May 16th – Les Kovacs Psalm 58
Observe: Psalm 58 is a prayer of David’s against those who are unjust.
In his prayer, David targets those in authority who speak unjustly and who pronounce unjust judgments. They plan injustice in their hearts and carry out violence in the world. They are wicked rom birth, and David compares them to poisonous snakes that cannot be controlled, regardless of any efforts to guide them otherwise. David prays for the Lord to punish them and remove them from the face of the earth. In the final verses of his prayer, David expresses his confidence that the Lord will indeed avenge the innocent and punish the wickedly unjust rulers, and that the righteous people will rejoice in God’s vengeance, and praise Him for His rewards to the righteous people of the earth.
Interpret: King David lived a tumultuous life. He has been described as a man after God’s own heart, but he was also a man of the world, with great passions. He knew better than most that justice was not an attribute that most rulers possess. In fact, his own judgement was often clouded by his baser desires, as we remember from the tragic fallout over his lust for Bathsheba.
In this case, however, David’s passion is aroused and directed at those in positions of power who abuse their authority to oppress the disadvantaged members of society. His is a gut reaction for God to kick in the teeth of the unjust rulers. Using the violent imagery of his times, David calls on the Lord to destroy these rulers, wishing they had never been born because all they’ve done from birth is to cause wickedness and evil. He looks forward to God repaying them for their evil deeds. His graphic image of wading through their blood like a conqueror on the battlefield of justice vividly reflects his disgust for them.
Yet for all the injustices that David witnesses, he knows that ultimately God’s justice will prevail. David’s hope remains firmly rooted in the Lord. He knows that God will have mercy on the righteous and will reward those who are faithful to Him. The unjust and the wicked will be swept away, and God’s people will rejoice in being judged by a just God.
Application: The world we live in does not reflect the perfect vision that God created in the beginning. Equality, justice, and peaceful coexistence are almost universally touted by world leaders, but rarely, if ever, actually experienced by those they lead. I recently read that during the pandemic, the wealthiest people in the world became wealthier, and the poorest people in the world became poorer. Those at the top of the social order always seem to be able to survive economic downturns better than those with little or no means. We all know that life is not fair.
Most of us would agree that there is a time and a place for honest disagreement, for rational debate on issues divide us. But when we witness blatant disregard for human rights and dignity, whether obviously in brutal dictatorships around the world, or more subtly in “democratic” laws that defy God’s will, we can understand David’s visceral fury directed against the rulers whose injustices results in the harm or deaths of our brothers and sisters.
This is a clear warning for us not to conform to the character of the unjust leaders, or those who get ahead at the expense of others. History has shown that when the people follow the ways of their corrupt leaders, their society becomes corrupt and flounders. The people are led astray by the leaders they follow, whether government officials, social influencers, or even errant religious leaders. The vitality of the Israelites rose and fell with the morality and faithfulness to God of their leaders, as does the vitality of our own society today.
But just as David found his hope in the righteousness and faithfulness of God, so to do we find our hope in Him. David said that there is a reward for the righteous. Therefore, our lives ought to reflect this sure truth: that we will receive an inheritance from the Lord. We ought to serve God with reverence and awe.
Unlike David, however, who only asked for justice, we know that God is not only just, but He is merciful as well. Because of David’s descendent Jesus Christ, we know that not only will God judge the earth, but also that He will deal mercifully with His Children through His grace. We, the disciples of Christ, have been given the hope of eternal salvation through our faith in Jesus. By the grace of God, we can receive the reward when we submit our lives to God and worship Him alone.
Prayer: Father God, this life is filled with uncertainty, but you have assured us that the righteous will receive a just reward. But this righteousness comes not from our own actions and will, but through the salvation bought for us by Jesus Christ. Help us always to remember the sacrifice you made for us, and so to act for the cause of justice for those who cannot act for themselves. This we pray in the merciful name of Jesus, Amen.
Song: In Christ Alone – Shane & Shane
In 2023, each week's blog is a follow-up reflection written by the preceding Sunday’s preacher to dig deeper into the sermon topic and explore engaging discussion questions.