February 20, 2014
Title: A Prayer for the Overthrow of the Wicked.
Psalm 10 (NIV)
1 Why, O LORD, do you stand far off ? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?
2 In his arrogance the wicked man hunts down the weak, who are caught in the schemes he devises.
3 He boasts of the cravings of his heart; he blesses the greedy and reviles the LORD.
4 In his pride the wicked does not seek him; in all his thoughts there is no room for God. 5 His ways are always prosperous; he is haughty and your laws are far from him; he sneers at all his enemies.
6 He says to himself, "Nothing will shake me; I'll always be happy and never have trouble."
7 His mouth is full of curses and lies and threats; trouble and evil are under his tongue. 8 He lies in wait near the villages; from ambush he murders the innocent, watching in secret for his victims.
9 He lies in wait like a lion in cover; he lies in wait to catch the helpless; he catches the helpless and drags them off in his net.
10 His victims are crushed, they collapse; they fall under his strength.
11 He says to himself, "God has forgotten; he covers his face and never sees."
12 Arise, LORD! Lift up your hand, O God. Do not forget the helpless.
13 Why does the wicked man revile God? Why does he say to himself, "He won't call me to account"?
14 But you, O God, do see trouble and grief; you consider it to take it in hand.
The victim commits himself to you; you are the helper of the fatherless.
15 Break the arm of the wicked and evil man; call him to account for his wickedness that would not be found out.
16 The LORD is King for ever and ever; the nations will perish from his land.
17 You hear, O LORD, the desire of the afflicted; you encourage them, and you listen to their cry,
18 defending the fatherless and the oppressed, in order that man, who is of the earth, may terrify no more.
Apart from the acrostic relationship of psalms 9 and 10 (see introduction to Psalm 9), they are also linked in theme and phrasing. The theme is a familiar one in all periods of church history, including today: the apparent impunity with which ruthless men go their self-seeking way, regardless of God or man, allowing neither morality nor humanity to set limits to their methods or objectives. The psalmist appears to be an observer rather than one of the oppressed himself, though he may be that too.
The problem in Psalm 9 is the enemy invading from the outside, while the problem in verse 10 is the enemy corrupting and destroying from the inside. Israel was surrounded by wicked nations [“You have rebuked the nations and destroyed the wicked; you have blotted out their name for ever and ever” (Ps. 9:5)], but there were also wicked people, fellow Hebrews, within the nation (v. 4), people who claimed to know God, but their life showed they did not know God at all. They knew there is a God, but they live as though there is no God or no final judgment. They are “practical atheists” who are their own gods and do whatever they please.
In contrast to the prayer at the end of the preceding psalm, David now points to the present condition of the world, where God seems to have permitted the wicked to triumph over the righteous, by the misuse of power (vv. 1-11). He then appeals to the righteous to act, to set the matter right, confident that the King of the world will do so (vv. 12-18).
The psalm begins with the psalmist wrestling with the age-old problem, “Why doesn’t God do something about the prosperity of the wicked (vv. 2, 3, 4, 7, 10, 15) and the misery of the afflicted (2, 8-10, 12, 14, 17, 18)?” The wicked appear to be succeeding throughout the country, but God seems distant and unconcerned. God has expressed a special concern for widows, children, and the helpless, yet when it takes place, he is not to be found [“A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling” (Ps. 68:5) He is their father in a literal sense, since He shows them mercy, takes care of them, and protects them; and this is the character of the great God which he often assumes, partly to express his power and providence over them, and partly to signify his tenderness, mercy, and goodness to them.]. The psalmists asks, “Why, O LORD, do you stand far off ?” We stand far off from God by our unbelief, and then complain that God stands far off from us. The next complaint would naturally follow: “Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?” as though he didn’t want to see what was happening or get involved in their troubles.
The psalmist describes these wicked people in verses 2-13, what they do and why they do it. He makes four statements that express what they believe, because what they believe determines how they will behave. Then in verses 14-18, the writer expresses his full confidence that God is on His throne, and has everything under His control. The Lord may not explain to us why some people seem to get away with their evil deeds, but He does assure us that He will judge sinners and ultimately defend His own. In verses 14-18, the Lord answers all four statements of the wicked that are declared in verses 2-13.
