Justice for Orphans and the Oppressed

By Mark D. Roberts

July 26, 2015

O LORD, you will hear the desire of the meek; you will strengthen their heart, you will incline your ear to do justice for the orphan and the oppressed, so that those from earth may strike terror no more.”

Psalm 10:17-18

Psalm 10 begins by wondering why the Lord lets the wicked do their evil deeds and even prosper because of them. The wicked think God is absent or, at any rate, not paying attention to what they’re doing. But the psalm writer knows that God is there and that he is, in fact, watching. Thus the psalmist cries out for the Lord to punish the wicked, to give them the justice they deserve.

The psalm ends on a different, tender note. The Lord pays attention, not only to the wicked, but also to their victims. He knows “the desire of the meek” and “inclines [his] ear” to help them (10:17). The final verse of Psalm 10 affirms God’s special care for victims of evil: “[God listens] to do justice for the orphan and the oppressed, so that those from the earth may strike terror no more” (10:18). Orphans, in the ancient world, were often completely helpless and homeless. They were easily abused, enslaved, or simply left to die without anyone to care for them. The oppressed were those who were trampled by tyrants and others who abused their power. The Hebrew word translated as “oppressed” literally means “crushed.”

The fact that God seeks justice for the powerless victims in society offers a word of hope to them. It also reminds those of us who have power to use our power for God’s purposes. We must be people who seek justice for orphans, the oppressed, and others who cannot secure justice for themselves. If we have authority, such as in the workplace or the family, we must seek to treat those in our care fairly. Where we have the opportunity to do so, we must work for justice in systems and institutions, even as we lift our voices to defend the rights of the defenseless. Justice for those who lack it is not a partisan political concern, but rather a central passion of the Lord and all who seek to follow him.

It’s a passion I have seen in Kim Biddle, the Executive Director of Saving Innocence, an organization dedicated “to end the commercial sexual exploitation of children and restore the cultural values of innocence and human worth.” Biddle and her colleagues seek to “rescue and restore victims of sex trafficking” and also to mobilize communities “to prevent abuse and increase neighborhood safety.” Thus, Saving Innocence reflects God’s own justice, both in caring for victims of injustice and in seeking a just society “so that those from earth may strike terror no more” (10:18).

You and I may not have the opportunity to launch an organization that works for justice in our world, but we can express God’s heart for justice in our daily lives, in the ways we treat those around us, in how we spend our money, in our leadership of organizations and society, in our citizenship, in our partnerships with people like Kim Biddle, and in many other ways. As we do, God is honored and God’s rule claims yet more of this world, for his glory.


In what facets of life do you have the opportunity to seek justice for others?

How would a commitment to justice make a difference in your daily life?


Gracious God, how wonderful it is to know that you care for the weak and powerless. It’s not just wonderful, but also instructive. Your priorities teach us to seek justice for orphans, the oppressed, and others who are powerless.

Give me eyes to see those who need justice. Give me wisdom to know when I should act and how. Give me compassion for the weak and helpless. May my heart be shaped by your own heart, dear Lord, my actions by your actions.

All praise be to you, God of justice and mercy. Amen.

P.S. This devotion is based on one I wrote for The High Calling and is used with permission according to a Creative Commons license.

Mark D. Roberts

Senior Strategist

Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders,...

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