A Psalm a Day: Psalm 58

Throughout September 2022, I managed to read and reflect – briefly – on a Psalm each day. For December 2022, attempted to pick up the discipline. I got part-way through that month, and so after a long hiatus, am determined to get going. 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.

psalm 58

On the 15th of October 2003, here’s Psalm 58:

Do you rulers indeed speak justly?
    Do you judge people with equity?
No, in your heart you devise injustice,
    and your hands mete out violence on the earth.

Even from birth the wicked go astray;
    from the womb they are wayward, spreading lies.
Their venom is like the venom of a snake,
    like that of a cobra that has stopped its ears,
that will not heed the tune of the charmer,
    however skillful the enchanter may be.

Break the teeth in their mouths, O God;
    Lord, tear out the fangs of those lions!
Let them vanish like water that flows away;
    when they draw the bow, let their arrows fall short.
May they be like a slug that melts away as it moves along,
    like a stillborn child that never sees the sun.

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.”

What is this Psalm about?

Psalm 58 is a lament Psalm, echoing some of the themes and concerns of Psalm 14, but adding the curses of verses 6-10. God is spoken to, but seems distant, not dynamic. It is a Psalm with a theme that opens and closes it, that of judgement – the rhetorical questions of verse 1 stand in start contrast with the closing statemetn of verse 11, that ‘surely there is a God who judges the earth’.

What does this Psalm teach about God?

By being addressed to God, yet without God’s speech or actions, this Psalm shows us that God has space and grace for questions, rage and pain. The existence of lament Psalms in general is an encouragement for God’s people to be comfortable with the full range of human emotion. The various curses, or requested violent actions, of Psalm 58 imply that God hears, and that God can and perhaps will act in tangible ways, engaged with the stuff of reality and the bodies of the wicked. Finally, there is the sure and certain hope that God is just, and will judge.

How does this Psalm connect to God’s people today?

Psalm 58 feels like a grab bag for lament in the contemporary world – corrupt leaders (v1), violence in the earth (v2), and so on. It is a challenge, then, that Psalm 58 puts retribution and justice firmly in God’s corner, not calling His people to do it, but recognising that only God can. Just as we can bring anything to God, so we trust God ultimately to deal with anything and everything, because we are not him, even if one day we will be glad when we are avenged.

A prayer drawn from Psalm 

Lord, the world today feels as bad as that envisaged by Psalm 58. War, the rumours of war, natural disasters and more. We cry to you, surely there is a God who judges the earth, and we know that you are, and that you will. Come quickly. Amen.

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