Statement #1: “There is no God.” (vv. 2-4, esp. v. 4). Believing this lie frees the wicked to do whatever they please, for they become their own god. “You shall be as God” (Gen. 3: and 6:5). The wicked cleverly plot against the righteous and hotly pursue them until they get what they want. These evil workers live to please themselves and fulfill their selfish desires, and then brag about their sins! [“For, as I have often told you before and now say again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body” (Phil 3:18-21). They obey their sensual appetites. They glory in shameful things. They mind earthly things instead of setting their affections on the things that are above (Col. 3:1).]. They revile the Lord (vv. 3, 13) and “stick their nose up” when anybody challenges them.
Answer: “God is King” (v. 16). The wicked claim that there is no God (vv. 1-4), but the truth is that God is and He rules over all! (See 2:6; 5:2; 24:7-10; 29:10; 1 Sam. 8:6-7). After their deliverance from Egypt, the Israelites sang praises to their King: “The Lord shall reign forever and forever” (Ex. 15:18).
Statement #2: “I shall not be moved” (vv. 5-7). This arrogant attitude comes from an ignorance of the laws of God, because unconverted people have no understanding of the Word of God or the ways of God (1 Cor 2:10-16). Because God is longsuffering, they think they are getting away with their sins [“When the sentence for a crime is not quickly carried out, the hearts of the people are filled with schemes to do wrong” (Eccl. 8:11) When God delays His punishment, he is merely exercising patience and longsuffering to answer some purpose of His.] Peace and prosperity gives them a false sense of security that will end very suddenly (see Luke 12:13-21 and 1 Thess. 5:1-3). Telling lies and swearing oaths they never intended to keep, they escape the penalties of the law and pursue their devious ways. Like people savoring tasty food, they keep lies under their tongues and enjoy them (Job 20:12-15; Prov. 4:17). Paul quoted verse 7 in Romans 3:14 [“Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness” (Rom. 3:14)]. It is the godly who have God’s promise of true security [“Surely he will never be shaken; a righteous man will be remembered forever.”].
Answer: “God defends His own people” (vv. 17-18). The wicked boast that they will not be moved (vv. 5-7), but God has other plans for them. He hears the prayers of the persecuted. He sees their plight, He strengthens their hearts for whatever trials He permits [“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Rom. 8:28).], and He eventually judges those who abuse them. People of faith can depend on the God of heaven, but the self-confident and arrogant “people of the earth” have no future with the Lord. Life without the Lord is empty and vain. Christians have their citizenship in heaven [“But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Phil 3:20)], and their names are written down in heaven [“However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven” (Luke 10:20)]. They don’t belong to this world, although their ministry is in this world. God’s people have been “redeemed from the earth” (Rev. 14:3) and have heaven as their home. The phrase, “them that dwell on the earth” is found often in the book of Revelation (3:10; 6:10; 8:13; 11:10; 12:12; 13:8, 12, 14; 14:6; 17:2, 8) and describes not only where these unbelievers live but what they live for—the things of the earth. The “earth dwellers” may seem to have the upper hand today, but wait until the Lord reveals his hand!
Statement #3: “God doesn’t see me” (vv. 8-11). Like ferocious lions, wicked people hide and watch for opportunities to pounce on helpless prey, and like hunters or fishermen, they catch their prey in their nets. They are sure the law won’t catch up with them or the Lord notice what they do. The lion is often used to represent ruthless sinners who attack others (17:12, 37:32; 56:6; 59:3; 64:4).
Answer: “God sees what is going on” (v. 14). This answers the claim in verses 8-11 that the Lord pays no attention to what the wicked are doing. Even more, God sees the trouble (outward circumstances) and grief (inward feelings) caused by the wicked as they persecute the helpless, and He will take the matter in hand. The poor and needy can safely commit themselves into the hands of the Lord [“Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous fall” (Ps. 55:22). Cast it on Him, and leave it with Him to do as He pleases, who works all things after the counsel of His own will.].
Statement #4: “God will not judge me” (vv. 12-13). At this point, the psalmist cries out to God for help, and he uses three different names for God: Jehovah, the God of the covenant, and El or Elohim, the God of power. The wicked boast that God will not investigate their sins, or judge them, but God says, “Be sure your sin will find you out” (Num. 32:23). The Lord will keep His covenant promises to his people, and there will be a day of reckoning when sinners will be judged by a righteous God. “Arise, O God” takes us back to Numbers 10:35 and the triumphant march of Israel.
