Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Psalm 146 Focus not on Princes but the Poor

KEY TEXT: Psalms 146:7-9 The Lord sets the prisoners free; the Lord opens the eyes of the blind. The Lord lifts up those who are bowed down; the Lord loves the righteous. The Lord watches over the sojourners; he upholds the widow and the fatherless, but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin.

KEY THOT: The Lord delights in championing the cause of the underclass: the prisoners, the blind, the bowed down, the foreigners, the widow and orphans. In other words, the poor and the needy. That is why Jesus says, “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God” (Luke 6:20). In contrast, we sinful humans tend to look out for the “princes” – the upper-class of the rich and powerful. We stand up for them, we fawn in their presence by listening to them attentively and laughing loudly at their jokes even when they are not very funny. As for the poor, the old and vulnerable folks, we are harsh and rude with them rather than showing them due respect as fellow humans created in the image of the same God that we believe.

James warns us against showing such partiality in attitude in James 2:1-5.
  • My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory. For if a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in, and if you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, "You sit here in a good place," while you say to the poor man, "You stand over there," or, "Sit down at my feet," have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? Listen, my beloved brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which he has promised to those who love him?
When we see people less well-dressed coming to our congregation, do we go out of our way to welcome them as the Lord did? For Jesus spent more time with tax-collectors and sinners than with the powerful religious people of his time. Remember that the poor and vulnerable folks are the ones God takes special delight in. And if we are His sons and daughters, we will show the same kindness to such people: the foreign workers in our midst (domestic helpers, food-stall holders, F&B servers, construction workers) and the PRCs, especially the ladies. Let’s beware of showing partiality to these people when they come to worship with us. They are, in fact, God’s favourite people-groups: “The Lord watches over the sojourners (foreigners); he upholds the widow and the fatherless, but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin” (v.9). We don't need to spend thousands of dollars going oversea to serve such "unreached" people groups: they are now right in our midst--2 millions foreign workers in Singapore.

The Lord wants to show His favour to the poor and needy:
  • sets the prisoners free”: The Lord wants to set prisoners (physical and spiritual) free from their physical, spiritual and emotional bondages; 
  • opens the eyes of the blind”: The Lord wants to open their spiritual eyes of people who are spiritually blind, so they may know the glorious gospel and come into the kingdom of light where they can see; 
  • lifts up those who are bowed down”: The Lord wants to offer hope and support to those who are discouraged and despondent so they do not have to contemplate suicide as a way out of their problems;
  • watches over the sojourners”: the Lord looks out for foreigners in our midst because he knows that they are vulnerable to the unscrupulous employers.
As God’s sons and daughters, we are called to share the same attitude towards this class of people rather than fawn over the powerful and privileged political and economic “princes.” One pastor once remarked in a Pastors’ Prayer Summit that God’s presence is most powerfully experienced among the underclass--the poor and the prisoners. And I concur. So, the church should be found there to experience God's powerful presence!

Father, deliver us from our tendency to put our trust in political and economic princes. Open our eyes and hearts towards those who are weak and vulnerable for that is where You are. Amen.

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