Psalm 49 – Hope in the Midst of Unjust Darkness

By Drew Gilliland
Program & Research Associate, G.L.O.B.A.L. Justice

This summer, my church has been reading through the Psalms together with the theme of “Flourish,” coming from Psalm 1:1-3. Delighting in the Law of the Lord, the psalmist writes, makes a person firmly rooted by streams of water, yielding fruit, and not withering. Is this not what we desire as people of God, and as people who want to see justice done in this broken world? 

Today, I read Psalm 49, and it is a perfect psalm for all of us. It starts like this:

Hear this, all peoples! Give are, all inhabitants of the world, both low and high, rich and poor together!…Why should I fear in times of trouble, when the iniquity of those who cheat me surrounds me, those who trust in their wealth and boast of the abundance of their riches?
— Psalm 49:1, 5-6

It’s so easy for me to be discouraged by the seemingly endless injustice in the world. People like Jeffery Epstein, in the news so much recently, used his wealth to schmooze other “important” people, even after being exposed as a trafficker. Economic inequality worsens, and many children & college students across the US, not to mention around the world, have to scrape by with little nutritious food to eat each month, while CEOs continue to see their paychecks balloon. In some states, parents are even giving up custody of their children so that they can get need-based college aid, while others use corrupt means to get their children into elite schools. Children are separated from their families and killed at schools and festivals, and rape victims in India & dissidents in Russia are silenced by suspicious “accidents.” This doesn’t even begin to cover the myriad famines, droughts, floods, storms, earthquakes, economic struggles, and personal struggles faces by billions.

And yet the psalmist asks, boldly, in the face of all this injustice, “Why should I fear in times of trouble?”

Why indeed? It looks as if we have much to fear from injustice. But it’s all hevel – a mist that vanishes. All the riches that seem to smooth over the evil that’s done will fade and perish, and all who commit injustice will die. “Humanity in its pomp will not remain; he is like the beasts that perish.”

But for those who trust in God, he will ransom our souls and receive us. Those who are persecuted, rejected, marginalized, who trust God – we will be rejected no more. We have a place with the one who holds all riches, all blessings, all good gifts, all justice, and all love in his life-giving, nail-pierced hands. We are rescued from Sheol and from injustice because he has defeated them wholly. What can other humans do to us? 

We can rest, despite the injustice we see and experience, that Christ holds us, see our suffering, and will remember it. We can find security in the hope of the coming kingdom and the joy that will not only remove our pain, but will far exceed it, removing even its very memory. Let us not look at the seeming successes of the unjust and be overly frustrated or envious, but trust in the fact that God sees & knows, and holds in store for us, and for the oppressed, justice.

The hungry will be fed, the thirsty will have water, the poor will be rich, the unjustly imprisoned will be free, the lame will walk, the blind will see, the sick with be healed, the sinner will be made whole, and the dead will rise. “And behold, I am making all things new.” Let us remind ourselves of this truth this month, and let its beauty encourage us as we look forward to and work towards that reality.