Longing for salvation is such a theme for the psalms. They saw themselves being oppressed, clinging to an ethical religion in a sea of corruption, and longed for things to be put to right, for the weak as well as for themselves. It came of course as the messiah, who as a nation they ironically had to reject so his sacrifice would be complete.
Most of the psalm is a depressingly real picture of the corruption of the human race written by a despairing person. The picture of universal corruption lays the groundwork for the doctrine of original sin, that we are born into sin, unable to find the right by ourselves. Much of our experience contradicts that, people are capable of much generosity and heroism. Some of the most beautiful, personally influential and radiant people I have known have had nothing to do with christianity.
Yet I do believe it. Firstly I think the good that people do cannot be separated from the indirect influence of christianity… similar to how rebellious children can’t help emulating their parents, atheists, I think, keep more of the culture they are denying than they care to admit. Same for our laws, our policies on the weak and vulnerable in society, all influenced by christianity more than non-believers expect.
But I also agree with the classic pirate ship analogy. The idea that the good which men do is like a well run pirate ship: it can still be on a meta journey that leads away from truth and good.
In the new testament Jesus lived and taught respect for the authorities of this world, and Paul taught that earthly government and order was a kind of gift from god to preserve us from complete chaos. Yet both had a subversive “foolish” message about not following the surrounding culture when it came to selflessness and generosity. There is a great consistency when you see the psalms so often link the longing for salvation with distress at the treatment of the weak. Here “they devour my people as though eating bread” Reminds me of some bosses I have known. “Evildoers frustrate the plans of the poor”.
I pray that I will be looking for ways to be of exemplary practical use in the world, and a light shining for God in it.