For September 2022, I’m trying to read and reflect – briefly – on a Psalm each day. I’ll read the Psalm, pray, and then ponder a few questions:
- What is this Psalm about?
- What does this Psalm teach about God?
- How does this Psalm connect to God’s people today?
I’ll close the post with a simple prayer, trying to draw the themes together.
On the Tenth day of September – which also happens to be World Suicide Prevention Day – here’s Psalm 10:
1 Why, Lord, do you stand far off?
Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?
2 In his arrogance the wicked man hunts down the weak,
who are caught in the schemes he devises.
3 He boasts about the cravings of his heart;
he blesses the greedy and reviles the Lord.
4 In his pride the wicked man does not seek him;
in all his thoughts there is no room for God.
5 His ways are always prosperous;
your laws are rejected by him;
he sneers at all his enemies.
6 He says to himself, “Nothing will ever shake me.”
He swears, “No one will ever do me harm.”
7 His mouth is full of lies and threats;
trouble and evil are under his tongue.
8 He lies in wait near the villages;
from ambush he murders the innocent.
His eyes watch in secret for his victims;
9 like a lion in cover he lies in wait.
He lies in wait to catch the helpless;
he catches the helpless and drags them off in his net.
10 His victims are crushed, they collapse;
they fall under his strength.
11 He says to himself, “God will never notice;
he covers his face and never sees.”
12 Arise, Lord! Lift up your hand, O God.
Do not forget the helpless.
13 Why does the wicked man revile God?
Why does he say to himself,
“He won’t call me to account”?
14 But you, God, see the trouble of the afflicted;
you consider their grief and take it in hand.
The victims commit themselves to you;
you are the helper of the fatherless.
15 Break the arm of the wicked man;
call the evildoer to account for his wickedness
that would not otherwise be found out.
16 The Lord is King for ever and ever;
the nations will perish from his land.
17 You, Lord, hear the desire of the afflicted;
you encourage them, and you listen to their cry,
18 defending the fatherless and the oppressed,
so that mere earthly mortals
will never again strike terror.
What is this Psalm about?
Psalm 10 opens with a personal reflection, from the Psalmist, presumably relating to an event in his life. The bulk of the Psalm, verses 2-13, deals with ‘the wicked man’, an enemy who appears to be victorious and have free reign. This man echoes the words of every sinner and every despot, ‘nothing will ever shake me… nothing will ever do me harm’ (v6). The Psalmist’s focus then snaps back to his own situation, ultimately calling on God to ‘arise’ (v12) and ending in praise, telling listeners and readers that God will ultimately act.
What does this Psalm teach about God?
The goodness of God is an important theme here – contrasted with the ‘wicked man’ – and fleshed out in the attributes ‘helper of the fatherless’, ‘call to account’, ‘king for ever and ever’, ‘encourage’, ‘listen’, ‘defending the fatherless and the oppressed’. What does it mean to say that God is good? Here, in Psalm 10, we see some of what this means. It also makes it clear, given where the Psalmist starts, that God engages with and for his people even in times of trouble.
How does this Psalm connect to God’s people today?
There will, this side of the complete coming of the Kingdom of God, always be times of trouble and wicked men. And yet that is not how the story ends. A key message, I think, is that God does not forget the helpless. On World Suicide Prevention Day, as someone who has lived with the threat of that and other mental health issues, it is remarkably encouraging to see that God does not forget the helpless. And, as a sinner, capable of being the wicked man, it is a relief to know that this man does not win. Why, ultimately? Because as verse 16 reminds us, ‘The Lord is King for ever and ever’.
A Prayer from Psalm 10:
Lord, thank you that you are King, and that you not only listen, but you intervene. Thank you for intervening on behalf of the helpless, please show me how to be a part of that process, even in the things that I struggle in and with. Amen.