First Off…read Psalm 10!
When bad people are being “bad” the last thing we want is for them to appear to be thriving in their badness. So why is it that often times bad people have their ways “prosper” where the good people do not? Why is it that even through their lies and threats and vulgarity they still seem to have the “Midas Touch”?
Great question…but unfortunately we don’t get an answer in this text.
What’s even more painful than that question is that the psalmist paints this picture that this evil person, whom they are crying out to God to do something about, is BLATANTLY doing this in the eyes of God. They know who God is and they scoff at him. They “revile the Lord” (vs 3); there is “no room for God” (vs 4); he rejects God’s laws (vs 5); and he laughs at even the notion that God would look down and see what he is doing and care (vs11).
I remember watching the movie “The Ghost and the Darkness” (1996) and learning about these “man-eating lions of Tsavo” that not only terrorized a camp of railroad workers back in 1898…but killed AND CONSUMED at least 35 people for 9 months! Two lions…that knew of the presence and the harm that could come upon them by humans…waited near the village of the people, crept in at night…caught the helpless victims and dragged them off and ate them. This is what I picture in this text….and I’m not sure what disturbs me more, this scoffing at God by this horrible person or the fact that he is waiting in secret for victims…catching the helpless and dragging them off and crushing them under their strength!
Regardless of our feeling for the evil person…I find a few truth nuggets that we need to see here.
First off, kudos to the psalmist for seeing this horrid person and what they are doing to the poor and helpless and responding! The psalmist is pleading with God to rise up and defend them, help them to never be victims again! Also, this psalmist declares not only the closeness of God to his children, not only the anger that comes upon God when the poor are oppressed and victimized, but also how he absolutely will not stand for it and MUST act!
But wait…we see in verse 1 that the psalmist is pleading with God to not “hide” himself in times of trouble…so how is this working? How is God working when it looks like that is actually the problem…that God is NOT working?
We must remember that simply because we observe something to be happening/not happening with God doesn’t mean it’s actually true. Simply because it APPEARS that the wicked triumph over all the weak does not mean that they actually do or ultimately will. Simply because evilness and greed and horrid schemes seem to increase in numbers and the rich are getting richer does NOT mean that the work of God has ceased to be. God is not “indifferent” to the troubles and plights of his people – we in fact proclaim otherwise…as did, and does, the psalmist.
So how is God not “hiding”? That is the ultimate question that we have here. When evilness sets in to the hearts of people, when they begin to become greedy, wicked, and lawless…where is God? Why is he not responding in the way that we wish? In a way that we could see?
That is where I actually question MY motives on what God should do. Should He smite them? Should he reign down lightening and strike them to where they stand there with eyes wide…frozen and black…blinking a couple of times and then disintegrating to ash upon the earth (like in the cartoons)? Should God send plagues, or floods, or other forms of Old Testament work? What about having them become poor and desolate and any other type of “payback” for what they do?
That there is where I’m stuck…and struck…and convicted. MY desires would actually be the “eye-for-an-eye” retribution…but how is that any better? Is that not the same vile evilness that the psalmist is wanting God to do something about? Dealing with sin and evil is what God is really good at…not me. Me dealing with sin simply is more sin.
Does this mean, however, that we are to do nothing? Not at all! As Eugene Peterson says, when we come to God it puts us “in attentiveness to human needs, developing a compassionate response to every kind of distress.” We need a heart for the oppressed and the victimized – but our hearts need to speak FOR them and TO them as well as against the oppressors. Our energy needs to be poured out TO the hurting and not the hateful evil person – knowing that God, in his time, is at work. And to me….that’s where we are taken with this psalm.
 Peterson, Eugene H., Praying With the Psalms: A Year of Daily Prayers and Reflections on the Words of David (New York: HarperOne, 1979)