It's hard to read the Psalms without encountering one of the 65 references to the Hebrew word "mishpat," which is usually translated as "judgments" or "justice."
The term appears 23 times in Psalm 119, in passages worshipers have sung for centuries, such as: "I will praise You with uprightness of heart, when I learn Your righteous judgments. I will keep Your statutes; Oh, do not forsake me utterly!"
But when Old Testament scholar Michael J. Rhodes dug into the Top 25 worship songs listed by Christian Copyright Licensing International, he found symbolic trends in the lyrics. For starters, "justice" was mentioned one time, in one song.
Listen to this episode of the Connections podcast discussing this topic:
"The poor are completely absent in the top 25. By contrast, the Psalter uses varied language to describe the poor on nearly every page," he wrote, in a Twitter thread. "The widow, refugee, oppressed are completely absent from the top 25. …
“Whereas 'enemies' are the third most common character in the Psalms, they rarely show up in the Top 25. When they do, they appear to be enemies only in a spiritual sense. Maybe most devastatingly … not a SINGLE question is ever posed to God. The Top 25 never ask God anything. Prick the Psalter and it bleeds the cries of the oppressed pleading with God to act."
That's a long way from a Vespers Psalm promising: "The Lord sets the prisoners free; 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 the sojourners, he upholds the widow and the fatherless; but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin. … Praise the Lord."
To read the rest of this column from Terry Mattingly find it on his website, Get Religion.