Weds 21 October - Psalm 58
1 Do you rulers indeed speak justly?
Do you judge people with equity?
2 No, in your heart you devise injustice,
and your hands mete out violence on the earth.
3 Even from birth the wicked go astray;
from the womb they are wayward, spreading lies.
4 Their venom is like the venom of a snake,
like that of a cobra that has stopped its ears,
5 that will not heed the tune of the charmer,
however skilful the enchanter may be.
6 Break the teeth in their mouths, O God;
Lord, tear out the fangs of those lions!
7 Let them vanish like water that flows away;
when they draw the bow, let their arrows fall short.
8 May they be like a slug that melts away as it moves along,
like a stillborn child that never sees the sun.
9 Before your pots can feel the heat of the thorns –
whether they be green or dry – the wicked will be swept away.[c]
10 The righteous will be glad when they are avenged,
when they dip their feet in the blood of the wicked.
11 Then people will say,
‘Surely the righteous still are rewarded;
surely there is a God who judges the earth.’
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Meditation on Psalm 58
On a first read through this Psalm you might be forgiven for thinking that it doesn’t belong anywhere in Scripture!
It’s interesting to note that this Psalm, according to the 1980 Prayer Book, was not to be used in worship.
That’s a good start for us to consider this Psalm. It is identified as an ‘imprecatory Psalm’ - ‘one in which the author imprecates; that is, he calls down calamity, destruction, and God’s anger and judgment on His enemies.’
You only have to read verses 6-8 to realise that the Psalmist isn’t going to be gentle – ‘break the teeth…’; ‘tear out the fangs’; ‘vanish like water’; ‘like a slug’; ‘like a stillborn child’.
Should we pray such imprecatory prayers?
We must proceed with spiritual caution, remembering that we were once ‘enemies of God’; ‘we were, by nature, deserving of wrath.’
These prayers were not calling down curses, or being triumphalist or gloating.
God is the sole arbiter of righteous indignation and judgment and we trust Him to act in accordance with His will.
As we pray these prayers, we recognise our own weakness and helplessness in the face of such wickedness. We don’t laugh at the wicked. The LORD is the only one who can laugh at the wicked because He alone is the Holy One. Psalms 2:4; 37:13; 59:8 remind us that He alone ‘laughs at the wicked, for He knows their day is coming.’
As we pray these prayers, we are asking God to mete out His judgment on those who are out to destroy His Name and His people. We know there will be the final judgment when God will destroy all that is wicked and evil and His people will spend eternity with Him in heaven where righteousness will dwell. This is because of the justice and mercy of God meeting at Calvary when Jesus died to deal with our sin and the sin of the whole world.
So to our Psalm.
Verses 1-2 A clear challenge to the unjust rulers who are making unjust and unfair judgments. Instead of honest and fair outcomes, injustice and violence were the outcome.
Verses 3-5 The origin and power of the wicked – this hasn’t just suddenly come to the fore. No, it’s from birth – even before birth that the seeds of evil were sown. And this evil is poisonous – it is venomous; it is deaf to outside influences, including ‘the tune of the charmer.’
Verses 6-8 An appeal to a Holy God to act decisively, to break the power of the wicked, to wipe them out, to make them fail when they sling their arrows, to leave them in a dark place.
Verses 9-11 A longing for God’s assurance that He is in total control and that He will act quickly to sweep the wicked away.
Then ‘the righteous will be glad when they are avenged.’
The phrase ‘when they dip their feet in the blood of the wicked’ refers to the scene of a battlefield where the righteous are finally victorious.
The Psalm ends on an upbeat note – ‘surely the righteous still are rewarded; surely there is a God who judges the earth.’
We remember that ‘He has set a day when He will judge the world with justice by the Man He has appointed. He has given proof of this to everyone by raising Him from the dead.’
We can have this same confidence in God – as Paul says, ‘if God is for us, who can be against us’?
Thursday 22 October - Psalm 59
Friday 23 October - Psalm 60
Saturday 24 October - Psalm 61
Sunday 25 October - Psalm 62
Monday 26 October - Psalm 63
Tuesday 27 October - Psalm 64