It is difficult to live in this world of corruption, abuse, and mindless cruelty and not experience a recurring spiritual nausea. When one witnesses the senseless injustice in the world and the prosperity of those who are responsible for it, nausea turns to indignation and righteous rage. I know a little of what the psalmist meant when he cried out, "How long, O Lord, how long?" Sometimes the question, "How long?" does not spring from a speculative curiosity that says, "I want to know when," but from an agitated conscience and a sense of moral outrage. "People who feel this way want to know when the Lord will return because they cannot abide wickedness abounding, not because they want to pinpoint a date in a chart" (Ron Allen, 90). This is the mood of Psalm 10. When the psalmist cries "Why?" it is not because of some personal harm that has come to him. It is not "Why did this happen to me?" but rather "Why would God allow such things to occur and do nothing, if indeed He is the King of all the earth?"
The question of Psalm 10 is, "Why do you seem so remote, Lord, when evil is so near? Why do you seem indifferent to the oppression of the righteous by the wicked? Why do those who hate you prosper and those who love you suffer? Why do the unrighteous and unbelieving get along so well, often at the expense of your children?" This was the very thing that perplexed Job, as we read in 21:7-16. One particularly vivid example of this sort of thing is found in the story of righteous Naboth and unrighteous Ahab and his even more unrighteous wife Jezebel. See 1 Kings 21:1-6.
A. The Cry of the Righteous - vv. 1-2
Why does God seem absent and far off and concealed from us at those times when he is needed most? Why? The psalmist's anguish is not because there is evil and corruption and oppression but because God seems to ignore it, having withdrawn his gracious presence.
B. The Characteristics of the Unrighteous - vv. 3-11
1. Pride and Arrogance - vv. 3-4
There are wicked people, and then there are wicked people! Here we read of the latter, those "whose wickedness is boundless, whose conscience is seared, whose humanity is beastly" (Allen, 94). This is the person who is so convinced that divine judgment is a myth that he/she doesn't even bother to hide his/her desires and evil intentions. He worships his own desires. It is one thing to be a sinner; it is another to be proud of it, and still worse to so indulge your sinful desires that it seems as if you are worshiping them! This person boasts of that which ought to be his shame.
v. 4b - If this person ever thinks of God, it is with contempt, with darkened disdain. It isn't that he denies that God exists. Rather, he denies that the God who exists is either unwilling or unable to judge. In other words, to this person's way of thinking, God is simply irrelevant.
2. Cruelty and Abuse - vv. 5-11
This person is convinced he has total immunity from divine justice. He interprets divine longsuffering as divine indifference. As far as he is concerned, judgment delayed is judgment denied. If God hasn't done anything about it by now, he never will. He says, "God is too far away, too distant, to care about what we do down here on earth. He neither sees nor cares what I do." There is no requital, no recompense, he says. No pay off. No bottom line. So he lives in the most morally cavalier manner imaginable.
This person is what we might call a practical atheist. He knows God exists, but lives as if he didn't.. True atheists, if there are any, are not morally dangerous. Often they live civil, decent lives. Practical atheists, on the other hand, are a real threat. It isn't the absence of God that drives them but the absence of any sense of or recognition of justice and morality. Anything goes. There are no rules because there is no retribution.
The problem is that often such people seem to have the upper hand! It seems at times as if they are right: justice doesn't exist, morality doesn't matter. This creates a strong temptation to jettison our faith and join them. After all, "what good is a belief and a moral life which appear to be so out of place in the harsh realities of an evil world? Indeed, would there not be a certain wisdom in the oppressed joining ranks with the oppressors?" (Craigie, 127). In other words, the temptation is to say: "If there is so much evil, it must mean there is no God."
But note well: If there is no God, there is no such thing as evil! If there is, in fact, no God, there is no criterion or standard by which anything can be morally evaluated. You might have preferences, opinions, likes, dislikes, but without an eternal and absolute God you have no basis for saying "This is good and that is bad." Evil is evil for only one reason: it is the antithesis of God who is good. Without God, evil may well be good. Carson explains:
"The dimensions of evil are thus established by the dimensions of God; the ugliness of evil is established by the beauty of God; the filth of evil is established by the purity of God; the selfishness of evil is established by the love of God" (44).
Another temptation that is stirred by the evil around us is: "O.K., there is a God and he is good, but he's just too weak to help." But this is clearly contrary to Scripture. Also, if it were true, we would have no assurance how the world will turn out. Odds are that evil might just as easily triumph in the end as good. Finally, if true, we would have no assurance that this God can help us or comfort us. "He may be able to give us quite a bit of sympathy, and even groan along with us; but he clearly cannot help us ? not now, and not in the future. There is no point praying to such a god and asking for his help. He is already doing the best he can, poor chap, but he has reached the end of his resources" (31).
C. The Call for God's Judgment - vv. 12-18
The psalmist has had enough! He's tired of hiding in his foxhole. So he emerges with an ancient battle cry on his lips: "Arise O God!" "Then it came about when the ark set out that Moses said, 'Rise up, O Lord! And let Thine enemies be scattered, and let those who hate Thee flee before Thee'" (Num. 10:35).
1. God is Judge - vv. 12-15
Contrary to the presumptuous conclusion of the wicked, the psalmist knows that God does see all (v. 14a); he is not distant; eventually he will act. He prays that justice would be exacted until not a single deed of wrong remains undetected and unpunished (v. 15). Ultimately, nothing will be concealed from God.
2. God is King - vv. 16-18
With confidence he declares that, notwithstanding what we see and hear, God is King. The day is coming when the wicked will be no more, when evil men will terrify the righteous no longer. It may not be today, but certainly some day. If we are not prepared to take the long view of things and evaluate the present in the light of God's promise concerning the future, we will succumb to the temptation and give in to the ways of the wicked.
So why does God wait? There are at least three reasons why justice is delayed:
(1) Romans 2:4. God's delay is not a sign of indifference, but kindness! His reluctance to judge quickly provides an extended opportunity for the wicked to repent.
(2) Romans 2:5-6. God is delaying judgment so that the cup of the wicked might be filled to overflowing; so that there might be no question about the justice of their punishment when it finally does come.
(3) 2 Peter 3:9. God's judgment is delayed until the fullness of God's family comes in. God delays the return of his Son not because he has overlooked the wicked but because he still has his elect to save. When the chosen of God have all come in, justice will prevail.
In the meantime, we live with injustice, cruelty, oppression, the prosperity of the wicked, and the suffering of the righteous. But one day "the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel . . . " (1 Thess. 4:16). What will he shout? What will he say? "ENOUGH!" Enough sin, enough abuse, enough injustice, enough oppression, enough of the wicked. Enough!