Psalm 58: waiting for the Lord’s judgment
Psalm 58 For the director of music. To the tune of "Do Not Destroy." Of David. A miktam. (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. (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 song for the choir director with a specific tune in mind. A miktam or michtam is a literary or musical term of some sorts. But the tune Altaschith: Do Not Destroy or Destroy Not is found ascribed to four psalms; 57, 58, 59, and 75.
While Bible scholars are not in agreement on the meaning of either miktam or altaschith, we can still discuss some of their theories. Charles Spurgeon calls the miktam of David “his Golden Secret.” Some refer to miktam as some sort of engraving. Were the words engraved or etched onto the walls of the cave David was hiding in? Were these songs meant to be etched into our hearts like a most treasured secret jewel?
The altaschith or Destroy Not Psalms were written when David had the opportunity to harm king Saul, to take matters into his own hands, but he didn’t. He left the judgment to God, in God’s timing. Does the inscription refer to one of those times David did not destroy Saul or were they written later during Absalom’s betrayal?
Whatever the exact meaning or reason, these songs are lumped together in God’s Word by the titles and therefore, were probably written around the same time. Jewish tradition would then place them during David’s 20’s, running for his life, hiding from Saul and his soldiers. He was alone and desperate, but certain that his God walked beside him and would rescue him.
The English minister Matthew Henry, 1662-1714, makes this interesting assumption:
It is the probable conjecture of some that before Saul began to persecute David by force of arms, and raised the militia to seize him, he formed a process against him by course of law, upon which he was condemned unheard, and attainted as a traitor, by the great council, or supreme court of judicature, and then proclaimed, ‘qui caput garit lupinum- an outlawed wolf,’ whom any man might kill and no man might protect. The elders, in order to curry favor with Saul, having passed this bill of attainder, it is supposed that David penned this psalm on the occasion.Matthew Henry, English minister, 1662-1714
Read 1 Samuel 24 and 26 for the stories of David’s opportunities to take matters into his own hands yet remembered God’s decree.
Justice- do you rulers know the meaning of the word? Do you judge the people fairly? No! You plot injustice in your hearts. You spread violence throughout the land. These wicked people are born sinners; even from birth they have lied and gone their own way. They spit venom like deadly snakes; they are like cobras that refuse to listen, ignoring the tunes of the snake charmers, no matter how skillfully they play. Psalm 58:1-5 NLT
David was affected by the corruption in his own government in many ways. So much so, that he’s writing a song to call it out for what it is.
Maybe, while hiding in the cave, a messenger came with news of a meeting condemning David as a traitor. David is outraged. He is angry about the unfairness of it all. There are people who speak out evil and lies, and then there are the silent ones that just go along with the lies. Sometimes the latter are the most painful. David felt betrayed by his own people
David discusses the idea of original sin; that we are born sinful. These evil men who have persecuted him, have always been full of sin and lies. And their lies hurt others; they lead people astray. Their lies are deadly.
But the right One was on David’s side. This is where having a relationship with God is so important. He is the only One that matters. What He thinks about us is the only thing that matters. When we stand before Him someday, it won’t matter what other people thought or said or did, it will only matter that our hearts were in the right place with the Lord.
Break off their fangs, O God! Smash the jaws of these lions, O LORD! May they disappear like water into thirsty ground. Make their weapons useless in their hands. May they be like snails that dissolve into slime, like a stillborn child who will never see the sun. God will sweep them away, both young and old, faster than a pot heats over burning thorns. Psalm 58:6-9 NLT
David calls to God for help. David calls for the justice of God rather than of sinful, evil man. His words here are harsh. But what he calls for is what God will do at the end of days.
Breaking teeth and smashing jaws takes away the bite of the beast.
One can well understand how the banished son of Jesse, while poisoned by the venomous slander of his foes, and worried by their cruel power, should appeal to heaven for a speedy and complete riddance from his enemies.Charles Spurgeon, English preacher, 1834-1892
The “stillborn child who never sees the sun” is a shocking reference. Here David states that it would better that these people had never even been born. Are there people in history like that?
God will sweep them away.
David is angry and calls upon God’s promise of judgment. He may not have seen that judgment but he believed in it. And it stayed his own hand.
The godly will rejoice when they see injustice avenged. They will wash their feet in the blood of the wicked. Then at last everyone will say, "There truly is a reward for those who live for God; surely there is a God who judges justly here on earth." Psalm 58:10-11 NLT
The godly will rejoice in the justice of the Lord. Someday we will see this, but our rejoicing will be in God, because of His goodness and His faithfulness.
The righteous shall rejoice when he seeth the vengeance. He will have no hand in meting out, neither will he rejoice in the spirit of revenge, but his righteous soul shall acquiesce in the judgments of God, and he shall rejoice to see justice triumphant.Charles Spurgeon, English preacher, 1834-1892
The righteous will shout for joy when God removes evil from this world. We wait upon this very promise. We should never soften this understanding in our own hearts or when we speak of God to others. Because God will punish evil.
God is goodness and kindness and faithfulness. He knows what He’s doing.
"My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts," says the LORD. "And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts." Isaiah 55:8-9 NLT Let the trees of the forest sing for joy before the LORD, for he is coming to judge the earth. Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good! His faithful love endures forever. 1 Chronicles 16:33-34 NLT Therefore, rejoice, O heavens! And you who live in the heavens, rejoice! But terror will come on the earth and the sea, for the devil has come down to you in great anger, knowing that he has little time. Revelation 12:12 NLT
David is alone and afraid. He sings to God to ease his heart. He complains about the unfairness of things and about the frustration and anger he feels toward those who persecute him. He calls upon God to bring justice. Then he rests in the fact that God will.
Even if it was not at that very moment, nor ten years later, David knew that God would judge the wicked of the earth. He waited on the Lord.
Wait for the Lord.
In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all nations and peoples of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed. Daniel 7:13-14
Father in heaven, thank you for your word. Thank you that you speak to us through your word. Thank you for the book of Psalms. Father give us strength to live by your truths and to not fear the evil of the world. Help us to have faith like David. Give us strength to face all that comes before us today. Your will be done. Amen.