This is a tough psalm. The writer prays that God would judge the wicked, asking him to “break the teeth in their mouths” (58:6), to make them like “the stillborn child who never sees the sun” (58:8). This psalm is a prayer for judgment, for vengeance.
Whom does the author want God to judge? The first line says, “Do you indeed decree what is right, you gods?” (58:1). Perhaps a better way to translate “gods” in this verse is “mighty ones.” Elsewhere in Scripture, human rulers are referred to as “gods” or “mighty ones” (See Jesus in John 10:34-35, quoting Psalm 82:6). So, David, the author of this psalm, wants God to kick the teeth out of the wicked rulers of his day. We’ve all seen/heard people talk that way in our day, haven’t we? Maybe David was the original Tea Party-er?
As amusing as I think the image is, David was not really making a political statement in this psalm. Well, he was, but not in the way that we tend to think of it.
The human rulers of this psalm are “deal[ing] out violence” (58:2), committing injustice without regard for the Ruler to Whom they must one Day give account. David is making a political statement, not in that he wants to vote his king out of office. He is calling the rulers of his day to recognize that they will face the judgment of the Lord at the last Day.
As brutal as this psalm is (I love the image of God making the wicked “like the snail that dissolves into slime”), it shows us the right way to deal with injustice in our lives. David doesn’t take matters into his own hands. He doesn’t rob God of his right to vengeance (Deut. 32:35; Rom. 12:19; Heb. 10:30). He goes to God who has promised to judge unrighteousness, and asks him to keep his promises.
But here’s the crazy part for you and me. All that judgment that God has promised to pour out upon the wicked, he did pour out on Jesus. Jesus took that punishment upon himself so that, when we see the wicked committing injustice, we can wish for them to receive grace and not wrath!We can love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us because God has judged the wicked at Calvary.
There will no doubt be many, many people in our world who refuse to be covered by Christ’s blood and will themselves face God’s judgment. That is a sobering reality. But judgment is something in which you and I can rejoice. God’s judgment will set everything right again.
We all long for justice, but fail to receive it in this world. But one Day, God will bring justice to bear on the earth. He will set everything right again. And we will all be able to say, “Surely there is a reward for the righteous; surely there is a God who judges on earth” (58:11).
The “righteous” is Jesus. The “reward”: sinners like you and me that he bought with his blood. The judgment: life and peace forevermore in the presence of God through Jesus Christ.