Answer: “God judges sin” (v. 15). This answers the false claim of verses 12 and 13. The psalmist prays that the Lord will carefully investigate each sinner’s life and works, until every evil deed is exposed and judged. But he asks that the sinners be judged in this life and their power removed (“break the arm”). This prayer isn’t always answered. [“When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God and the testimony they had maintained. They called out in a loud voice, "How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?" Then each of them was given a white robe, and they were told to wait a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and brothers who were to be killed as they had been was completed” (Rev. 6:9-11). We may not be “longsuffering” but God is, and He will avenge those who have been persecuted at a time He has already set to do so. Every person will be judged for what they have done in the flesh. Only the redeemed of the Lord will escape a deadly sentence.]
Verse 1: The writer complained to the Lord, who seemed to be uninterested in the plight of the oppressed. [The seeming indifference of God in the face of wrongs or ills suffered by the righteous is a frequent basis of complaint in the psalms.] The fact that the wicked may triumph caused the psalmist to ask the Lord why He is hiding Himself from the trouble. The question is a bold expression of the true feelings of oppressed people who cry out for help.
There are two things that characterize the wicked in these verses; pride and boasting. Do you want to know who the wicked are as you look around the world? They are those who are filled with pride, the “great” of the earth, who have no place for God in their lives. Also they do a great deal of boasting.
Verse 2: In verses 2-7 David delineated the character of the oppressor—full of pride in verse 2.
The times are hard for members of the Lord’s congregation who are pursued by the arrogant wicked and ensnared in their schemes. The meaning of the term “the poor,” as it is used here, means “those who depend upon God.” Their oppressors are godless. And the result is that the Lord’s disheartened people begin to doubt that God sees or cares. He seems so aloof; His people have no awareness of His presence.
Passionate words against bad men do more hurt than good, and therefore, if we speak of their badness, let it be to the Lord in prayer; only He can make them better.
Verse 3: The sinner proudly glories (boasts) in his power and success. He lives without God, yet he prospers in material ways. The wicked man afflicts the weak and speaks abusively of the Lord. The description of the wicked (vv. 3-11) is a terrible one. They are unbridled in their lust for possessions; they have cast off the restraints of religion, for they not only blaspheme God but even deny His existence; what they cannot take by crafty speech they plot to take by violence, robbery, and murder.
Verse 4: Wicked people will not seek after God, that is, will not call upon him. They live without prayer, and that is living without God. They have many thoughts, many objects and devices, but they don’tthink of the Lord in any of them; they will not submit to His will, nor do they desire to bring Him glory. “In all his thoughts there is no room for God” is better translated: “All his thoughts are; there is no God.” The wicked are proud and confident.
In the time of David their began to emerge for the first time in history those who were atheist. There were no atheist in the beginning because they were too close to God’s revelations of Himself to man. After all, Noah knew a man who knew Adam. When you are that close to the time of creation, you are not apt to deny the existence of God. When the Ten Commandments were given, there was no commandment against atheism; but there was one against polytheism—the worship of many gods. The first commandment is “You shall have no other gods before me.” The second commandment is: “You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below” (Ex. 20:4). There are two commandments against polytheism, and none against atheism because there were no atheist. However David will mention atheism several times.
The antichrist at the end times will be characterized by atheism, filled with pride and boasting.
Verse 5:God is not relevant in the lives of wicked people because of their pride. They are “haughty” and think it is below them to be religious. They have no room for God and God’s laws. They could not break all the laws of justice and goodness toward man, if they had not first shaken off all sense of religion. Their aggravations are for all who are within their reach, but especially for the poor who cannot protect themselves; and for just and good men, whom they hate and persecute. Such a person is convinced that he cannot be moved from his wicked ways. He thinks he can continue undisturbed in his prosperity.
God is always a mystery and He must always remain so to our finite minds. Even the life that we desire to enter into is one of the hidden wonders of God. But at every point in our existence we are given enough light to live by: our worst tragedy is to become self-blinded so that we cannot use the light we have. Darkness of this type is the inevitable consequence of “pride.”
