“Sing to God, sing praise to his name,
extol him who rides on the clouds—
his name is the LORD—
and rejoice before him.
A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows,
is God in his holy dwelling.
God sets the lonely in families,
he leads forth the prisoners with singing;
but the rebellious live in a sun-scorched land.”
– Psalm 68:5-6
I’ve been casually perusing through the Psalms lately. These short snippets of Scripture depict a full range of our human experience with God Almighty, ranging everywhere from vivid petitions for God to move, to deep, heart-felt confessions of sin, to doubtful questioning of God’s goodness, and all the way to rich praises for all God is and all he does.
Psalm 68 is one of those praising psalms. All 35 verses declare God’s awesome power (v. 35), his sovereignty and salvation (v. 20), and, as we see in verses 5-6, his providence. David begins this stanza urging us to rejoice before God and praise his name specifically for the reasons listed in verse 6: God is a Father to those who don’t have one; he protects those who have been abandoned by or lost their spouse; he leads prisoners with hopeful singing.
But the line in this psalm that jumps out at me is how God provides for the lonely: “God sets the lonely in families.”
This is pretty profound if you think about it. All the other things listed in this stanza are something God does on behalf of the individuals. God becomes the father to the fatherless, he himself protects the widows and leads forth the prisoners. However, he personally doesn’t become the source of community for the lonely. Rather, he sets the lonely in families. He places them in community.
Perhaps these families for the lonely are biological, or maybe it’s metaphorical. Regardless of David’s intent of the language “family” according to this translation, this proves to us the point that we’ve been dealing with for awhile now: We are designed for community, and it is the remedy to our loneliness.
This especially brings significant implications when we consider the fact that the Church, the body of Christ, is specifically described as being the family of God. That was how the New Testament Church understood themselves. When people came to a saving faith in Jesus and joined the church, they didn’t just gain access to a relationship with God, go on about their individualistic life and supporting their immediate family, all while now having a weekly church service they could attend for an hour on Sundays because that was what’s expected of them. When people received salvation, the early church literally understood it as becoming a part of God’s family. Their entire household was adopted into this church-community that was so radically close to one another that the only language they could use to describe the bond they had between each other was familial language—brother and sister.
If that is how we are to understand the Church, then how should we respond when God sets lonely people in our church-families?
God specifically remedies people’s loneliness by setting them in families. And I can guarantee you, there are more lonely people in our congregations than we could imagine.
My question is: Are we following through with God’s intentions to welcome lonely people into the family? Are we noticing them? How can we be inviting them into God’s family?