Morning Pages: Psalm 10
Psalm 10 is a cry for justice. It's unclear if the writer is suffering injustice personally or if he is attuned to the suffering of those around him. Either way, he is overcome by the depravity of the wicked, the suffering of the vulnerable, and the seeming inaction of Yahweh. This psalm originates in the heart of one who sees the suffering of the needy, the poor, and the oppressed at the hands of the wicked and longs for God to bring it to an end.
Vs. 1 “Why, O Lord, do you stand far away? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?”
The psalmist doesn't mince words, nor does he waste any time. Instead, he launches his indictment against Yahweh. He has observed the world around him, and, to his great dismay, it appears that God stands idly by while the wicked prosper. The psalmist believes God is just, righteous, and all-powerful. And it is this knowledge that creates tension for him. Because God is holy, just, and mighty, the psalmist knows he cares and can do something about the ways of the wicked, and yet, God appears distant and passive. And the deep cry of his soul is, “Why?”
As we experience the brokenness of the world around us, isn't that the core question for all of us? "Why?" It has a thousand iterations, but at its most basic, the question of why is at the root of all our wrestling. Why does God allow bad things to happen to good people? Why would God let a young, faithful mother or father die? Why do evil people prosper while others struggle to put food on the table? Why didn’t God stop the abuse? Why does God allow corruption to prevail? Why is he silent? Why doesn't he do something?
And this is the question that plagues the psalmist as he observes the ways of the wicked around him,
Vs. 2-11 “In arrogance the wicked hotly pursue the poor; let them be caught in the schemes that they have devised. For the wicked boasts of the desires of his soul, and the one greedy for gain curses and renounces the Lord. In the pride of his face the wicked does not seek him; all his thoughts are, “There is no God.” His ways prosper at all times; your judgments are on high, out of his sight; as for all his foes, he puffs at them. He says in his heart, “I shall not be moved; throughout all generations I shall not meet adversity.” His mouth is filled with cursing, deceit, and oppression; under his tongue are mischief and iniquity. He sits in ambush in the villages; in hiding places he murders the innocent. His eyes stealthily watch for the helpless; he lurks in ambush like a lion in his thicket; he lurks that he may seize the poor; he seizes the poor when he draws him into his net. The helpless are crushed, sink down, and fall by his might. He says in his heart, “God has forgotten, he has hidden his face, he will never see it.”
The psalmist paints a vivid picture. The wickedness in view here is not just unintentional, garden-variety sin. It is profound, intentional, and utterly devoid of goodness, mercy, and neighbor love. The wicked are:
Greedy for gain
They curse Yahweh.
They are shameless—boasting of/celebrating their wicked desires.
They prey on the innocent, helpless, and poor.
They do not believe the Lord will ever hold them accountable for their actions.
Their mouths are full of deceit, cursing, oppression, mischief, and iniquity.
These are people who care nothing for God or others. They're not just apathetic toward Yahweh; they curse him and treat him with contempt. They feed on their neighbors for their gain and mock God's justice and righteousness. They show no empathy, compassion, guilt, shame, or remorse; they are proud of their wicked ways and ill-gotten gain. And yet, they prosper and face no consequences for their actions.
We've all witnessed this kind of wickedness, corruption, and meanness. You can't escape it. It's on the radio, the television, and in our news feeds. It's in the government, our work environments, and our neighborhoods. It's in our schools, our churches, and our own families. It's even in the places specifically established to pursue justice on behalf of the vulnerable. Wherever we look, wickedness can be found while justice seemingly remains absent. When I turn on the news and hear all that’s going on in the world, when I listen to stories of people suffering horrendous abuses, and when I see the poor/downtrodden/oppressed seemingly forgotten, my heart echoes the psalmist's, “Lord, why aren't you doing anything about all of this? How much worse will you allow it to get before you return and bring it all to an end?”
Proverbs 13:12 says that "hope deferred makes the heart sick." Maybe that's how you've felt. I know I have. It is easy to become weary and discouraged and lose hope that things will improve. In the absence of consequences, even the wicked are tempted to believe that their evil deeds have gone unnoticed (vs. 11). And it is here that the psalmist finds himself—longing for God to enact justice and bring an end to the wickedness around him, which leads him to boldly cry out to Yahweh, pleading with him to take action on behalf of the afflicted,
Vs. 12-15 “Arise, O Lord; O God, lift up your hand; forget not the afflicted. Why does the wicked renounce God and say in his heart, “You will not call to account”? But you do see, for you note mischief and vexation, that you may take it into your hands; to you the helpless commits himself; you have been the helper of the fatherless. Break the arm of the wicked and evildoer; call his wickedness to account till you find none.”
The psalmist appeals to God's sense of justice for the afflicted. And even though God's action is delayed, the psalmist holds fast to the belief that God does see, he does care, and he will do something about it—because Yahweh is a helper to the helpless and a father to the fatherless! And, with this renewed hope, he turns his words into a proclamation of God's character,
Vs. 16-18 “The Lord is king forever and ever; the nations perish from his land. O Lord, you hear the desire of the afflicted; you will strengthen their heart; you will incline your ear to do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed, so that man who is of the earth may strike terror no more.”
To the psalmist's eyes, the wicked have free reign, and the Lord is doing nothing about it. And yet, he understands that the Lord is working in ways he cannot yet see. So he begins to remind himself who Yahweh has repeatedly revealed himself to be.
Is King forever
Hears the cries of the afflicted and the desires of the humble
Strengthens their hearts
Brings justice to the needy
Brings an end to the wicked
Regardless of what’s happening in the world around him, the psalmist clings to the truth that Lord is King forever and ever, and evil has an expiration date. But we have something the psalmist didn’t have. We have Jesus. We can look to the cross, knowing that, in Christ, God has brought the first fruits of justice. He has never been inactive or distant. His actions through Christ began reversing the curse. And though wickedness is still rampant over all the earth, it has been mortally wounded, and its reign is coming to an end. But because the world is fraught with brokenness, it is easy to lose sight of this steadying truth, which is why we must, like the psalmist, preach to ourselves.
This psalm began with the cry, "Why?" And that is a good question that can drive us deeper into God's heart and into surrender. There's plenty of room in the life of faith for wrestling and asking the questions that plague our souls. But our questions can become a stumbling block if we are more committed to answers than surrendering our questions to God and trusting him when we cannot understand his ways. The life, death, and resurrection of Jesus is our reminder that God is a helper to the helpless and a father to the fatherless. He cares deeply for the afflicted, and behind the veil, beyond what our eyes can see, he is working, and justice will be done. The Lord is King. Forever. And ever.
Until next time,