Psalm 10: When the Wicked Boast
“There is not, in my judgment, a psalm which describes the mind, the manners, the works, the words, the feelings and the fate of the ungodly with so much propriety, fullness and light, as this psalm.” Martin Luther
We live in an increasingly rebellious and arrogant culture. In 1982, the pollster George Gallup found that while a majority of Americans believed in God (95%), only 20% said that religion was the most influential factor in their lives. The language and the practice of Americans did not match! They lived, as it were, as practical atheists. These numbers seem like the “good old days”, in comparison to our present cultural. So, the question of the hour becomes: “How is the church of Jesus Christ to respond to a culture that is arrogantly atheistic?” Psalm 10 offers practical help.
First: We must recognize that wicked and sinful men are breathtakingly arrogant.
There is a progression in the development of the wicked. Verse 2: “In arrogance the wicked hotly pursue the poor”. The attitude of the heart is arrogance, the resulting action is pursuit of the poor. There is a reason for this attitude: The wicked are self-centered (v. 3). The wicked speak of “their” desires, the things “they” will accomplish. This is a far cry from Psalm 34:2: “My soul makes its boast in the LORD; let the humble hear and be glad”! This self-centeredness leads to a denial of God. God’s word (and therefore God Himself) limits how we obtain wealth, satisfy our desires. The wicked must throw off limitation to achieve their goals, therefore greed leads to the renunciation of God (v. 3b) Thus the wicked achieve the unenviable status of “FOOL”. Verse 4: “all his thoughts are, “There is no God”. This is the biblical definition of a fool.[i] A fool casts of restraint. If there is no God, there is no law higher than himself, there is no accountability, no judgement. In verse 5 the psalmist tells us that God’s judgments are on high, out of the fool’s sight. From here his actions degenerate. In pride, the wicked thinks he cannot be touched. His speech becomes wholly destructive and unprofitable (see verse 7). Physical crime ensues (ambush and murder) (see verse 8), oppression follows (verse 9), the weak and powerless are crushed (verse 10), and in the height of arrogance the wicked thinks he can hide from God’s sight, because God is powerless. As an aside: isn’t it interesting that the same one who said “There is no God” (4b), is the same one that acknowledges God, but seeks to assert autonomy or mastery over the very one he denies?[ii] Is this not an accurate description of 21st century America? The vast majority of our culture think they are independent of God and can stand in judgement on Him, that there will be no consequence for their sin and rebellion. This is arrogance! The church must regain the ability to call things what God calls them. Recognizing the nature of our culture is not judgmental, it is simple biblical fidelity.
Second, We must commit ourselves to our Triune God and pray that He brings judgment.
In verse one, the Psalmist asks “Why?” He is not the first to ask this question. He joins the cloud of witnesses that includes Rebekah,[iii] Moses,[iv] Joshua,[v] Habakkuk[vi] and others throughout the history of the church, who have asked the same question of God. Not being omniscient, we do not know God’s purposes. To ask “why” is not a lack of faith, it is an expression of faith. We are humbly seeking answers from the one who actually does know! Struggling and questioning does not negate rest, or trust, in God.
Ask God to come in power and judgment. We find the Psalmist calling on God to act in three different ways in verse 12. The Psalmist calls on God to:
- “Arise”. The expression “Arise of LORD” occurs eight times in the scriptures and is associated with God’s care for his people and a defeat, or judgement of, His and their enemies.
- “Lift up your hand”. A hand lifted, is a hand prepared to strike. Notice the Psalmist is not taking things into his own hands, he is looking to the righteous judge to act. This is congruent with Romans 12:19.
- “Forget not the afflicted”. Biblical “remembering” is not what we know as a simple “memory” of an event. Biblical “remembering” is the recollection of the past event that results in current action. We trust God for deliverance today, because we remember that he delivered the children of Israel by parting the Red Sea.
It is biblical (and therefore legitimate) to call on God to judge. We must be extremely careful however, that an imprecatory prayer is seeking the glory of God and the good of His people, not as a result of some personal offense.
Third, we must be appalled at the foolishness of the wicked, remember that God is just and omniscient, commit ourselves to Him, and hold fast to our confession.
Can you hear the incredulity in the Psalmist’s question in verse thirteen? How is it possible to renounce God or not believe in His judgment? As believers, we know that God sees, and will work justice. On the one hand we know that Romans chapter one teaches us that fallen men suppress the truth. On the other hand, as those whose eyes have been opened by the grace of God, it should strike us as incredible that someone can spit in the face of God with such audacity!
Remember (verse fourteen) that God does see and “note” sin so that he can judge. This is our confidence: God will deal with sinners. He will not put the righteous to death with the wicked. The judge of all the earth will do what is just.[vii] What God has done in the past; He will do again in the future. Knowing this, we must commit ourselves to the LORD. That is, we must leave things in the hand of God. Psalm 20:7 reads: Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God. Hold fast to your confession (verses 16-18):
- The LORD is King
- His reign is eternal and it does not fail.
- He hears
- He gives his people strength. (so ask!)
- He is inclined to do justice. Justice is an essential attribute of God.
- He will work justice so that sinful, wicked men can no longer terrorize others.
Finally, if you are in Christ, give thanks for the gospel of Jesus Christ, for without it Psalm 10 would be describing you!
Martin B. Blocki has served since 2003 as the Associate Pastor of the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North Hills in Pittsburgh, PA since 2002. Rev. Blocki graduated from Indiana University, Bloomington (BME), Arizona State University (MM), and the Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary (MDiv). Martin and his wife, Kathy, have two married sons, one daughter, and four grandchildren.
[i] Psalm 14:1 and Psalm 53:1
[ii] This is one more indication that there is no such thing as an “atheist”. Romans 1 makes this very clear in verses 18-22. All men know that God exists. Sinful men “suppress” (purposefully deny) the knowledge that God has made plain to them.
[iii] Genesis 25:22
[iv] Exodus 5:22
[v] Joshua 7:7
[vi] Habakkuk 1:13
[vii] Genesis 18:25