Psalm for a Government Shutdown: culturally accurate translation

This goes in the category of “creepy bible coincidences.”  Each day of the week our prayer book gives us a Psalm of the day to read, plus it cycles each week through the last five Psalms, the “hallelujah” (Praise the Lord) psalms.  So each


Tuesday we read Psalm 146.  It is made for today, the day the government shut down, and made to apply directly to the reason for the shut down.  So, yes, creepy, a bit.  Or at least, eerie.

Why?  The psalmist praises God for being the true King who will “reign forever” (v. 10) in contrast with the human would-be kings.  And that’s the trouble.  According to the psalm, the humans who are holding political office are messing up royally.  In the time of this psalm, the national political leaders were, of course, kings and princes.   Today, they are called “politicians.”

So, with this culturally accurate translation, listen to the ominous warning in verse three:

Do not put your trust in politicians,

in mortals, in whom there is no help.”

Why not?  How are they messing up?  They are not doing what God wants done on the earth. They are like mirror opposites.  What would it look like down here if God were really king?  The psalm says,

The Lord, “executes justice for the oppressed, who gives food to the hungry.” (verse 7) Would that include people on food stamps? Would that include people whose kids only get decent food at Head Start programs whose doors are now locked?

The Lord lifts up those who are bowed down.” (verse 8)  Would that include people with pre-exiting conditions who have been denied coverage by unscrupulous insurance companies?

The Lord watches over the strangers; he upholds the orphan and the widow” (verse 9) The Lord clearly has an agenda here.  It is not shared by many of the politicians we have elected.  They would probably call the Lord a “socialist” and go running to atheist Ayn Rand for justifications.

But the government is now shut down because there are people who would rather inflict massive harm than let the Affordable Care Act take effect.  The government is shut by people who want to strip food stamps out of the hands of thousands of poor people.  This is truly a Psalm for today.

Here is the Psalm in total

Psa. 146

1    Praise the Lord!

Praise the Lord, O my soul!

2 I will praise the Lord as long as I live;

I will sing praises to my God all my life long.

3    Do not put your trust in princes (= politicians),

in mortals, in whom there is no help.

4 When their breath departs, they return to the earth;

on that very day their plans perish.

5    Happy are those whose help is the God of Jacob,

whose hope is in the LORD their God,

6 who made heaven and earth,

the sea, and all that is in them;

who keeps faith forever;

7 who executes justice for the oppressed;

who gives food to the hungry.

The LORD sets the prisoners free;

8 the LORD opens the eyes of the blind.

The Lord lifts up those who are bowed down;

the Lord loves the righteous.

9 The Lord watches over the strangers;

he upholds the orphan and the widow,

but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin.

10    The Lord will reign forever,

your God, O Zion, for all generations.

Praise the Lord!


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