Psalm 10 is another lamentation where the psalmist is crying out to the Lord for help because of the trouble he’s in. However, although it’s a lamentation, it ends with what one commentators calls ‘triumphant jubilation’, because the psalmist knows that the Lord will one day judge and condemn the wicked, who are causing the psalmist so much grief and sorrow.
The psalm doesn’t have a title. If you look back over the previous psalms, they all — with the exception of the first two — have a title which tell us that each psalm was written by David. However, the Bible scholars tend to think that Psalms 9 and 10 were originally one psalm; and therefore the title for Psalm 9 covers Psalm 10 as well. In that case, Psalm 10 is a psalm of David, who wrote it for the tune, ‘The Death of the Son’. We don’t know what that tune sounded like, but calling it ‘The Death of the Son’ certainly gives the impression that it was composed as a lamentation.
After the opening verse, the psalm can be divided into three parts. In verses 1 to 11, the psalmist describes the wicked man. Then, in verses 12 to 15, the psalmist appeals to the Lord to help the helpless and to destroy the oppressor. And the psalm ends in verses 16 to 18 with triumphant jubilation, because the psalmist knows that the Lord is the everlasting King.
And the psalm opens in verse 1 with a question: Why? The psalmist is perplexed, isn’t he? He’s perplexed because the Lord seems to be standing far off; and, instead of coming to help the psalmist, the Lord seems to have hidden himself. And so, he’s perplexed and he’s puzzled, as we often are, because we wonder where is the Lord?; and why won’t he stop the wicked from carrying out their wicked deeds?; and why won’t he rescue his suffering people? Where are you, Lord? Why won’t you help me?
Back in psalm 1 the psalmist said that the wicked are like chaff which is blown away by the wind; whereas the righteous person is like a tree planted by streams of water which yields its fruit in season. That’s what we read in Psalm 1, but we all know that very often in this life the wicked are the ones who prosper and do well; whereas the righteous person faces one trial after another. So, where are you, Lord?
Verses 2 to 11
And the psalmist asks that question at the beginning of this psalm, because he’s wondering why won’t the Lord do something about the wicked man whom he describes for us in verses 2 to 11. The psalmist refers to his arrogance in verse 2 and to the way he hunts down the weak. We’re to picture him as a ferocious animal, preying on its victims. And the psalmist says in verse 3 that he boasts of the cravings of his heart. In other words, he boasts that whatever he wants, he gets. And while he blesses or praises the greedy, he reviles the Lord. He’s so arrogant and proud that he believes he does not need the Lord; and he never thinks about the Lord. As far as he’s concerned, there is no God. Or, if there is a God, it makes no difference to what he does. And even though he disregards the Lord, he still prospers. And he prospers always, as verse 5 tells us. And that’s what is so perplexing, isn’t it? Why won’t the Lord do something to stop him? Can’t the Lord see this man’s pride? Can’t the Lord see how he disregards God’s law? Can’t the Lord see how he sneers at his enemies? And presumably he’s able to sneer at them, because he knows his position is secure and his enemies can’t touch him. So, why won’t the Lord do something about this man?
The wicked man feels secure. He says in verse 6:
Nothing will shake me.
I’ll always be happy and never have trouble. And in verse 7, we read that his mouth, or his words, are full of curses and lies and threats. He’s always stirring up trouble and evil by the things he says.
According to verse 8, he’s like a hunter who lies in wait to ambush the innocent. He’s like a lion who lies in wait to catch its helpless victims. His victims are crushed so that they collapse and fall under his strength. Think of those pictures we see on TV of helpless zebras being torn into pieces by the claws of a lion.
And so, the wicked man says to himself in verse 11:
God has forgotten; he covers his face and never sees.
So, if God exists, he won’t intervene in my affairs; and he will not stop me from doing all that I want. God will never hold me to account for the things I do, so I will do whatever I like.
Verses 12 to 15
That’s what the wicked man is like. And, of course, this wicked man stands for every wicked person who does what they like; and who are proud and arrogant; and whose speech is full of curses and lies and threats.
And so, the psalmist now calls on the Lord to arise. Do you see that in verse 12? Up, Lord. Lift up your hand, O God. He uses God’s special covenant name, because that’s the name which reassures the psalmist that the Lord is on his side. And the Lord is God: so he’s mighty and powerful and he’s able to do something about the wicked. And so, the psalmist appeals to the Lord God to rise up and reach out his arm to stop the wicked.
