of the most difficult problems which any believer must face is the problem of
evil, and specifically of evil men.
Functional atheism, to live as if there was no God, is not limited to
those who are professed atheists. What
can a Christian do when evil men pursue the righteous? How should a Christian respond to those who
live without restraint?
As mentioned in the previous study, Psalms 9 and 10 may have been originally one psalm. However, they each have their own tone which makes it appropriate to separate them. Whereas Psalm 9 mostly praises God and gives thanks for His mighty works in the face of evil, Psalm 10 is more of a cry of the oppressed for deliverance. Additionally, the acrostic pattern (see the previous study) is still present and begins more or less where Psalm 9 left off, but it is harder to see in this psalm. Therefore, it is probably best to treat them as two separate psalms, perhaps composed at the same time.
Why, LORD, do you stand far off? Why do you close [your eyes] in times of
In arrogance, the wicked burn after the
poor. Let them be seized in the plots
which they have devised.
opens this psalm with a clear cry of distress to the Lord. There are certainly times in any believer’s
life when God seems to be distant. This
is, of course, only an expression. If
God were truly far off, David would not pray.
That he prays to the Lord in his distress is a sign of faith, because he
knows that God will answer. Yet God
seems to have shut His eyes to trouble.
Why is this happening to me?
word translated here as “burn” can also mean to pursue, but it carries with it
the idea of a fire. Like a wildfire
burning across the land, the fire of the wicked pursues the godly. Nebuchadnezzar attempts to burn the three
young men in the exceptionally hot furnace (Daniel 3). One can also think of the many martyrs burned
in more recent centuries at the stake as another example of this. Yet David calls on God to turn their evil
back on their heads. Give me justice, O
For the wicked praises on account of the
desires of his soul, and blesses the robber, spurns the LORD.
The wicked according to the height of
his nose does not seek [him].
“There is no God” [are] all his schemes.
the acrostic pattern breaks down until verse 12, but I will treat these verses
mostly in pairs as I have been doing.
David begins a lengthy description of the wicked man until that
point. The evil man feels no shame for
his actions. He even boasts in his
wickedness as if it was good! More than
this, he also gives his approval to those who also reject the Lord (Psalm
50:18; Romans 1:32).
colorful expression “according to the height of his nose” is an indicator of
pride, since we too speak of someone turning up their nose at someone else. In Hebrew, the nose is also frequently used
for anger, since an angry man tends to huff through his nose. But here it is a sign of pride, since he
lives as if there is no God. In his
mind, God will not call him to account for his wickedness, either because he
imagines that it is godly, that God will not judge, or that God does not
exist. Whatever his thoughts, the
outcome is the same.
His ways prosper in every time. Your judgments are on the height from before
him [i.e. not in front of him]. All his
enemies, he snorts at them.
He says in his heart, I will not be
staggered. From generation to generation
[I will] not [be] in evil.
greatest difficulty for the believer, and an idea that is encountered
frequently in the psalms, is the apparently prosperity of the wicked. Why do those who hate God seem to prosper
when the righteous suffer? Why does the
thief become a millionaire when the godly man can barely make ends meet? David will address this question later in the
before, the evil man imagines that God’s judgments are either nonexistent or
far off. They are on the height, out of
his sight. He “snorts” at his enemies,
because it is a sign of contempt. One
can imagine huffing contemptuously at something or someone we don’t like. In Malachi 1:13, the priests snort in a
similar fashion at the sacrifices God had ordained for them. The contempt arises from an imagined
security. Things seem secure for him, so
there is no reason to fear. “Soul, you
have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry” (Luke
With a curse his mouth is filled and
tricks and oppression. Under his tongue
trouble and disaster.
He sits in ambush in the settlements. In secret places he kills the blameless. His eyes lie in wait for the [helpless].
would be one thing for a wicked man to live as if there was no God. Yet, just as Ishmael persecuted Isaac, the
sons of the flesh do the same to the sons of the promise (Galatians 4:29). This should not surprise us; if they hated
Christ, they will also hate us (John 15:18).
This is still, however, a difficult cross to bear. The evil which comes forth from the mouth of
the wicked bubbles out of his heart (Matthew 15:18-19). These things are “under his tongue” because
he delights in them, like a delightful food which we keep in our mouth to enjoy
hides in secret places to assault the righteous. He is not in the wilderness, where it is
unlikely he will meet anyone. Rather, he
sits in secret near the towns where he can ply his evil trade, like a robber
hiding in an alley. His eyes are “hidden”
either because he cannot be seen, or because he is squinting, like someone
aiming to throw who squints in order to see better. The word translated “helpless” occurs twice in
the Old Testament and only in this psalm, and it is a little uncertain what it
exactly means, but this seems the most likely from the context.
He lies in ambush in secret places like
a lion in his thicket. He lies in ambush
to snatch the poor. He snatches the poor
in his drawing in his net.
And he crouches, is bowed down, and the
host of the weak ones falls into his claws/mighty ones.
He says in his heart, God has
forgotten. He has hidden his face. He will never see it.
three verses compare the wicked man to a lion on the prowl. Like a lion hiding in the grass, crouching
down in the way that cats do when they are prepared to pounce, so the evil man
seeks after the righteous. The word
translated as “claws” is more literally “the mighty ones,” like a band of
warriors or an army. Here, in the
imagery of a lion, they refer to the “band” of his “mighty ones,” that is, his
claws. David then closes this
description of a wicked man with a repetition of the main problem: his
functional atheism. God, he thinks, will
never see what he is doing.
Arise, LORD. God, lift up your hand. Do not forget the poor ones.
Why does the wicked spurn God? He says in his heart, He will not seek.
You see, for you look upon trouble and
grief to put it in your hand. With you
the [helpless] leaves himself. [To] the
fatherless you have been a helper.
three verses form two parts of the acrostic pattern, since verse 14 is one part
all by itself. They deal with more or
less the same plea. The wicked pursue
the righteous, so now it is time for the Lord to act. Do not forget, O Lord, your righteous saints
who suffer in this life! Even the
martyrs cry out for the Lord to remember His people in their trouble
(Revelation 6:9-11). However, the
righteous would not cry to God if they did not think that He could do
anything. He takes our troubles into His
hand, because He will act and be our helper in distress.
Break the arm of the wicked and evil
one. Seek his offense/injustice [until]
you do not find.
The LORD is king forever and ever. The nations perish from his land.
with every imprecatory psalm, the call to destroy the wicked or bring their
plans to nothing is not self-serving.
Vengeance belongs to God and God alone.
Rather, the call for justice is a plea of the righteous to a king who
will bring it. Unlike every earthly
king, who will eventually die like any other man, the Lord reigns as king
forever. His justice is also eternal as
a result. It is not a paltry justice,
shot through with uncertainty and coming to an end. It is a firm justice and a sign of God’s
steadfast love for His people. Their
troubles will end and they will know the justice of the Lord in that day when
The desire of the poor you hear, LORD. You will make their heart firm. Your ear will listen attentively
to judge the fatherless and
oppressed. The mortal man from the earth
will not add again to trembling [i.e. will no longer cause fear].
then, is the answer to the original problem.
The libertine and the wicked should not alarm us. Functional atheism will meet its end when God
judges the earth. On that day, they will
know that there is a God who judges (Psalm 58:11). The righteous need not fear, because the Lord
promises to hear them when they pray to Him (John 14:13-14). Even if we suffer now, that suffering will
come to an end. The Lord will deliver
His people and give them justice.