Verse 6: The absence of immediate punishment upon wrongdoers is always a strong argument for a sinner whose values are located wholly within this world, so that even death creates little fear for him—he thinks he will always be “happy.”
Verse 7: “Under his tongue” implies “kept in readiness” (“on the tip of the tongue”), and the meaning is that the words he speaks will cause tragedy. His words are deceitful and destructive.
Verse 8: In verses 8-11, the psalmist described the wicked as lurking (“lies in wait” occurs three times in verses 8-9) “in secret” places “like a lion” to attack his helpless victims, and to drag “them off” like a fisherman does with “his net.” “Victims” probably means “unfortunate” (“out of luck”).
Verse 9: “He lies in wait like a lion” refers to how a lion gathers himself into a compact shape as it prepares to spring upon its unsuspecting victim. This imagery of a “lion” and fisherman suggests cunning men waiting to attack.
Verse 10: The afflicted (that is, the righteous) are crushed by the wicked. Since God may not immediately rescue them, the wicked person is convinced that God does not care for or see the righteous.
Verse 11:The wicked man says to himself, "God has forgotten” and neglects all their persecutions and prayers, and does not avenge their cause, as He said He would do. “He covers his face and never sees." He takes no notice of their suffering in order to avoid helping them. He will not encumber Himself with the things going on upon the earth, and leaves it up to men to manage their affairs as they think appropriate.
Verse 12: Making an earnest cry for vengeance, the psalmist called on God to arise and help the helpless. “Lift up your hand” means “exert your power.” It is a figure of speech for God’s strength and power, especially as it is used in the context of retaliation.
Verse 13: It is foolish to assume God will overlook sin, because He carefully examines or beholds all wickedness, and marks it for His providential punishment. One reason for the psalmists request for vengeance is that the wicked should not be allowed to despise God and to think he can get away with his actions. If God so judges the wicked by such a destruction, then they would be called to account for their deeds.
Those who have contempt for God are the atheist; not only do they not believe in God, they despise Him. It is inconsistent to despise Someone who does not exist; apparently He has to exist to build up this kind of bitterness and hatred. God is probably the most unpopular person in the world today. Why? Because the wicked are in the saddle. We are moving toward the time when the sin of man will lead to the “man of sin,” this is the final Antichrist.”
Verse 14: “Fatherless” represents all the underprivileged and oppressed [“Defend the cause of the weak and fatherless; maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed” (Ps. 82:3).]. God sees what’s going on—the suffering of the unfortunate and helpless. And He knows they have no one but Him to help them. His innocent people commit their fate to Him; they trust God who sees trouble and grief and is their Helper.
Verse 15: “Break the arm” means to “deprive of power.” The psalmist appeals to God to intervene and eliminate wickedness. God will utterly destroy the wicked and their deeds. The “hand” of God is more than sufficiently strong to “break the arm” of ungodly people. If God would intervene and punish the wicked, then the psalmist would no longer be able to say that God does not see their deeds or care for the afflicted.
Verse 16 and 17: In the closing part of this psalm (vv. 16-18) there is expressed the certainty that God will answer—“the pagans have perished;” the Lord has heard. It is so sure in the psalmist’s faith, that it is spoken as having already occurred.
The psalmist finally arrives at the ever-comforting and secure truth that “The LORD is King for ever and ever.” But there are two sides to this truth. On the one hand “the nations,” which here means organized opposition to God, whether explicit, or implicit, must disappear. There is no future for ungodliness in any form. The wicked may appear successful for a time, but their fate is that they will be cut off. On the other hand, there is the truth of an equally inevitable comfort for the godly oppressed whom the Lord first hears, then strengthens with inner resources in their heart, so that they may endure.
“Encourage them” means “to give them courage.”
Verse 18: God executes justice for the feeble, and represses the pride and violence of conceited, though frail men [“The LORD is known by his justice; the wicked are ensnared by the work of their hands” (Psalm 9:16).]. Faith that God defends the afflicted and needy against the tyranny of the wicked was a comfort to the psalmist and the basis for his prayer.
“That man, who is of the earth” refers to the oppressors of the people; earthly, and mortal men, who are made of the dust, and must return to it.