As we read Psalm 10, we observe obvious things. David faced wicked people and wanted God to avenge him. Another thing we notice is David’s questioning the nearness of God. After seeing these obvious parts of the psalm, if we want to learn more, we must dissect the psalm. We should recognize that often humankind, when in crisis, questions God’s presence, even when they realize He is not absent. God allows us to express our feelings and leads us to recall that He was with us all the time. We will see this as we go through the Psalm 10.
Beginning with the format of the psalm, we find four parts. They are 1) the opening question, 2) the situation and plea, 3) description of the wicked, and 4) description of God. David’s opening question is like that of Psalms 13, 22, and 55. He asked why God was not near and was hiding Himself. Each of us can relate to David’s feeling alone and without God. We understand what that feels like – fear, desperation, searching, wondering.
David expressed his circumstance with much emphasis. The wicked “hotly pursued the afflicted.” Notice David does not speak solely of himself, but of all the weak. He used many adjectives to express the persecuted people. He called them the afflicted, unfortunate, innocent, orphan, humble, and oppressed. The Hebrew words David used regarding these people mean the clean, guiltless, poor and unfortunate, needy, weak, orphaned, humble, crushed, and oppressed. David pleaded with God to let the wicked catch themselves in their own plots and traps, which they laid for the afflicted.
David expressed for nine verses who the wicked were and what they do. Verses 3-11 reveal to us the character and actions of the wicked. The wicked were prideful, covetous, greedy, self-centered, merciless, and snide, as well as, despising and abhorrent of God and others, gave no thought to God, derided enemies, considered self greater than others. These are characteristics coming from a person’s attitude. David also told God about the actions of the wicked. They were intentional in their evil, deceitful, oppressive, treacherous, predatory, strong in strength and numbers, troublers, as well as, they cursed God and people, plotted, and murdered. We perceive from this list that David meant that these wicked were intentional in their evil; they planned it in their minds and hearts. They were evil in their actions, too. They laid in wait to steal and murder people. David showed God and us, the later readers, that the wicked are wicked in every part of themselves – heart, mind, and body. Their evil was mental and physical affected the wicked as such. Evil affected their whole self. They were complete evil. (As Christians, we can understand why God says we are to love Him with our heart, soul, mind, and strength, so that evil could not have any part of us.[Luke 10:27])
Let us break this down by verse.
Vs. 3. “The wicked boasts (praises himself for) of his heart’s (soul’s) desire and the greedy (covetous gain by violence) man curses and spurns (despises, condemns, and abhors) the LORD (Yahweh).”
The actual Hebrew says of the last part of this verse that the wicked praises and blesses the greedy man. This puts a better understanding of the wicked into the reader’s mind.
Vs. 4. “The wicked, in the haughtiness of his countenance does not seek (enquire of and require) Him (God). All his thoughts are, ‘There is no God’.”
This haughtiness of countenance means he is exalting himself. In addition, the Hebrew word for “thought” in this verse is the same word used to mean “plots.”
Vs 5. “His ways prosper at all times. Your (God) judgments (justice and judgments) are on high (from a lofty and noble place), out of his (the wicked’s) sight. As for all his (the wicked’s) adversaries (those who have what he wants and whom he distresses), he snorts at them.”
Note that the word “prosper” in this verse is the Hebrew word meaning “strong.” It is used in this way is Psalm 52:7 too. Thus, the wicked’s ways are strong. Notice, too, that this verse compares a man’s strength with God’s and recognizes that God’s judgment comes from a higher place than that in which man exists. Yet, the wicked man snorts as if he is greater than everyone.
Vs. 6. “He (the wicked) says to himself, ‘I will not be moved (shaken or overthrown); throughout all generations I will not be in adversity’.”
This man thinks himself so great that nothing and no one can overthrow him, just as Psalm 49:11 says, too. He forgets he is a man, not God, and so is not invincible. Through John, in Revelation 18:7, the Lord says the person who lived this way and caused torment and mourning will receive this in the same quantity as judgment.
Vs. 7. “His mouth is full of curses (oath or curse), deceit (deceit and treachery), and oppression (injury, fraud, deceit); under his tongue is mischief (trouble) and wickedness (trouble, wickedness, and sorrow).”
This verse uses a very interesting idiom, “under his tongue.” The literal translation means he hides his mischief and wickedness, but them spews forth venom as a viper (see Psalm 140:3). This idiom means he burdens and oppresses. David put forth that God and others could recognize these people because they were full of curses, deceits, treachery, oppression, and fraud. The wicked are tricky. They bring burden, oppression, trouble, sorrow, and evil.
