Oh, I must find rest in God only,
because my hope comes from him!
Only God is my rock and my salvation—
my stronghold!—I will not be shaken.
My deliverance and glory depend on God.
God is my strong rock.
My refuge is in God.
All you people: Trust in him at all times!
Pour out your hearts before him!
God is our refuge! Selah
Human beings are nothing but a breath.
Human beings are nothing but lies.
They don’t even register on a scale;
taken all together they are lighter than a breath!
Don’t trust in violence;
don’t set false hopes in robbery.
When wealth bears fruit,
don’t set your heart on it.
God has spoken one thing—
make it two things—
that I myself have heard:
that strength belongs to God,
and faithful love comes from you, my Lord—
and that you will repay
everyone according to their deeds.
Psalm 62:5-12 (CEB)
With this Psalm we sort of continue our theme of God’s glory from some of the previous Psalms we have looked at recently. This one is not an enthronement Psalm because God is not being portrayed as King and there are no mighty deeds being recounted. Instead, in this Psalm, God is depicted as a place of refuge, safety, dependence and strength. Comparatively, the Psalmist does not put a lot of hope in fellow humans. “Nothing but a breath…nothing but lies” and not registering on a scale sounds similar to the exasperated words of Ecclesiastes.
The Psalmist then points out that violence, robbery and wealth should not be trusted. Let’s dig a little deeper into those words because I think there is a more poetic tie between them all that the translation does not quite make clear. The two Hebrew words behind “violence” and “robbery”, while different, carry similar meaning. “Violence” or עֹשֶׁק (osheq) in Hebrew can be also translated as oppression or extortion. It’s image is of something being taken by force or deception. “Robbery” or גָּזֵל (gazel) can also be translated as plunder. Again the image is of something being taken by force. And finally, “wealth” or חַיִל (chayil) can also be translated as strength, power, and in a positive sense as virtue. So, there seems to be an underlying image of “strength” and even gaining an advantage over a another by exercising one’s strength or possibly even virtue, valor or recognition. It’s easy to point out when violence and robbery have occurred through evil and deceptive practices.
But, what about those who have attained some measure of success through virtuous means? Can an advantage be taken when no laws are broken or when even no malice is intended? Can wealth/power/influence obtained through virtuous means still be used in unvirtuous ways? How might rising to the top of the social/economic food chain change one’s perspective towards those who are at the bottom?
The Israelites in Egypt were initially welcomed and defended as Joseph’s family. But, once time and memory had passed, Pharaoh and those in control began to see and treat them as slaves.
King Solomon created a great kingdom that was (according to the account in 1 Kings) the wonder of the surrounding world. There was great trade and great wealth flowing through the tiny kingdom of Israel and many powerful people came to observe the glory of Solomon’s Temple and Palace. Yet, much of that wealth was built on the backs of Israelite workers and slaves. The pressure was so great that the kingdom would split after Solomon died.
The Psalmist seems to be turning a wary eye to that kind of success. The kind of success/wealth that is either obtained through violence or may breed violence and oppression in order to defend and maintain. Even when it is defended in the name of “virtue”. While these things may seem appealing and fruitful in the world’s eye, there is reason to be suspicious. The Psalmist, instead, points our gaze towards God who should be the source of our security and protection.
Deliverance comes from God..not through force, armies, wealth or even virtue.
True strength belongs to God, and the Psalmist is encouraging us to draw close to God and to let God’s strength be our strength.
When we draw close to God, we draw close to his steadfast/covenantal/unfailing/everlasting love. Which is not deceptive, is not a lie, and has the weight to tip every scale and right every ship that would threaten to throw us out of balance.