God’s name is the Lord…Father to the fatherless, defender of widows—this is God, whose dwelling is holy. Psalm 68: 4-5
Psalm 68 is a Psalm of praise and thanksgiving. It is a Psalm that declares the awesome might of Yahweh. “Let God rise up, Let God’s enemies be scattered….When you went out before us, when you marched through the wilderness, the earth quaked, the heavens poured down rain at the presence of God…Sing to God O kingdoms of the earth; sing praises to the Lord…Ascribe power to God, whose majesty is over Israel and whose power is in the skies.” Verse after verse tells of the mighty strength and power of Yahweh. God is mighty. God is strength. God is salvation. The enemies scatter before God.
This is a Psalm we enjoy reading. We want a God who is mighty and strong and can vanquish our enemies. We want a God who is so powerful that when God moves the earth quakes at the marching of God’s feet. We want to know that no matter what happens God is big enough to take care of it for us. We have our own trump card in our corner. And I am personally glad for this. I don’t want to serve a God who can’t take care of me. I don’t want to waste my time with a God who isn’t big enough to vanquish my enemies. I can’t make it on my own, I need help. And I’m glad that no matter what God will be there for me.
And yet, God is not just a big bully or thug waiting for me to call when I am in danger. Instead, God uses strength and power not for God’s own gain but to defend the weak, the powerless, the ones easily forgotten. Tucked away in this Psalm of God’s power is a small line that shows what God chooses to use power for. “God’s name is the Lord, Father to the fatherless, defender of widows, this is God.” Even though God can scatter the enemies, even though God has strength and majesty and power; God is described as Father to the fatherless, defender of widows. God is described as one using power not for personal gain but to defend those that have the least power in society. Widows in ancient societies were typically at an extreme disadvantage. Many were at the mercy of children or relatives to take care of them. Orphans were at even more of a disadvantage. Unless a family member or friend would take them in, orphans would live on the streets scrounging for food until they died. These two groups were on the margins of society; easily abandoned and forgotten. Yet these are the ones who the powerful God defends and protects. These are the ones God chooses to use God’s power for; to care for their needs, to give them new status.
It’s similar to the discussion in the first chapter of James when James writes that “true and genuine religion is caring for orphans and widows in their distress.” True religion is not going to church, reading your bible, and having a moral life. True religion is caring for those who can’t care for themselves. True religion is using one’s power not for personal gain but to defend and protect those who can’t take care of themselves. True religion is helping to elevate those on the margins and provide them an equal place at the table.
And that is part of the essence of who God is. Yes, God is all powerful. God is mighty and strong and one to be feared. But God chooses to use that power to protect and serve the oppressed and those on the margins. In fact, God wants to be known as Father to the fatherless and Defender of widows. And as God’s followers, that is our calling as well. To use our power, our influence, our talents not to enhance our own name, but to lift up and serve those on the margins. To help give status to those who have been robbed of status. To give worth to those whom society deems worthless. To take care of those who can’t take care of themselves.