Vs. 8. “He sits in the lurking places (a hunter’s blind; lying-in-wait, an ambush spot) of the villages; in the hiding places (for protection or perpetration of a crime), he kills the innocent. His eyes (used figuratively to mean mental qualities of lying-in-wait) stealthily watch (lie-in-wait) for the unfortunate (hapless, poor and unfortunate person).”
The wicked person lies in wait in a hidden place to ambush the innocent. David repeats this sentiment within the verse and says the wicked, with his mental quality of deception and wickedness, lays waiting for the poor, hapless, and unfortunate person. This verse shows the intentionality of the wicked.
Vs. 9. “He lurks in hiding places as a lion in his lair. He lurks to catch the afflicted. He catches the afflicted (poor, humble, needy, weak) when he draws (intentionally sets a trail to lead) him into his net (a trap).”
David repeated, the wicked laid waiting in a hiding place just as a mighty lion in his lair, his hiding place, waiting to catch his prey. Just as predators go after the weakest, the wicked sought to snare the afflicted, poor, humble, needy, and weak with his treachery, deception, oppression, and wickedness. The wicked actively enticed them into his net. He lay in wait and lured them. He intended to do harm. The wicked planned, was intentional, in trapping the weak, and that was not just for food, as the lion stalks his prey.
Vs. 10. “He (the afflicted) crouches (dakah – is crushed, broken, made contrite), he bows down (is bowed, crouched, humbled) and the unfortunate fall (by attack) by his mighty ones (great in number and strength).”
The wicked crushed, broke, and humbled the unfortunate by their strength and numbers.
Vs. 11. “He (the wicked) says to himself, ‘God has forgotten (forgot and ignored); He has hidden His face. He will never see (regard, and consider) it (the wicked’s treachery)’.”
David repeated verse 4. He began with the wicked’s mindset and repeated as a reminder and to add emphasis. In verse 4, the wicked said there is no God. By verse 11, he said God forgot, hid his face, and would not see it. The wicked deluded themselves concerning the ever-presence of God, His power, and that He never overlooks or forgets anything. God saw everything in the past and will see all the wicked does now and in the future. The wicked got away with so much in the past, he felt God was powerless and only a manmade god. God does not ignore what happens. God deals with all and judge them, if not while they are on earth, then at the judgment seat when Christ returns.
The final section of this psalm encompasses verses 12-18. These verses show how David perceived and knew God. David recognized God’s greatness and goodness, the two categories of God’s characteristics. He acknowledged God’s greatness by stating God sees all (omnipresence), is all-powerful (omnipotent), and knows everything that happens (omniscient). God is righteous, eternal, infinite, and King of all. David expressed God’s goodness by acknowledging that He listens to the humble, helps the weak, gives strength, is just and avenges the weak, and pursues the wicked. These show God’s greatness and goodness to humankind over all time and we see them throughout Bible times and later.
Vs. 12. “Arise, O Lord; O, God, life Your hand. Do not forget the afflicted.”
This is a plea and a command from David. He knew God is powerful. David cried out to God to remember His children and the weak. He asked God to show Himself to the wicked.
Vs. 13. “Why has the wicked spurned God? He has said to himself, ‘You will not require it’.”
David asked a rhetorical question, which he answered. The wicked spurned (abhorred, detested, snubbed) God because he did not believe God required his obeisance and honor. He did not believe in God. He did not recognize with awe that God is real and powerful.
Vs. 14. “You have seen it, for You have beheld mischief and vexation to take it into Your hand. The unfortunate commits himself to You. You have been the helper of the orphan.”
David brought to God’s attention that he knew God saw what the wicked did. He called on God to be the God he knew Him to be and who he knew God had been for His people. He held God accountable, in essence. David recalled how God rescued the unfortunate and orphan before and called Him to do it again. David was being bold.
Vs. 15. “Break (violently rend, shatter, crush) the arm of the wicked (those hostile to God) and the evildoer (one who is evil, malignant, unkind, hurtful, and adversarial). Seek out his wickedness until You find none."
