Questioning God (v. 1)
The psalmist wrestles with the age-old problem, “Why doesn’t God do something about the prosperity of the wicked (vv. 2,3,4,7,10,15) and the misery of the afflicted (vv. 2, 8-10, 12, 14, 17, 18)?” It’s also discussed in 13:1-3; 27:9; 30:7; 44:23-24; 73; and 88:13-15, as well as Job 13:24ff and Jeremiah 14. The wicked are marching through the land, but the Lord seems to be distant and unconcerned. During the past century, millions of godly people have lost their homes, jobs, possessions, families, and even their lives because of the ruthless deeds of evil leaders, and where was God? (See 22:1,11; 35:22; 38:21; 42:9; 43:2; 71:12; 74:1; 88:14.) God has expressed a special concern for widows, orphans, and the helpless (68:5; 82:3; Deut. 10:18; 24:17-21; 26:12-13; 27:19), yet He is not to be found. He “covers His eyes” as though nothing is happening (see Lev. 20:4; 1 Sam. 12:3; Prov. 28:27).
*Life Application: “Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?” To the psalmist, God seemed far away. But even though the writer had honest doubts, he did not stop praying or conclude that God no longer cared. He was not complaining, but simply asking God to hurry to his aid. It is during those times when we feel most alone or oppressed that we need to keep praying, telling God about our troubles.
Rejecting God (vv. 2-13)
The psalmist now describes these wicked people, what they do, and why they do it. He gives four statements that express what they believe, because what they believe determines how they behave.
“There is no God” (vv. 2-4, see v. 4, NASB). Believing this lie frees the wicked to do whatever they please, for they become their own god. “You shall be as God” (Gen. 3:5 and 6:5). The wicked cleverly plot against the righteous and hotly pursue them until they get what they want. These evil workers live to please themselves and fulfill their selfish desires, and then brag about their sins! (Phil. 3:18-21). They revile the Lord (vv. 3, 13, NIV) and “stick their nose up” when anybody challenges them.
“I shall not be moved” (vv. 5-7). This arrogant attitude comes from an ignorance of the laws of God, because unconverted people have no understanding of the Word of God or the ways of God (1 Cor. 2:10-16). Because God is longsuffering, they think they’re getting away with their sins (Eccl. 8:11). Peace and prosperity give them a false sense of security that will end very suddenly. See Luke 12:13-21 and 1 Thessalonians 5:1-3. Telling lies and swearing oaths they have no plans to keep, they escape the penalties of the law and pursue their devious ways. Like people savoring tasty food, they keep lies under their tongues and enjoy them (Job 20:12-15; Prov. 4:17). Paul quoted verse 7 in Romans 3:14. It is the godly who have God’s promise of true security (15:15; 16:8; 21:7; 62:2; 112:6).
*Life Application: Some people succeed in everything they do, and they brag that no one, not even God, can keep them down. We may wonder why God allows these people to amass great wealth while they despise him as they do. But why are we upset when the wicked prosper? Are we angry about the damage they are doing or just jealous of their success? To answer these questions we must gain the right perspective on wickedness and wealth. The wicked will surely be punished because God hates their evil deeds. Wealth is only temporary. It is not necessarily a sign of God’s approval on a person’s life; nor is lack of it a sign of God’s disapproval. Don’t let wealth or lack of it become your obsession.
“God doesn’t see me” (vv. 8-11). Like ferocious lions, wicked people hide and watch for opportunities to pounce on the helpless prey, and like hunters or fishermen, they catch their prey in their nets. They are sure that the law won’t catch up with them or the Lord notice what they do. The lion is often used as a picture of ruthless sinners who attack others (17:12; 37:32; 56:6; 59:3; 64:4).
“God will not judge me” (vv. 12-13). At this point, the psalmist cries out to God for help, and he uses three different names for God: Jehovah, the God of the covenant, and El and Elohim, the God of power. The wicked boast that God will not investigate their sins or judge them, but God says, “Be sure your sin will find you out” (Num. 32:23). The Lord will keep His covenant promises to His people, and there will be a day of reckoning when sinners will be judged by a righteous God. “Arise, O God” takes us back to Numbers 10:35 and the triumphant march of Israel.
Trusting God (vv. 14-18)
As the psalm draws to a close, the writer expresses his full confidence that God is on His throne and has everything under His control. The Lord may not explain to us why some people seem to get away with their evil deeds, but He does assure us that He will judge sinners and ultimately defend His own. In this paragraph, the Lord answers all four of the statements of the wicked that are quoted in verses 2-13.
God sees what is going on (v. 14). This answers the claim in verses 8-11 that the Lord pays no attention to what the wicked are doing. Even more, God sees the trouble (outward circumstances) and grief (inward feelings) caused by the wicked as they persecute the helpless, and He will take the matter in hand. The poor and needy can safely commit themselves into the hands of the Lord (55:22; 1 Peter 5:7).
God judges sin (v. 15), and this answers the false claim of verses 12-13. The psalmist prays that the Lord will carefully investigate each sinner’s life and works, until every evil deed is exposed and judged. But he asks that the sinners be judged in this life and their power removed (“break the arm”). This prayer isn’t always answered. (See Rev. 6:9-11.)
God is King (v. 16).
God defends His own people (vv. 17-18). The wicked boast that they will not be moved (vv. 5-7), but God has other plans for them. He hears the prayers of the persecuted, He sees their plight, He strengthens their hearts for whatever trials He permits (Rom. 8:28), and He eventually judges those who abuse them. People of faith can depend on the God of heaven, but the self-confident and arrogant “people of the earth” have no future with the Lord. Life without the Lord is empty and vain (49:12-20; 62:9). Christians have their citizenship in heaven (Phil. 3:20), and their names are written down in heaven (Luke 10:20). They don’t belong to this world, although their ministry is in this world. God’s people have been “redeemed from the earth” (Rev. 14:3) and have heaven as their home. The phrase “them that dwell on the earth” is found often in the book of Revelation (3:10; 6:10; 8:13; 11:10; 12:12; 13:8, 12, 14; 14:6; 17:2, 8) and describes not only where these unbelievers live but what they live for—the things of the earth. The “earth dwellers” may seem to have the upper hand today, but wait until the Lord reveals His hand!
God sees and listens to our cries. He is always with us. Evil may be present, but it will not be permanent. God is in control.
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