Father of the fatherless and protector of widows
is God in his holy habitation.
God settles the solitary in a home;
he leads out the prisoners to prosperity,
but the rebellious dwell in a parched land.
There are five groups of people mentioned in these two verses. Four of them are cared for by God's favor. One group is dealt God's justice. The four groups that find God's care are the lowest on the social struggle structure. Widows, orphans, homeless, and prisoners are all poetically pictured as cared for by a merciful God.
God is a Father to the fatherless. And He still is. I grew up in an inner-city church where fatherlessness was a common experience. I knew kids from what we used to call "broken homes" but now rather euphemistically refer to as "single parent families". I have seen God do just this sort of thing. Some of the kids in my church youth group who thrived the most spiritually were "fatherless". And even for a period of time in my own life I trusted in this promise. Absent dads, for any reason, leave a void that only God in His mercies and through the connections in the local church will fill. It is a wonderful expression of God's grace.
God is a protector of the widows. He provides for people in their losses, whether a widow by death, divorce, or desertion. Again, the early church quickly responded to the social tragedy of starving widows. And God still cares for those who lose their spouses. He longs to protect, strengthen, heal, and help them. The church should do this. God is closer to the widow then their spouse ever was.
God cares for those on the fringes. The Old Testament shows this as many of the social reminders of the Law were to protect and help those on the outskirts of society: the widow, orphan, homeless, sojourner, refugee, or prisoner. God is a home for the homeless. He wants to return prisoners to prosperity. And His heart should lead us to truly care for the neediest among us.
Those who defy God, however, will find His judgment. The one group not helped by God in this Psalm are the rebellious who turn from God. They may find there is an end to His mercy with them. But any poor and needy, broken and lost soul who truly seeks the Lord will not be turned away!