This phrase is use in Job and Ezekiel, as well as Psalms 37:17 and 140:11. David asked God to crush the might and strength of the adversary. He pointed out this one was wicked and evil. Wicked is rasha and means hostile to God. It is a mental thing. The evildoer is an active adversary who is hurtful, malignant, and unkind. This covers both of the areas of the wicked in this chapter, mental and physical (actions). David then asked God to not just crush these wicked ones, but find all wicked and crush them so they are no more.
David acknowledged that the LORD (Yahweh) is the eternal King who annihilated whole nations. God is great and good.
Vs. 17. “O Lord, You have heard the desire of the humble. You will strengthen their heart. You will incline Your ear”
David acknowledged that God hears His people. God hears the humbled and afflicted. He acknowledged that God gives strength to their souls because He listens to them. God actively relates with His children. He loves them and gives them strength, which gives them hope. This recalls and reinforces who He is in their hearts and minds. God is good as well as great.
Vs. 18. “To vindicate (judge and punish for the orphan and oppressed) the orphan and the oppressed (crushed), so that man who is of the earth will no longer cause terror (dread, fear, oppress, prevail, and break).”
God vindicates for the humbled, weak, and oppressed. Humankind knows from God’s actions that He is powerful, merciful, and just. David, in his psalm to God, reached the point in His writing where he remembered God’s immortality and man’s mortality. This verse, when it speaks of God, implies man as contrasted to God. The verse juxtaposes God and man, the infinite and all-powerful contrasted with the finite and limited. When the weak and oppressed remember this fact, the wicked should not cause fear in them because they remember God is greater. Our end on earth is not our ultimate end if we are God’s children. Isaiah 29:20 says, “For the ruthless will come to an end and the scorner will be finished. Indeed all who are intent on doing evil will be cut off.”
Verses 17-18 show a progression. God is kind and merciful; He hears and strengthens us. Since He is these, His mercy extends to finding, judging, and punishing those who have hurt/terrorized His loved ones. The progression is that we will understand He loves and hears the afflicted because He vindicates the weak against the evil. These two verses tie into verses 1 and 5. Because God is not “afar off,” but near and kind, He shows the wicked there is a God and He is Him. His mercy to the weak comes as vindication on the wicked. The wicked will understand they cannot prevail because God is not out of sight. God sees all and is more powerful than mere mortal, wicked people.
David answers his question of why God feels “afar off” in the end. God appears far off, so the wicked can experience His reality and power. The wicked will fear Him, because His mercy to the weak requires His judgment and punishing of the wicked. The David reminded the weak, the people of God, and himself that God is not “afar off.” He told this to the wicked, too. Psalm 10 helped to stir the faith of the weak and oppressed, as well.
God recognized David was wrestling. He discerned what David needed to know. God realized David needed to express his fear, so He let him. Expressing one’s self is therapeutic. It allows a person to acknowledge out loud what is bothering a person. It gives a person a voice. God did this for David. He let David voice his fear so that he could recognize it. When a person voices a fear that bothering him or her, he or she acknowledges its presence in his or her life. When he or she acknowledges the problem, then work can begin on recognizing solutions for it. God allowed David to voice and recognize his fear so that he could recognize God as the solution. Once David voiced and discerned (often we have to speak about our problems before we know the problem) the problem, he discerned and remembered God is immortal and all-powerful. He understood and believed God rescues the weak and His children. David believed God heard him, loved him, would avenge him, and is capable to capture, judge, and punish the wicked. This is what we need to remember, too.
God loves each of us so much, He often will wait until we discern and voice our problem so that we recognize that He is the answer to the problem. When we discern the problem, then we can realize God is greater. We can then extinguish the terror that grows within us due to the problem because we discern and believe God is greater than the problem and merciful to the weak and to His children. This is what is most important about this psalm. God allowed David to figure out what was wrong so that he perceived what the solution was. Until we recognize the limits of the problem, we often do not recognize that God in His unlimited-ness can be the answer. God handles what is affecting us mentally and physically. He heals the whole person, heart, soul, mind, and strength. God was not “afar off.” God was there with David helping him to figure out the problem and its limitations and His own abilities as the unlimited, eternal, and infinite God who loves us.
What is creating fear and worry in your life? What is creating problems for you? Recognize that these issues are limited. Realize that God is not far off and can vanquish them. Recognize God, His love, mercy, power, and justice. He is there for each of us. He is there for you. Will you tell Him what is making you afraid and allow Him to work in your life. Try it. You will lose nothing by asking Him to help. In doing so and believing, you can gain a Savior whose love for you is so great He died for you. Go ahead. Ask Him to help you.