Theme: A Prophetic Description
In this week’s lessons, Psalm 58 teaches us that although evildoers continue to do great harm, God will eventually intervene both in judgment against sinners and the vindication of the righteous.
Scripture: Psalm 58:1-11
There was a time in American political history when anyone reading Psalm 58 would have thought it somehow unreal, at least where the United States is concerned. Psalm 58 is about unjust rulers, and in those earlier halcyon days America was favored for the most part with leaders whose characters were upright and whose actions were above reproach. No longer. Today corruption is widespread even at the highest levels of political leadership, and Psalm 58 seems to be an apt prophetic description of our times.
Even secular observers see it. Speaking of our national life, the Washington Post said recently that “common decency can no longer be described as common.” The New Republic magazine declared, “There is a destructive sense that nothing is true and everything is permitted.”1
On April 4, 1991, Charles W. Colson gave an address on ethics at the Harvard Business School. Not long before this the Business School had established a Chair on Ethics, recognizing that the moral decline of American leadership is a significant social problem, and Colson had objected that “Harvard’s philosophical relativism precludes the teaching of ethics.” Now he was invited to address this intelligent and highly critical body. He expected the worst. Only a few years earlier the Nobel prize-winning neurobiologist Sir John Eccles had been booed when he had suggested that, although we can account for brain cells through evolution, the consciousness of the mind is something that has to have come from God. However, when Colson reviewed the recent moral scandals involving America’s leadership he received a respectful hearing.
He spoke of the Keating Five, five United States senators tried, in effect, by their own tribunal for complicity in the savings and loan scandal. There was also Senator Dave Durenberger, who was censured by the Senate. Marion Barry, the former mayor of the District of Columbia, arrested for drug use. In addition, there are congressmen who have been turned out of office by the scores. Perhaps most reprehensible of all, there was the HUD scandal in which people were ripping off large sums of money from funds that have been designed by law to help the poor.
Colson referred to a recent press release in which the Department of Justice boasted that in 1990 they had prosecuted and convicted 1,500 public officials, the highest number in the history of the country. Boasting about it!2 It was a sad commentary on the corruption that has become epidemic in contemporary American life, corruption which the Business School students seemed to recognize even though they did not know what to do about it.
What is Psalm 58 about?
Why is it an apt prophetic description of our times?
Reflection: It is easy to criticize other people, especially public figures. But where have you allowed your own ethical standards to slip?
Prayer: Pray for our leaders to have a deep value for ethical behavior.
1The quotes are from Charles W. Colson, “The Problem of Ethics,” a speech delivered to students at the Harvard Business School and published by the Wilberforce Forum, a division of Prison Fellowship (Washington: The Wilberforce Forum, 1992), p. 5.2Charles W. Colson, “The Problem of Ethics,” pp. 3, 4.