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The Psalms are meant to be a model prayer book, and just as all of our prayers are not joyful praise and thankfulness, so all of the psalms are not joyous. Many of them deal with the question of enemies prospering and the seeming distance of God from the psalmist’s daily life. Some of them call for judgment on the psalmist’s enemies. These are known as imprecatory Psalms, and Psalm 10 is a mild imprecatory Psalm. (Probably the best example of an imprecatory Psalm is Psalm 109.) It can be difficult to read imprecatory Psalms, but they are in the Bible for a reason, and it is important at least to examine them and learn what we can from them, even if we do not feel comfortable praying them.
The psalm is a plea to Yahweh to rise up to the aid of the otherwise helpless and strike down the prosperous evildoers. Apparently the psalmist had been going through exceedingly rough times, and could not see the hand of God working for his good (v.1). However, this psalm demonstrates the amazing faith of the psalmists in general. But more about that at the end of the psalm.
Verses 2-11 are a description of the wicked man. He is devious, sets traps for the weak and innocent, has no use for God, lies and curses, and victimizes the helpless. But despite his evil, says the psalmist in verse 5, the wicked man prospers, while he, the psalmist, suffers at the hand of the wicked man!
Then in verse 12, the psalmist calls out to God to remember the helpless, weak, and fatherless; to see the pain of the victims and remember His covenant with them (v.14). Not only that, but the psalmist asks for judgment on the wicked man. This is interesting to note from our New Covenant perspective on wickedness. We are very reluctant to ask for judgment on the wicked, because we count ourselves along with the wicked. Rather, we prefer to ask for God’s mercy. In the Old Testament, however, although it is made very clear that man can do nothing to save himself, and his own righteousness will get him nowhere with God, there are also many many instances where a psalm or some other part of scripture (cf. Job) will ask for justice to be done. The only explanation I can come up with for this is that the psalmists were not looking at everybody as starting on equal ground. That is, people outside the covenant would be judged, while those within the covenant would be redeemed through God’s grace. Something like that. (I know what I’m thinking, but I’m don’t know how to say it.)
Anyway, the last three verses of Psalm 10 are remarkable.
After everything that the psalmist has obviously been through, and as
distant as Yahweh seems to him right now, and as prosperous as the wicked
man is at this time, the psalmist does not lose faith. He knows that Yahweh
is the king, and that He will make it all come out right in the end, through
His power, justice, and mercy. He knows that Yahweh hears the cries of
the suffering, even if He does not seem to respond. What a powerful statement
of faith and hope! How often do we need to be reminded that God is always
listening, even if it is not His will to intervene in exactly the way
we had hoped.
This paper originated as an extra credit assignment for Old Testament History, Missouri Baptist College, Fall, 2000.
©2000 by Jandy Stone