May 25 2023
Today, Thursday May 25
“Surely He is a God Who Judges…”
“Break their teeth in their mouth, O God! Break out the fangs of the young lions, O LORD! Let them flow away as waters which run continually; When he bends his bow, Let his arrows be as if cut in pieces. Let them be like a snail which melts away as it goes, Like a stillborn child of a woman, that they may not see the sun.
Before your pots can feel the burning thorns, He shall take them away as with a whirlwind, As in His living and burning wrath. The righteous shall rejoice when he sees the vengeance; He shall wash his feet in the blood of the wicked, So that men will say, "Surely there is a reward for the righteous; Surely He is God who judges in the earth."
Psalm 58 is another one of David's imprecatory Psalms. An imprecation is a curse that invokes misfortune upon someone. Imprecatory psalms are those in which the author imprecates; that is, he calls down calamity, destruction, and God’s anger and judgment on his enemies. This type of psalm is found throughout the book. The major imprecatory psalms are Psalms 5, 10, 17, 35, 58, 59, 69, 70, 79, 83, 109, 129, 137, and 140.
When studying the imprecatory psalms, it is important to note that these psalms were not written out of vindictiveness or a need for personal vengeance. Instead, they are prayers that keep God’s justice, sovereignty, and protection in mind. God’s people had suffered much at the hands of those who opposed them, including the Hittites, Amorites, Philistines, and Babylonians (the subject of Psalm 137). These groups were not only enemies of Israel, but they were also enemies of God; they were degenerate and ruthless conquerors who had repeatedly tried and failed to destroy the Lord’s chosen people. In writing the imprecatory psalms, the authors sought vindication on God’s behalf as much as they sought their own.
As we said yesterday, we can’t be sure when David wrote this particular psalm, but it pretty obvious as you read it why he wrote it. Saul was king or had been king for 40 years and during his reign he himself became very jealous, vindictive, and cruel. He started out humble, but it wasn’t long before pride took over his heart and life and he is gathering and attracting people with the same spirit as himself.
I’ll never forget a quote I heard years ago. “Power tends to corrupt; absolute power corrupts absolutely”. This statement was made by Lord Acton, a British historian of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. It was his observation that a person's sense of morality lessens as his or her power increases. It appears that this is exactly what happened in King Saul’s reign over Israel.
What did David do as he observed the corruption, the injustice, the violence, and chaos that happens in a nation or society that becomes lawless with everyone looking out for their own interest? David did basically what he always did! He turned to the LORD and prayed! In this prayer, David first addressed the lawless leaders and asked them if their words were just, their decisions legal, their sentences fair, and their silences honest. Were they upholding the law and defending the righteous or twisting the law and benefiting the wicked? He knew the answer, and so do we. When they should have spoken, they were silent, and when they spoke, they ignored God's law.
The problem? They had evil hearts, for they were born in sin just like the rest of us (51:5; Gen. 8:21). However, they made no effort to seek God's help in controlling that sinful nature but gave in to its evil impulses. It's because humans are sinners that God established government and law, for without law, society would be in chaos. It's from the heart that evil words come out of our mouth and evil deeds are done by our hands.
David prays for God to both punish the evildoers and to vindicate the righteous. God vindicates Himself, His law, and His people, and He always does it justly. So effective is His judgment that outsiders will say, "Surely there is a God who judges on earth" (v. 11).
While Jesus Himself quoted some imprecatory psalms (John 2:17; 15:25), He also instructed us to love our enemies and pray for them (Matthew 5:44–48; Luke 6:27–38). The New Testament makes it clear that our enemy is spiritual, not physical (Ephesians 6:12). It is not sinful to pray the imprecatory psalms against our spiritual enemies, but we should also pray with compassion and love and even thanksgiving for people who are under the devil’s influence (1 Timothy 2:1). We should desire their salvation. After all, God “is patient . . . not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). Above all things, we should seek the will of God in everything we do and, when we are wronged, leave the ultimate outcome to the Lord (Romans 12:19).