Psalm 58: A Psalm of Social Interaction

Do me a favor and please read Psalm 58.

I love the imagery and the “opposite” feeling that we get FROM said imagery. Judges who don’t judge justly (2), wicked from birth (as opposed to the innocence of a child) (3), fangless lions (6), opposite flowing water (7), arrow that are blunt and don’t fly (7) – all of these images are amazingly vivid and yet are hard to comprehend. And yet…if you were to experience any one of these the pain would still be real. Blunt arrows still can leave damage and pain. The jaw power of a lion, even a tooth-less one, can crush bones. Standing before a judge who rules unjustly…you’re still going to be punished and it’s still going to be not fun.

But there is something still here…you’re still alive. You may be broken and bruised, you may be sitting in prison, you may be hiding because you’ve been struck by arrows that didn’t pierce…but didn’t feel good either – but you’re still alive.

David is using this imagery kind of like an allegory. These images, these different injustices, these pictures of evilness all speak of the horribleness of people who abuse and misuse their power to hurt others and wield personal gain. And while much of this psalm is focused on the opposite of these evil things – they all speak to the last 2 verses (10-11) in that God will redeem and avenge the righteous. That wherever David was when he penned this, whatever he was experiencing, because he faithfully follows God and trusts in God’s ultimate deliverance – God will step up and take care of the situation. The Judge who judges the earth (11) also judges those upon the earth.

What we need to understand is that this is not a psalm about David. Well it is…but it’s not. It’s really a psalm about those who are placed in powerful positions of authority…mainly those who rule over others. Think of a governor, or even higher – a president. These are people who have been entrusted with the power they have been given. They are to lead and govern and make rules and laws that don’t benefit themselves. They are supposed to think of their constituents, their people, and make decisions that are for THEIR good – not decisions that hurt them, belittle them, or sacrifice THEM so that the one in power can succeed.

Michael Wilcock writes: ‘This then is a psalm with a social conscience. It is concerned with the kind of wickedness in high places which has not only bungled or neglected those things which it ought to have done, but has also done those things which it ought not to have done—indeed, planned and perpetrated them with ruthless care.’[1]

This psalm is a reminder for us in a couple of ways. One: we are watched over and cared for by God – even when we are trampled on and run over by those we put trust in to protect and lead us.

The second is that the God who holds the universe in his hands also has all IN the universe stand before him in judgment.

Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 5:10 that, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.

But alas, there is a 3rd thing here that we cannot ignore. I think very frequently when we are attacked and hurt we become that wounded animal that seeks to destroy and repay. You wound me, I wound you in return. But really it doesn’t work that way – and it’s not supposed to. What good comes of it when I repay you for the harm you did? I’ve fallen into that trap way to many times and all it does it leave me MORE wounded. I’m ashamed, I’m angry, I’m bitter and it never really makes me feel any better. I haven’t been “restored” to what I was before you hurt me – I actually look and feel worse.

Peter writes that we are not to repay evil with evil or insult with insult. Evil is supposed to be repaid with blessings (1 Peter 3:9). Paul writes those exact type of thoughts and words in Romans 12:17 in that we really need to do what is right. If we are seeking OTHERS to do the “right thing” that we have to hold ourselves to those same standards.

And ultimately, if we believe in a God who restores, if we proclaim that God will place all things under his feet – then we need to allow God to deal with the things God deals with. Our jobs in this world are not to be revente-seekers. We are to be lights in the darkness (Eph 5:7-14, Matthew 5:14), salt of the earth (Matthew 5:13), cities on a hill (Matthew 5:14).

Be salt…light…and a beacon of hope in the midst of a dark world…and ultimately, put trust in the Lord and rejoice in the one who redeems, restores, and judges all people for the type of person, leader, and follower they are.



[1] Ellsworth, Roger. Opening up Psalms. Leominster: Day One Publications, 2006. Print. Opening Up Commentary.

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