Going Through the Psalms – Psalm 10 – The Nature of the Wicked Man

According to Martin Luther this Psalm was described by Augustine as the “Psalm of Antichrist” (see Martin Luther note in Psalm 10 by C. H. Spurgeon). Per Luther, “There is not, in my judgment, a Psalm which describes the mind, the manners, the feelings, and the fate of the ungodly with so much propriety, fullness, and light, as this Psalm.” (id). With that by way of introduction let us continue unto the psalm.

Why, O Lord, do you stand far away?
Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?

(Psalm 10:1 ESV)

In reflecting on this verse I do not think that we often literally ponder why the Lord has left us, for in him we move and live and have our being (Acts 17:28). Rather, I think we are sore in our perception of the lack of a certain attribute of God, such as his justice, mercy or lovingkindness. However, if we agree that all of these are eternal and immutable qualities of God then we should be comforted, for if we perceive his presence in the very fact of our existence by the use of our physical senses then so too his invisible qualities must also be present alongside them, though we may not perceive them and in our despair and doubt think them absent. If we have faith and trust in the Lord they will make their presence known in due time.

In arrogance the wicked hotly pursue the poor;
let them be caught in the schemes that they have devised.
For the wicked boasts of the desires of his soul,
and the one greedy for gain curses and renounces the Lord.
In the pride of his face the wicked does not seek him;
all his thoughts are, “There is no God.”

(Psalm 10:2-4 ESV)

Here we are presumably provided the reason for the psalmist’s plea of despair: persecution by the wicked. The wicked is not a man of God; he has so blinded himself that he does not even believe in God. Consequently, by blinding himself to his judge he has given himself license and with zeal persecutes the helpless. Moreover, without censorship he boasts of all of the things he will achieve, swelling with pride, as if he were the captain of his own destiny (see also Spurgeon commentary).

His ways prosper at all times:
your judgments are on high, out of his sight;
as for all his foes, he puffs at them.
He says in his heart, “I shall not be moved;
throughout all generations I shall not meet adversity.”

(Psalm 10:5-6 ESV)

While it may be antithetical to our notions of justice for the wicked to prosper, much more so for them to prosper “at all times,” remember that they are merely being filled with the treasures of this world, which the moth eats and rust corrupts (Matthew 6:19-24). Their gains are but vanity and will not profit. It is the wicked man’s success that is his undoing; he thinks because he meets no opposition that he has license to do as he wants, not knowing that he has been ensnared. He lacks godly wisdom; his thoughts are worldly, therefore the Lord’s judgments are too high for him to see.

His mouth is filled with cursing and deceit and oppression;
under his tongue are mischief and iniquity.

(Psalm 10:7 ESV)

Mark these attributes because as the man’s words are so is his heart (Matthew 15:18). You can tell a lot about a person from the way they speak and how they speak about others.

He sits in ambush in the villages;
in hiding places he murders the innocent.
His eyes stealthily watch for the helpless;
he lurks in ambush like a lion in his thicket;
he lurks that he may seize the poor;
he seizes the poor when he draws him into his net.
The helpless are crushed, sink down, and fall by his might.
He says in his heart, “God has forgotten, he has hidden his face, he will never see it.”

(Psalm 10:8-11 ESV)

The wicked man is a coward. He does not seek his equal but looks to take advantage of those in distress, as a wolf would an injured lamb.

Arise, O Lord; O God, lift up your hand;
forget not the afflicted.
Why does the wicked renounce God
and say in his heart, “You will not call to account”?
But you do see, for you note mischief and vexation,
that you may take it into your hands;
to you the helpless commits himself;
you have been the helper of the fatherless.
Break the arm of the wicked and evildoer;
call his wickedness to account till you find none.

(Psalm 10:12-15 ESV)

We need only look at the fate of Goliath (1 Samuel 17) and the great king Sennacherib (2 Kings 18-19) to see what happens to those who boast against the Lord. They will be repaid.

The Lord is king forever and ever;
the nations perish from his land.
O Lord, you hear the desire of the afflicted;
you will strengthen their heart;
you will incline your ear to do justice
to the fatherless and the oppressed,
so that man who is of the earth may
strike terror no more.

(Psalm 10:16-18 ESV)

The battle is the Lord’s and he will avenge (2 Chronicles 20:15).

Lord Jesus Christ, you hear our cries and are ever near, even though at times we may feel that you are hiding from us. We lift up our prayers to you that we may be delivered from all of the schemes and devices of the wicked so that all may know that you are the Lord. May we sing praises of your tender mercies and lovingkindnesses.

*ESV=English Standard Version

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