GLORYING, NOT GLOATING
Lord, teach me to glory in what You are doing.
Read PSALM 58
For the director of music. To the tune of “Do Not Destroy.” Of David. A miktam.[b]
1 Do you rulers indeed speak justly?
Do you judge people with equity?
2 No, in your heart you devise injustice,
and your hands mete out violence on the earth.
3 Even from birth the wicked go astray;
from the womb they are wayward, spreading lies.
4 Their venom is like the venom of a snake,
like that of a cobra that has stopped its ears,
5 that will not heed the tune of the charmer,
however skillful the enchanter may be.
6 Break the teeth in their mouths, O God;
Lord, tear out the fangs of those lions!
7 Let them vanish like water that flows away;
when they draw the bow, let their arrows fall short.
8 May they be like a slug that melts away as it moves along,
like a stillborn child that never sees the sun.
9 Before your pots can feel the heat of the thorns—
whether they be green or dry—the wicked will be swept away.[c]
10 The righteous will be glad when they are avenged,
when they dip their feet in the blood of the wicked.
11 Then people will say,
“Surely the righteous still are rewarded;
surely there is a God who judges the earth.”
a Psalm 58:1 In Hebrew texts 58:1-11 is numbered 58:2-12.
b Psalm 58:1 Title: Probably a literary or musical term
c Psalm 58:9 The meaning of the Hebrew for this verse is uncertain.
New International Version (NIV)
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“He has sounded forth the trumpet that shall never call retreat; / He is sifting out the hearts of men before his judgment-seat… Our God is marching on” (Julia Ward Howe, 1819–1910).
The “wicked” in today’s psalm are not David’s personal enemies but powerful “rulers” (1), probably judges. Not only do they fail to protect the powerless, but they also abuse their powers, deliberately plotting and executing evil (2). However, the observation “Even from birth the wicked go astray” (3) reminds us that we’re all tainted by sin (Psa. 51:5; Rom. 3:23). When we’re unwilling to hear God’s voice and we willfully resist his grace, we ultimately become unable to receive and respond to it (4,5; Rom. 1:21).
Compare the psalmist’s seemingly ruthless request (6–9) with God’s declaration in Deuteronomy: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay. In due time their foot will slip; their day of disaster is near and their doom rushes upon them” (Deut. 32:35). The psalmist isn’t being vindictive; he’s simply asking God to follow through on what he has already vowed to do. As J. A. Motyer wrote, “This is holy realism—like asking God to bankrupt the firms of arms dealers, or to make terrorist bombs explode in the hands of those who make or set them. If people are irreversibly set in their ways and immune to appeal, nothing is left but to consign them to God the all-holy” (The New Bible Commentary, 522); and indeed, “It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Heb. 10:31).
Salvation and judgment are two sides of the same coin. To usher in the eternal kingdom of righteousness, justice and peace, the earth must be purged of injustice, oppression and evil. In John’s vision, the martyrs cry, “How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?” (Rev. 6:10). The gladness of the righteous is not attributive to an arrogant gloating (10), but rather to glorying in this final vindication (11).
Read Romans 12:19–21. How are you working to “overcome evil with good”? What will it entail to entrust vengeance and vindication into the hands of our holy God?
Lord, the righteous truly rejoice in our salvation and inclusion into the family of God, but also in what will be unveiled for us on the other side.