For the director of music. To the tune of ‘Do Not Destroy’. Of David. A miktam.
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 skilful 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 –(Ps. 58:1-11 NIV)
whether they be green or dry – the wicked will be swept away.
The righteous will be glad when they are avenged,
when they dip their feet in the blood of the wicked.
Then people will say,
‘Surely the righteous still are rewarded;
surely there is a God who judges the earth.’
This is one of the seven imprecatory psalms. (6, 35, 58, 69, 83, 109 and 137).
The Psalmist is frustrated by the activity of the rulers and judges. There is an institutional injustice as an integral part of the judicial system. There can be two kinds of injustice. The first is when good laws are abused to the advantage of the rulers. The second type of injustice is when immoral behaviour is written into law, and public discourse only permits agreement with immoral activity. In public debate in this country, often it seems that you have to approve of abortion, euthanasia, same sex marriage and a host of other lifestyles that have become law. You have to be tolerant of any behaviour and lifestyle, and the intolerance that is approved of is intolerance of any objection to these unbiblical activities. Anyone objecting is made out to be a social pariah. It is one thing to be expected to turn a blind eye to certain behaviour, but quite another thing when that behaviour becomes law, and the only mistake that can be made is to be silent and not offer your approval about this lifestyle. When a secular society embraces this type of behaviour, and approves and promotes it, is a cause for us to lament. But even more egregious is when the mainline churches embrace, approve and promote lifestyles that are contrary to the Word of God. Where do we turn when the mainline churches consort with society in their celebration of unbiblical behaviour? When they agree that the only sin is the sin of disapproval, where do we turn to find justice? How low have we sunk when God’s name is dragged in to add approval to unholy behaviour? They tell us that the loving thing to do is to approve the unbiblical activity. They say that if the church is to remain relevant, it has to move with the times. Where is the court of appeal, when advancement in your career depends upon embracing and promoting ungodly lifestyles? When immorality is taught in the schools, and to oppose this is to be accused of being guilty of bad parenting, to whom do we appeal?
The answer is to follow the example of the Psalmist and bring this lament into the presence of the Lord. The Psalmist accuses the rulers of peddling in injustice and meting out inequity. They conspire together to conjure new forms of iniquity and call it righteousness. They mete out violence upon the people, like the way many governments today mete out violence on the unborn and the elderly. They are bent on wickedness and lies from the moment of birth. They are determined in the name of liberalism to enact laws that are like the venom of a snake. They won’t listen to the voice of reason, however skilful that voice might be. They are unresponsive to any godly representation and deaf to the Word of God.
The Psalmist prays for justice. The prayer sounds very violent to our ears, but the Psalmist is using a metaphor. To break their teeth and tear out the fangs is to take away their ability to do their damage. For them to be poured out like water and disappear, is to be removed from the office of ruler. For their arrows to be blunted means for them to be reduced so that they can do no harm.
Like a slug they melt away as they move forward, and like a stillborn child, may they not see the light of day. I can imagine how some of this language might be upsetting, and we would be unlikely to use some of the metaphors today. But we should not allow the shock of the metaphor to cause us to miss the point. The Psalmist can see the harm that the rulers are inflicting, and he prays for their downfall. There is a history of nations imploding after they become so corrupt. Many Western nations have introduced laws that promote a lifestyle that is contrary to God’s law. The ruling establishment is so ensconced that it seems impossible that any change could be brought about. This is where we need to follow the example of the Psalmist and pray about our rulers, pray about the laws that are being made, and also for groups like the Christian Institute that provide an intelligent response to various government proposals. We are instructed by God to pray for those in authority. As we pray ‘Your kingdom come’ that might mean the removal of government. Some regimes are so evil that regime change is the only option. In a democracy there are many things that we have to be thankful for in our nation and we are enjoined to pray for our rulers and be subject to them.
Judgement on nations can be so swift that they are removed before the time that it takes for a pot to feel the heat of the fire. While this may have an eschatological fulfilment, in recent times dictators have been deposed and the rule of communism greatly reduced. When people witness the triumph of God’s people, they have to acknowledge that there is a God who rules the world. Every ruler is put in place by God and can be removed quickly. Many empires that ruled a large part of the world have come and gone. God is Sovereign and in His time He will execute judgement.
Lord God, at times we hardly know what to pray. Help us to pray ‘Your Kingdom come’. May that prayer be answered in our nation. Once we were a nation that sent missionaries all over the world. Lord we live in challenging times, give us wisdom to know how and what to pray. Give wisdom to those in government but change their hearts so that they will respect the wisdom of Your word. Remove from office those MPs who campaign for immoral laws. Give wisdom to Christian MPs that they might put first Your Kingdom in their work. Protect them from harm. Lord have mercy on our nation for Christ our Saviour’s sake in whose name we pray. Amen.