The wicked man reviles God. And he thinks he will get away with all the trouble he has caused. But the psalmist knows that the Lord does see trouble and grief. He sees everything that goes on the in world; and he knows what the wicked are doing. He considers it in order to take it in hand and to do something about it. And so, the innocent victim can commit himself to the Lord, because the Lord is the one who helps the fatherless. And the word ‘fatherless’ probably includes not just orphans, but anyone who is weak and vulnerable and has no one else to stand up for them.
And so, the psalmist calls on the Lord to break the arm of the wicked and evil man. The arm symbolises a person’s strength; and so, the psalmist is appealing to the Lord to break the strength of the wicked; take away his power. And call him to account for his wickedness.
Verses 16 to 18
Having described the wicked man in verses 2 to 11, and having appealed to the Lord for help in verses 12 to 15, the psalmist declares his confidence in the Lord in verses 16 to 18. The Lord is King for ever and ever. So, while the wicked man may boast and think that he’ll always prosper, the truth is that the Lord is King and therefore he rules over all things, including the wicked man.
The nations will perish from God’s land, the psalmist says in verse 16. Be referring to the nations, the psalmist recalls what we read in Psalm 2, where the wicked nations conspired and plotted together against the Lord God and his Anointed King. So, all those wicked people — who rise up against the Lord — will perish. Though they may succeed for a time, they will eventually be destroyed.
The Lord hears the desire of the afflicted, who cry out to him for relief and salvation. He encourages them. He hears their cries. He defends the fatherless and the oppressed and all who are helpless and who trust in him for help. Meanwhile the wicked man is only of the earth. That is, the wicked are merely mortal. Whereas the Lord is the eternal king and is in heaven, they are of the earth and are destined to perish because of their wickedness. Though they are tyrants who terrorise the world and think they are invincible, nevertheless the truth is they are only mortal; and the Lord will one day bring their life and their wickedness to an end.
We can imagine this psalm on the lips of the Lord Jesus as he hung on the cross and was faced with arrogant men who once lay in wait to capture him and who had finally managed to have him arrested and tried and condemned to die. And now they stood around the cross, sneering at him and mocking him. And the Lord was taken away and was crucified in weakness, an innocent victim, suffering at the hands of wicked men.
And on the cross, the Lord cried to his Father in heaven, saying:
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
In other words: Why, O Lord, do you stand far off? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble? But his Father heard his cry and did not forget him, though he was helpless on the cross; and his Father did not let his enemies triumph over him forever, because God brought his suffering to an end, when he raised from from the grave and exalted him to the highest place. And the day is coming when he will come to judge the living and the dead. And on that day, he will ensure that the wicked — who did not repent and who did not seek forgiveness from God — will be condemned for what they have done and sent away to be punished forever.
Though for a time the wicked seemed to have prospered and they managed to kill the Lord Jesus Christ, which is what they wanted, the truth is that they will be called to account for their wickedness. And the same is true for all those who do evil and who refuse to repent or to yield their lives to Christ. Though for a time they seem to prosper and do well; though for a time they boast about themselves and they revile the name of the Lord, saying there is no God and they can do whatever they want; though for a time they seem to be unshakeable, in the end, they will face the wrath of God unless they first repent and seek God’s forgiveness by trusting in his Son.
And while we go on living on the earth, and while we go on suffering as Christ our Saviour suffered, we can take comfort in the knowledge that just as God did not forget the Lord Jesus Christ, so he will not forget those who belong to Christ. Our God still sees trouble and grief. He considers it to take it in hand. He remains the helper of the fatherless. He is still the King who rules forever and ever. He still hears the desire of the afflicted and encourages them and listens to their cries. He still defends the defenceless. And so, in all your troubles and sorrows, and when wicked people rise up to hurt you, and when they speak evil against you, you should remember and believe that the Lord will not forget the helpless. While it may seem that he is standing far off, and though it may seem he has hidden himself, the truth is that the Lord is your helper and he will come to your aid when the time is right. And even if the worst thing happens, and you are killed, as Christ was killed, nevertheless you know that you will be raised as he was raised, to live with the Lord your God forever and forever in glory.