It’s hard to read the Psalms without coming across one of 65 references to the Hebrew word “mishpat,” which is usually translated as “judgments” or “justice.”
The term appears 23 times in Psalm 119in passages that worshipers have sung for centuries, such as: “I will praise you with righteousness of heart, when I hear of your righteous judgments. I will keep your statutes; Oh, forsake me not completely!”
But when Old Testament scholar Michael J. Rhodes dug into the Top 25 Worship Songs listed by Christian Copyright Licensing International, he found symbolic tendencies in the lyrics. For starters, “justice” was mentioned once, in a song.
Listen to this episode of the Connections podcast on this topic:
“The poor are completely absent from the top 25. In contrast, the Psalter uses varied language to describe the poor on almost every page,” he writes, in a Twitter thread. “The widow, the refugee, the underdog are completely absent from the top 25. …
“While ‘enemies’ are the third most common character in the Psalms, they rarely appear in the Top 25. When they do, they appear to be enemies only in a spiritual sense. Perhaps the most devastating. .not a SINGLE question is ever asked of God. The Top 25 never asks anything of God. Poke the psalter and it bleeds the cries of the oppressed begging God to act.”
It is far from a promising Vespers Psalm: “The Lord frees the prisoners; 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 foreigners, he sustains the widow and the orphan; but he ruins the way of the wicked. …Praise the Lord.”
To read the rest of this Terry Mattingly column, find it on his website, get the religion.