terms that are extremely violent in nature, makes it difficult to reconcile them with the kind of merciful love Jesus encourages us to have. See, for example, Psalm 58:6-8 and Psalm 137:7-9.
Take an honest evaluation of your own heart, however. What kind of retribution would you imagine and desire for someone who torturously murdered someone you love, for instance? And, what kind of vengeance and indignation rise in us when we hear of genocidal atrocities, committed by inhumane, power-hungry individuals?
Throughout the psalms we encounter honest, poignant expressions of the human heart. Without God’s promised justice in the end, we are left with our most troubling, overwhelming emotions, which include these thoughts of violent retribution we find in the psalms. Only God is capable of carrying out the consequences for sin in a merciful way. At the time of His choosing, He will pour out His indignation in a way that will eradicate evil from the universe forever.
In the meantime, the psalmists remind us that any love we have toward our enemies must come from the example of Jesus.
- Psalm 58:6-8, 137:7-9, and Matthew 5:44
How do you explain the violent language and sentiments in the psalms with the kind of love Jesus promoted?
- Psalm 103:6-8, 37:38 and 116:5
How is the punishment of the wicked considered a merciful act of God?
What makes you think that transgressors don’t suffer endless torture by God, as some Christians claim?
Thursday: The Lord’s Judgment and the Sanctuary
Many times, our study of Psalms has directed us to the sanctuary, God’s dwelling place. Wherever that is (a building or temple here on earth, in the heavenly sanctuary above, or deep within our hearts) we discover that the sanctuary is not only a place of safety and forgiveness, but a place where we grow in our understanding of God and His plan of salvation, aided by the Holy Spirit and the example of Jesus.
In the sanctuary, we see the Day of Atonement (or God’s judgment and cleansing ) as the grand finale of all the ceremonies performed there. The same God who showed unwavering forgiveness for those who brought their sacrifices to the altar in the courtyard, who instructed them in the ways of righteousness in the Holy Place, will at last carry out judgment and cleansing for all the universe to witness, as depicted by the yearly Day of Atonement performed in the Most Holy Place (Hebrews 9:7).
The powerful thirst for justice that we read about in the Psalms, and sometimes experience ourselves, will at last be satisfied on the day of the Lord’s final judgment of the world.
- Psalm 132:7-9, 13-18 and 99:1-4, 8, 9
How is God’s justice seen in His tabernacle?
Why should we still praise God, even with all the injustice we witness and experience here on earth?
- Romans 8:38, 39
How does remembering this promise carry us through the kind of intense longings for retribution found in the Psalms?
Friday: Final Thoughts
Often we feel motivated to join protest movements against some kind of injustice that touches our lives; and there are times when non-violent protests are appropriate.
The psalmists were also activists, who spoke out forcefully against enemies they saw threatening their lives, but which also endangered the character and reputation of God. Their cries for justice at times sound unmerciful in nature, but these expressions matched their overwhelming grief and desire for God to arise and avenge the most wicked evildoers in the world.
Let’s remember that the kind of justice we truly long for cannot come permanently or completely through human leaders or institutions of men. We must place our faith in the ultimate wisdom and power of God to provide the final solution for sin, which will secure our salvation from evil in the most merciful and just way possible.
The words of these hymns reflect God’s final rise to glory that the psalmists longed for…
- “O Worship the Lord”, #6
- “Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise, #21
Next Week: Your Mercy Reaches Unto the Heavens
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